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Relocating from the US to Canada: Immigration options for laid-off tech workers

Some of the world’s biggest tech companies (i.e., Google, Meta, Microsoft, and Amazon) have collectively laid off more than 150,000 workers in recent months in the US alone. Amazon, for example, has laid off approximately 18,000 employees. In the coming weeks, they will lay off an additional 9,000 employees, totalling 27,000, representing 9% of their workforce. 

  • Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, laid off more than 11,000 employees in November 2022 alone. 
    • Meta and other tech companies regularly use the H-1B visa program to sponsor foreign national workers. In fact, Meta is listed as an H-1B dependent company, meaning at least 15% of its workforce is employed by virtue of nonimmigrant work visas.
  • Indian nationals make up 74.5% of all H-1B petitioners, the largest group by far, according to data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The next is mainland Chinese nationals, who make up 11.8%.

In this blog post, we’ve explored the options available to these recent layoffs in the tech/IT space who are looking to relocate their talents to Canada. It is worth mentioning that there are options available to those who find themselves in this category to remain in a period of authorized stay in the United States (filing an application for a change of nonimmigrant status; an adjustment of status; a ‘compelling circumstances’ employment authorization document; or, being the beneficiary of a non-frivolous petition to change employer).The recent experience may have spooked candidates who are now considering broadening their horizons north of the border. 

Why Consider Relocating to Canada from the US?

Canada is an attractive option not only due to its proximity but also because our tech/IT sector is booming and needs labour to sustain its growth; for this reason, the Canadian government offers immigration options for tech/IT workers that would like to immigrate to Canada.

Intracompany Transfer and Global Talent Stream: Time-efficient Ways to Relocate to Canada

Option 1 - Intracompany Transfer (ICT)

Multi-national companies (MNCs) that have parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate companies in Canada may be eligible to send employees to Canada without needing to obtain an LMIA.  ICT permits are initially valid for up to three years. After that, it is possible to renew for up to five years for specialized knowledge holders and seven years for executives and senior managers. Employees may be eligible to apply for an ICT work permit if they meet certain criteria. To come to Canada as an Intra-Company Transfer, employees must:

  • Be presently employed at a foreign MNC looking to transfer foreign employees to Canada;
  • Be transferred to a company that has a qualifying relationship with the company in which they are currently employed;
  • Be undertaking employment at a legitimate and continuing establishment of the company in Canada;
  • Comply with all of Canada’s immigration requirements for temporary entry
  • Have continuously worked full-time for a minimum of one year (out of the last three) in a comparable position to the one they will be occupying in Canada.

How long is the ICT process?

The average processing time for the ICT is 2-10 weeks, but there are priority processing options. Those who are qualified for the 2-week processing time will get the ICT visa within 2 weeks. This priority processing option is for visa-exempt countries (biometrics processing is not included in these 2 weeks).

How much?

  • Work permit: $155
  • Biometrics (photo + fingerprints): ~$85 per person/$170 family

Option 2 - Global Talent Stream (GTS)

The Canadian GTS seeks to attract foreign nationals who work in the tech and IT sectors as part of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program. To qualify, the foreign worker must locate an employer in Canada who must first obtain a neutral or positive (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada. The stream was created to facilitate the growth of Canada’s tech industry and tries to process applications within two weeks from filing. Most applications in this category involve salaries of at least $38.46 per hour, which amounts to no less than a base salary of $80,000 annually.

 Entry can be made at a port of entry if the applicant is from a visa-free country. Otherwise, a consular application is required. Work permits issued under the GTS may be valid for up to three years. However, the validity of your work permit will align with the employment duration requested by your employer and the validity of the LMIA they receive. In exceptional cases where the employer provides sufficient rationale for a longer employment duration, your work permit may be for more than three years.

Two streams under Global Talent Stream:

Category A: The category is designed for companies that are referred to Employment and Social Development Canada by designated referral partners and who need specialized foreign nationals to fill an in-demand position.

Category B: This category is designed for employers looking to hire skilled foreign workers for occupations on the Global Talent Occupations List. The occupations on this list are in-demand in Canada and lack sufficient labour supply.

Jobs that qualify for GTS:

  • Computer and information systems managers
  • Civil engineers
  • Electrical and electronics engineers
  • Mining engineers
  • Aerospace engineers
  • Computer engineers (except software engineers and designers)
  • Mathematicians and statisticians; Positions for actuaries or related occupations are excluded from this subset.
  • Information systems analysts and consultants
  • Database analysts and data administrators
  • Software engineers and designers
  • Computer programmers and interactive media developers
  • Web designers and developers
  • Electrical and electronics engineering technologists and technicians
  • Computer network/web technicians
  • Information systems testing technicians
  • Producer, technical, creative and artistic director and project manager – Visual effects and video game
  • Digital media designers
While neither of these two (2) programs are permanent residence programs, an opportunity does exist to leverage Canadian work experience under the “Canadian Experience Class” category of Express Entry – which is further discussed below.

Express Entry and Provincial Nomination Programs in Canada

Express Entry:

Express Entry is an application management system that Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) employs to manage the Canadian Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class Program. Candidates self-assess and then post their profiles on the IRCC website. IRCC then assigns a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score based on their work experience, education, language abilities, and other human capital factors. The higher the numerical score, the more likely the applicants are to receive an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence. Once a candidate receives an ITA, they have 60 days to send their final application. 

IRCC has a processing standard of six months for all new applications, although it can take up to, say, a year to approve an application. The most likely candidates to succeed are those who are under 40, who score high in an English or French language test, have at least one year of skilled postgraduate employment, and who have at least a Master’s degree. Entry can be made at a port of entry if the applicant is from a visa-free country. Otherwise, a consular application is required.

Express Entry is a popular option for tech workers that want to settle permanently in Canada. Canada’s Express Entry system is responsible for welcoming about 110,000 newcomers each year. 

While the Express Entry system does not currently consider occupation when determining a candidate’s CRS score, there are specific occupation-based Express Entry draws. This would allow the federal government to select candidates based on specific labour market needs. Since there is a high demand for many tech occupations, this is a priming option for tech professionals in the Express Entry pool.

Provinces also continue to invite tech workers directly from the Express Entry pool through Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

There are also prospects to get a Canadian work permit right at the port of entry for foreign nationals working for a multinational company with a branch in Canada to take up work there and a Mexican professional who gets a job offer under the Canada-US-Mexico free trade Agreement (CUSMA). The same is true for certain applicants under the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (CPTPP).

Provincial Nomination Program:

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) have become an increasingly popular way for tech workers to immigrate to Canada. Many Canadian provinces offer nominee programs specific to those with experience in the tech industry. Some programs even invite candidates directly from the Express Entry pool to apply for nomination.