High demand: Ottawa's H-1B visa holder recruitment closes in just 1 day

Should the government expand the work permit program?

High demand: Ottawa's H-1B visa holder recruitment closes in just 1 day

One day – that’s all it took to reach the limit of Ottawa’s new program to draw H-1B visa holders into the country.

Late in June, the federal government announced a new open work permit stream for H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the US to apply for a Canadian work permit, and study or work permit options for their accompanying family members.

The measure was to remain in effect for one year, or until Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) received 10,000 applications, the government said.

Ottawa opened the program to applicants on Sunday, and then closed it Monday after receiving 10,000 applications.

Sean Fraser, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said he was watching the situation in the U.S. and saw it as an "opportunity" for Canada when he first announced the program, according to a CBC report.

Rana Sarkar, Canada’s consul general in San Francisco, California, believed the majority of work permits would go to H-1B holders from Silicon Valley, according to Mercury News. This is where the talent is,” Sarkar said. “This is where we’re coming to attract talent.”

The new open work permit stream is part of Ottawa’s first-ever Tech Talent Strategy.

Expansion, criticism of work permits

Following quick completion of the application limit for the program, the government should now consider expanding the program to more applicants, Nick Schiavo, director of federal affairs for the Council of Canadian Innovators, said, according to the CBC report.

"The more that we can pull from these highly qualified individuals that we know have the work experience, the skill set… the better," Schiavo said. "As this program develops, it would be great to see it expanded."

Should the government decide to do so, it should simplify the application process first, Mark Holthe, an immigration lawyer, said in the report.

"It was an absolute disaster," Holthe said, describing his efforts to help clients navigate their applications. He also mentioned a glitch in the online portal that wouldn't allow the applicant to advance further in the application process.

Ottawa also previously opened two new immigration streams under the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP). Earlier, the government also introduced open work permits for spousal and family class applicants.

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