New Program for High-Skilled Labour

On June 12, 2017, the Government of Canada launched the Global Skills Strategy (“GSS”), a two-year pilot project aimed at facilitating faster entry into the country for temporary, highly-skilled, and highly-paid foreign talent.

In September 2016, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities published a report on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.  This report highlighted significant systemic issues in almost all streams of the program. Chief among these concerns was the fact that stream-specific requirements did not fully address the varying needs of different industries.

Stakeholders complained that the program was designed to fill labour gaps rather than strengthen Canadian research and innovation. In particular, they highlighted the struggle to fit their available positions within the standardized National Occupation Classification (“NOC”) and the cripplingly long process for obtaining Labour Market Impact Assessments (“LMIA”).

The GSS and the Global Talent Stream
In response to these criticisms, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”), in collaboration with Economic and Social Development Canada (“ESDC”), developed the Global Talent Stream, which targets a specific subsection of high-wage workers who would otherwise be subject to the cumbersome LMIA process. Potential employees are divided in two categories:

  • Category A candidates: those who have a unique and specialized talent and whose potential employer has been referred to the GSS by a designated partner; and
  • Category B candidates: those who are highly-skilled foreign workers, looking to fill occupations found on the Global Talent Occupation List (which currently focuses on the Technology Sector).

Employers who want to hire eligible candidates can take advantage of 10-day LMIA processing standards if the employers meet at least one of three criteria:

  • The positions requested have a prevailing wage that is equal or above the top 10% of wages earned by Canadians or Permanent Residents in the province/territory where the job is located;
  • The positions are for skilled trades on the list of eligible occupations AND the wage is at or above the median wage for the province/territory; and
  • The positions requested are for 120 days or less AND the wage is at or above the provincial/territorial median wage.

Eligible candidates under this stream also benefit from 10-day work permit processing, which includes the processing of open work permits for accompanying spouses and study permits for dependents.

In addition to the Global Talent Stream, the GSS also includes a dedicated service channel for employers and work permit exemptions for managers, executives, and professionals on short-term assignments (15 days every 6 months or 30 days every 12 months), and researchers working on a research project at a publicly-funded institution or at an affiliated research institute (120 days every 12 months).

While the faster processing under the Global Talent Stream appears attractive, it is important to remember that 10-day LMIA processing had already been introduced in 2014 for high-demand, high-paid occupations on short-term contracts. IRCC often struggled to meet this expedited service standard, so employers attempting to utilizing the GSS should have backup plans in place.

While the GSS appears to address some of the concerns raised by employers regarding the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, its impact is likely to be very limited in scope. Employers who wish to utilize the GSS should keep in mind that this is a very targeted stream, aimed only at highly skilled workers . The aim of the program is innovation and skills transfer. Employers need to make the case that their business and their plans for the foreign worker meet those objectives.

Despite the shorter processing times, employers who may qualify for the GSS should plan months ahead. As with any new program, employers should anticipate inconsistent processing times, varying results, and at times some frustration, as ESDC and IRCC work to fine-tune their processes.

The GSS is not for everyone, so employers should still consider utilizing other streams within the program. Average processing times have dropped considerably, but we generally recommend that employers begin the process at least 3-6 months prior to the date they want to fill their open positions. Restrictions on low-skilled workers, like hiring caps and one-year work permits, will remain in place for the foreseeable future. Some of these restrictions depend largely on employment statistics that change with the strength of the economy. Some employers, especially those outside the urban centres, experience persistent labour shortages, and since the GSS does not address their needs, it is best they consult with experts as to when they may qualify for foreign labour.

Employers who are interested in hiring through the Global Talent Stream are invited to contact the professionals of McLennan Ross LLP’s Immigration Practice Group. Our lawyers are also happy to assist with any immigration needs your organization or your employees may have.