Rock musician entrepreneurs arrive from refugee circumstances to open their new music school in Canada

There are photos of Ranim with children sitting at keyboards during a group lesson. Another photo shows her with one of her students, both smiling and giving a peace sign. She looks happy and the kids look at home with her. Ranim and Adnan taught music together for eight years at their school in Homs, Syria, that they built. 

The war began in Syria in 2011 but they stayed with their students, and stopped charging money for those badly impacted by war. This was their home, where their son was born, where they created a thriving business and community. When Adnan began to receive threats, they still stayed. 

Adnan is a rock star. He’s a talented guitarist and composer, and made a solo career in parallel to teaching with Ranim. His latest project is an album collaboration with an international network of rock and metal musicians. In Syria during a civil war with outside influences, this close association with Western music became a liability. 

A bomb shattered the school in 2018. They lost everything inside. Then the threats became even more serious. One day, Adnan found a photo of himself online labelled ‘wanted.’ So in 2019, they crossed into Lebanon with their four-year old son where they were safe from bombing but not from threats, which followed them, indirectly, as family members got questioned: Where did they go? Where are they hiding?

They hid in Beirut. For three years, keeping a low profile and no online presence, until this week. 

A visa for entrepreneurs in the arts 

As artists and entrepreneurs, Adnan and Ranim had a visa pathway to Canada, where they have a few close professional contacts that became more like family since they left Syria. 

Canada courts world-class artistic and athletic talent through the federal Self-Employed Persons Program. TalentLift’s Legal Director, Veronica Wilson, connected the dots, realizing they were model applicants. Applicants should, according to the program guidelines, “enrich Canadian culture and sports […] for example, a music teacher destined to a small town can be considered significant at the local level.”

Adnan and Ranim dreamed of reopening their music school in Canada – in Parry Sound, where Adnan’s longtime producer lived alongside her partner, himself a musician retired from the rock group Anvil. 

It was a big dream to keep alive in small apartments in Beirut as the environment shifted around them. Lebanon entered its own crisis, economic and political, that has seen the currency drop in value by 95 per cent since October 2019. After the explosion in the port of Beirut, life got even harder. Adnan and Ranim saw more children in the streets, picking food from garbage and sleeping outside. Neither of them could work in Lebanon legally or for fear of their safety, and their savings disappeared. Their livelihood arrived in money transfers for rent and food from their adoptive family in Parry Sound.

Unlike traditional applicants to an entrepreneurship visa, Adnan and Ranim had no savings to demonstrate start-up capital for their business in Canada. But they had everything else, and donations in lieu of savings. They laid out their business plan for the new Solo Music School in Parry Sound as a hub for kids and young adults to learn music and express themselves – it would be an inclusive space, teaching vocals and multi-instruments, celebrating the diverse sounds of everyone. With their staff costs low, donated musical equipment, and $20,000 raised in donations, their start-up costs would be minimal and covered until revenue from their classes came in. Despite their talent and business plans, the couple’s visa pathway to Canada was more complicated than it should have been. Eventually approved, it was a long road. 

Their story builds the case for expanding efforts to improve access by displaced talent to the full suite of Canada’s skilled visa pathways. Canada has pioneered the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP) to overcome barriers like those faced by Adnan and Ranim, but it’s limited to a selection of programs not including entrepreneurship ones. The proven solutions behind this pilot can extend to all visa pathways, to court entrepreneurial talent from displacement too, where ingenuity and resilience have had to soar. 

The trio arrives in Canada

Their little boy is now seven years old and when he learned their visas were approved his first breathless question was, “I get to go to school?” A video from the airport on the way to Canada shows him jumping up and down on the spot, a big smile breaking out in excitement. A video from much earlier, from their apartment in Beirut, shows him rocking out on a drum set that Adnan fashioned using scrap plastics. He’s a little musician and budding mathematician, and has the coolest hair you can imagine, long braids good for jamming. 

In five years from now – which is possible to see in this country – Adnan and Ranim imagine their school is thriving. It’s a place people are proud to be part of, which links and opens cultures to one another. Kids are learning new skills. Adults too. Maybe there’s a band formed among the students that’s ready to play around the community. 

Their immediate dream is even closer to reach. Adnan said it’s to “live in peace, and free without fear from anything. Like any normal person.”

TalentLift is grateful for the support of our partners at Talent Beyond Boundaries for their longstanding support for the family, at Miles4Migrants for relocating the family to their new home, and at Secular Rescue and the Centre for Inquiry Canada for their remarkable financial and moral support during a long journey. TalentLift is also grateful to a wide group of friends and family for their donations to start up the family and Solo Music School in Parry Sound.

The optimism of skills-based mobility greets UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi in Toronto

Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Barb Mason, Group Head and Chief Human Resources Officer, Scotiabank.
Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Barb Mason, Group Head and Chief Human Resources Officer, Scotiabank.

Durid is a Maintenance Technician and he and his spouse are working in a Southern Ontario community where their skills are in high demand, and where their daughter can go to school. Anas is a Software Engineer on a Waterloo-based team that has grown four times in size during the pandemic. Kinaz will soon relocate to British Columbia to join a healthcare employer providing critical in-home care. All three were displaced from their homes and careers due to conflict before getting jobs and pursuing skilled visas to Canada. 

These are stories that fill you with optimism, said Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at a meeting in Toronto with Durid, Anas, Kinaz and three pioneering companies – ApplyBoard, Ice River Sustainable Solutions, and Scotiabank – behind a skills-based solution to displacement.

The scale of displacement today is unprecedented since the end of the Second World War. There were more than 26 million people living as refugees globally in 2021, before the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August and the recent invasion of Ukraine.

Traditional solutions including humanitarian resettlement are essential but inadequate on their own to respond. Additional solutions are needed. Job-backed skilled visa opportunities hold immense promise – including potential to scale. 

Below are highlights from a discussion with High Commissioner Grandi on the promise of this solution. 

A bridge to opportunities

Anas relocated to Canada to join ApplyBoard after the team partnered with TalentLift to find software engineering talent. On his own, when he was living as a refugee in Lebanon, Anas couldn’t get traction in his international job search. It was a challenge getting a foot in the door, and there were other daily problems to face like electricity outages, a plummeting currency, and insecure status in the country. Kinaz faced similar challenges and long working days with little time beyond work and sleep. 

“You don’t have stability in your life that lets you focus on your long-term goals,” Anas said. 

He said the bridge between companies and candidates in displacement needs to widen. Organizations like TalentLift and our partner Talent Beyond Boundaries are part of that important infrastructure.

“I didn’t believe it.” 

When Durid got a call that the manufacturer Ice River Sustainable Solutions wanted to interview him, “I didn’t believe it.” After the interview, when he learned they wanted to hire him, “I still didn’t believe it,” he laughed. As awareness grows among the many thousands of talented people who could use their skills as a pathway out of displacement, more people can start believing it. 

Nearly one million vacancies

There were 915,500 open positions across Canada at the end of 2021. This is the opportunity space for connecting talented candidates in refugee circumstances with the teams and communities that need their skills.

International recruitment is a solution that is not just about workforce needs today but “understanding where the demand is going to be,” said Barb Mason, Group Head and Chief Human Resources Officer, Scotiabank. It’s an investment with enormous payoff for new employees, their families, and the Canadian economy. 

Room to improve: Speed is key

Canada is among a handful of countries pioneering ways to make international recruitment and skilled visas work better for talented people living in refugee circumstances. Equity-based flexibility, like recognizing expired passports and loans instead of savings, is significantly deepening access. But further change is needed to ensure companies can recruit and relocate displaced talent with ease and speed.

The visa timeline remains a challenge, said Jordan Ingster, Senior Legal Advisor with Ice River Sustainable Solutions, which saw demand and operations expand even through the pandemic. The team hired nine trades professionals who were living as refugees and could hire others. 

“We need to make that pathway quick,” said Dan Weber, Senior Director of Innovation and Strategy with ApplyBoard, which recently grew from a team of 400 to 1,600. “We need talent, how can we get it here?”

For that part, TalentLift is here to help. Interested teams can express interest to become part of this impactful hiring solution. 

A discussion with High Commissioner Grandi hosted by Scotiabank in Toronto.
A discussion with High Commissioner Grandi hosted by Scotiabank in Toronto. 

With the support of the Scotiabank ScotiaRISE initiative, TalentLift has built a talent platform for displaced job seekers to self-register, develop job-readiness, and connect to transformative job and relocation opportunities to Canada. Learn more.

Canada’s swift visa for Ukrainians is open. TalentLift is here to support you.

Canada is welcoming Ukrainians displaced by war through a new and swift visa. Under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET), applicants who are Ukrainian nationals may apply for a visitor visa and open work permit, and then relocate to Canada. 

How it works

This visa pathway is open to any Ukrainian national. Applicants apply online for a visitor visa and have the option to apply for an open work permit which will allow them to work for any employer in Canada. CUAET applicants have the following fees waived: Visa application fee, biometric collection fee, and work permit application fee, among others. The visa allows you to travel in and out of Canada and will be processed on a priority basis. Canada will aim to process complete applications in 14 days. 

How TalentLift can support you

TalentLift is ready to assist anyone wishing to rebuild their career and livelihood in Canada. 

We invite Ukrainians interested in pursuing work and relocation to Canada to register with us. If you are eligible, and are displaced by the war, our team will work with you and your family at no cost to seek employment in Canada, to apply for this visa, and to relocate. We will prepare a transition plan to permanent residence to ensure you have a secure future in Canada.

We will support you and your family each step of the way to relocate and begin to rebuild.

Employers wishing to hire can express their interest here: https://www.talentlift.ca/ukraine/

ARCHIVED: Recruitment Lead

Join our team! TalentLift is a mission-driven, collaborative, and high-impact start-up expanding the job and skilled visa opportunities available to talented candidates living in refugee circumstances globally. We are hiring a full-time Recruitment Lead who will have the opportunity to make a clear impact on individual and systemic levels and to create the scaleable and human-centred processes that power our work. 

The team

TalentLift is a non-profit talent agency. We support Canadian employers to recruit and relocate talent from within refugee populations to fill skills shortages, enabling candidates along with their families to lift to their potential as they advance their careers, secure their futures, and leave displacement behind.

There are more than 26 million people living as refugees worldwide with few options to achieve livelihoods and security. Many thousands have the skills and potential to qualify for jobs and skilled visas in Canada, just like talented people anywhere, but they’ve been historically excluded from recruitment and visa systems. This is changing as TalentLift and our partners drive more equitable access to these transformative opportunities.   

TalentLift is the first organization of our kind to offer employers and the displaced candidates they hire in-house services encompassing talent search, visa application, and settlement coordination. We believe that access to opportunities should depend on potential and not the privilege of living without fear. 

The role

Our Recruitment Lead will report to the Managing Director and be responsible for:

  • Outreach and engagement with employers across Canada to recruit from within the refugee talent pool supported by TalentLift
  • Management of a seamless and supportive recruitment experience for employers partnering with TalentLift
  • Championing our talent pool and raising awareness about the skills and potential within displaced populations worldwide
  • Supporting business development and organizational growth 

Must have: 

  • Minimum 3 years of previous experience in a sales or client-facing role
  • Excellent project management and organizational skills, with the ability to manage multiple priorities while maintaining high attention to detail
  • Excellent relationship-building skills 
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Empathy
  • Reliability
  • Adaptability and willingness to continuously learn

Nice to have

  • Post-secondary training in marketing, sales, human resources, business administration, or other related discipline is an asset
  • Experience and knowledge of business-to-business (B2B) sales
  • Experience with international recruitment or human resources processes
  • Experience supporting people living in refugee and displaced situations
  • Experience with project management and database software

What we offer

  • Salary of $70,000
  • Dental and extended healthcare benefits
  • 4 weeks vacation
  • Flexible hours and work from home in Canada
  • Equipment provided
  • A supportive team – ask us more!

TalentLift is committed to equitable hiring. All candidates are welcome to apply and we warmly invite those who have lived experience in refugee or displacement circumstances, Indigenous backgrounds, and different abilities. 

The deadline to apply for this role is March 20, 2022. To apply, please send your CV and a cover email to: careers@talentlift.ca 

Canada aims high in welcoming more talented candidates and their families from refugee circumstances in latest immigration plan

A family arrives in Canada supported by the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP). 

Canada released its first immigration plan since the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic today. It highlights the country’s priorities for the coming three years, including welcoming more newcomers into in-demand work from refugee circumstances under the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP).

The EMPP was first trialled as a smallscale pilot in 2018 to support people living as refugees to access job and skilled visa opportunities on a more level field with other international applicants, as a critical new mobility option that is additional and complementary to resettlement. The pilot entered a growth phase at the end of 2021 following the federal election and a pledge to see 2,000 people supported by it.

Employers working with TalentLift are eager to recruit from this talent pool – and this plan for growth is a nod to the skills needed across Canada’s economy, and to the aspirations of talented candidates in refugee circumstances globally. 

Here’s a breakdown of the number of permanent residents to be welcomed in 2022: 

  • EMPP pledge during the election: 2,000
  • Target for four pilots, including the EMPP: 10,250
  • Target for all skilled immigration (economic) stream admissions: 241,850
  • Target for all permanent resident admissions: 431,645

TalentLift is glad to see a significant target, and to know that targets are flexible and can be surpassed. There are more than 26 million people living as refugees around the world, many with the skills and talents needed in our communities. If this talent pool accounted for just 1% of newcomers under Canada’s economic stream, that would be 2,418 people moving from displacement to a secure future. 

This vision is within reach. Canada is continuing its leadership to build a more equitable skilled immigration system that works for displaced talent and the teams welcoming them. 


Read more about building an inclusive skilled immigration system and meet a remarkable newcomer, a software engineer, who recently joined the ApplyBoard team and left refugee circumstances behind.

Webinar: Diversify to Include Top Tech Talent from Refugee Sources

Innovative Canadian tech companies are recruiting from the immense tech talent in refugee populations worldwide. Learn about this growing opportunity from the executives of leading companies, and the transformative impacts for candidates and the teams welcoming them to Canada.

Canadian tech companies have an enormous opportunity to lead the world in recruiting from an underleveraged talent pool of tech candidates living as refugees globally. This win-win recruitment initiative helps companies find and retain essential tech skills outside of stretched local markets, while enabling new employees and their families to relocate to Canada and leave refugee circumstances behind.

Join this webinar to hear Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser discuss Canada’s vision to scale this critical solution. Learn firsthand from executives of companies pioneering this transformative hiring initiative – Martin Basiri, CEO of ApplyBoard and Tia Fomenoff, Senior Director of People and Culture with Thinkific – and the gains they see for their teams and culture. We’ll also hear from Anas Jamous on his experience recently relocating to Canada from displacement for a job as a Software Engineer with ApplyBoard.

This webinar is for business leaders with interest in exploring the potential of this impactful model in their companies. The session is hosted by the Tech Talent Welcome Council, a grassroots and growing community of tech teams recruiting displaced talent, alongside TalentLift and CEO-P2P. This movement is just beginning – the Canadian Government aims to support at least 2,000 people to relocate from displacement for jobs in Canada.

We look forward to having you join us to learn more!

Time: Feb 15, 2022 12:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Insights from our practice interview volunteers on supporting candidates in refugee circumstances to put their best foot forward

A woman standing in front of a grey background with a lab coat and head scarf, arms crossed, holding a stethoscope.

Job interviews are hard for everyone. Most Canadians tense up just thinking about the mix of preparation, pressure, hope, and uncertainty they entail.

Now, imagine if a job interview could unlock the chance to move yourself and your family from an extremely difficult place to a new home and future in Canada; if this job meant a life-changing relocation. Imagine too that this remote interview will be in your non-native language. Imagine you’re stressed about the regular electricity outages interrupting your call. Imagine your family is listening in because you all live together in a few rooms. Oh, and you’ve never had a formal interview before.

Each week, TalentLift candidates – all talented individuals living as refugees around the world – head into remote interviews with employers across Canada with constraints on their time, preparedness and wellbeing that are difficult to imagine.

Perhaps the best tool we can provide to help them prepare is a connection to a volunteer in Canada who runs through a practice interview. Our volunteers are human resources professionals, or managers and other team members with internal interview experience, who regularly commit their time to helping candidates in refugee circumstances put their best foot forward in a Canadian interview. They spend 30-60 minutes with a candidate in a simulated interview, and then provide verbal and written feedback including tips to improve before the real thing. 

We asked a handful of our volunteers to share reflections on their experiences in these practice interviews with carpenters, nurses, bakers, developers, and other professionals – many of whom have gone on to receive job offers. They shared some incredible insight on the talent, potential, and aspirations of displaced candidates.

Here are some of their insights: 

Interviewers can help build up confidence and comfort

During practice interviews, Praneeta Patil, a human resources professional in Toronto, reminds candidates about their courage and endurance in getting to this point as a way to build their confidence. “It is wonderful to see them gain their confidence throughout the call which is then reflected in little things like their posture and the way they converse,” she said. “Many of the candidates who are otherwise great at their work just require that boost of confidence.”

During the real thing, interviewers can also help put candidates at ease with smiling, small talk and an explanation of the interview (including what the interviewer wants to learn) at the outset. These techniques can help lower stress and encourage comfort with the interviewer.

Interviewers can avoid testing cultural context by being more aware of differences

Shawn Patterson is an engineering manager in Waterloo and has been struck by differences in team structure. Some candidates have worked in companies around the world that are “very traditional in structure, very hierarchical, so they aren’t used to having an opinion on how teams communicate across the company.” In these workplaces, people “take the work and execute on it” while companies more typical of the Canadian tech scene “are very flat in nature where anyone can really bring up any concern and interact with any team.” 

Being mindful of this contextual difference can help hiring managers probe aptitude rather than experience within a specific cultural setting. See a guide on redesigning the tech hiring process to include displaced talent for more on how to test skills like problem-solving instead of cultural context.

Jane Duffy, a human resources professional in Toronto, identified some additional qualities to keep an eye on in this talent pool: “Give pause and reflect on the candidate you are interviewing. They are likely estranged from their home country and living in very challenging circumstances. This makes them strong, resilient and nimble – all wonderful qualities to have in an employee.”

Interviewers can make simple adjustments to account for differences when interviewing displaced candidates

Michelle Arnold, a policy manager in Toronto, suggested a no-surprises approach: “I’d encourage hiring managers to provide as much information about what they’re looking for to the candidates as possible. These candidates are often living in stressful situations and may or may not be familiar with Canadian industry terms and trends – the focus should be on trying to get a sense of their skills and their capacity and willingness to learn.” Unexpected questions that put someone on the spot usually aren’t the best way to understand skills and potential. 

Praneeta emphasized the importance of overcoming communication barriers. In Praneeta’s experience, “English is not their first language. Many of the candidates listen to a question in English, translate it in their minds to their language, think of an answer in their own language and then translate it to English. Please be patient while they answer.” Shawn too advised care with communication: “Make sure your questions are clear and easy to understand so you get the best response possible from the candidate. If you don’t get the answer you are looking for, it can sometimes be language related so try and ask the question again, in different words. This will help give the candidate the best chance to succeed.”

Candidates can follow these recurring tips

Understand the question. Shawn said, “listen to the question carefully, and ask for clarification when needed before answering. Feel free to take the time you need to come up with a good response.”

Explain why you want to work with this team. Michelle advised, “be specific about why you are interested in working for a particular employer and make clear connections between past work experience and the requirements of the job.” This will help demonstrate that you came prepared and that you appreciate ways that this team and company are unique.  

Be confident. Praneeta said candidates “could be hesitant while talking about their work and often undersell themselves and their achievements.” She emphasized that it’s OK to talk proudly about your work. 

Have good eye contact and smile. “Interviews can be nerve-wracking and this is especially true when interviewing for a role in a different country and language,” Jane said. But these small things help people connect and appreciate the human side of each other. 

Learning and personal growth is a two-way street

As much as they teach and support others, volunteers explained that they take away big personal lessons and value too.  

“Every individual I interview has their own story and is fighting to overcome their own unique struggles and I have nothing but respect for them,” Praneeta said. “I was extremely moved by their strength, fierce zest for life and the willingness to strive and overcome.”

“Hearing how excited candidates are to build a life and career for themselves in Canada has been surprisingly meaningful,” Michelle said. “In one of my interviews, the candidate was talking about all the research she’d done on the city that she was applying to work in, from the geographical characteristics, to the population size, to the major industries and it made me so excited and hopeful about the possibility of having someone that passionate about Canada contribute their skills here.”

Michelle added, “it’s also just really wonderful to talk to passionate, interesting people who are embarking on major shifts in their lives.”

Are you interested in volunteering? TalentLift welcomes new volunteers for practice interview sessions with candidates, with an ideal time commitment of one or two practice sessions each month. Please register your interest here: https://www.talentlift.ca/volunteer-signup/

Software engineer from refugee circumstances joins ApplyBoard on Canada’s top work permit for tech talent

Anas arrives in Toronto, his new home city, where he’ll begin working as a software engineer with ApplyBoard. 

When he heard he got the job, Anas felt deep pride in himself. He had worked towards this goal for five years. It was late but he messaged his Dad, who’s still living in Syria. At each milestone, Anas would call his parents almost right away. 

That was in the summer, when ApplyBoard, one of Canada’s tech unicorns, offered him a job as a software engineer in Canada, and Anas’ plane landed in Toronto on December 30. A job and a visa to Canada mean something different to Anas than most people. He didn’t have a home to leave behind in Lebanon, where he was living as a refugee, like more than one million other Syrians.

Anas grew up in the suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus. He had to leave in 2017. There wasn’t a choice if he wanted to stay out of the military and a civil war he doesn’t support. Military service is mandatory for Syrian men aged 18 to 42. Millions of families have crossed the border and become refugees to escape the decade-long war or serving in it. 

Lebanon shares a land border with Syria and hosts the largest number of refugees relative to its population. It’s also one of the toughest places to get by in. The small country experienced a deepening political and economic crisis in recent years that forced millions of Lebanese and refugees alike into poverty. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) found, in a survey published in September 2021, that nine in ten Syrians living in Lebanon are in extreme poverty, unable to afford food or rent. Electricity outages are frequent and the basics are in shortage as the value of the Lebanese pound keeps falling.

When Anas arrived alone in Lebanon in May 2017, he had a dream of being hired as a software developer by an international company in Europe or North America. That dream kept him focused – and busy – because he didn’t know how to code or speak English. He taught himself both. Anas got hired as a junior developer in Lebanon by Googling how to code and then learned on the job. He moved his way up, and through different companies, improving his exposure to technologies and work styles. 

He never lost sight of his goal. 

In early 2021, TalentLift had just started operating and spoke with ApplyBoard about recruiting talent from within refugee populations. A swift decision came from the first meeting with Martin Basiri, the Waterloo-based CEO and co-founder. ApplyBoard changed the way students around the world access international education opportunities. Since its inception in 2015, ApplyBoard has become the world’s largest online platform for international student recruitment. Guided by the premise that education is a right, not a privilege, the fast-growing team has supported more than 300,000 students to pursue study abroad.

That beautifully parallels with TalentLift’s mission to advance access to global jobs and skilled visas for displaced talent as a solution to their displacement: TalentLift believes opportunity should depend on potential, and not the privilege of a secure immigration status.

“At ApplyBoard, our main mission is tied to helping students achieve access to the best educational opportunities and breaking down long standing barriers in the education world,” said Martin Basiri, CEO and Co-Founder of ApplyBoard. “We can’t wait to see what Anas will do at ApplyBoard and we’re thrilled to have played a small role in his journey. We’re proud to support TalentLift and appreciate all the work they do to find solutions for displaced talent.”

TalentLift offers employers and the candidates they hire in-house recruitment services encompassing talent search, visa application, and settlement coordination. We find talent by working with partners in refugee-hosting regions like Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB) in the Middle East, HIAS in Latin America, and UNHCR in East Africa and other geographies. And, with early and transformational funding from Scotiabank’s ScotiaRISE initiative, TalentLift built a talent platform where candidates in refugee circumstances anywhere can self-register, a significant new access point to opportunities. Our partners at TBB referred Anas to TalentLift, and soon the ApplyBoard team invited him to interview. 

Like all software engineering candidates, Anas had a multi-step interview with ApplyBoard. There was a first call with a recruiter, two rounds of intensive and synchronous (real-time) technical tests, and a final interview with an engineering manager. 

By the end, ApplyBoard found a new team member. “I cried a lot,” Anas said, when he heard the news that his dream was happening. “I believe there is nothing that’s impossible. We should all believe in ourselves, it’s really just a matter of time.”

Canada’s Global Talent Stream work permits are part of the solution

Landing in Toronto was another achievement that deserved a call to Dad. Tired, masked, giggling with happiness, Anas connected back home by video from Toronto’s Pearson airport. 

A deeply personal achievement is also a milestone in expanding access to Canada’s skilled visas for others like him. Anas arrived on a work permit under the Global Talent Stream, Canada’s fastest visa pathway designed to help tech companies stay competitive and grow by attracting top talent quickly. It’s exceedingly rare for someone living in refugee circumstances to successfully apply for this or any work permit – but it shouldn’t be. 

Applicants to work permits must prove they can leave Canada again, even if they’re applying for permanent residence, by demonstrating proof of ties to another country. Valid passports, valid residence status, bank accounts, and savings are examples of the proof Canada looks for, which are impossible for many refugees to provide. Anas is in the minority who, by fortune, have a valid passport from the home country they left. 

Canada’s pioneering Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP) helps candidates like Anas who are hired from displacement by Canadian employers to overcome some of the unfair barriers in an economic immigration application. For example, someone with an expired passport who can’t safely or affordably renew it from their home country is supported by the EMPP. However, the pilot is limited to permanent residence applications which are prohibitive for other reasons, notably lengthy timelines that exceed eight months, making them unworkable for employers with urgent hiring needs. The same flexibility doesn’t apply to faster work permit pathways like the Global Talent Stream.

If Anas had an expired passport, he wouldn’t be here. He reminds us of the talent we can gain if we build better access to all of the skilled visa options available, including those courting the best and brightest. 

“There’s someone inside me who really wants to learn.”

What Anas felt most during his ApplyBoard interviews, more than nerves or stress, was excitement. A lot of the process was new, and that was the exciting part. He had interviewed with other international companies but had never done a ‘systems design’ technical test before. He did his research beforehand, online and by calling a more experienced friend. He was buzzing with ideas about how to approach design challenges by his interview date. 

“I think they could see there’s someone inside me who really wants to learn,” Anas said. His curiosity and energy make you smile, and the way he listens to and appreciates the people around him.

He can’t wait to dive into the technologies used by ApplyBoard and become immersed with new colleagues of this calibre. There’s a team mindset he can already see that is different from what he experienced before, where colleagues don’t hoard knowledge and ideas, but share them and grow together. 

Anas’ first day of work is coming up soon. His Dad might be the first to hear how it goes.

TalentLift is grateful to our partners at Miles4Migrants for supporting Anas’ journey to Canada. Miles4Migrants uses donated frequent flyer miles to help people impacted by war, persecution, or disaster to reach their new home communities.

Immigration Legal Assistant

Join our team! TalentLift is a mission-driven, collaborative, and high-impact start-up expanding the job and skilled visa opportunities available to talented candidates living in refugee circumstances globally. We are hiring a full-time Immigration Legal Assistant who will have the opportunity to make a clear impact on individual and systemic levels and to create the scaleable and human-centred processes that power our work. 

The team

TalentLift is a non-profit talent agency. We support Canadian employers to recruit and relocate talent from within refugee and displaced populations to fill skills shortages, enabling candidates along with their families to lift to their potential as they advance their careers, secure their futures, and leave displacement behind.

There are more than 26 million people living as refugees worldwide with few options to achieve livelihoods and security. Many thousands have the skills and potential to qualify for jobs and skilled visas in Canada, just like talented people anywhere, but they’ve been historically excluded from recruitment and visa systems. This is changing as TalentLift and our partners drive more equitable access to these transformative opportunities.   

TalentLift is the first organization of our kind to offer employers and the displaced candidates they hire in-house services encompassing talent search, visa application, and settlement coordination. We believe that access to opportunities should depend on potential and not the privilege of living without fear. 

The role

Our Immigration Legal Assistant will be responsible for:

  • Providing administrative support to TalentLift’s legal team on both temporary and permanent residence immigration applications.
  • Managing various legal services duties including:
    • Maintaining case management databases and software
    • Requesting and reviewing information and documentation from candidates
    • Completing forms required for immigration applications and following up with candidates to obtain outstanding information
    • Drafting submission letters, working from precedents when appropriate
    • Preparing application packages for review by the Legal Director
  • Ensuring that deadlines are recorded, scheduled and met
  • Performing research and other general administrative duties as required

Must have: 

  • Minimum 3 years of previous experience in economic immigration processing
  • Strong knowledge of Canadian immigration practices and procedures
  • Excellent organizational skills, with the ability to work well under pressure
  • Ability to manage multiple priorities while maintaining high attention to detail
  • Excellent communication skills in a cross-cultural environment
  • Empathy
  • Reliability
  • Adaptability and willingness to continuously learn

Nice to have

  • Work experience or volunteerism in cross-cultural contexts is preferred
  • Experience supporting people living in refugee and displaced situations is preferred
  • Experience with project management and database software is preferred
  • Ability to communicate fluently in multiple languages

TalentLift is committed to equitable hiring. All candidates are welcome to apply and we warmly invite those who have lived experience in refugee or displacement circumstances, Indigenous backgrounds, and different abilities. 

The salary for this position is $65,000.

The deadline to apply for this role has been extended to Monday, December 20, 2021. To apply, please send your CV and a cover letter/email to: careers@talentlift.ca 

Canada’s EMPP is open to support skilled immigration by displaced talent

Kinaz is a nurse living in displacement supported by TalentLift who will fill a critical role in healthcare in British Columbia.

Canada’s groundbreaking pilot supporting talented people living as refugees to apply to economic immigration streams is now open. As of today, people living in refugee circumstances can submit job-backed permanent residence applications through the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP).

The EMPP extends some flexibility to address administrative and financial requirements that have previously been a barrier to otherwise highly qualified applicants. Skilled immigration is an additional mobility option for those seeking a durable solution outside of traditional humanitarian resettlement. 

Talented candidates in refugee circumstances can now apply through selected economic programs with the following flexibility: 

  • 1 year of work experience accrued anytime (no recency period) under the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP) or Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) programs;
  • Use of a loan from a trusted microlender to satisfy a settlement funds requirement; 
  • Use of an expired passport or other ID in place of a valid passport; and
  • Waiver of the permanent residence processing fee and biometrics fee. 

These changes apply only to applicants to the provincial nominee programs (PNPs), AIP, and RNIP. 

A skills-based solution to displacement

One candidate whose application will be supported under the pilot is Mulham, hired as a CNC Machinist by a manufacturing firm in Ontario. Mulham and his family are living in refugee circumstances in Libya while they wait for their visas. 

Mulham told us this is a chance “to start a new life, to ensure that my children receive a good education and the right to live in a country that values equality among all people, away from conflicts, insecurity and fear of the future.”

Read more about this family: https://www.talentlift.ca/scotiarise-invests-400000-in-talentlift-to-help-job-seekers-in-refugee-circumstances-find-work-and-settle-in-canada/

Essential improvements for deeper equity

TalentLift has made recommendations for deeper equity and the growth of this important and win-win mobility option to Canada. These recommendations build on our team’s operational knowledge of barriers facing qualified candidates and their prospective employers:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GcjQ6LDnCbsIq4J6LYPEs5VkJYjUk3MkmglzUmBWqOg/edit

TalentLift is excited to support Canadian employers and the talented candidates they hire under  the EMPP. We and our partners across hiring teams, alongside IRCC, provinces and territories, and supporting NGOs, are modelling a scalable, skills-based solution to displacement as a complementary pathway to humanitarian resettlement.