Temporary Foreign Worker Program Overhaul: What Workers Need to Know

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.

The recent TFWP overhaul affects Canadian employers. Of course, 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.

Following is detail of 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.

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.

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.
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 ofJune 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.

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One of our licensed immigration consultants can speak with you in person, online or on the phone about your unique immigration situation and give you a breakdown of your options.
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Big changes to the Canadian Foreign Worker Program – In Detail

navigating-temp-foreign-worker-programImproving Clarity, Transparency and Accountability of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

To offer greater clarity and transparency, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is being re-organized into two distinct programs (TFWP and IMP). This will reduce confusion and better reflect the major differences between the various streams.

On Friday, June 20, 2014 a significant overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program was announced at a lengthy media conference with both Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney and CIC Minister Chris Alexander presiding.

Background to Changes

The Ministers’ announcements come after what has been a long and grueling controversy surrounding the Program and its administration. In particular, there have been noted employers in the news as of late whose employment practices have been called into question. Stories of replacing Canadian workers with temporary foreign workers to employer abuses in terms of promises of wages and accommodation for their foreign workers have plagued the evening news.

With the new changes that have been made, the Government hopes to strike the right balance between ensuring that the TFWP is flexible enough to respond to Canada’s labour shortages while also protecting the rights of both temporary foreign workers and Canadian citizens.

TFWP Going Forward

The TFWP will now refer to only those streams under which foreign workers enter Canada at the request of employers following approval through a new Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The new International Mobility Programs (IMP) will include those streams in which foreign nationals are not subject to an LMIA, and whose primary objective is to advance Canada’s broad economic and cultural national interest, rather than filling particular jobs. These new categories will improve accountability, with Employment and Social Development Canada being the lead department for the TFWP, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada the lead department for the IMP.

Temporary Foreign Worker Program Objective:
Last resort for employers to fill jobs for which qualified Canadians are not available

International Mobility Programs Objective:
To advance Canada’s broad economic and cultural national interest

Based on employer demand to fill specific jobs Not based on employer demand
Unilateral and discretionary Base largely on multilateral/bilateral agreements with other countries (e.g. NAFTA, GATS)
Employer must pass Labour Market Impact Assessment (formerly LMO) No Labour Market Impact Assessment required
Lead department ESDC Lead department CIC
No reciprocity Based largely on reciprocity
Employer-specific work permits (TFWs tied to one employer) Generally open permits (participants have greater mobility)
Majority are low-skilled (e.g. farm workers) Majority are high skill / high wage
Last and limited resort because no Canadians are available Workers & reciprocity are deemed to be in the national economic and cultural interest
Main source countries are developing countries Main source countries are highly developed

In the interest of greater transparency and accountability, data for the TFWP and IMP have been re-organized so that statistics on the two distinct programs can be accurately tracked going back 10 years. Of the 221,273 foreign nationals entering Canada in 2013, 62 percent (137,533) came in under the IMP, the other 38 percent, or (83,740), came in under the TFWP.

Using Wage Instead of National Occupation Codes

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) will now be administered based on wage instead of the National Occupational Classification (NOC). The Government has found that Wage is a more objective and accurate reflection of skill level and labour need in a given area. Temporary foreign workers being paid under the provincial/territorial median wage will be considered low-wage, while those being paid at or above will be considered high-wage.

Median Hourly Wages by Province/Territory

Province/Territory

Wage ($/hr)

Newfoundland and Labrador $ 20.19
Prince Edward Island $ 17.26
Nova Scotia $ 18.00
New Brunswick $ 17.79
Quebec $ 20.00
Ontario $ 21.00
Manitoba $ 19.00
Saskatchewan $ 21.63
Alberta $ 24.23
British Columbia $ 21.79
Yukon $ 27.93
Northwest Territories $ 32.53
Nunavut $ 29.96

Source: Labour Force Survey, 2013

The primary categories under the new TFWP

Under the new TFWP, there will be a priority focus on the following occupational streams:

High-wage:positions at or above the provincial/territorial median wage; examples of high-wage occupations include managerial, scientific, professional and technical positions as well as the skilled trades.

Low-wage:positions below the provincial/territorial median wage; examples of low-wage occupations include general labourers, food counter attendants, and sales and service personnel.

Primary Agricultural Streamincludes positions related to on-farm primary agriculture such as general farm workers, nursery and greenhouse workers, feed lot workers and harvesting labourers, including under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, which enables the entry of foreign workers from Mexico and a number of Caribbean countries to meet the temporary, seasonal needs of agricultural producers.

Highest-demand, highest-paid or shortest-duration: Labour Market Impact Assessments for in-demand occupations (skilled trades), highly paid occupations (top 10%) or short-duration (120 days or less) entries will be provided within a 10 business day service standard. As for all requests to hire temporary foreign workers, LMIAs would only be granted after a rigorous review of all of the elements of the employer’s application in each of these cases.

Live-in Caregiver Programno change.

New Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) Snapshot

The labour market test that allows employers to bring temporary foreign workers to Canada is being transformed from a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) to a new Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), a process that is more comprehensive and rigorous. Employers must provide additional information, including the number of Canadians that applied for their available job, the number of Canadians the employer interviewed, and explain why those Canadians were not hired. Employers must now also attest they are aware of the rule that Canadians cannot be laid-off or have their hours reduced at a worksite that employs temporary foreign workers.

New and better sources of labour market information will be used to determine if there are Canadians who could fill these positions.

LMIAs are conducted and processed by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). ESDC will refuse to process applications when there are concerns that temporary foreign workers may or will have a significant negative effect on the Canadian labour market.

Current numbers and statistics show that the TFWP is no longer being used as it was intended to be used — as a last and limited resort to allow employers to bring foreign workers to Canada on a temporary basis to fill jobs for which qualified Canadians are not available. The reforms are being implemented to end the growing practice of employers building their business model on access to the TFWP.

Accordingly, the Government of Canada is introducing a cap to limit the proportion of low-wage temporary foreign workers that a business can employ. The cap will significantly restrict access to the TFWP, while ensuring that Canadians are always considered first for available jobs, reducing employer reliance on the program and increasing wages offered to Canadians. It is expected that this measure alone will nearly cut in half the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers once fully implemented.

Employers with 10 or more employees will be subject to a cap of 10 percent on the proportion of their workforce that can consist of low-wage temporary foreign workers. This cap will be applied per worksite of an employer and is based on total hours worked at that worksite. To provide employers time to transition and adjust to this new cap, it will be phased in over the next couple of years.

Effective immediately, employers that are applying for a new LMIA will be limited at 30 percent or frozen at their current level, whichever is lower. This transition measure will be further reduced to 20 percent beginning July 1, 2015 and reduced again to 10 percent on July 1, 2016. The Government may consider lowering the cap further in the future. Temporary foreign workers currently working at work sites over the cap will be allowed to continue working at those sites until their existing work permits expire.

The caps will ensures that large employers with multiple locations cannot be over their limit for low-wage temporary foreign workers at any one of their locations. For example, a large employer with an overall national workforce comprised of 5 percent temporary foreign workers cannot justify bringing in larger volumes of foreign workers at specific locations and having the temporary foreign worker staff at those locations exceed the cap.

The cap sends an important message—temporary foreign workers cannot be used as a business model and employers must do more to recruit, hire and train Canadians. This measure will help drive down the overall number of low-wage temporary foreign workers in Canada and end the distortion in the labour market caused by their prevalence in some sectors and regions.

Refusing Applications in Areas of High Unemployment

Effective immediately, the Government will begin the process of refusal of certain Labour Market Impact Assessment applications in the Accommodation, Food Services and Retail Trade sectors. Specifically, any applications for positions that require little or no education or training will not be processed in economic regions with an unemployment rate at or above 6%.

Reducing the Duration of Work Permits set out in Labour Market Impact Assessments

Effective immediately, the duration of work permits set out in Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) will be limited to a maximum of one year for all low-wage positions, rather than the 2 year duration that existed previously. Employers of low-wage temporary foreign workers must reapply every year for an LMIA, better-accommodating for changes in labour market conditions that might have occurred.

Reducing the Length of Time a Temporary Foreign Worker can Work in Canada

The TFWP is to be used as a last and limited resort, and to encourage employers to make even greater efforts to ensure foreign workers are coming in on a truly temporary basis and that Employers are encouraged to hire and train Canadian workers before seeking temporary foreign workers. In order to facilitate this transition, the Government will reduce how long a temporary foreign worker in the low-wage stream can work in Canada. This measure will not apply to temporary foreign workers currently in Canada on valid work permits.

Changing the Provincial/Territorial Temporary Foreign Worker Annexes

Five provincial/territorial governments (Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Yukon) currently have annexes to their immigration agreements with the Government that establish Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exemptions in their jurisdiction. In these cases, the provinces and territories may propose LMIA exemptions for certain occupations and pilot projects involving exemptions to the LMIA process can be initiated.

Transition Plans for High-Wage Positions

Employers who want to hire temporary foreign workers in high-wage occupations will be required (with limited exceptions) to submit transition plans with their Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) application to ensure that they are taking steps to reduce their reliance on temporary foreign workers over time. This underscores the purpose of the program — which is to operate as a last and limited resort to address immediate labour needs on a temporary basis when qualified Canadians are not available.

Highest-Demand, Highest-Paid and Shortest-Duration Occupations

LMIAs for highest-demand occupations (skilled trades), highest-paid (top 10 percent) occupations or short-duration work periods (120 days or less) will now be provided within a 10-business-day service standard. As is the case for all requests to hire temporary foreign workers, LMIAs would only be granted after a rigorous review of all of the elements of the employer’s application in each of these cases. This service standard will be met by processing these applications first, not by reducing the thoroughness of these LMIAs.

Labour Market Impact Assessment Fee of $1,000

As with the proposed changes and the more rigorous measures to be implemented in the new Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), this will substantially increase the cost of delivering the program. The costs for administering the TFWP, including all of the reforms outlined above, will be borne entirely by employers who use the program, and not by Canadian citizens and tax payers. As a result, the LMIA fee is increasing from $275 to $1,000 for every temporary foreign worker position requested by an employer.

The following chart illustrates the increase of the fee over the past few years:

 Year

 Assessment Fee

1973 – 2013

 $0

July 2013

 $275

June 2014

$1,000

The fee will be evaluated on an ongoing basis, and necessary adjustments will be made to ensure that it continues to fully cover the costs of the TFWP.

Additionally, the Ministry of Employment and Social Development will be seeking the authority to impose an estimated $100 privilege fee on employers applying for LMIAs to offset the costs of Government of Canada investments in skills and job training.

Better and More Labour Market Information

The new Labour Market Impact Assessment will be made more effective with the introduction of more and better labour market information. As part of this structure, a new enhanced Job Matching Service will allow Canadians to apply directly through the Canada Job Bank for jobs that match their skills and experience. As employers applying for temporary foreign workers must post their jobs on the Job Bank website, the new Job Matching Service will be able to match unemployed Canadians with employers offering available jobs that match their skills in their region. Furthermore, program officers will be better aware of the number of potential applicants and how closely their skills align with the available job, which will allow for more rigorous assessment of LMIA applications.

Increasing the Number and Scope of Inspections

Given concerns over abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the Government is making a significant investment in its TFWP inspection regime.

Beginning in fall 2014, the Government will impose fines of up to $100,000 (depending on the severity of the offence) on employers who break the rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). As part of the Government’s efforts to improve the transparency and accountability of the TFWP, the Government will publicly disclose the names of employers who have been fined and the amount of that fine on the Blacklist.

In Conclusion

The changes to the TFWP serve to increase the commitment of the Canadian employer to train an already available Canadian labour force while resorting to a smaller avenue where they could hire a temporary foreign worker as a last resort, if needed, after all other avenues have been exhausted.

Employers will see that the system is set up still to facilitate a foreign worker immigration process, should it be the genuine requirement of their business. As well, there are many other streams for immigration that are available to the Employer should the TFWP not fit with their hiring goals. There still remains within the system great flexibility within the current immigration program offerings across Canada.

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One of our licensed immigration consultants can speak with you in person, online or on the phone about your unique immigration situation and give you a breakdown of your options.
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The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and allegations of abuse

McDonalds and Tim Hortons employ over 9000 foreign workers. Their numbers are in par with the overall increase of foreign workers between 2006 to 2012. The number of approved foreign worker positions in accommodation and food services grew from 4,360 to 44,740.

Immigration Canada is once again being accused of failing to protect Canadian workers by allowing big fast food chains, such as McDonalds Canada to hire underpaid foreign workers in favour of Canadian workers. The new allegations also paint the grim reality of how the foreign worker program is also failing to uphold Canadian values and treat foreign workers at the same standard as Canadians.

In recent weeks, news of serious allegations of abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, centering McDonalds Canada have surfaced. This on the heels of a year where the program was given negative publicity after a number of news came out accusing the program of failing to measure up to the standards that former Immigration Minister and now Employment Minister, Jason Kenney and the Canadian Government have repeatedly said it wants to uphold. In April of 2013, there was a public outcry over Royal Bank of Canada replacing a small group of Canadian staff with temporary foreign workers. Ottawa in turn, announced several measures intended to close loopholes in the program. They included temporarily suspending the accelerated labour market opinion process, which allowed approved employers to bring in foreign workers faster, and removing an option that allowed employers to pay foreign workers up to 15 per cent less than the average comparable wage in the region.

The Government of Canada has decided in the midst of these latest allegations, to launch an extensive investigation in order to determine the facts and decide whether or not actual abuse of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program has been committed by the Restaurant Industry and its employer participants. The Labour Market Opinions in this area and industry have therefore been suspended, and employers in question have been given notice of the pending investigation into the abuse of the Labour Market Opinion process.

This decision has taken many by surprise, including businesses as they decried a lack of consultation and said the move would force some employers to close shop. There are also the thousands of foreign workers whose work permits are about to expire and they are not able to apply for an extension and may be forced to leave Canada. This latest spotlight on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program has also shed light to what many see as abuse of foreign workers who receive a lower average salary than a Canadian or a permanent resident.

“I knew a shoe was going to drop, but this was both shoes. This is a far bigger reaction than what I thought,” said Dan Kelly, head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“In the minister’s province of Alberta many small businesses will teeter on [the brink of] survival based on this decision.”

Jason Kenney said his office will not process any new or pending labour market opinion applications in the food sector. The opinions are required before permission is granted to hire a temporary foreign worker. As well, any restaurant that has already obtained an LMO but hasn’t yet filled the position will be unable to do so.

“Abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program will not be tolerated,” Kenney said in the statement.

Ian Tostenson, president of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said he agreed the program needs review but that Kenney has overreacted. “There are a lot of small business people in British Columbia who are wondering what this means for them. It’s chaos. We would have really liked a heads up.”

Vancouver based Immigration Consultant and managing director of CICS Immigration Consulting Inc., Alex Khadempour, also agreed that a review of the program is needed. However, he believes a bigger issue needs to be looked at and talked about. ”Do Canadians want to continue to go towards the direction where many foreign workers, especially in certain sectors, being treated as second class? Not only are we seeing a declining working environment, including lower pay, but we are also seeing the Canadian government closing the doors on them becoming permanent residents.” His comment refers to the recent changes in the Canadian Experience Class, a permanent residency program, where food service supervisors where removed from the program.

Which Canadian Employers are directly affected by the moratorium?

To be affected by the moratorium, employers must meet 2 criteria.

The employer MUST be:

Classified under North American Industry Classification System 722, defined as establishments primarily engaged in preparing meals, snacks and beverages, to customer order, for immediate consumption on and off the premises. This subsector does not include food service activities that occur within establishments such as hotels, civic and social associations, amusement and recreation parks, and theatres. However, leased food-service locations in facilities such as hotels, shopping malls, airports and department stores are included.

AND

Currently applying for LMOs for occupations related to specific National Occupational Classification codes(NOC 2006). List of NOC codes occupations affected by the moratorium in the Food Services Sector (NAIC 722):

  • 6641 Food Counter Attendants, Kitchen Helpers and Related Occupations
  • 0631 Restaurant and Food Service Managers
  • 6212 Food Service Supervisors
  • 6453 Food and Beverage Servers
  • 6611 Cashiers
  • 6241 Chefs
  • 6242 Cooks
  • 6252 Bakers
  • 0611 Sales, Marketing and Advertising Managers
  • 0621 Retail Trade Managers
  • 0632 Accommodation Service Managers
  • 0651 Other Services Managers
  • 6211 Retail Trade Supervisors
  • 6213 Executive Housekeepers
  • 6214 Dry Cleaning and Laundry Supervisors
  • 6215 Cleaning Supervisors
  • 6216 Other Service Supervisors
  • 6221 Technical Sales Specialists – Wholesale Trade
  • 6251 Butchers, Meat Cutters and Fishmongers – Retail and Wholesale
  • 6411 Sales Representatives – Wholesale Trade (Non-Technical)
  • 6421 Retail Salespersons and Sales Clerks
  • 6451 Maîtres d’hôtel and Hosts/Hostesses
  • 6452 Bartenders
  • 6484 Other Personal Service Occupations
  • 6622 Grocery Clerks and Store Shelf Stockers
  • 6623 Other Elemental Sales Occupations
  • 6651 Security Guards and Related Occupations
  • 6661 Light Duty Cleaners
  • 6662 Specialized Cleaners
  • 6663 Janitors, Caretakers and Building Superintendents
  • 6681 Dry Cleaning and Laundry Occupations
  • 6682 Ironing, Pressing and Finishing Occupations
  • 6683 Other Elemental Service Occupations

Which Temporary Foreign Workers are affected by the moratorium?

Temporary foreign workers already in Canada who have a valid work permit issued under a Food Services Sector LMO may continue working as per their present work permit conditions.

Temporary foreign workers who have been approved for a work permit by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) but have not yet arrived in Canada will not be affected. They will remain eligible for a work permit at a port of entry, if they are otherwise admissible to Canada.

Foreign nationals who have not yet had a decision made on their work permit application will be affected. Foreign nationals who submitted their work permit application prior to the suspension will be notified that their work permit application is suspended until a final decision is made on the LMO.

Foreign nationals who apply directly at a port of entry, a visa post or inland office for a work permit after their LMO has been suspended cannot be issued a work permit based on that LMO.

What happens to a person who is currently in Canada and whose work permit from an affected occupational area is about to expire, and who was about to apply for an extension?

The LMO will have been suspended; therefore the processing of the work permit extension application will also be suspended until a final decision on the suspended LMO is made by ESDC.

When their original work permit expires, a person in this situation may have implied status if their work permit application was submitted prior to the expiry of their present work permit. This means that they will be able to remain in Canada and continue working for the same employer that appeared on their original work permit. People in this situation will continue to have implied status until a final decision is made on their work permit extension application.

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Before you start on your path, be sure that you know what to expect. We can assist you by giving you a clear picture of the immigration environment, your options and the steps to take. Once you have a better understanding, then you can decide whether you want to hire our team to handle your full application.

One of our licensed immigration consultants can speak with you in person, online or on the phone about your unique immigration situation and to give you a breakdown of your options.

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Alberta Temporary Foreign Worker Pilot Extended

Pipe and steamfitters are one of the occupations eligible for the Alberta pilot program for temporary foreign workers

The provincial government of Alberta has announced that the Alberta Occupation-Specific Pilot for temporary foreign workers will be extended for another year, to July 31 2014.

The pilot started in June 2011 and allows qualifying foreign nationals to receive special one or two-year work permits that allow them to work for an employer without the employer being required to have a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from Services Canada.

This allows the temporary foreign worker to move freely between employers as long as they are working in the approved occupation.

The list of qualifying occupations for the pilot was expanded in July 2012 to include welders, heavy duty equipment mechanics, ironworkers, millwright and industrial mechanics, carpenters and estimators.

The skilled trades added were those deemed to be in high demand in Alberta’s economy, particularly in its bustling energy sector which has faced a shortage of skilled labour in recent years.

Men Outnumber Women 2-1 Among Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada

Many temporary foreign workers are employed by immigrant-run businesses like the above, and data from Citizenship and Immigration Canada shows that the majority are men (CICS News)

The gender makeup of Canada’s foreign worker population is like that of foreign workers around the world, with men outnumbering women by a large margin.

The data, collected by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), shows that over 143,000 men entered the country in 2012 as temporary foreign workers (TFWs), over double the approximately 70,000 TFWs who were women.

Men, who are the primary breadwinner in most households around the world, are often driven to work abroad by pressure to provide for their families, when wages in their own country are inadequate.

A recent MacLean’s story on outgoing foreign remittance from individuals in Canada reports that the country has the highest foreign remittance rate in the world, at $667.57 per capita, suggesting that many of these TFWs are in fact sending the money they earn in Canada to family living in their country of origin.

Differences between genders in temporary foreign worker occupations

The CIC data also points to male and female TFWs tending to work in different types of occupations. While 75 percent of male TFWs worked in occupations that have well defined skill levels (e.g. managerial, professional, skilled and technical), only 40 percent of female TFWs did the same.

Six out of ten female TFWs were categorized as working in occupations where the skill level was not stated, which usually either means an individual is a family member of a foreign worker, or they are working in an unskilled occupation.

More women becoming permanent residents than men

Despite men outnumbering women in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), slightly more women become permanent residents in Canada than men every year.

TFWs with skilled work experience in Canada can qualify for permanent residence through economic class immigration programs like the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and Canadian Experience Class (CEC), however the number of men who become permanent residents through economic class programs is only slightly higher than the number of women.

This could suggest that more women apply for permanent residency from outside the country than men, making up for the larger number of men whose path to permanent residency was through the TFWP.

What puts women over the top in the total permanent residency numbers is the family class immigration programs, which grant 37 percent more women permanent residency than men, mostly as a result of more foreign women being sponsored for immigration by their Canadian spouse than foreign men.

Changes Made to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program

HRSDC Minister Diane Finley speaking in the House of Commons last September. New rules and increased fees for work permit applications were announced by Finley and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on Monday (Government of Canada)

Amid controversy and criticism over a series of incidents involving temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in recent months, including a story that emerged last month of Canadian workers losing their jobs to foreign workers at the Royal Canadian Bank, the federal government has announced several immediate and upcoming changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

These changes are:

  • An employer is required to guarantee to pay a TFW prevailing wages for that foreign worker to be eligible for a work permit, effective immediately. The rule allowing companies to pay TFWs 15 percent less than prevailing wages for high-skilled positions, and 5 percent less for low skilled ones has been repealed.
  •  

  • The Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (ALMO) has been suspended, effective immediately.
  •  

  • The federal government is seeking the authority to suspend a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) if new information emerges showing that it negatively affects the Canadian economy and Canadian workers, and revoke work permits that were authorized by that LMO.
  •  

  • Fees employers pay for work permit and LMO applications will increase so that a portion of the cost of processing them will no longer have to be paid out of general taxes.
  •  

  • Job requirements for positions that use TFWs can only have English or French as required languages, unless an employer receives a special exemption after having shown Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) why the foreign language is necessary for the position.

The new rules attempt to close some of the major loopholes that critics have identified in the program that they say allow Canadian companies to use foreign workers instead of available Canadian workers.

The changes were jointly announced by HRSDC Minister Diane Finley and Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on Monday.

Illegal Immigration in Canada Expected to Surge in 2015

temporary foreign worker

Over 190,000 temporary foreign workers entered Canada last year. Many of those whose work permits are set to expire in April 2015 are expected to remain in Canada illegally (CICS News)

The number of people in Canada illegally is expected to increase substantially in April 2015, when a large contingent of foreign workers see their work permits expire.

Their work permits will expire on April 1st 2015 because of a rule enacted on April 1st, 2011, that created a four year limit on cumulative time a foreign national can spend in Canada as a temporary foreign worker.

The rule change was made to reduce the perceived over-dependence of Canadian employers on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to meet their permanent labour needs.

The number of temporary foreign workers in Canada has increased from approximately 100,000 in 2002, to over 300,000 today, which some have criticized as a subsidy for business at the expense of Canadian workers.

Setting limits on how long a temporary foreign worker can work in Canada was seen as a way to limit the use of the TFWP to its intended role: to temporarily meet labour shortages until a permanent solution could be found.

People familiar with visa and immigration controls expect a significant percentage of those whose permits will expire on April 1st 2015 to over-stay their visa and reside in Canada illegally, leaving Canada with a problem that Americans are more familiar with: a sizeable illegal immigrant population.

The immigrant magnets of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto are expected to host the majority of those illegal migrants, which will likely put pressure on their infrastructure, public transit and policing resources, which are already being strained by rapid population growth.

Costs vs Generosity

Canadians are a generally generous people, who don’t like deporting individuals whose only crime is to stay in a country that affords them a better quality of life, but that generosity has to contend with the reality that unskilled foreign workers represent an economic cost for Canada.

Each additional person living in Canada comes with additional set costs in government spending, that can only be compensated if the person pays taxes that are at the Canadian average – something low-wage unskilled workers do not.

Allowing any of the literally hundreds of millions of people who would choose to immigrate and work in Canada if they could, to do so, would, in real terms, result in skyrocketing government spending levels and lower wages / higher unemployment rates for less skilled Canadians who would have to compete with the entrants in the labour market.

This means that immigration controls, and their integrity, are important for the economic well-being of Canada. Nevertheless, an extensive policing campaign that deports thousands of illegal immigrants, many of them living as families in Canada, would spark public outrage and would also be logistically difficult.

How Canada deals with the surge in the illegal immigrant population in 2015 remains to be seen.

Canadian Immigration Department Announces January 2 Launch of Canadian Experience Class

CIC will be launching the revised Canadian Experience Class program on January 2nd 2013. Under new rules, temporary foreign workers only require 12 months of skilled work experience to qualify for permanent residence rather than 24 (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced this month that the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), which is being revised with a shorter Canadian work experience requirement for eligibility, will be re-launched on January 2nd 2013.

CIC is planning on admitting up to 10,000 permanent residents through the CEC program, which first began in 2008 as part of the federal government’s efforts to shift immigration selection to favour those with Canadian work experience.

Under the original CEC rules, a temporary foreign worker with 24 months of skilled Canadian work experience would be eligible to acquire for permanent residence through the program’s temporary foreign worker stream. The new rules reduce the work experience requirement of the temporary foreign worker stream to 12 months.

Applicants under the post-graduate stream of the CEC program are also having their path to permanent residence eased, with an increase in the time-frame in which they can acquire 12 months of Canadian work experience following graduation, from 24 months to 36 months.

Bridging Visa Introduced For Temporary Residents Applying for Permanent Residence in Canada

In an effort to reduce regulatory barriers for foreign workers in Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) on Thursday introduced a bridging open work permit for those applying for permanent residence under economic class immigration streams (Jarek Tuszynski)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) on Thursday introduced the ‘Bridging Open Work Permit’ for temporary residents who are working in Canada and are awaiting a final decision on their application for permanent residence through an economic class immigration program.

The new work permit will save foreign workers from having to discontinue their work in Canada and leave the country while they wait for permanent residence.

A similar bridging open work permit already exists for temporary foreign workers with pending applications in the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) and spousal or common-law immigration streams.

Temporary residents with pending applications under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) or the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) will be eligible for the bridging visa.

CIC has made several changes in recent months to make it easier for foreign nationals in Canada on temporary work or study assignments to transition to permanent residence.

Canadian Unions Seeking Roll Back of Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Two major Canadian unions have asked a federal court for an injunction to prevent the federal government from granting work permits for the Murray River project until their case has been heard (Markus Schweiss)

Two trade unions have filed an application in federal court to force the federal government to reverse its decision to grant some 200 work permits to temporary foreign workers from China that a Canadian company wants to hire to run a new mine in British Columbia.

The International Union of Operating Engineers and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union, which together represent the majority of workers employed in Canadian mines, are asking for a judicial review to over-turn the Canadian government’s grant of Labour Market Opinions (LMOs) to HD Mining International, the operator of the Murray River project near Tumbler Ridge, BC, near the Alberta border.

The unions argue that the decision harms Canadian wage-earners and does not meet HRSDC’s own standards for receiving approval to hire temporary foreign workers.

Under Canadian immigration law, a company wishing to hire a temporary foreign worker is required to apply to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) for a LMO, which HRSDC approves if it meets five main conditions:

  • the wages and working conditions offered are consistent with prevailing norms for the occupation in Canada;
  • the foreign worker would fill a pressing labour shortage;
  • there is no labour dispute between a union and the employer in progress;
  • the employer made a significant effort to recruit or train Canadians or permanent residents for the position that the temporary foreign worker will fill;
  • the foreign worker will result in a net benefit to the Canadian economy and workers

According to an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun on Wednesday by Brian Cochrane, a business manager for Local 115 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, the unions have succeeded in forcing the federal government to disclose internal documents relating to HD Mining’s application for the LMOs:

We have been successful in court so far. We have been granted standing by the court to challenge the federal government on these LMOs, and we have succeeded in forcing them to release more than 85 pages of secret documents, despite their strong objections. We are now continuing to seek a full judicial review of the temporary foreign workers program.

HD Mining’s transition plan

Included among the documents disclosed is a transition plan that HD Mining International submitted to HRSDC in its LMO application, which outlines how it said it will replace its temporary foreign workforce with Canadians over a period of 14 years.

The transition plan calls for the first Canadian workers to begin working at the mine in four years, and for 10 percent of the foreign workforce to be replaced by Canadians every year for the next 10 years afterwards, as they are trained.

To demonstrate its intention of following through with its plan and eventually hiring Canadians, HD Mining recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Northern Lights College to develop an underground mining education program that will train Canadians for positions in the mine.

The transition plan is touted by the mining company as evidence that the use of foreign workers will be temporary, while the unions and other critics of the foreign worker decision say that the 14 year length of the transition period shows the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is being mis-used for long term labour needs.

Wider questions about Temporary Foreign Worker Program

The unions’ court challenge of the HRSDC’s LMO decision on HD Mining and the subsequent media attention it received spurred the federal government to announce a review of the entire Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to determine if it was too lenient in granting work permits.

The review comes amid a steadily increasing temporary foreign worker population, from approximately 100,000 in 2002 to over 300,000 today, which has drawn criticism from a diverse coalition that includes labour union advocates and free-market economists.

In one example, SFU economist and senior fellow at the free-market-leaning Fraser Institute Herbert Grubel last month called the TFWP a subsidy for business that comes at the expense of lower Canadian wages, a statement that is virtually indistinguishable from many that are coming from much more left-leaning labour unions.

Much of public opinion is also cool to the foreign worker program, with a CBC/Nanos survey this month showing that 68 percent of respondents said they were against allowing temporary foreign workers into the country if there were Canadians looking for work who are qualified for the same jobs.

Despite the opposition, there is no sign that the demand for temporary foreign workers from Canadian businesses will slow down soon, as companies in the resources sectors find it difficult to meet their labour needs in often inhospitable locations, and various occupations that are undesirable to Canada’s workers for the wages offered face labour shortages.