What is Global Skills Strategy?

January 14, 2020

On June 12, 2017, the Canadian government launched a new program to encourage foreign investment in Canada, incentivize companies to open offices in Canada, and attract top foreign talent. That program was the Global Skills Strategy (GSS).

“When companies in Canada can thrive and grow, they create more jobs,” the announcement read. “The Government of Canada’s new Global Skills Strategy will give employers a faster and more predictable process for attracting top talent and new skills to Canada, creating economic growth and more middle-class jobs for Canadians.”

Broadly speaking, GSS breaks down into a few major parts:

  • Two-week processing for both principal high-skilled workers as well as their dependents.
  • The launch of Global Talent Stream for employers.
  • Work permit exemptions for very short-term business travel to Canada.

Let’s drill down into each of these facets of GSS.

Two-week processing times.

One of Canada’s highest priorities with GSS was creating a truly easy way for employers to get high-skilled workers into Canada. And one of the most important considerations is speed.

According to the Canadian government’s press release, through GSS, “high-skilled workers coming to Canada on a temporary basis are now able to benefit from two-week processing of applications for work permits.” They did clarify that if an application “is incomplete, is missing a required document, or does not include certified translations of documents that are not in English or French,” the application may take longer than two weeks, but that their “service standard is to process 80% of complete applications within two weeks.”

This two-week processing period applies to the main applicant’s dependents too. According to the government, both “open work permits,” which are spousal work permits allowing that spouse to work in any industry they can obtain employment in, as well as study permits “will also be processed in two weeks when applicable.”

The importance of this two-week processing time cannot be understated. Particularly given that GSS was launched just as the United States really started to hammer the H-1B visa, a US work visa geared toward the very same pool of global high-skilled workers.

It was taking months to get an H-1B visa adjudicated, visa applications were being challenged or outright denied at an increasing rate, and uncertainty around whether and how long foreign-born skilled workers could stay in the US was mounting.

At the same time, President Donald Trump’s administration announced their intent to rescind employment authorization from the spouses of H-1B workers.

So Canada’s GSS came at a time where employers, high-skilled talent and their spouses all needed a better option.

The next question is – who is eligible for GSS? That answer breaks down into two scenarios, both of which require the candidate to have a job offer from a Canadian employer.

Scenario #1 – the candidate must apply for a position from outside of Canada, the position must be with a specific employer and be “managerial” or “professional” in nature, and the employer must be exempt from needing a positive Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which shows “that there is a need for a foreign worker” based on a combination of factors like whether there’s a labor shortage for that particular job, whether the employer tried to find a Canadian to fill the role, whether the foreign national have the required skills, etc. This is a fairly typical high-skill job application process.

Scenario #2 – the employee must apply for a position for which the employer has a positive LMIA through something called the Global Talent Stream.

What’s that? Read on.

Global Talent Stream.

In the Canadian government’s own words, GTS is “a program that provides innovative firms in Canada with a faster way to hire highly skilled foreign talent when Canadians or permanent residents are not available,” and was developed “to help innovative companies recruit the highly specialized and skilled global talent they need to expand by providing faster and more predictable application processing.”

In other words, it’s a program that allows employers to skip the LMIA because the skills in question are in such high demand that the government gives blanket approval to hire foreign workers in the event of a job opening that requires those skills.

The Canadian government has a list of jobs covered by GTS, including STEM jobs like Engineer Manager, Mathematician, Web Designer and more. This list is dynamic and gets updated as needed.

Once an employer can prove that they are hiring for a position that’s covered by GTS, they are exempt from the LMIA and can get a qualified foreign candidate into Canada and working in just a few weeks.

New Work Permit Exemptions.

Finally, GSS added two new work permit exemptions – for highly-skilled workers who need to come to Canada for a very short-term assignment, and for researchers taking part in short-duration research projects being conducted in Canada will not require a work permit.

Basically, These workers must meet two requirements: (1) their job falls under an “executive/manager” or “professional” category, and (2) they will only be in Canada to work for either 15 consecutive days every six months or 30 consecutive days every 12 months.

There are more nuances in terms of how these durations account for travel, how to extend the stay if needed, and so on, but the gist is that GSS baked into it a really easy way for needed professionals to come work in Canada on super short-term assignments quickly and easily, without any major application process.


It’s no secret that Canada is becoming a tech hub. GSS has been a major pull factor, bringing the likes of Amazon, Uber and other tech giants to major Canadian cities. At the same time, US immigration under President Trump’s administration has been a push factor, as high-skilled workers are growing tired of waiting months for work visas and many years for permanent residency all while spending more and more money on the immigration process.

According to some estimates, GSS has already attracted around 24,000 skilled workers, bringing in a total of about 40,000 people when taking dependents into consideration.

And right now, according to CBRE’s 2019 Scoring Tech Talent report, Toronto is the #3 best city for tech talent, just behind San Francisco and Seattle. Not only is that impressive in and of itself, it’s up from #4 in 2018.

Excited about working in Canada yet?

If you’re even considering moving, let us help you easily figure out if you qualify for a work permit. What do you have to lose, eh?