How to move to Canada and work for tech startups


So you want to go to Canada, eh? There is a mad rush to see what opportunities might exist north of the border in light of what could be the biggest crisis between the two countries since the Canadians bombed the Baldwins and the U.S. military took out Terrence and Phillip: Donald Trump. Being a professional seeking work for a startup in Canada gives you a massive advantage in the immigration process.

Since January 2015, Canada has used its Express Entry system to process “skilled workers” visas, which is exactly what it sounds like. There are two main things to consider: 1) Will you get into Canada? 2) What do you need to get into Canada?

How likely are you to get in?

In short, it is not that difficult if you meet their eased criteria.

Canada wants American tech workers. Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto are ranked among the top 20 startup ecosystems in the world by Startup Compass, with an honorable mention for the Waterloo-Kitchener area just outside Toronto. All are growing. Montreal raised nearly as much as Toronto for Canadian venture capital in 2015. Each province has its own program in addition to the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP).

The British Columbia province is pushing Ottawa to get more tech workers in Vancouver. Clamoring is similar in other parts of the country, especially as it sees itself in competition with Silicon Valley and is trying to stem brain drain from Canadian startups.

“They are open to hearing the argument,” British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said last month. “The most important component of it is the PNP [Provincial Nominee Program], which allows the province to decide which specific skills are being allowed into the province. It’s at about 5,500 now; we need it to be 9,000 because we need to skills match people who are going to become Canadian citizens.”

Below is a quick rundown of what you need to move to Canada and work for a startup under the FSWP. In sum, you need at least 67 points under Canada’s scoring system in six different categories

Six points for Canadian skilled worker visas

1. Skilled work experience (15 points)

You can get 15 points here, but need at least nine. Canada requires at least 1,560 hours of relevant work experience within two years to qualify. That’s only 30 hours a week (full-time) for a year or 15 a week (part-time) for two. The work must be consecutive. That work experience must have been within the previous 10 years.

You also need to qualify under one of three skill sets defined by the National Occupational Classification (NOC) as Skill Type 0, Skill Level A or Skill Level B. Skill Type 0 are management jobs, such as running a restaurant or fishery. Skill Level A are professional positions that require a degree or university-level training, such as in medicine or law, and Skill Level B are for technical and trade jobs like electricians, chefs, etc. For full details, feel free to read here.

2. Language (28 points)

Montreal in the snow at dusk. While all the provinces have their own separate immigration programs in addition to the national one, Quebec has extra requirements like proficiency in both English and French to move there, The rest of Canada isn't as strict (Public domain image via Pixabay)
Montreal in the snow at dusk. While all the provinces have their own separate immigration programs in addition to the national one, Quebec has extra requirements like proficiency in both English and French to move there. The rest of Canada isn’t as strict (Public domain image via Pixabay)

Your English or French skills need to be up to par to reach Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7 (requirements in English or French) in one of those languages (24 points). With skills in the second, you can grab another four points. If you’re an American fleeing Donald Trump, your English is likely fine. Notably, you must plan to live outside the province of Quebec, which has a separate but similar Quebec skilled workers visa program and tests you on English and French.

3. Education accreditation (25 points)

Education-wise, even the Great White North has bureaucracy. You need an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) for your high school diploma and college degrees. This is common in a lot of countries. American degrees will virtually always be approved (except from Trump University, of course).

4. Your age (12 points)

If you’re between 18 and 35, you get 12 points. Every year older loses you a point until you turn 47 when you get zip toward your score. But this doesn’t disqualify you.

5. Adaptability (10 points max)

Adaptability is sort of a bonus category. You can grab 10 points pretty easily here by having a year of previous work in Canada (0, A or B skill sets). You can also pick up 5 points for each of these: language skills at CNB 4, a single relative in the country, previous work experience in Canada, previous school experience in Canada or the previous school/experience of your spouse/common law partner.

6. Job offer (10 points)

Of course, having a job offer puts you in better shape and can score 10 points on your application. The availability of jobs in your field might be an issue though, especially if there is low demand. Canada keeps track of this information, so check out the Job Bank.

Does Canada want American tech workers?

Yes. In fact, they want their Canadian ones back.

Canada be rollin'. They hatin'.
Canada be rollin’. They hatin’.

It is more a matter of demand than a cap like in the United States. Canada counted 28,700 skilled worker immigrants in 2014, a number that has been steadily declining from as high as 52,158 in 2005. The reform in 2015, however, increases the chance you can get into the country as it cuts through some of the bureaucracy and hopes to recruit millennials age 18-35. Data isn’t available just yet for 2015 to see if those numbers have gone up.

You can check with the CIC website to see how many points by the FSWP selection factors you would get.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here