The definintion of the Chinese immigrant has changed greatly over the years. Chinese immigrants brought cheap labour to build the country’s first railroad, and they brought money to invest in the economy. Now, the next wave of Chinese immigrants look to bring something else: skills, talent and, most of all, hope.
The Global Talent Stream (GTS) is a fast-track program made to procure the specialized talent needed by the country’s innovation and technology sector. Canadian companies unable to fill expert positions from local labour are able to have new international hires approved for a work visa in just two weeks.
Since beginning in 2017, GTS has exploded in popularity, increasing by a factor of three. It makes up one of the core components of the Global Skills Strategy (GSS), and has successfully introduced 23,000 skilled foreign workers to the Canadian economy.
Chinese nationals are a core component of GTS, and are second only to Indian citizens when it comes to successful GTS applicants. In much the same way, British Columbia’s Provincial Nominee Program saw a 15% increase in skilled workers coming from China in 2019.
The program highlights the need for specialized workers. Last April, the Information and Communications Technology Council said Canada will need to fill approximately 216,000 technology-related positions by 2021.
With the support of many Canadian tech companies already secured, GTS received its biggest sponsor last May in the form of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau endorsed the GTS program as a step forward for the country in front of a crowd at the 2019 Collision Conference.
“In Canada, we are making room for people to succeed in tech…offering talent that global companies need to succeed,” said Trudeau. “This is a good place to set down roots, this is a good place to build a company, this is a good place to build a future.”
Trudeau explained why Canada is the best choice for foreign tech workers looking for a home in a market of opportunities.
“We’re at a time right now where big countries around the world are closing themselves off a little more to immigration at a time where Canada is realizing we need to stay open,” said Trudeau.
Just over a year later, Trudeau was proved to be right.
Late last month, in keeping with a foreign policy that attempted to ban travel from Muslim-majority countries, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order that suspended work visas for the rest of the year. This included the H-1B, the work visa depended upon by foreign technology workers.
With skipping a beat, Canadian tech companies seized the opportunity.
“If this affects your plans consider coming to Canada 🇨🇦 instead,” wrote Shopify chief executive and founder Tobi Lutke on Twitter. “Shopify is hiring all over the world and we have lots of experience helping with relocation.”
By some accounts, Chinese tech workers are heeding the call.
Cory Janssen, founder and chief executive at Edmonton-based artificial intelligence firm AltaML Inc., explained how a Chinese tech worker in his company switched from the USA to Canada.
“She had just under 10 years of experience, the last four or five in San Francisco, and had trouble getting her HB1 work visa, so she had to look around,” Janssen said. “She did not want to go back to China, so we were lucky enough to fast track her in, bring her in, and she’s in Calgary right now and wants to be in Toronto in six months.”
Others, like 26-year-old Chinese software engineer Alex Lu, are strongly considering making the move “Canada seems very attractive now with its fairly easy immigration process and large Asian immigrant population,” he said.
Relocating to Canada may be even more compelling to a Chinese tech worker considering the country’s tech hubs also contain major Chinese communities.
Toronto, considered by CBRE Group as North America’s fastest-growing technooogy market, contains a significant Chinatown community within its jurisdiction. This is also true for Vancouver, Montreal and Waterloo, the last of which hosts the country’s best engineering schools.
More than 420,000 people applied for 85,000 American H-1B work visas in 2019. In second place after the Indian majority are applicants from mainland China, making up 12% of the total.
In a recent survey by technology professionals social network Blind, 39 percent of H-1B workers seeking new opportunities outside the USA say they are looking to relocate to Canada.
Betsy Kane, one of the founding partners of Capelle Kane Immigration Lawyers in Ottawa, said the GSS program is going to see a surge of applications.
“Whenever one door shuts, the other door is sought,” said Kane.
As new Chinese immigrants look to Canada as a fresh start, so too can Canada look to these new arrivals to provide the hope we need to succeed in the international marketplace.