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Decoded: How Indians on US H-1B Visas Can Benefit from Canada’s Work Permits

Canada has relaxed its policy of exempting select U.S. H-1B visa holders from work permit requirements after it reached the application threshold of 10,000 principal applicants. Originally intended to run until July 15, 2024, the policy was halted early on July 17, 2023 due to an overwhelming number of applications.

What is Canada’s Open Work Permit?

An open work permit allows a foreigner to work for any Canadian employer he/she wants for a specified period of time. Some open work permits may impose restrictions on the type of work or where the foreigner can work. An employee can apply for an open work permit from outside Canada, within Canada or at a Canadian port of entry.

Saurabh Arora, CEO and Founder of University Living, noted: “By offering open work permits valid for up to three years, this policy provides H-1B visa holders with an attractive alternative to the often restrictive and uncertain U.S. visa process. By extending benefits to spouses and dependents, who can also apply for a work or study permit, Canada becomes a highly attractive destination for skilled professionals.”

Benefits for Indians in the US

For Indian professionals, who make up a large portion of H-1B visa holders, this policy presents a unique opportunity. The H-1B visa is a prized route to the US for international students, allowing them to work for a sponsoring company for three years after graduation, with the possibility of a three-year extension. Many MBA and business masters graduates use this visa to secure positions at top tech companies such as Apple, Meta and Google.

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“The Canadian immigration system, known for its transparency and efficiency, now offers a viable path to permanent residency, a significant advantage over the green card process in the U.S.,” said Arora.

Abhijit Zaveri, Director and Founder of Career Mosaic, added: “The high demand and rapid filling of the annual H-1B visa quota in the US often leaves many skilled workers in a precarious position with regard to visa extensions and the availability of green cards. Recognizing this, Canada’s new policy offers a streamlined path that could be particularly attractive and provide a more stable and potentially faster alternative for those facing uncertainties in the US.”

Benefits in Canada:

— Canada’s immigration system provides a transparent and efficient pathway to permanent residency.

— This is a significant advantage over the US Green Card process.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for an open work permit in Canada, H-1B visa holders had to meet specific criteria.

Requirements:

— Possession of a valid H-1B specialty occupation visa.

—Residing in the United States.

— Secure a job offer from a Canadian employer that meets certain standards.

Suitability for family members:

— Temporary Residence Visa (TRV)

– Study permit

— Open Work Permit

Zaveri suggests, “Securing employer sponsorship or obtaining a valid job offer from a Canadian employer is an important step in the application process. Therefore, networking and actively applying for jobs in Canada can greatly increase your chances of meeting this requirement. Staying up-to-date on the latest immigration regulations and any policy updates is also essential. Consulting with immigration experts can provide valuable guidance and support. A proactive approach, including gathering all necessary documents, understanding the timeline, and being ready for interviews or additional requirements, is critical.”

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Impact on competitiveness

“The introduction of Canada’s new work permit policy for H-1B visa holders is likely to increase the competitiveness of Indian students and professionals in the Canadian labour market. These highly skilled individuals, often with education and experience from the US, bring valuable skills that are well-suited to the demands of Canada, especially in sectors such as technology and engineering,” said Zaveri.

Arora added: “This shift is likely to increase the inflow of skilled talent into Canada, benefiting sectors such as technology, healthcare and engineering.”

Applying for a TRV or study permit as a family member

Family members of H-1B visa holders who have already applied for a Canadian work permit can apply for a temporary resident visa (TRV) or study permit through the IRCC portal.

Supporting policy introduced

To meet high demand, Canada introduced two additional supportive policies last year to help H-1B visa holders:

1. Post-cap application considerations:

— Effective as of September 27, 2023.

— Applications exceeding the 10,000 limit and submitted after the original policy expired on July 17, 2023, but before the closure of the online portal, will be considered.

2. Applications from family members:

— Applications from family members seeking a work permit submitted after the expiration of the original policy and before September 28, 2024, will be processed under this new framework.

— Children under the age of 17 of H-1B visa holders are not subject to the $150 study permit processing fee if their parent is issued an H-1B open work permit upon entry into Canada.

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First print: June 28, 2024 | 12:40 PM IST

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