For decades, the United States was a destination country for talent migration. In the last two years, however, Canada has surpassed its southern neighbor on several key metrics when it comes to winning foreign talent.

First, university enrollment of foreign nationals jumped 20 per cent, year over year, in 2017 helping Canada surpass its 2022 goal for foreign national enrollment.

Karen McBride, president and CEO of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, cites the country’s reputation as “safe and tolerant,” as a big reason for the increase. Notably, the same measure ticked down by seven per cent in the United States in the same time period.

Second, Toronto added 28,900 tech jobs last year – more than the Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., combined. In 2016, its 22,500 new tech jobs beat out New York’s and those in the Bay Area (combined).

Finally, more than half of Toronto-based tech companies reported an increase in applications from foreign national workers in 2017.

These trends amount to a substantial strengthening of Toronto’s tech capabilities and pipeline, positioning its tech sector to contribute consistently and sustainably to the city’s economic growth. And they are no accident.

Canadian immigration policies have been laying the groundwork for an influx of tech talent for years now. Three in particular are worth highlighting.

First, the country’s policy of reciprocal employment for temporary workers, lets companies employ foreign nationals as long as it is sending a roughly equal number of Canadian citizens to work abroad.

This is a bold innovation not replicated in many parts of the world. The effect on the labor market is ultimately neutral, and the effect for employers is to make it much easier to hire foreign national workers when an exchange policy exists and Canadian nationals have similar reciprocal opportunities abroad.

The second key Canadian immigration policy driving tech growth is the Global Talent Stream, a pilot program designed to prioritize the hiring of foreign nationals who can fill skills gaps in Canadian companies.

While Global Talent Stream hires must still go through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process, the program addresses local skill-driven labor shortages with inbound immigration. One of the highlights of the Global Talent Stream program is the two-week standard for the processing of work permit applications for highly skilled talent.

Third, is express entry via the Provincial Nominee Program, which creates a new pathway for foreign nationals to realize permanent resident status. The Canadian immigration strategy is to grow the permanent high-skilled labor force across the country and bolster Canada’s innovation economy.

The express entry pool is the main source of permanent residence applications for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s economic immigration category. In 2017, 65,401 permanent residents and their families were admitted into Canada via express entry. The target for 2018 is 74,900 admissions, an increase of 14 per cent.

In the U.S., employment-based permanent resident approvals are steadily decreasing. In fiscal year 2013, 140,009 employment-based U.S. green cards were issued via adjustment of status versus 113,640 U.S. employment-based green cards in fiscal year 2016 — a decrease of 19 per cent.

With the augmentation of its already immigration-friendly policies, Canada is positioned to reap the rewards of the changing global immigration climate. Already, its economy is enjoying the results.

As technology-driven economic development takes hold in new markets around the world, the competition for STEM talent is intensifying. Canada’s approach is notable, because it implements complementary policies that are holistically impacting the innovation ecosystem.

These policies empower Canadian employers to aggressively recruit the talent needed to fill key holes in the local workforce, while simultaneously creating pathways for permanent residence, which can help attract the sort of workers who aspire to start businesses and file patents.

Canada’s emphasis on policies that encourage more high-skilled immigration present a transformative economic opportunity. Google, PayPal, and Whatsapp were all founded in the U.S. by immigrants.

Considering the rate at which students and tech workers are pursuing opportunity in Canada, the next disruptive website to be globally adopted as a verb in our conversational lexicon may very well be launching today in a coffee shop on University Ave. in Toronto.


Originally posted on by Stephanie Lewin on August 27, 2018