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Important update about Canada’s new ‘streamlined work permit’ program for U.S. H-1B visa holders

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced in late June a new program that could have a major positive impact on some foreign nationals with approved nonimmigrant visas in the United States.

Beginning July 16, the Canadian government will allow U.S. H-1B visa holders to receive a “streamlined work permit” in Canada. The permit will be valid for up to three years and authorizes the individual to work for “almost any employer anywhere” in Canada.

The H-1B visa holder’s spouse and dependents will also be eligible to apply for a “temporary resident visa” in Canada, which includes a work or study permit.

“This will expand the opportunities available for skilled workers to continue to pursue their careers in the high-tech sector and contribute to economic growth and prosperity in North America,” a statement from IRCC read.

The program will remain in effect for at least one year, or until there are 10,000 applications, the IRCC said in the statement. Family members of H-1B visa holders will not count towards the cap of 10,000 applications.

“The Government of Canada is embracing Canada’s emerging role as a leader in global tech talent recruitment and attraction to ensure Canada is not only filling in-demand jobs today, but also attracting the skills and business talent to create the jobs of tomorrow,” the statement read.

The program may establish a new option for U.S. H-1B visa holders approaching the end of their 60-day grace period following a layoff.

Current U.S. law requires H-1B visa holders (as well as those in other nonimmigrant visa categories) to depart the U.S. or change their status/employer in the U.S within 60 days “following the cessation of employment.”

During the grace period and before the 60th day, the foreign national must either change status, change employer or leave the country. The new Canadian program may allow impacted H-1B visa holders to move across the border to Canada to seek new employment without direct company sponsorship, if they so choose.

IRCC also announced multiple other new immigration measures including a plan to promote Canada as a “destination for digital nomads,” creating a new “Innovation Stream under the International Mobility Program to attract highly talented individuals,” as well as implementing a Start-up Visa Program to provide a “path to permanent residence for foreign entrepreneurs” who meet specific requirements.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm at 704-442-8000 or via email with any questions.

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