Canada: The Global Talent Stream: 5 Practical Learnings About The Latest Immigration Star

Last Updated: May 29 2018
Article by David Nurse

The Global Talent Stream is the central pillar of the Government of Canada's recently launched Global Skills Strategy: an immigration program designed to help high-growth, innovative businesses bring unique and specialized global talent to Canada in a timely manner. And while it's only nine months old, the Global Talent Stream appears to have legs as an effective program that will help many Canadian companies attract and retain global talent. Here's a preview of the Global Talent Stream program and five practical learnings (so far) about how the federal government is implementing it.

The Global Talent Stream Program

The Global Talent Stream offers Canadian employers yet another immigration path to recruit foreign nationals, joining the growing cast of immigration programs that includes (among others) Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), the Atlantic Immigration Pilot, the Canadian Experience Class, the Federal Skilled Worker and Trades Programs, the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFWP) and International Mobility Programs and treaty-related routes (like NAFTA). Canadian companies can take advantage of the Global Talent Stream by submitting an application via one of the program's two categories. Applications will receive a prioritized standard of service from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and benefit from an expedited 10-business day processing time.

Category A. Category A applicants must be referred to ESDC by a "designated referral partner" and must demonstrate to ESDC that unique and specialized foreign talent is required for their business to scale-up and grow.

  • Designated Referral Partners. As of March 21, 2018, the federal government has designated 26 organizations across Canada as referral partners:

    • Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA, based in Moncton, New Brunswick).
    • BC Tech Association.
    • Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).
    • Canadian Economic Development for Quebec Regions.
    • City of Hamilton's Economic Development Office.
    • Communitech Corporation (based in Ontario).
    • Council of Canadian Innovators.
    • Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
    • Global Affairs Canada's Trade Commissioner Service.
    • Government of Alberta, Alberta Labour.
    • Government of British Columbia, Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology.
    • Government of Manitoba, Manitoba Education and Training.
    • Government of Prince Edward Island, Island Investment Development Inc. (IIDI).
    • Government of Saskatchewan, Ministry of the Economy.
    • Halifax Regional Business and Community Economic Development Association.
    • ICT Association of Manitoba (ICTAM).
    • Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada – Accelerated Growth Service.
    • Invest Ottawa.
    • London Economic Development Corporation.
    • MaRS Discovery District.
    • National Research Council – Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP).
    • Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.
    • Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth.
    • Privy Council Office, Special Projects Team.
    • Vancouver Economic Commission.
    • Venn Innovation (based in Moncton, New Brunswick).
  • Unique & specialized talent. ESDC will consider a foreign national to have unique and specialized talent if they have all of:

    • Advanced knowledge of the industry in which the employer seeks to hire the foreign national.
    • An advanced degree in an area of specialization of interest to the employer and / or a minimum of five years of experience in the field of specialized experience.
    • A highly paid position with a salary usually of $80,000.00 or more.

Category B. Category B of the Global Talent Stream is intended to assist Canadian companies fill in-demand, highly skilled positions on ESDC's Global Talent Occupations List, which have been determined to be in-demand and for which there is insufficient domestic labour. As of March 28, 2018 the list contains the following occupations (by National Occupation Classification or "NOC"):

  • 0213 Computer and information systems managers
  • 2147 Computer engineers (except software engineers and designers)
  • 2171 Information systems analysts and consultants
  • 2172 Database analysts and data administrators
  • 2173 Software engineers and designers
  • 2174 Computer programmers and interactive media developers
  • 2175 Web designers and developers
  • 2241 Electrical and electronic engineering technologists and technicians
  • 2283 Information systems testing technicians
  • Sub-set of 5131 Producer, technical, creative and artistic director and project manager – visual effects and video game
  • Sub-set of 5241 Digital media designers

Labour Market Benefits Plan. Applicants under both Category A and Category B must work with ESDC to develop a Labour Market Benefits Plan. These plans must contain firm commitments by companies to take measures that will benefit the Canadian labour market. Companies must make both mandatory and complementary commitments.

  • Firm Commitments. Category A applicants must commit to creating jobs, either directly or indirectly, for Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Category B applicants, on the other hand, must commit to increasing skills and training investments for Canadians and permanent residents.
  • Complementary Commitments. Applicants under both Categories must also make two complementary commitments that could include (but aren't limited to) job creation, investment in skills and training, transferring knowledge to Canadians and permanent residents, enhanced company performance and implementing best practices or policies as an employer.

Compliance Reviews. After ESDC has approved the Labour Market Benefit Plan, it can conduct compliance reviews every six months to ensure the applicant is meeting its Labour Market Benefits Plan commitments.

Wages. In addition to commitments they make in the plans, companies must pay wages to the foreign workers that are similar to wages paid to Canadians and permanent residents who share the same job, skills, work location and experience.

5 Key Learnings

Here are five practical key learnings about how the federal government is implementing the Global Talent Stream based on our experience working with the program.

1. The designated referral partners have discretion over what applicants they refer to Category A.

By requiring Category A applicants be referred by a designated referral partner, the federal government is effectively relying on them – and giving them the discretion – to pick the right type of companies to participate in the Global Talent Stream program. However, ESDC has given each designated referral partner written guidance on the type of companies to refer to the program, and instructed them to consider such criteria as the company's income, growth over the past several years, and whether they are in high-growth sectors or doing innovative work.

2.You need an established relationship with a designated referral partner to play in Category A.

The practical result of the referral requirement, combined with ESDC's expectation that the designated referral partners have direct knowledge of the referred companies and their businesses, is that an applicant must have an established relationship with a designated referral partner before seeking referral to the program. This is fantastic for companies already interacting with the designated referral partners: they are already insiders. But it also means that Category A is effectively a closed program, open only to companies with an already-existing relationship with a designated referral partner. The moral: get to know your local designated referral partner before – not after – you apply for the program.

3.The Category A assessment process has two phases – and is time-consuming.

For a standard Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) outside of the Global Talent Stream, one ESDC officer is normally assigned to the file. But inside the Global Talent Stream, and specifically Category A applications, it appears there are two officers assigned and two distinct assessment phases. The first officer's role seems to be to confirm the completeness of the application, while the second officer undertakes a comprehensive review of the application to determine if it meets program requirements and engages directly with the applicant on the Labour Market Benefits Plan. The applicant's lead should be well-briefed on the LMIA application and the proposed Labour Market Benefits Plan and prepared to spend several hours working with ESDC to finalize the plan. Our experience is the ESDC officer assessing the application will take an hour or more to review the Labour Market Benefits Plan with the applicant, and many of the questions are very in-depth and involve specific human resources practices and the commitments the company will be making to support the plan.

4. Canadian recruitment requirements are (likely) reduced, but some effort is still (likely) required.

The Global Talent Stream documentation doesn't expressly specify the recruitment requirements that applicants must have made before eligibility as either Category A or B applicants. But despite this we think ESDC still expects applicants to have made reasonable efforts to locate a suitable Canadian before applying and to have documented these efforts – and might refuse an application if it hasn't. The program guidelines state, "While there is no minimum recruitment requirement for the Global Talent Stream, you are encouraged to recruit Canadians and permanent residents before offering a job to a temporary foreign worker. You will be asked, as part of your application to describe any recruitment efforts conducted."

5. Category A companies are entering into a long-term relationship with ESDC.

The successful applicant's human resources manager or program lead should closely track progress on the Labour Market Benefits Plan and be prepared to provide regular updates. The Global Talent Stream contemplates that Category A companies will have regular six-month follow-up calls with ESDC to review and track progress on the Labour Market Benefits Plan. This means not only that employers must pay close attention to their Labour Market Benefits Plan and document efforts to achieve it, but also that they are truly entering into a long term partnership with ESDC. Unlike a typical LMIA application where for many applicants contact with ESDC ends with approval (unless they are selected for review/audit), participants in the Global Talent Stream Category A will have regular contact with ESDC for several years.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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