Toronto’s 2023 Collision Conference brought good news for the digital nomad community after Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, announced a new strategy to attract international talent to Canada. Fraser’s announcement created a buzz as he explained that the federal government will be rolling out a digital nomad strategy, offering a new way for individuals with foreign employers to work out of Canada.
The term digital nomad refers to a more recent phenomenon of remote workers who travel abroad, either for a short or long term, whilst working remotely. With an uptick in employees interested in traveling abroad as they work, and with lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic, many employers have opted to remove the requirement to work in-office, or in-country for that matter.
In response to the increase in nomadic international talent, Fraser took to Collision last week to confirm that Canada’s new digital nomad strategy will be coming into effect in early 2024. Canada will be joining the likes of Barbados, Bermuda, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Portugal, and Spain to allow individuals with a foreign employer to work in Canada for up to six months. The minister also confirmed that if an individual staying in Canada through the digital nomad program receives a job offer from a Canadian employer, they will be allowed to stay and continue working in Canada.
In an attempt to impress international talent, Fraser plans to leverage the digital nomad strategy as part of a broader plan to increase immigration and innovation in Canada. The new strategy will be launched in partnership with a global talent stream expansion and a start-up visa program enhancement.
These upcoming immigration changes are among new and aggressive efforts from the federal government to draw in top STEM and tech talent to Canada. Fraser also announced new STEM-targeted initiatives to be included in Canada’s Express Entry program and the development of a dedicated entry stream for the tech industry’s top talent to enter Canada (with or without a job offer). The federal government has referred to these efforts as Canada’s first ever “Tech Talent Strategy”.
While Canada is attempting to appeal to the fluidity of digital nomads, the program does still require interested parties to follow due process. International workers looking to stay in Canada will need to check certain boxes to participate in the digital nomad program, including:
- A valid passport
- A job offer or contract from an employer outside of Canada
- Meeting a minimum income level
- Access to health insurance
Interested parties will also be required to submit an online application (which will cost a fee) through the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. The Canadian government has not yet confirmed the cost of the fee or the details of the application/approval process. Further details regarding the qualification and application process will be released leading up to the program’s launch in 2024.
Canada’s federal government expects to issue up to 50,000 digital nomad work permits per year, starting in 2024. Notably, this number is an estimate and is not a cap. Fraser has confirmed that he will not be implementing a limit for the number of people that will have access to the digital nomad program.
While the 50,000-person prediction is an impressive number from the immigration and international talent perspective, this new initiative may have some Canadian businesses and workers wondering how the program will impact them. Fraser’s announcement, and many who have commented on it in the time since, highlight several positive impacts for Canadians. Potential perks include growth within existing industries, domestic development of new industries, the diversification of Canada’s workforce and work opportunities, and an increase in domestic innovation. Subsequently, this focus on innovation and the growth of industries should mean new jobs and education opportunities available to Canadians.
While some remain concerned about the displacement of domestic workers, current details of the program seem to confirm that the initiative is focused on drawing in international talent for the benefit of domestic industries rather than neglecting Canadian workers and employers.
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