On June 20, 2014 the Government of Canada announced major changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). These changes have significant repercussions for Canadian employers across the country as well as current and future foreign workers.
Many of these changes also have a significant impact on how foreign workers obtain their work permits, as well as what will happen during and after arrival in Canada. This issue will explore in detail the most important changes and what they mean for current and future foreign workers in Canada.
Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs)
In most cases, Canadian employers need to obtain government approval before hiring a foreign worker. This approval comes in the form of a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), formerly known as a Labour Market Opinion (LMO).
In the eyes of the government, the responsibility for securing an LMIA rests solely with the employer in Canada. The LMIA process assesses whether the employer is eligible to hire from abroad.
Temporary foreign workers should be aware that employers in need of an LMIA will face increased restrictions, more in-depth requirements, and enhanced inspections and punishment if they do not follow the rules. According to Attorney David Cohen, these new measures may make some employers more reluctant to hire some foreign workers.
“If you are a foreign worker who has received a job offer in Canada, especially from a small or medium sized employer, you should be prepared for the employer to possibly question whether they want to go through this process at all,” said Attorney Cohen. “It would be prudent if you do your own research so that you can help your employer understand the new rules, if need be. At the very least, you can direct him or her to the services of a professional immigration representative, who could help to navigate the process.”
LMIA-Based Work Permit Restrictions
In addition to increased LMIA requirements, there are now new time limits placed on work permits that require LMIAs. Individuals whose Canadian job offers are considered ‘low-wage’ under the new LMIA system (that is, individuals who will be paid less than the provincial median wage) will be issued work permits valid for no longer than one year in length. In addition, low-wage applications that were submitted before June 20, 2014 will not be processed. They will be returned with a refund of government processing fees. Employers are welcome to re-apply following the new rules for low-wage LMIAs.
The government has also implied that the maximum work permit length for ‘high-wage’ workers, who are paid a salary that meets or exceeds provincial median wages, will also be reduced. It has been reported that the maximum length will be cut to two years, although this has yet to be formally implemented.
Options remain in place to renew work permits that are set to expire, as well as to transition from temporary worker status to permanent resident status.
“For many individuals, coming to Canada as a foreign worker is a first step towards becoming a Canadian Permanent Resident or even a Canadian Citizen,” said Attorney David Cohen. “However, since work permits will now be issued for shorter lengths of time, foreign workers hoping to make that transition must plan out how they will apply for permanent residency as soon as possible.”
Moratorium Lifted for Food Service Work Permits
On April 24, 2014, the government announced a moratorium on LMIA and work permit issuances for certain occupations in the food services sector. As of June 20, this moratorium has been lifted and workers in the food sector may once again apply for work authorization.
LMIA-Exempt Work Permits
Work permits that do not require LMIA approval are now known as ‘International Mobility Programs’.
Certain work permits are LMIA-exempt but remain tied to a specific employer. These sorts of permits most commonly pertain to individuals applying under the NAFTA Program and the Intra-Company Transfer Program.
Currently, individuals are able to apply for their LMIA-exempt work permit once they obtain a job offer from a Canadian employer. In the future (date unknown), Canadian employers will be required to submit their job offers for approval to Citizenship and Immigration Canada before the foreign worker can apply for the work permit. Employers will be required to pay a $230 processing fee to have their job offer evaluated.
The foreign worker must still pay the standard $155 work permit application fee when submitting an application.
Open Work Permit Fees
In the future (date unknown), recipients of Open Work Permits will be required to pay a $100 ‘privilege fee’ in addition to the standard application fee of $155. Individuals who are eligible for open work permits include the spouses of foreign workers and students in Canada as well as participants in certain work exchange programs.
All new fees will help to cover government services such as work permit processing and employer compliance inspections.
Working in Canada Today
It is important to note that individuals who are currently in Canada on a work permit will not see any changes made to their current permits. However, any requests to renew or extend their work permits will be subject to the new rules.
Workers entering Canada under the new rules should be aware that a number of provisions have been put in place to make sure employers treat their foreign employees fairly. Those who have found in be non-compliant could be blacklisted from hiring abroad and be forced to pay fines of up to $100,000. These new standards have the potential to provide greater protection to foreign workers and to cut down on exploitation by employers.
As before, there are a number of options for foreign workers to transition from temporary to permanent residency. These include the Canadian Experience Class, Quebec Experience Class, Federal Skilled Worker Program, Quebec Skilled Worker Program, and a range of Provincial Nominee Programs.