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Making It in IT: High-Tech Jobs in Canada for Foreign Workers

IT jobs in Canada
Credit: Maurizio De Mattei/Shutterstock

America's next-door neighbor to the north is unusually hospitable to high-tech workers, even going so far as recruiting technically skilled professionals to consider plying their trade in Canada.

Although obtaining an H1-B visa to work in high-tech in the USA usually requires a willing employer to sponsor and take responsibility for holders of this temporary worker's visa, it's not as difficult or taxing to find work in high-tech outside the USA. In fact, America's next-door neighbor to the north is unusually hospitable to high-tech workers and has even sent its immigration minister to and posted billboards in Silicon Valley to encourage high-tech workers to consider plying their trade in Canada instead.

This morning, I fielded an email from a colleague who currently lives and works in Romania, who's interested in seeking high-tech work elsewhere. He's been trying, unsuccessfully, to find a job in New Zealand for just under a year, and is in the process of considering other alternatives since his attempts to find employment there have so far come up dry. He asks if Canada might not be a good "next target" for his efforts to find work abroad. Much to my surprise, as I started investigating this possibility, I learned that not only is Canada much more hospitable to high tech workers – both for temporary work permits and for outright emigration – they've also been launching recruiting efforts for high-tech workers in that bastion of high-tech innovation and employment in the USA called Silicon Valley.

My research turned up numerous articles with evocative titles like "Canada comes to Silicon Valley to poach high-tech workers" (Denver Post, May 20, 2013), "Canada Tries to Poach High-Tech Workers from the US" (NPR, May 20, 2013), or even "Canada seeks to lure high-tech immigrants from US with 'Dragon's Den' Visa" (WorkPermit.com, May 29, 2013). The focus of Canada's immigration minister, Jason Kenney, in May 2013, was to inform entrepreneurs that they can obtain permanent residency in Canada if they can generate enough capital (including venture capital) to start a Canadian business. And, whereas current US immigration controls tend to favor those seeking entry into the USA who are family members or close relatives of U.S. citizens, Canada uses a points-based merit ranking system based on work skills. Furthermore, it seems that Canadian immigration favors applicants who are young, possess French or English language skills, and who work in high-demand fields.

The WorkPermit.com story cited indicates that any candidate, for its so-called Start-Up Visa program, who can show that a business plan has attracted sufficient investment to go forward need only meet the following additional requirements to obtain permanent residence in Canada:

  • Meet the language requirements. They must speak English or French to the required standard which is Canadian Language Board level 5 (CLB 5). They will need to take a language test to prove this.
  • Meet the educational requirements. They must be able to prove that they have completed at least one year of 'post-secondary' education.
  • Possess at least the minimum level of funding to meet the Canadian settlement funds threshold. For a single person with no dependents, this will be CAN $11,115.

Recent analyses of temporary H1-B visas for so-called "high tech guest workers" in the U.S. indicate that these positions work broadly in lower-paying technical niches that include what PBS called "commodity-like production jobs in IT services," often "doing back office programming for companies," with a preponderance of computer programming and system analyst jobs (up to 85% of such positions, according to "The Bogus High-Tech Worker Shortage: How Guest Workers Lower US Wages," July 24, 2013).

In sharp contrast, the Denver Post writes that opinion surveys demonstrate that "Canadians are among the most pro-immigrant people in the world, even during economic troubles, in part because they value their points-based system as good for the economy and multicultural nation-building..." A quick trip to the Canadian Government's "Immigrate to Canada" web page confirms that Canada is both hospitable and welcoming to foreigners, and offers numerous categories under which would-be immigrants can apply, as well as a general self-assessment tool to help interested parties determine their own eligibility and suitability to apply for permanent residence (or a temporary work visa).

Ed Tittel

Ed is a 30-year-plus veteran of the computing industry, who has worked as a programmer, a technical manager, a classroom instructor, a network consultant and a technical evangelist for companies that include Burroughs, Schlumberger, Novell, IBM/Tivoli and NetQoS. He has written and blogged for numerous publications, including Tom's Hardware, and is the author of over 140 computing books with a special emphasis on information security, Web markup languages and development tools, and Windows operating systems.