Five pathways for tech talent in the U.S. to come to Canada

There are many ways for technology sector workers in the U.S. to come to Canada for work, after which this country also provides these individuals with several pathways to Canadian permanent residence (PR).

Canada has a well-documented need for skilled workers in the tech industry, evidenced most recently by the introduction of category-based Express Entry draws for five different occupational groups.

Note: In 2023, one of these five groups is foreign nationals with recent work experience in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professions. More on Express Entry category-based draws can be found here.

Due to this need for tech talent across Canada, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has designated several work permit pathways specifically for skilled workers in this industry, both for a temporary residence (TR) and PR. Many of these possibilities provide simple Canadian immigration options for tech workers in the U.S. Five such pathways will now be discussed in further detail below.

Global Talent Stream (GTS)

The Global Talent Stream is a portion of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). This stream enables employers in Canada to quickly (processing time of around two weeks) hire skilled technology sector workers who can help Canadian companies grow.

GTS applications have a 10-day service standard, which the government expects to meet with 80% of applications to every Canadian immigration program.

Note: The service standard for application processing begins the business day after the application has been received by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)

Learn more about the Global Talent Stream here.

Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) stream of CUSMA

Enacted in 2020 to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) is an employment-based agreement between the three countries that make up North America. This agreement has four categories.

The Intra-Company Transfer category of CUSMA enables tech industry workers who are U.S. citizens to receive a work permit in Canada if they need to be transferred (temporarily) for employment in Canada. Among the eligibility requirements for an ICT work permit through CUSMA is that the transferring employee must be coming to Canada to work for the Canadian branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of their American employer.

Learn more about CUSMA here.

Start-Up Visa

IRCC’s Start-Up Visa allows for Canada to “recruit innovative foreign national entrepreneurs who will create new jobs and drive economic growth” in this country.

Note: If successful, start-up visa recipients will be connected with IRCC-designated organizations that will assist them with operating a business inside Canada (through funding, guidance, and expertise).

Read more on this designated page all about Canada’s Start-Up Visa program.

Becoming a Canadian permanent resident after working in Canada

Although the above options give U.S. tech workers the ability to apply for Canadian PR after working in this country*, IRCC also provides options for American tech talent who do not want to first acquire Canadian work experience.

Note: All applicants to these programs must meet certain requirements to be eligible

*It is worth noting that Canadian work experience can be significantly beneficial for applicants to any of Canada’s Express Entry-managed programs and the country’s Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs), which will be explained further below. These two immigration options represent Canada’s two primary PR pathways for international skilled workers.

Provincial Nominee Programs

Operated by all Canadian provinces and territories except Quebec and Nunavut, PNPs are designed to equip local governments with the ability to select specific immigration candidates they feel can best help their region address specific local labour market and economic challenges.

Many of Canada’s PNPs include streams that cater specifically to foreign tech talent, including streams that would be options for tech workers in the U.S.

Express Entry

Express Entry is the name of the application management system used by Canada’s federal government to manage immigration applications to the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).

For standard Express Entry draws — as opposed to category-based draws, first conducted in June 2023 — applicants to these three programs are scored and ranked against each other using their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores.

Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for Canadian PR are issued during every standard Express Entry draw conducted by IRCC to applicants who have a CRS score above a particular draw’s designated cut-off score.

Learn more about Canada’s new category-based Express Entry draws here.

Example: How Canadian work experience can be vital for Express Entry

Canadian work experience could be the difference between receiving and missing out on an ITA for Canadian PR. In fact, in the hypothetical below, the Express Entry candidate will have missed out on 53 CRS points and an ITA, something the individual could have easily obtained with Canadian work experience.

A single, 38-year-old software engineer from New Orleans would have a CRS score of 475 if they:

  • Have a valid LMIA-supported Canadian job offer in a TEER 1 occupation
  • Do not have a sibling in Canada, PNP offer, or a certificate of qualification
  • Earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in the U.S. and both credentials were evaluated with an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA)
  • Have not gone through any education in Canada

With this score, the last time this candidate would have received an ITA through a standard draw is December 23, 2020 (CRS score: 468).

If the same candidate acquired two years of Canadian work experience through one of the above immigration pathways prior to applying for PR through Express Entry, their CRS score would rise to 528. This is above the recent cut-off scores for most standard Express Entry draws, meaning the candidate would have received an ITA for PR in Canada.

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