Open Work Permit Stream for U.S. H-1B Visa Holders in Canada
In a significant development for immigration, Canada has introduced a new open work permit stream specifically designed for holders of United States H-1B specialty occupation visas. This announcement, made by Canada's Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, on June 27, aims to enhance labor mobility between Canada and the United States. The open work permit stream has the potential to impact numerous workers in high-tech industries in both countries, along with their immediate family members. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the new open work permit stream, including eligibility criteria, application requirements, and Canada's efforts to attract skilled professionals, particularly in STEM fields.
Eligibility Criteria for Canada's H-1B Visa Holder Open Work Permit
To be eligible for Canada's H-1B visa holder open work permit, applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Hold a valid H-1B specialty occupation visa issued by the United States.
- Currently reside in the United States.
In order to apply for the open work permit, the following documents are required:
- A copy of the current H-1B visa.
- Form I-797/I797B, Notice of Action, which confirms the approval of the H-1B application by the U.S. government.
- Proof of residency in the United States, such as Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, a recent utility bill, an income tax report, or any document that verifies residency.
Approved applicants will receive an open work permit that remains valid for up to three years. The open work permit allows individuals to work for almost any employer in Canada. Furthermore, spouses and dependents of the primary applicant can also apply for work or study permits as needed.
IRCC Targeting STEM Occupations
In a bid to attract skilled professionals in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) occupations, Canada's Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) conducted the first Express Entry draw specifically for candidates with work experience in STEM fields. This draw, which took place on July 5, invited 500 candidates from the Express Entry application pool who possess work experience in STEM occupations. These candidates are likely to be eligible for the new H-1B open work permit as well.
The introduction of five new Express Entry categories for specific occupational fields, along with a category for individuals with strong French language ability, demonstrates Canada's commitment to addressing labor shortages and aligning with provincial and territorial labor market needs. These categories were developed through research, consultation with IRCC partners and stakeholders, and collaboration with local governments.
IRCC's focus on attracting top global talent is evident in the government's allocation of $20 billion in Budget 2023 to support major clean electricity and growth infrastructure projects. The success of these projects relies heavily on the skills and expertise of STEM professionals.
Canada's Tech Talent Attraction Strategy
Apart from the open work permit for H-1B visa holders, IRCC is actively developing an Innovation Stream under the International Mobility Program (IMP). Expected to be launched by the end of this year, the Innovation Stream offers two potential options:
- Employer-specific work permits for up to five years, targeting workers destined to contribute to Canada's industrial innovation goals as identified by the Government of Canada.
- Open work permits for up to five years, catering to highly skilled workers in select in-demand occupations.
Furthermore, Minister Fraser announced several other initiatives to strengthen Canada's position as a global destination for talent, including a return to the 14-day service standard for work permits under the Global Skills Strategy, promoting Canada as a hub for digital nomads, and enhancing the Start-up Visa Program by increasing allocated spots and extending the work permit duration to three years.
STEM Job Vacancies in Canada
Statistics Canada's latest job vacancy data reveals that there were 42,900 job vacancies in professional, scientific, and technical services in April. While this number decreased from the previous month, there continues to be a significant demand for skilled professionals, particularly in Ontario and Quebec. In response, Ontario has removed the Canadian work experience requirement for newcomers seeking licensure in engineering. Additionally, Ontario's Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development has mandated that regulated professions must make and communicate registration decisions on applications from internationally trained newcomers within six months. These measures aim to facilitate the hiring of skilled professionals, bridge the skills gap, and fill job vacancies, especially in STEM fields.
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