Canada Needs High-Potential Tech Talent Visa With No Job Requirement: Business Council

Canada needs a high-potential tech talent visa that would let foreign nationals with in-demand skills in to look for work even without a job offer, says the president of a business council for Canadian tech companies.

“If your labour market is desperate for software developers or data scientists, just let ‘em in!” wrote Benjamin Bergen, president of the Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI), in an op-ed to The Globe and Mail. “Why didn’t we think of that?”

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In July, the United Kingdom unveiled its national innovation strategy which included two policy ideas to resolve labour market shortages in the sector in that country.


The first was not much of a surprise because Canada already has something similar. The United Kingdom’s new scale-up visa pathway lets highly-skilled workers with job offers from tech companies get on the immigration fast track, much like Canada’s Global Talent Stream (GTS).

The GTS’s service standard is to provide skilled workers with Canadian work permits and get visa applications processed within two weeks. The GTS, launched in mid-2017, forms part of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). It exists to provide high-growth companies with the talent they need quickly by cutting processing times for Canada visa applications from six months to just 10 business days.

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“It feels good to see other countries copying our policy successes,” wrote Bergen.

But the United Kingdom’s other initiative, the high-potential tech talent visa, is something Canada is not already doing and the business council president thinks Ottawa should seriously consider it.

“At CCI, we hear it from our members every day: Canadian scale-up companies are desperate to find workers,” wrote Bergen.

“The ethos that drives innovators is simple: If you see a problem, try to find a solution,” he said. “And if one doesn’t exist, you need to get creative. The high-potential immigration visa is a good idea.”


The CCI is promoting that Canada adopt a “digital nomad” strategy, allowing those highly-skilled workers in the tech sector to simply be able to come here and look for work in the sector which has been severely impacted by labour shortages.

“We don’t need a 100-page academic study or a parliamentary committee convening hearings on Canada’s acute talent shortage and then waiting a year to publish a report,” wrote Bergen. “The ideas are already available for the taking if we only listen to the leaders of Canada’s innovative, high-growth companies. They are telling us that on talent issues we need action, urgently.”

The innovation think-tank has already published list of 13 recommendations in its Skills and Talent Strategy, ideas brought forth by executives in the sector.

“Taken together, they would meaningfully increase the availability of skilled tech talent in Canada,” wrote Bergen.

“COVID-19 has massively disrupted the labour market and innovators are already adapting to new realities,” he wrote. “Innovation isn’t always about inventing a brand-new idea. It’s often just recognizing what already works, adapting it and improving it along the way. It’s also helping our policy-makers with front-line feedback so they can design programs that have meaningful impact on our economy.”



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