Home / Introducing Canada’s Open Work Permit Stream for U.S. H-1B Visa Holders

Introducing Canada’s Open Work Permit Stream for U.S. H-1B Visa Holders

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Effective immediately, individuals with a United States H-1B specialty occupation visa can now pursue work and residency in Canada. This initiative, announced by Canada’s Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, on June 27, aims to enhance labor mobility across North America. This will benefit workers in high-tech sectors in both countries and their immediate families.

Successful applicants will be granted an open work permit, valid for three years, allowing them to work for virtually any employer in Canada. This opportunity extends to spouses and dependents, who can apply for work or study permits as required.

The measure, implemented by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, will be in effect for one year or until the cap of 10,000 applicants is reached. It’s important to note that this cap pertains to principal applicants only and excludes family members.

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Key Eligibility Criteria for Canada’s Open Work Permit for H-1B Visa Holders

Requirements for Canada’s Open Work Permit for H-1B Visa Holders:

  • Valid H-1B specialty occupation visa
  • Residency in the United States

Documents needed to apply for the open work permit:

  • Copy of your current H-1B visa
  • Form I-797/I797B, Notice of Action (confirming H-1B approval)
  • Proof of U.S. residency (e.g., Form I-94, utility bill, income tax report, or any relevant document).


Canada’s Strategy for Attracting Tech Talent

In addition to the 3-year open work permit for H-1B holders, the IRCC is actively developing an Innovation Stream as part of the International Mobility Program (IMP). This stream, set to launch later this year, is informed by stakeholder feedback received through consultations.

Two options are currently under consideration:

  • Employer-specific work permits for up to five years, targeting workers destined for companies contributing to Canada’s industrial innovation goals.
  • Open work permits for up to five years, catering to highly skilled workers in specific in-demand occupations.

Furthermore, Minister Fraser announced reinstating the 14-day service standard for work permits under the Global Skills Strategy. The government is also promoting Canada as a destination for digital nomads. Enhancing the Start-up Visa Program by allocating more spots and extending the work permit duration from one to three years.

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IRCC’s Focus on STEM Occupations

On June 28, IRCC unveiled its plan to conduct the first Express Entry draw targeting individuals with work experience in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. This draw aligns with the category-based selection criteria introduced by the Minister on May 31.

Following through on July 5, the department extended invitations to 500 candidates from the Express Entry pool who possess STEM work experience, potentially making them eligible for the new H-1B open work permit.

The Express Entry program now includes five additional categories for individuals with work experience in distinct occupational fields. The sixth category caters to those with solid proficiency in the French language. They determined these categories after thorough research and consultations with IRCC partners, stakeholders, and provincial/territorial governments, who possess valuable insights into local labor shortages.

IRCC considers the Express Entry STEM category invitations a significant milestone in Canada’s commitment to attracting top global talent and maintaining its leadership in international research, development, and innovation.

For instance, in Budget 2023, the Canadian government announced a $20 billion investment in significant clean electricity and infrastructure projects. The expertise of STEM professionals will play a crucial role there.


STEM Job Positions in Canada

According to recent data from Statistics Canada, the professional, scientific, and technical services sector had 42,900 job vacancies in April. This figure represents a decrease of 7,700 (-15.2%) from March and a significant decline of 30,600 (-41.6%) compared to the peak of 73,600 in April 2022.

Ontario and Quebec remain the provinces with the most job vacancies in the country. Ontario recently eliminated the Canadian work experience requirement for newcomers seeking engineering licensure to address the shortage, particularly in the STEM field.

Additionally, on June 30, Ontario’s Ministry of Labor, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development announced that regulated professions in the province must make registration decisions and communicate them to internationally trained newcomers within six months. This initiative aims to simplify the process for skilled newcomers, including those in STEM professions, to fill job vacancies and bridge the skills gap.

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