Four Ways US Tech Workers Can Immigrate to and Work in Canada 


The shortage of STEM professionals in the Canadian labor market has increased US tech sector workers’ chances of coming to and working in Canada.

Human resources giant Randstad reported on this trend back in April, highlighting how a shift towards digital dependency and industrial transformation due to new technologies is initiating change across all industries – and resultantly boosting tech jobs.

Not only that, but it also reported on how “companies continue to report skills shortages, leading to shifts in the average salary expectations for top jobs in tech.”

“Employers are looking for qualified candidates who can develop and refine technology solutions and use data analysis to streamline existing systems. Other trending jobs in the tech sector involve developing security systems that reduce the risk of data breaches and building the architecture to support stable business cloud computing systems.”

The aforementioned labor market shortage has caused not only employers, but even Ottawa itself, to look abroad; for example, foreign STEM workers were included in the Express Entry program’s category-based rounds of invitations, through which the country plans to invite those candidates for permanent residence who can help it achieve its economic goals.

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Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has also accelerated its efforts to fix the aforementioned shortage through many industry-specific work permit pathways.

This article will deal with four ways to come to Canada as a tech worker from the US:

1. Start-Up Visa

The Start-Up Visa Program specifically targets those immigrant entrepreneurs who have the skills and potential to build businesses in Canada (outside Quebec) that are

  • Innovative
  • Able to create jobs for Canadians
  • Competitive on a global scale

Applying for a Start-Up Visa requires entrepreneurs to pitch their qualifying start-up to a designated organization (a venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator organization) and get a letter of support from them.

They also need to meet IRCC’s language requirements (CLB 5 under all proficiencies in either English or French) and bring enough money to settle in Canada.

While waiting on a decision on their permanent residence application through the SUV, candidates might be able to work in Canada if they

  • Show that their business will provide significant economic benefits to Canada
  • Bring enough money to settle in Canada

Note: The province of Quebec manages its own business immigration program that is separate from the SUV.

2. PR With Canada Work Experience

Having a year or more of Canadian work experience could be a huge asset for American STEM workers in acquiring permanent residency in Canada. This is because it reflects very positively for any EE and Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP).

This point, therefore, is broken down into two sections:

Express Entry (EE) is IRCC’s online system to manage immigration applications from skilled foreign workers. Broadly speaking, three immigration programs are managed through it:

This pathway is for skilled workers holding Canadian work experience that was gained in the three years before they apply.

This program applies to those workers who have foreign work experience. They must still meet the education and other criteria.

This program is for skilled workers who are qualified in a skilled trade, and have a valid job offer or certificate of qualification.

Express Entry draws under these three programs involve applicants to being ranked against each other through a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The CRS score is a scoring of one’s immigration profile and its subsequent ranking in the EE pool.

To be sent an invitation to apply (ITA), one needs to have a score above the minimum points score for their round of invitations. Once an ITA has been received, candidates have 60 days to submit their application.

Note: Having acquired Canadian work experience can be the difference between receiving an ITA or not.

  • Provincial Nominee Program

The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) is aimed at those workers who:

  • have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to the economy of a specific province or territory
  • want to live in that province and
  • want to become permanent residents of Canada

Each province carries its own streams (immigration programs targeting specific groups) and requirements. They may, for example, target students, businesses, skilled workers, or semi-skilled workers.

Some streams specifically target tech workers and may be of interest to American STEM talent.

Holding work experience from Canada (and that which shows in-demand skills) can be a huge plus for those looking for PNP eligibility, although it depends on the specific PNP requirements. Most streams ask for a job offer, which can be more easily procured by candidates who are already working in the country.

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3. Global Talent Stream (GTS)

Falling under Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the Global Talent Stream “offers timely, responsive and predictable client-focused service to help (Canadian employers) access highly skilled global talent to expand (their) workforce here in Canada and to be competitive on a global scale.”

It does so by allowing skilled workers to acquire their Canada work permits and have their Canada visa applications processed within approximately two weeks.

This program was launched on June 12, 2017, with Quebec unveiling its own version of GTS in September of the same year.

The aim for this stream is to cut processing times for a Canada visa application to help:

  • innovative firms in Canada that are referred to Service Canada by a designated referral partner and that need unique and specialized foreign nationals in order to scale-up and grow.
  • firms in Canada that need to fill an in-demand, highly skilled position on the Global Talent Occupations List.

4. CUSMA’s Intra-Company Transfer

The Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 2020 to liberalize trade between the three North American countries and to reciprocally allow their citizens to have access to each other’s country; this was instituted as a means to “sell, provide goods or services or trade and invest.”

The preferential trade agreement thus paves way for temporary entry provisions into Canada, which are to be used in conjunction with the general entry provisions governing foreign workers.

CUSMA’s chapter 16 groups business persons under the following four categories:

  • business visitors;
  • professionals;
  • intra-company transferees;
  • traders and investors.

For the purpose of this article, we are concerned with the “intra-company transferees” category. It deals with individuals employed by an American or Mexican enterprise in a managerial or executive capacity, or in one which involves specialized knowledge, and seeking (or being transferred) to the Canadian enterprise, parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, to provide services in the same capacity.

These transferees are exempt from the Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process but require a work permit.


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