On June 14, 2016, the Canadian government launched its new innovation strategy, which includes a vow to speed up the immigration process for foreign skilled workers joining rapidly growing tech firms.
Although the announcement of the new innovation strategy is lacking in specific details, one explicit goal agreed upon by numerous ministers is to cut down wait times for these foreign workers. Currently, the foreign skilled worker immigration process typically takes a minimum of six months; a standard that is unsuitable for the fast-paced world of technology. Employers in the tech industry claim that the government delays are hindering the growth of their firms by preventing them from recruiting top candidates from outside Canada.
While speaking at another event, John McCallum, the Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, recognized that, although the government reached its six-month-target 80% of the time last year, this is not the tech industry’s idea of a quick immigration process. McCallum went on to say that, “we want to open our doors to the best and the brightest…so, obviously, I will be working very hard to try to accommodate their needs as best I can.”
The reason for these delays is the requirement under the federal government’s Express Entry immigration selection system for employers to obtain a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) in order to hire a foreign worker. To receive an LMIA, an employer must prove to the government that he or she is unable to find a suitable Canadian with the necessary skills, qualifications, and experience to fill the open position.
This LMIA requirement is useful when targeting employers who abuse the system to hire low-paid, low-skill temporary foreign workers over Canadians. In the case of fast-growing tech firms, however, the skills and talent needed from new recruits are generally only found outside Canada, yet these firms are still subjected to the same drawn-out process. As a result, countless potential recruits accept alternative offers instead of waiting, while frustrated employers choose to hire people to work for them outside Canada.
“To be able to innovate at the speed of global businesses, tech companies in Canada need to be able to grow and hire just as quickly,” said Danielle Lovell, co-founder of Blankslate Partners, a human resources outsourcing company based in Vancouver that assists in foreign hiring at tech firms. “Six months is a lifetime in a tech company, and more than enough time for a competitor to [get ahead], while our Canadian companies watch the calendar hoping for approval. The high tech, high-skilled talent we’re wooing and working to bring to Canada are in demand everywhere.”
In terms of solutions, a specific action plan is yet to be established, but McCallum indicated that the government intends to review the LMIA requirement and might consider dropping it for tech firms. “We are generally on the lookout for ways…to make our programs more effective in attracting people to Canada rather than having them go elsewhere,” he said. The government is committed to reducing wait times for these highly desirable foreign workers and to making Canada an easy choice for them.