Canada’s Immigration Minister, Sean Fraser, announced on Tuesday that Canada will be implementing an open work-permit stream specifically designed for 10,000 American H-1B visa holders. Under this program, family members of H-1B visa holders will also have the opportunity to obtain study or work permits. Successful applicants will be granted an open work permit valid for up to three years.
The press release highlighted the significant number of workers employed in high-tech fields by companies with substantial operations in both Canada and the United States. Many of these individuals hold H-1B specialty occupation visas while working in the US. Starting from July 16, 2023, H-1B specialty occupation visa holders in the US, along with their immediate family members, will be eligible to apply to migrate to Canada. They will have the freedom to work for any employer across Canada. Additionally, their spouses and dependents will also be able to apply for a temporary resident visa, including work or study permits, as required.
While this open work-permit stream from Canada presents new opportunities for H-1B visa holders, it remains to be seen how the extension of H-1B visas will operate and if Canadian immigration will allow them to apply for Canadian visas after their three-year work permits expire. H-1B visa workers from countries like India, China, Mexico, and the Philippines often have legitimate concerns about their long-term status and stability in the United States. The H-1B program in the US has limitations such as no automatic path to permanent residence, temporary work visas, restrictions on employment for H-1B spouses and children, and a low numerical cap on available visas each year. These shortcomings sometimes prompt H-1B visa holders to explore alternative options.