New immigration program helping Canada in the global war for high-tech talent

The Global Skills Strategy, a fast-track immigration program designed to bring high-tech talent to Canada, has hooked more than 1,600 people in its first two and a half months, according to numbers obtained by CBC News.

High tech workers fast-tracked in Canada

Canada's brain gain

6 years ago
Duration 5:08
Renee Filippone on Canada leveraging what some are calling our immigration advantage

A pilot program that makes it easier for highly skilled foreign tech workers to find jobs in Canada has hooked more than 1,600 people in its first two and a half months, CBC News has learned.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada launched the two-year project in June to help companies that need to bring in talent quickly so their businesses can expand.

The Global Skills Strategy cuts the amount of time a foreign worker needs to wait for a work permit, with decisions being made within two weeks instead of months. The program also makes it easier for their immediate family members to enter the country.

"The feedback from the private sector has been very positive," said Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and economic development.

More than 2,000 people have already applied so far — meaning about 80 per cent of the applications to the program have been fast tracked. 

Some applicants appear to be lured to Canada as they are second-guessing moving to the United States because of the political climate.

Petra Axolotl, a former Twitter employee, used the program to move to Canada from Singapore this summer. Canada wasn't her first choice of destinations, but she decided to leave Singapore because that country doesn't recognize her same-sex partner.

"The plan was to move back to the U.S. after my stay in Singapore," she said. "But one thing that happened was Donald Trump became president. He always says 'Make America great again,' but I think he's making Canada pretty great."

Is immigration good or bad for an economy?

6 years ago
Duration 2:50
Canada’s economy needs more people as Canadians aren’t having enough babies to replace the aging population. The CBC’s Anne Gaviola explains why there are plans to increase the number of immigrants coming to Canada.

Axolotl said it took about 10 days to get her application approved. 

"The process itself was quite easy," she said. The data scientist, who works for a small high-tech company in Toronto called Platterz, has already been granted permanent resident status.

Over the past decade there has been an overall increase in tech sector immigration. According to data provided to the CBC, the trend appears set to continue.

Last year, 8,785 tech workers immigrated to Canada. For the first eight months of 2017 the number is at 6,940 — that's nearly 80 per cent of last year's total already.

Experts stress that it's difficult to mark a trend with partial data for 2017. But Walid Hejazi, associate professor of business with the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, said the numbers look promising.

"A lot of these really high-tech workers are coming to Canada because the U.S. is no longer a viable option," he said. "That's part of the story."

'Immigration advantage'

Last week, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said Canada is in a position to leverage a so-called "immigration advantage," saying there are "more and more countries that are closing their doors to people, they are closing their doors to talent and to skills."

Canada will take the opposite approach, Hussen said.

Duelling recruiters

The Global Skills Strategy is just one tool to attract top tech talent to Canada and compete against the beast that is Silicon Valley. Toronto recruiter Jodi Kovitz says in the past it's been a real battle but the current climate is changing that.

Watch her face off with California recruiter James Mackey in the video below

Tech recruiters face off

6 years ago
Duration 1:15
Two talent recruiters — one from Silicon Valley, and one from Toronto — lay out their best case for why high-skilled technology workers should come start their careers in the two hubs


Renée is a senior reporter based in Vancouver. She was formerly the CBC correspondent in London, U.K. Renée has spent a decade with the organization in a number of roles, including senior business reporter, weekend news anchor, television and radio reporter, associate producer, program director and others.