Tech companies: Canada is open—here are some immigration considerations

February 19, 2017 - by: Gilda Villaran 0 COMMENTS

by Gilda Villaran

The Government of Canada prides itself on its positive attitude toward immigration and openly welcomes international talent. There are no restrictions preventing the issuance of work permits based on citizenship, and there is no reason to believe that Canada will change the way it views immigration in the immediate future. Not to suggest that Canada is lax about national security; of course, appropriate screening measures are in place to ensure the population’s safety. But once regular security checks are performed, Canada issues (and will continue to issue) work permits to those who meet the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and its regulations.

Given the uncertainty that many employees of U.S.-based companies are now facing, the option of establishing a Canadian subsidiary to expand the organization’s footprint and relocate those employees who find themselves affected by the immigration policies of the current administration is gaining traction. From a Canadian’s perspective, we certainly welcome you in our country. Among other Canadian cities, Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, and Waterloo are already home to many flourishing international tech companies.

Canadian regulations concerning the intracompany transfer of employees allow for the issuance of work permits to managerial or specialized knowledge workers being relocated to Canada (this is the equivalent of L1A and L1B visas in the United States). To qualify, it is necessary to show the corporate link between the current employer abroad and the future Canadian employer. The affected worker also must have at least one year of seniority abroad. If these requirements are satisfied, a work permit can be obtained in a matter of weeks. For citizens of countries exempted from the visa requirement, a work permit can be obtained in a matter of days since it can be requested at the border upon entry into Canada. In all cases, there are security checks and, in some cases, depending on the country of origin, medical exams, but, again, the whole process can be completed in a matter of weeks.

Companies that are interested in establishing a branch or subsidiary in Quebec also should  take note of a Quebec-specific alternative. If, for whatever reason, the fast-track for “intracompany transferees” isn’t available, there are facilitated procedures for professionals, including a few that are relevant to the technology industry. The list of designated professions changes regularly, but, historically, it has always included several occupations in the technology space. These facilitated procedures, although not an exact equivalent of an H1 visa in the United States, provide an alternative (and relatively simple) method for obtaining a work permit for skilled employees.

In addition to the existing programs, Immigration Canada is putting together a “Global Skills Strategy” aimed at attracting international talent to Canada. We expect this strategy to be rolled out in the summer and will report back on any developments as this initiative progresses.

As for the family members of skilled workers, spouses can obtain open work permits allowing them to work for any employer, and children are permitted to attend primary or secondary school.

Similarly, there are no citizenship restrictions preventing the issuance of study permits for graduate (and undergraduate) students who otherwise qualify. Some Canadian universities have already taken concrete steps to facilitate the admission of citizens of countries affected by President Trump’s Executive Order of January 27, 2017, by extending, for instance, admission deadlines.

As you can see, Canadian immigration policy welcomes citizens of all countries of the world, provided that the admissibility requirements are satisfied. It is, therefore, not surprising that Immigration Canada recently issued a Temporary Public Policy offering temporary solutions to citizens of the seven countries affected by President Trump’s Executive Order. Admittedly, these are only temporary options. However, behind the temporary nature of this public policy, there is an explicit will to affirm “Canada’s international reputation as a welcoming country, regardless of one’s faith or nationality and for which diversity is seen as a strength”.

For any international corporations that are considering a potential expansion or move into Canada, be it as a result of immigration and/or other considerations, we welcome you with open arms! There are several options for securing the necessary work permits, especially for those operating in the tech space, and we encourage you to explore all that Canada has to offer. As Canadians, we value, among other things, equality, openness, and respect for cultural differences. In a world of seemingly closing doors, Canada continues to embrace inclusion.

About Gilda Villaran:
Gilda Villaran practices corporate immigration law. She assists clients in the international relocation of executives and highly qualified personnel, which includes obtaining business visas and temporary work permits in Canada or abroad, permanent residence status in Canada or Canadian citizenship. Concerning temporary work permits, her practice focuses on NAFTA and regulatory-based exemptions allowing fast-track procedures for intra-company transferees, professionals or other skilled workers.
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