Canada’s immigration pathways for tech talent

Posted Jul 15, 2022 at 08:00am EDT

Canada’s tech sector is booming and industry growth is expected to continue to outpace the number of skilled tech workers in the Canadian workforce. This growth is coming from a combination of startups and large companies, like Google and Amazon, investing more money and growing their businesses in Canada. This investment is a centerpiece of Canada’s economy, and as a result, there are more than 250,000 tech workers in Toronto alone.

In response to the high demand for skilled tech workers, the federal and provincial governments offer many work permit and permanent residence options for hiring workers abroad. This article will explain some standout options, whether you’re an employer or a tech worker yourself.

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Temporary work permits

An employer considering hiring talent from abroad has several temporary work permit pathways to choose from. When there is a shortage of skilled Canadian tech workers, these programs aim to enable employers to quickly hire the tech talent they need for their business.

Global Talent Stream

Global Talent Stream (GTS) is a prominent option in the technology sector. It was created to facilitate the growth of Canada’s tech industry and aims to achieve a two-week processing standard once the potential employee submits the final application. This pathway acts as a temporary work permit and can be used as a stepping stone for employees who wish to become eligible for permanent residence.

It is considered part of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and before hiring, employers must first obtain a neutral or positive Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to be eligible. ESDC assesses whether hiring workers from outside Canada will have a positive, neutral or negative impact on the Canadian labor market.

Additionally, to be eligible to hire under this program, employers must meet criteria in one of the following two categories:

Category A: This category is for companies that approach EDSC through a referral partner. Referral partners are typically government, local, or government-affiliated agencies or businesses that have a mandate to support local economies. Employees hired under this category are highly specialized in a specific part of the technology sector. If the candidate’s occupation is already on the Global Talent Occupations List, the employer must apply in Category B.

Category B: This is for employers who require employees who are employed in occupations that are already on the global talent occupations list, such as software engineers, designers, or information systems analysts. These occupations are considered in demand and the government has recognized a shortage of these skills in the Canadian workforce.

Labor Market Benefits Plan

Employers must also submit a Labor Market Benefits Plan (LMBP) to EDSC that outlines how they will commit to benefiting Canada’s labor market in the long term. The approach is different depending on the category.

A category A plan must describe how contracting through the GTS will benefit job creation for permanent residents and Canadians.

Category B LMBPs must show how they will increase their investment in training Canadians and permanent residents to learn in-demand technology skills.

In both categories, there are conditions related to how skilled workers are paid. Anyone hired through the Global Talent Stream must be paid the prevailing wage or higher.

The prevailing wage is the higher of any of the following:

  • the median salary for the occupation in the Government of Canada Job Bank;
  • the salary within the range that an employer pays current employees in the same position at the same location, with the same skills and experience; either
  • the minimum wage as defined in the Global Talent list of occupations (if applicable).

Schedule a Free Work Permit Consultation with the Cohen Immigration Law Firm


If an employer is hiring tech talent from elsewhere in North America, they may be eligible for the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). Like the GTS, it is a temporary work permit.

This agreement can facilitate the mobility of talent between countries. The deal falls into two categories that are relevant to tech workers.

Professionals: There are 63 occupations that qualify for NAFTA in the professional category. Outstanding technology occupations, such as systems analysts and software engineers, may be eligible.

Intra-company Transfers (ICTs): ICTs occur when employees of multinational companies relocate to the company’s Canadian branch. The transferee is usually someone in a management position or has other specialized knowledge.


ICT-eligible multinational companies do not necessarily have to be located in Mexico or the United States. If any company has a branch established in Canada, it is possible for employees from other countries to relocate to Canada without the employer needing to obtain an LMIA.

Paths to permanent residence in Canada

Tech talent may prefer to move to Canada as a permanent resident. The most common route for skilled tech workers to obtain permanent residency is through an immigration program that falls under the Express Entry application management system or a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

Express Entry

Express Entry is the Canadian government’s largest entry stream for qualified immigrants.

Tech-savvy candidates are the main recipients of invitations for permanent residence under Express Entry.

Express Entry is designed to expedite applications for skilled workers. The most popular Express Entry option is the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP). This program is for those with at least one year of work experience that falls under National Occupational Codes 0, A, or B, as most tech sector jobs do.

Alternatively, candidates who have completed one year of work experience in Canada in the last three years may be eligible for Express Entry through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program.

Express Entry is a two-step process:

  • Candidates must self-assess if they are eligible for the program they wish to apply to.
  • If eligible, they must upload a profile on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. IRCC will assign a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score based on work experience, education, language skills, and other human capital factors in your profile. The higher the score, the more likely a candidate will receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.

IRCC holds drawings approximately every two weeks. If a candidate receives an ITA, he has 60 days to submit his final application to IRCC.

Find out if you are eligible for Canadian immigration

Provincial Nomination Tech Talent Streams
Canada offers more than 100 economic immigration pathways and many of them are part of a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). All Canadian provinces, except Quebec and Nunavut, have PNPs that operate in accordance with the IRCC. These programs allow provincial governments to select candidates they think will be a good fit for the province. Several Canadian provinces have immigration flows designed to attract tech talent.

Here is a short list of provincial tech talent streams:

BC Technological Current: For this stream, candidates must be eligible for one of BC’s immigration programs and have a job offer of at least one year.

OINP Tech Giveaway: Under this Ontario Immigrant Candidate Program, candidates must be eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program or the Canadian Experience Class.

Saskatchewan Tech Talent Pathway: Eligible candidates must have an employer-specific SINP (Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program) job approval letter for an eligible technology sector occupation. They need at least one year of work experience in that occupation within the last five years,

Alberta Accelerated Tech Path: Candidates must meet the eligibility criteria for the Alberta Express Entry Stream. They must be currently working in Alberta or have a job offer in one of 23 eligible occupations.


Quebec offers its own program called the Quebec Immigration Program for Workers in the Artificial Intelligence, Information Technology and Visual Effects Sectors.

There are two technology categories in this program:

AI (Artificial Intelligence): There are two ways to be eligible for this stream. If a candidate graduated from a Quebec college or university, she must have work experience and a job offer. If the candidate was trained abroad, she may not require a job offer, but must demonstrate education equivalent to a Quebec bachelor’s degree.

IT flows and visual effects: Candidates must have two years of work experience in one of the 10 eligible occupations, within the last five years. They must also have a job offer in that field and the equivalent of a Quebec technical studies diploma or bachelor’s degree.

Find out if you are eligible for Canadian immigration

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