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BC and Canada Offer Digital Entertainment and Tech Companies Solutions to Fill Labour Shortage


by Heather Bell

Our immigration team works with various companies, big and small, to navigate the best work and permanent residency pathways for their foreign talent. Some of the key industries we help are film production, digital entertainment, interactive media and technology. Below we highlight a few great work permit and permanent residency options available to these industries and others. Take a read through and if you have any questions, let us know!

BC: A Hub of Creativity and Innovation
For years, British Columbia has been dubbed ‘Hollywood North’ for production companies seeking an alternative and hospitable location for filming. Our reputation as a creative and artistic center, with competitive tax credits, modern infrastructure and breathtaking landscapes, has been the catalyst for attracting other innovative, creative industries. Now, our province hosts thousands of businesses in digital entertainment, interactive media and technology. According to the Vancouver Economic Commission, there are over 1,000 digital and interactive media companies in Vancouver and more than 7,000 tech companies across BC. These industries alone employee over 200,000 professionals in our province ( With this comes a need for workers to fill these positions.

Both the federal and provincial governments recognize the importance of recruiting and retaining talent in these key industries. This includes supporting companies hiring foreign workers and offering these workers pathways to permanent residency.

Here is a list of options available to industry employers seeking to hire and retain foreign talent:

Global Talent Stream
In June 2017, the Global Talent Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker program was launched to help innovative and growing companies quickly access foreign talent. This program has no recruitment requirements and offers a 10-business day processing time for most cases. There are two categories for employers. If an employer is approved under one of these categories, a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) is issued, allowing the worker to apply for a work permit.

Category A requires employers to obtain a referral from an Economic and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) designated partner. Designated partners include the BC Tech Association, Government of British Columbia, Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology and the Vancouver Economic Commission. The position to be filled should be unique and specialized, with a salary of at least $80,000 CAD. The individual should have advanced knowledge of the industry and an advanced degree and/or minimum five years of experience in the field.

Category B includes a list of 11 occupations. If the firm is hiring a foreign worker under one of these occupations and offering the minimum prevailing wage, the company can apply for the LMIA under this category. The list of occupations includes software developers, engineering managers, computer and interactive media programmers, web designers and developers.

Global Skills Strategy
The Global Skills Strategy offers employers hiring top talent a two-week processing time for work permit applications, plus work permit exemptions for highly skilled short-term workers. Work permit applications must be submitted online from outside Canada. Highly skilled workers can work without a work permit if they are in an executive, managerial or professional occupation and will only work 15 consecutive days every 6 months, or 30 consecutive days every 12 months.

North America Free Trade Agreement (Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement)
While governments and businesses prepare for the ratification of the new trade agreement, there are no changes expected for the temporary entry of business visitors or workers. Companies can still take advantage of the intra-company transferee program, allowing certain skilled workers or executives from a foreign company to temporarily transfer to a Canadian branch, subsidiary or parent company. In addition, the list of professionals, who are eligible for a work permit up to 3 years, with the possibility of extensions, remains the same. The list includes computer systems analysts, engineers, graphic designers, scientific technicians, management consultants and technical publications writers. These work permits are often easy to have approved at the port of entry, when the worker arrives to Canada.

BC Provincial Nominee Program – Tech Pilot
The British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program has multiple pathways to permanent residency for international graduates and skilled workers with a job offer from a BC employer. To support the tech industry, the province launched the BC PNP Tech Pilot, allowing tech workers a fast-tracked pathway to permanent residency. The worker must have a job offer of at least one year in length and be in one of the 29 key technology occupations listed by the Province. If the occupation is not on the list but still in the tech category, the Province may also accept it.

Key features of this program include:
– dedicated service team for tech employers, helping them navigate their workers’ immigration options;
– weekly invitations for tech workers to apply under the provincial nominee program;
– expedited processing on the provincial nominee application; and
– work support letter for the worker to obtain or renew a work permit with the employer.

Express Entry
Express Entry remains the main permanent residency program for economic class applicants. This point-based program favours workers with skilled Canadian work experience and/or a valid Canadian job offer. Age, education and English or French language ability are also important factors.

Most workers in digital entertainment, interactive media and technology have an advantage under Express Entry. They are often in skilled positions, hold post-secondary education, have a high level or English or French and have work permit options, such as those listed above. In less than a year of submitting their online profile under Express Entry, these workers could be invited under the system and have their permanent residency processed. While they wait, there are options to extend their work permit if they are already working in Canada.

Questions? Want to hire or retain a foreign worker?
These are only a few of the temporary and permanent options for workers specific to the digital entertainment, interactive media and tech industries. Workers may have other avenues, depending on if they are studying in Canada, are recent graduates or accompanying a spouse who is a student or worker.

Bottom line is there are more options available to recruit and retain foreign workers than most employers are aware of, not just in these three key industries. Contact us with your questions and for more information on how Bell Alliance can support your staffing needs.

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