Should you start hiring top talent from abroad?

An expert explains how employers can use the Global Talent Stream to their advantage

Should you start hiring top talent from abroad?

Think hiring skilled talent from abroad is too hard? Think again.

The government’s global talent stream makes it much easier and faster for certain employers to bring in top foreign workers. It’s a savvy move for Canada, when international experts – worried about the US political climate – are looking further north for work.

Naumaan Hameed, a partner and Canadian Practice Leader at KPMG Law LLP, explains what employers and HR need to know.

What differences does the global talent stream make to Canadian hiring?
The global talent stream allows high growth companies in Canada in need of unique global talent (Category A) and employers seeking certain in-demand professionals (Category B) primarily in IT occupations, to drastically reduce the timeline, red-tape and overall costs required to hire and access critical foreign talent.

Under the new pilot program, an employer can obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) approval within ten business days, whereas under the regular stream, processing times are typically six to ten weeks.

Although employers under the global talent stream are expected to make best efforts to recruit Canadians prior to hiring a foreign worker, they are not subject to Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) minimum recruitment requirements, which has resulted in substantial challenges, financial expenses and processing delays for employers. 

Additionally, corresponding work permits filed outside of Canada under the global talent stream are eligible for two week processing in contrast to regular processing times which can often exceed ten to twelve weeks in certain visa posts. In short, employers that can access the global talent stream will be better positioned to compete for high-demand global talent which can substantially enhance their operations and growth.

What advantages does it give to Canada over the United States in terms of attracting talent?
Canada and the U.S. have adopted very different viewpoints with respect to securing foreign talent for domestic employers. Under the Trump Administration, the predominant theme has been protecting local jobs for Americans by increasing the scrutiny and compliance obligations for employers that rely on foreign talent. The Trump Administration’s Buy American, Hire American executive order has substantially raised criticisms related to the H-1B specialty occupations visa program with reform proposals seeking to limit eligibility to those foreign workers that are paid the highest wages and hold advanced degrees.

Moreover, in practice, foreign workers seeking to enter or remain in the United States face increased scrutiny by U.S. immigration officials. In short, it has become much more challenging, costly and unpredictable for employers to attract foreign talent in the United States and compete internationally. 
In contrast, the global talent stream has been created in Canada based on the theory that facilitating the entry of in-demand foreign workers will assist domestic employers in scaling up, growing revenues and ultimately creating new jobs for Canadians. Some businesses, particularly in the technology industry, are identifying Canada’s progressive and facilitative global talent stream as a differentiating factor in accessing foreign talent needs and are either establishing or expanding operations north of the border. Moreover, the anti-immigrant sentiment prevalent in the U.S. has turned many high skilled foreign workers towards Canada.

How has the global talent stream worked so far?
The initial feedback on the pilot from an employer perspective has been very positive. In the first two months since its inception, over 200 LMIA approvals were issued under the global talent stream with roughly 90% of the approvals issued under Global Talent Occupations List (Category B).

Upon filing an application under the global talent stream, an employer can expect to receive an email from an ESDC intake officer within 24 hours to confirm receipt of the application and confirm whether any information is missing or if additional information is required. Typically, an ESDC program analyst will set up a telephone conference call over the following days with the employer and their legal counsel to discuss the proposed Labour Market Benefits Plan (LMBP). The LMBP is a detailed written commitment from the employer to create jobs and training opportunities for Canadians. By the end of the conversation, the analyst will establish an agreed date with the employer to receive any additional information and the proposed date for a final decision.

From an operational perspective, ESDC officers are committed to meeting the ten business day service standard and will manage the timelines accordingly. From a user’s perspective, the interaction with ESDC representatives under the global talent stream is much more collaborative in comparison to the regular LMIA processing stream, which is often rigid in process and at times adversarial in tone.

What do employers need to do differently than they did in the past?
Under the global talent stream, employers must submit a Labour Market Benefits Plan (LMBP) that demonstrates their commitment to activities that will have long-lasting, positive impacts on the Canadian labour market. In sharp contrast to the regular LMIA process, the global talent stream moves quickly and requires employers to provide necessary information within a short time frame in order to benefit from the expedited processing. Delays often occur where an employer has failed to provide sufficient details in their proposed LMBP about how they will create new jobs, transfer skills and train Canadians or if the plan fails to demonstrate how the commitments will be measured for future compliance. Employers must also develop a mechanism to monitor and report their progress in meeting commitments submitted in the LMBP, as failure to do so can result in removal from the pilot.

In addition to explaining specific details listed in their LMBP, employers should be prepared to discuss the number of foreign workers employed in Canada in comparison to Canadians; projections of the number and types of new jobs that will be created annually; the breakdown of females to males in technical positions; the recruitment efforts for Canadians in the proposed roles to-date; and the anticipated revenue and overall growth projections for operations in Canada.

If an employer is unable to provide required information in a timely fashion, ESDC can transfer the application to the regular LMIA process which results in longer processing times for the LMIA and the corresponding work permit is not be eligible for two-week processing.

Is it the answer to Canada’s talent shortages? What could be better? What could be expanded?
The global talent stream is partly the answer to Canada’s talent shortages. The global talent stream addresses two current talent challenges for Canadian employers: the unique and specialized talent for high growth employers (Category A) and skills shortages for certain occupations primarily in the technology field (Category B).

Employers under category A must be referred to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program by an ESDC Designated Partner. To-date, high growth companies have been primarily limited to those in the tech space. A number of Canadian employers in other industries, including financial services, engineering and aerospace face similar talent challenges in accessing top global talent to support innovation in Canada and would benefit from inclusion in the stream. 

The Global Talent Occupation List (Category B) is a direct answer to the ongoing shortage that Canadian employers face in the IT industry, with an anticipated shortfall of nearly 200,000 IT professionals by 2019. Canadian employers in other industries face skills shortages in many other occupations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).   The Global Talent Stream may provide an effective mechanism to address additional employer needs over time to address wider skill challenges in Canada.

Provided the pilot has favourable reviews in supporting the legitimate talent needs of Canadian employers and is not abused, it is reasonable to anticipate that the scope of the program may expand to include additional occupations and employer needs.

What advice would you give HR professionals and employers about the talent stream?
The key to successfully navigating the global talent stream involves advanced preparation by the employer to respond quickly and appropriately throughout the LMIA application process and upon future reviews of the LMBP. Particular time and attention must be provided to the preparation of the LMBP to ensure it meets ESDC’s requirements, while ensuring that a process is developed internally to review the proposed plan to ensure it can be achieved, measured and reported. ESDC will review employer undertakings provided in the LMBP roughly six months after issuance of the LMIA and in the future to ensure compliance with the submitted plan. Failure to make best efforts to meet the obligations in the LMBP can result in removal from the pilot.

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