High-Potential Technical Talent Visa

June 14, 2022

Thank you, Minister Fraser, for being with us today.

Following on from Senator Gerba, you know that there is a major labour and talent shortage right across our economy. As a result, I want to ask about attracting and fast-tracking more skilled talent for our innovation sector.

Last week, the United Kingdom launched its High Potential Individual visa stream for global top talent to come to the U.K. Distinct from Canada’s Global Talent Stream, individuals do not require a job offer, and eligible individuals would have the flexibility to work or switch jobs or employers. Additionally, they could extend their stay and obtain permanent residency within the visa category.

I have two questions. Have you looked into the possibility of developing a similar high-potential tech talent visa program in Canada, as suggested by organizations like the Council of Canadian Innovators? And in what ways might the start-up visa program be modified to more successfully attract entrepreneurial tech talent to Canada? Thank you.

Hon. Sean Fraser, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship [ + ]

Thank you very much. Let’s put this in the appropriate economic context. Our economy is firing on all cylinders. About 115% of the jobs lost during the pandemic have now come back; GDP is ahead of prepandemic levels; and the unemployment rate is at the lowest level — forget the pandemic — ever recorded in Canada. Despite these successes, we have hundreds of thousands of job vacancies. We need to focus on growth as we come out of this pandemic to ensure that our economy can provide the services we need.

On the first question, right now my starting point is that the Global Talent Stream is a very good program. To the extent that we can tinker with it to take advantage of the existing opportunities in the economy to attract the world’s talent, all of whom seem to be thinking about what their next move might be right now, we should do so. We don’t have a big announcement to make in the short term, but to the extent that we want to have a follow-up conversation, please know I’m always very interested.

Regarding your second question on the start-up visa, we need to start asking ourselves this: Should we be dedicating resources to both the incubator and the angel stream? Should we be expanding the numbers in what is potentially a modest program by comparison to other streams but also taking a look at the eligibility criteria under the start-up visa to see if we should broaden the scope to expand access for high-growth firms that might not be in the fairly narrowly defined sector that has access today? That will be part of the consultation I will be doing over the summer in advance of next year’s immigration levels plan. I believe the Start-up Visa Program has immense potential to attract people to Canada who will help to create wealth and grow our economy, and do it in a way that leads to more Canadians working for those businesses rather than taking the approach some other countries have taken, where you can more or less buy your way into a legal status in a particular country.

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