Holders of H-1B specialty visas in the United States will soon have an additional option to live and work in Canada.
Starting from July 16, H-1B holders can now apply for a new Canadian Open Work Permit (OWP), in addition to the existing permanent and temporary pathways. This work permit allows eligible H-1B holders and their immediate family members, including spouses and dependents, to work for almost any employer in Canada for up to three years. The Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will accept applications for the new OWP until either one year has passed or the program reaches its cap of 10,000 applications in 2023.
If you are an H-1B holder, you might be wondering if you can apply for a Canadian work permit and permanent residence simultaneously. The answer is yes, and there are several reasons why this can be beneficial.
One advantage is the processing time for work permit applications submitted outside Canada, which is typically around 60 days, with certain pathways like the Global Talent Stream having even shorter service standards.
If you meet the eligibility criteria and wish to pursue permanent residence, you can apply through the Express Entry application management system. Express Entry is the primary method the Canadian government uses to manage skilled worker immigration applications. Candidates in the Express Entry pool are assessed based on various human capital factors and assigned a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. Those with the highest scores are more likely to receive an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence.
If you haven’t lived or worked in Canada before, you will likely need to assess your eligibility under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) to pursue Canadian permanent residence through Express Entry.
One major benefit of Express Entry is its service standard for processing permanent residence applications within six months. This means that while you are seeking permanent residence, you can upload your Express Entry profile on the Canadian government’s website and use the H-1B OWP as a means to enter Canada and work.
Applying for the OWP first and then Express Entry once you are in Canada has an additional advantage. Gaining at least 12 months of eligible work experience in Canada can increase your CRS score, enhancing your chances of receiving an ITA.
Moreover, having at least one year of eligible Canadian work experience can make you eligible for Express Entry’s Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program, exempting you from demonstrating sufficient settlement funds required under the FSWP.
Overall, H-1B holders are in a favorable position to apply for permanent residence through Express Entry due to their high human capital, including skilled work experience, post-secondary education, and strong English language abilities. This is evidenced by the IRCC year-end report on Express Entry for 2021, which shows that the U.S. was among the top five countries of residence for Express Entry ITA recipients between 2019 and 2021.
Express Entry also caters to STEM occupations. Canada’s immigration minister, Sean Fraser, recently introduced a tech talent strategy to further attract skilled tech workers to the country. The H-1B OWP is one aspect of this strategy, along with category-based selection draws for Express Entry candidates in specific, in-demand occupations.
Instead of solely issuing ITAs based on a high CRS score, category-based Express Entry rounds of invitations aim to select economic immigration candidates who can address critical labor force gaps in Canada’s economy. These categories were determined through discussions between IRCC and provinces, territories, partners, and stakeholders to identify the most urgent vacancies and skills gaps. There are 82 eligible occupations under the six new categories.
The Express Entry category for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers encompasses 35 eligible occupations. The initial round of invitations for STEM occupations occurred on July 5, inviting 500 candidates with a minimum CRS score of 486.
Canada’s tech talent strategy includes other pathways as well, such as the new innovation stream under the International Mobility Program, initiatives to attract digital nomads, and enhancements to existing tech immigration programs like the Global Talent Stream and the Start-up Visa Program. H-1B holders can also apply for nomination through a tech stream of the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), even without being in the Express Entry application pool. A provincial nomination significantly strengthens a non-Express Entry application when applying for permanent residence. For Express Entry candidates, a provincial nomination adds 600 CRS points to their profile, almost guaranteeing an ITA for permanent residence.
Most Canadian provinces and territories (excluding Quebec and Nunavut) can nominate candidates they consider best suited to their labor force. Many provinces have specialized streams within their PNPs for tech candidates. For example, British Columbia holds draws for tech candidates multiple times a month, and Ontario recently conducted a draw targeting tech candidates in the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program.
In conclusion, H-1B visa holders with the new OWP have numerous pathways to obtain permanent residency in Canada. Applying for Express Entry after arriving in Canada using the H-1B OWP can benefit them greatly. With their high human capital, H-1B OWP holders can take advantage of the new STEM category-based Express Entry rounds of invitations.