Talent Management

Strategies for HR professionals navigating Canada’s new global talent stream

By Naumaan Hameed

On June 12 of this year, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) released the Global Talent Stream (GTS), a two-year pilot program that forms part of Canada’s Global Skill Strategy and seeks to enhance the competitiveness of high growth employers and innovation in Canada. The GTS has been developed in order to reduce the time and complexity required for Canadian employers

to secure critical foreign talent integral to  their growth and business plans, while imposing commitments on companies to create positive impacts on the Canadian labour market. 

Eligibility for GTS

In order to be eligible to participate in the GTS, an employer must meet one of the two talent streams. 

The first stream, Category A, requires that an employer be referred into the program by a designated partner and demonstrate that the foreign worker holds unique and specialized talent. There are 17 listed designated partners, which include a number of industry associations such as Communitech, the Council of Canadian Innovators as well as a number of federal and provincial economic development agencies. Eligible foreign workers under this stream would typically receive a salary of CAD$80,000 per year and hold an advanced degree in an area of expertise that is of interest to an employer and/or at least five years of specialized work experience. 

The second stream, Category B, applies to employers seeking high skilled foreign workers filling specified shortages listed on a global talent occupations list. There are currently 11 occupations listed with a primary focus on jobs in the technology industry. The specific occupations listed include computer and information systems managers, computer engineers, information system consultants, database analysts/administrators, software engineers, computer programmers, web designers/developers, electrical/engineering technologists and technicians, information systems testing technicians and certain positions in animation and digital media.       

Advantages of the GTS for employers

Under the GTS, an employer can obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) approval, without having to meet ESDC’s minimum advertising requirements, within 10 business days from the date of filing an application. Employers will save significant time under the GTS in comparison to the regular LMIA stream which typically requires at least six to 10 weeks of processing time, as well as the additional time required to complete the onerous advertising and recruitment process required by ESDC.  Additionally, corresponding work permits filed outside of Canada under the GTS are eligible for two week processing in contrast to regular processing times, which can often exceed 10 to 12 weeks in certain visa posts. In short, employers that can access the GTS will be better positioned to compete for high demand global talent, which can substantially enhance their operations and growth.

Labour Market Benefits Plan (LMBP) requirement

Under the GTS, employers must submit a LMBP that demonstrates their commitment to activities that will have long-lasting, positive impacts on the Canadian labour market.  The LMBP is a detailed written commitment from the employer to either create jobs, training and investment opportunities for Canadians. Specifically, an employer is required to provide one mandatory benefit – job creation under Category A and skills or training investments under Category B – and at least two complimentary benefits which may include transferring knowledge to Canadians or enhancing company performance. If an employer is likely to use the GTS regularly, it is advisable to include additional complimentary benefits to avoid having to revise or present a new LMBP on each subsequent application. 

Employers must also develop a mechanism to monitor and report their progress in meeting commitments submitted in the LMBP, as failure to do so can result in removal from the pilot. ESDC will inspect an employer’s undertaking provided in the LMBP in six-month intervals after the issuance of the LMIA. 

Understanding the GTS application process and responsibilities for HR professionals

In sharp contrast to the regular LMIA process, the GTS moves very fast and requires employers to provide required information within a short turnaround time in order to benefit from the expedited processing. Upon filing an application under the GTS, an employer can expect to receive an email from an ESDC intake officer within 24 hours to confirm receipt of the application and confirm whether any information is missing or if additional information is required. Typically, a telephone conference call will be set up in the following days by an ESDC program analyst with the employer and their legal counsel to discuss the proposed LMBP. Delays often occur where an employer has failed to provide sufficient details in their proposed LMBP on how they will create new jobs, transfer skills and/or train Canadians or where the plan fails to demonstrate how the commitments will be measured for future compliance. 

In addition to explaining specific details listed in their LMBP, employers should be prepared to discuss the number of foreign workers in comparison to permanent residents and Canadians employed in Canada; projections of the number and types of new jobs to be created annually; the breakdown of females to males in technical positions; the recruitment efforts to-date for Canadians in the proposed roles; as well as the anticipated revenue and overall growth projections for operations in Canada. HR and mobility professionals should be aware that the ESDC analyst can use any information received during the call in addition to the information provided in the GTS LMIA application to draft the LMBP for review and signature by the employer. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that any information provided is accurate and can be achieved if used as a commitment in the LMBP. At the end of the call, the analyst will establish an agreed date with the employer to receive any additional information, along with the proposed date for a final decision. 

From an operational perspective, ESDC officers are committed to meeting the 10-business-day service standard and will manage the timelines accordingly. Where an employer is unable to provide required information in a timely fashion, ESDC can transfer the application to the regular LMIA process, which results in longer processing times for the LMIA. Once issued however, the LMIA will be annexed under the global talent stream and hence still eligible for 10-day work permit processing if filed outside of Canada. From a user perspective, the interaction with ESDC representatives under the global talent stream is much more collaborative in comparison to the regular LMIA processing stream, which is often rigid in process and, at times, adversarial in tone. 

Advice for HR professionals

The key to successfully navigating the global talent stream largely involves advanced preparation by the employer to respond quickly and appropriately throughout the LMIA application process and upon future reviews of the LMBP. Particular time and attention must be paid to preparing the LMBP to ensure it meets ESDC’s requirements, while making sure that a process is developed internally to review the proposed plan to confirm it can be achieved, measured and reported. ESDC will review employer undertakings provided in the LMBP roughly six months after issuance of the LMIA and in the future to ensure compliance with the submitted plan. Failure to make best efforts to meet the obligations in the LMBP can result in removal from the pilot. Moreover, there may be circumstances where the GTS may not represent the most advantageous approach to facilitating the entry of foreign workers and consideration should also involve reviewing eligibility under the international mobility program.

Naumaan Hameed is a partner, Canadian Practice Leader at KPMG Law LLP.