Canada unveils 'digital nomad strategy'

Immigration minister reveals new measures to attract international talent, addressing Canada’s talent shortage

Canada unveils 'digital nomad strategy'

Canada took bold steps to address its skills shortage by introducing three new initiatives during a technology conference held on Tuesday. These measures aim to attract international talent and bolster Canada's technology sector. 

During his address at the Collision tech conference in Toronto, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced a "digital nomad strategy". This approach allows foreign workers with an employer from their home country to reside and work in Canada for up to six months. Moreover, if they secure a job offer while in Canada, they can extend their stay even further. 

Fraser emphasized the impact these workers would have on local communities, stating that they would "spend money in communities in this country”.  

Fraser's remarks primarily focused on attracting qualified professionals to the technology sector.  

As part of a broader "tech talent strategy", Fraser revealed that the federal government plans to develop an immigration stream by the end of the year. This stream will enable “some of the world's most talented people that will be able to come to Canada to work for tech companies, whether they have a job offer or not”.  

The specific criteria and the number of individuals eligible for this stream were not disclosed.  

However, a news release issued after Fraser’s speech indicated that the government would establish an "innovation stream" within its international mobility program. This stream will cater to skilled workers in “select in-demand occupations” and those destined to work with companies aligned with Canada's innovation goals. 

In a bid to attract talent from the United States, the government also unveiled a new program targeting American H-1B visa holders.  

By July 16, an open work-permit stream will be established, allowing up to 10,000 H-1B visa holders to live and work in Canada. The program will also extend study or work permits to their family members. 

H-1B visas allow foreign nationals to temporarily work in the US, particularly in specialized fields like technology. As many tech companies faced layoffs, a number of H-1B visa holders found themselves seeking new job opportunities before being required to leave the US. 

Fraser saw this as an “opportunity” for Canada and seized the moment to attract skilled workers to the country. 

Positive reactions from the industry  

The Council of Canadian Innovators applauded these new programs as crucial steps in addressing the country’s talent shortage. 

"Canadian companies are starved for talent and the reality is we're not currently training enough," said Nick Schiavo, the council's director of federal affairs.  

"The announcements today are such a breakthrough and such a game-changer.” 

Schiavo expressed particular enthusiasm for the pathway created for H-1B visa holders, highlighting their prior vetting and accreditation.  

"We just don't have enough talent here, so the faster we can get that talent that has been vetted and accredited in the United States into our companies, into our communities, the better," Schiavo said. 

Schiavo also highlighted the digital nomad strategy’s potential to establish connections with highly skilled individuals who are more likely to invest their time and expertise in Canadian companies.