Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will introduce new restrictions for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) effective April 1, 2011. Employers will be required to demonstrate their past compliance with program rules and commitments, and risk suspension from the TFWP for past program violations. In addition, some foreign nationals will be subject to a four-year limit on the time they can work in Canada under the TFWP.
New Compliance Requirements for Employers
Effective April 1, 2011, employers seeking to hire foreign workers will have their compliance with TFWP requirements over the preceding two years assessed. CIC will examine whether a sponsoring employer has provided its TFWP workers with wages, working conditions and an occupation that were substantially the same as the terms and conditions of the job offer that supported the work permit application.
An employer who does not meet the terms and conditions of the job offer may be subject to a two-year probationary period during which it may not hire a foreign worker under the program, unless the employer can show its earlier noncompliance was justified. Acceptable justifications to excuse noncompliance can include:
- A change in federal or provincial laws;
- A change in the applicable collective bargaining agreements;
- A good faith error in interpretation by the employer concerning its obligations to the foreign worker, so long as the employer subsequently provided compensation or made sufficient attempts to do so to all foreign workers who were affected by the error;
- An unintentional accounting or administrative error made by the employer, so long as the employer subsequently provided compensation or made sufficient attempts to do so to all foreign workers who were affected by the error;
- If the employer implemented measures that did not disproportionately affect foreign workers in response to dramatic economic changes directly affecting the employer, or
- Similar or related circumstances.
Though these new regulations do not take effect until April 1, they will apply to employers retroactively. As such, employers should review all work permits obtained on or after April 1, 2009 to ensure that the wages, working conditions and occupation have remained substantially the same as disclosed in the employer’s original offers of employment. If necessary, remedial action must be taken by the employer to ensure compliance with the regulations.
Four-Year Employment Limit for Some Work Permit Holders
The new TFWP rules will limit some work permit holders to a cumulative maximum period of four years of work in Canada. Once the four-year cap is reached, these individuals will not be eligible to apply for another work permit for a period of four years. However, the new cap will not apply to certain workers who enter in a category that is exempt from the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) requirement. This includes foreign nationals holding work permits that are issued pursuant to an international trade treaty, such as NAFTA or the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), or those holding positions that are exempt from LMO requirements because they create or maintain significant benefits for Canadians (such as intra-company transferees, among others).
Note that the four-year limit applies to employment authorization. It does not limit a foreign national’s stay in Canada to four years. In theory, those subject to the four-year work limit may be eligible to obtain another form of immigration status, such as student or dependent status, if they qualify. However, employers should still plan ahead and explore options for permanent residence for those foreign employees who may be subject to the four-year cap.