Canada opens doors to H-1B specialty visa holders – for a limited time

As we discussed in a previous blog, Canada has announced bold new plans for attracting tech workers to the country – including opening the door to U.S. H-1B specialty visa holders and their families.

Many workers in the tech industry use H-1B specialty occupation visas to work in the U.S. But getting a green card with an H-1B visa can be a long, difficult process – and renewing an H-1B visa can be just as challenging. Canada is looking to lure H-1B tech workers north of the border with easier work permit processing.

How the program works

On July 16, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will launch a temporary program allowing H-1B specialty visa holders to apply for a three-year open work permit in Canada. H-1B holders do not need to have a job offer in Canada to use the program.

The open work permit will allow successful applicants to work for almost any employer in Canada. As an added bonus, spouses and dependents of successful applicants will be eligible to apply for Canadian study and/or work permits. This program will remain in effect for one calendar year or until IRCC receives 10,000 applications – whichever comes first.

Applications will be processed within two months. Only principal applicants – not their spouses or dependents – will be counted against the 10,000 cap. If the cap is reached before an H-1B visa holder is able to apply, other options for working in Canada – such as Express Entry or the Provincial Nominee Programs – may be available.

Benefits for employers

This program may come as a relief to some employers with offices in the U.S. and Canada. H-1B visa holders often run out of time on their visas and are forced to leave the U.S. Cross-border companies sometimes seek to temporarily “park” H-1B visa holders in Canada until these issues are resolved.

Another advantage of this program will be the ease with which U.S. companies can “parachute” H-1B visa holders into Canada for intermittent project work, helping create a borderless workplace and significantly reducing the administrative burden for employers, creating a more flexible work force.

These advantages won’t apply to employers that have offices only in Canada. However, Canadian employers could still benefit from the program if disaffected H-1B visa holders encounter roadblocks obtaining a green card or renewing their visas and end up considering a move to Canada – particularly if they don’t need a job offer to work here.

Spaces may fill up quickly

Given the limited number of spaces available for this program, we expect to see the 10,000 cap reached quickly. If you’re considering bringing an H-1B specialty visa holder to Canada, you should ensure you have all the necessary documentation and act now to avoid disappointment.

Alternate Canadian options

While the bold new programs are a welcome sight for Canadian employers looking to capitalize on tech workers who’ve run out of options in the U.S. market, IRCC offers many other immigration pathways for employers to bring in tech workers.

The lawyers in the MLT Aikins Immigration practice group have wide-ranging experience advising clients in the U.S. and Canada on bringing skilled workers into the country. If you’re interested in learning more about the temporary H-1B program or other options for bringing tech workers into Canada, contact us to learn how we can help.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.