How to immigrate to Canada with an IT occupation: 7 ways
How do you move to Canada if you are a programmer, tester or other IT professional?
The way to Canada is open for IT professionals for two reasons: a large number of immigration programs and a strong shortage of specialists — there are thousands of jobs.
I am a programmer myself, and the Immigrant.Today project is not just a YouTube channel with a popular informational website. We are a digital immigration company and implement unique services that help our clients find the best ways to move to Canada.
So, the IT topic is very close to me, and I encourage all IT people to immigrate to Canada. Websites and services here don't always work well, but maybe if talented people from abroad come here it will be better in terms of IT.
Canadian media says that employers in this field continue to face a labour shortage because the technology sector is actively developing, and companies are trying to attract specialists from abroad to make up for the shortage. The Canadian government also understands the importance of the technology sector, so there are programs through which IT professionals can find jobs and get permanent residency.
How to get a job in Canada
I'll start with a program called the Global Talent Stream. It's not an immigration program, but an employment program. Applications are processed quickly, in as little as two weeks. But it’s not so simple here, because only specialists with some unique skills or certain occupations from the list can move through the Global Talent Stream. The list includes IT occupations such as information systems managers, computer engineers, programmers, web developers, and so on.
If the profession is not on the list, the employer who wants to hire a foreigner must cooperate with Employment and Social Development Canada. The employee can’t apply for the job themselves, the company does it.
Another option is to switch within the company. That is, you work for an international company that has a branch in Canada. If you are a good specialist, you ask to be transferred to Canada. This is not the most popular way, but it works.
There is another similar scheme, to work remotely with a Canadian company, show your talents and convince the employer to make you an invitation to work in Canada. This option is more common for several reasons.
The main factor is wage. When you start working remotely for a Canadian company, it usually offers a lower wage than if you were in Canada. The next factor. In some time, for example in a year, you already know how business processes are arranged, you express yourself, and the management gets used to you. So that there are no problems with communication across the ocean because of the time difference, it may be advantageous for the bosses to take you on as an office worker. Also, it is somehow easier to bear the monetary loss of having to relocate to Canada someone you used to work with remotely. I have acquaintances who have gone through this way.
Immigration programs for skilled workers
Now about immigration programs and streams. There are more than 120 of them in Canada, almost all programs for skilled workers are suitable for IT specialists. There is a federal program, Federal Skilled Worker, and almost every Canadian province has a similar one. There’re also programs for people with Canadian work experience, that is for people who found a job and lived in Canada for six months to a year on a work visa. This is the federal Canadian Experience Class program and, again, similar programs are available in almost all provinces.
An interesting fact: from 2018 to 2020, most invitations in the Express Entry system were sent to IT professionals. In 2021, the draws were held only for the Canadian Experience Class candidates, and this year the draws under federal programs have just resumed. We have a client who scored a passing grade. Now my wife Ivanna, who works as an immigration consultant, is preparing his papers for permanent residency.
Specialized immigration programs
There are also specialized immigration programs and streams that invite only IT specialists. These programs are provincial and often give priority to IT workers because they are needed in certain areas of Canada. The eligibility requirements are basically similar everywhere, except that the list of eligible occupations differs. But let me tell you right away, all but one of the immigration programs require you to find a job. Luckily for you, there is a shortage of good specialists in Canada, so you have a chance of finding a job.
To hire a foreigner, a company must execute a document called a Labor Market Impact Assessment, or LMIA, and prove that there is no suitable applicant among Canadian citizens and residents. It will be easier for an employer to prove that they found abroad an IT worker with some unique skills than someone with a trades profession. Other specialists, of course, also find work, but it’s more difficult for them.
I will start with the program to the province of Alberta, pay attention to its name — Accelerated Tech Pathway. This is the third way for IT professionals to get to Canada. From the name you will assume that candidates should immigrate under this program faster than under others, but don’t have high hopes for it, there are significant delays with application processing now in Canada. To apply, you must meet the requirements of one of the three federal programs and register in Express Entry. There you need to score 300 points and have work experience in one of 23 occupations.
A fourth way to immigrate to Canada if you are an IT professional is the BC PNP Tech. There are more occupations here, 29, and more flexible requirements for candidates. The peculiarity of this program is that it’s not a separate stream, and you must meet the requirements of other BC streams. You can apply for the Technical Program with or without an Express Entry profile, or as a Canadian graduate or professional. If you are not registered in Express Entry, the province has low language requirements, which is a plus. And another advantage is that selections are frequent, about once every two weeks.
Another great relocation option is the Saskatchewan Tech Talent Pathway. It's divided into two subcategories: one for those who have an Express Entry profile, and one for those who don't. Here a basic level of language proficiency is required, too. The disadvantage of this program is that it has few suitable occupations, only 11. But it was launched recently, in March of this year, and they may add other occupations later.
The sixth immigration way is Quebec's pilot program. It is for specialists in artificial intelligence, information technology and visual effects. There are several options for immigration through this stream. You can study at a university or college in Quebec, or find a job in the province and work for two years, or both requirements are waived if you have a master's or PhD degree and have found a job with a wage of $75,000 CAD or more per year. That's not much for the field of artificial intelligence. Quebec's program has two significant disadvantages. First, only 550 candidates are invited each year, and second, Quebec is a French-speaking province. To apply for permanent residency, you must either have above-average French proficiency or sign a commitment to learn it. The list of occupations is also limited.
And the final, seventh way to move is the Newfoundland and Labrador Priority Skills Stream. This program has a significant difference from the others. Here, you don't have to find a job before you apply. Instead, you have to apply first, and if you pass the requirements, which are low, employers who want to hire people through the program will have access to your CV and will be able to invite you. But there is a significant disadvantage. The program has a very small application limit. It was launched last year, quickly gained the limit number of applications, and closed enrollment. At the moment, it still hasn't resumed, but the program is not closed, and it may start accepting applications again at any time.
I would also like to share with you the story of one guy, Ildar, who worked in Canada in IT for a long time. He has experience working both in a large company and as a self-employed, and experience cooperating with other specialists, and he also knows how someone from abroad can get a job at a Canadian company and whether IT specialists need specialized education. I interviewed Ildar and think that every IT person who is going to immigrate to Canada should definitely see it to understand what awaits you in Canada.
What should you do right now if you are an IT professional and have at least an intermediate level of English? I advise you to study all the programs that I told you about in this article. You should choose the ones that suit your occupation and start looking for a job in the provinces you can immigrate to. If you have some other specialty, or if you found a job in another region, you can apply with a job offer for the rest of the programs for skilled workers, but then your application will not be prioritized, and you will be selected along with everyone else.
To find a job, you need a Canadian-style CV; you can find examples online or look for information on this website. And most importantly, have patience, because you have to send out a lot of CVs, maybe hundreds or even thousands, but it's worth it.
Alex Pavlenko, founder of Immigrant.Today