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

Canada to Keep Immigration Level at 250,000 in 2013

International students in Vancouver, Canada. CIC is seeking to increase the percentage of immigrants admitted under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), which allows temporary foreign workers and international students in Canada to apply for permanent residence if they have Canadian work experience (CICS News)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced today that it will keep immigration levels at 240,000-265,000 in 2013, for the seventh straight year. The maintenance of immigration numbers from previous years amidst a growing Canadian population means Canada will have a lower immigration rate as a percentage of its population, and rebuff calls by several prominent organizations to increase immigration levels to one percent of Canada’s population.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said earlier this year that Canada would hold off on increasing immigration levels until the country does a better job of bringing immigrant employment and income rates up to the Canadian average, and until public sentiment, which in some recent opinion polls weighs against increases in immigration levels, supports higher levels.

CIC said that it also intends to increase the number of new permanent residents admitted through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program from 6,000 in 2011 to 10,000 in 2013.

The Canadian Experience Class was created in 2008 to allow individuals residing in Canada on temporary resident visas to transition to permanent residence. Foreign temporary workers with at least two years of Canadian work experience, and foreign graduates of Canadian post-secondary institutions with at least one year of Canadian work experience are eligible to immigrate under the program, which CIC says admits the kind of immigrants that would be more likely to integrate well into the Canadian labour market.

Expert Roundtable Submits Report on Immigration to Ontario Government

Julia Deans, chair of the 13-member roundtable on immigration strategy, presenting the panel’s report to Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Charles Sousa (Government of Ontario)

A 13-member expert roundtable, appointed seven months ago by the government of Ontario to advise the province on the development of a provincial immigration strategy, submitted its report yesterday, and it includes 32 recommendations for the province.

The key recommendations of the report are:

    • Aiming to increase the proportion of economic class immigrants, meaning those who immigrate through skilled worker and business immigration programs, to 65-70 percent. The report notes that the percentage of economic class immigrants has fallen from over 64 percent in 2001, to 52 percent today, while the proportion of family and refugee class immigrants has increased. Immigrants in the latter categories are more likely to face problems integrating into Ontario’s labour market than economic class immigrants.
    • Increasing Ontario’s total immigration levels to 135,000 people a year, or one percent of Ontario’s population, to alleviate the decline in the province’s working-age population, which the roundtable expects will put pressure on the provincial government’s budget.
    • Shifting the focus of immigration selection to human capital and away from immediate labour needs, due to evidence showing that an immigrant’s level of human capital, meaning their skills, education and language proficiency, is the best predictor of earnings growth and employability.
    • Ontario continuing to rely on the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) as the main source of economic immigration to the province, and recommending that the federal government eliminate the Federal Skilled Worker Class’ priority occupations list.
    • Recommending that the federal government delegate immigration selection for the purposes of responding to specific occupational shortages to Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) run by provinces. In line with this recommendation, encouraging the federal government to increase the quota for Ontario’s PNP from current 1,000 to 5,000 people per year.
    • Reducing the amount of low-skilled temporary foreign workers that it allows in the province for extended periods, as it depresses wages by giving Canadian employers a below-market wage alternative to hiring Canadians.
    • Shifting the focus of the temporary foreign worker program to bringing in high skilled and skilled trades workers on a temporary basis to fill immediate skills and labour shortages, rather than to provide low-wage labour to businesses for extended periods.
    • The province working with the federal government in designing the Expression of Interest (EOI) model of immigration which the federal government has recently announced that it intends to implement. This model, which is currently in use in New Zealand, adds a preliminary application phase whereby those seeking to immigrate to Canada submit an EOI that contains their personal information to the Canadian government, and immigration authorities invite the most promising EOI applicants to submit a full application along with proof of qualifications.
    • To enable the government of Ontario to play a bigger role in immigration selection, codifying the province’s immigration strategy and regulations through legislation. The report suggests that a provincial governing framework for immigration might become a prerequisite for the the federal government agreeing to allow provinces to have a bigger role in the immigration selection process.

The report is likely to be influential because of Ontario’s importance to Canada, as the country’s most populous province and the destination of over 35 percent of Canada’s immigrants.

Immigration Canada Indicates Growing Importance of Canadian Experience Class to Canadian Immigration

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney appears with Gaurav Gore, the 20,000th permanent resident admitted under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), in a news conference on September 14th. CIC wants temporary foreign workers and graduates of Canadian post-secondary institutions like Mr. Gore to make up a greater proportion of Canadian immigrants. (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CEC) announced on Friday that the 20,000th permanent resident under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program has recently been admitted. The announcement signals CIC’s intent to make the CEC a bigger part of Canadian immigration, in an effort to improve the long-term labour market integration of the typical Canadian immigrant.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was joined by a Mr. Gaurav Gore, the 20,000th CEC permanent resident, at a news conference celebrating the program’s milestone. Mr. Kenney held Mr. Gore, a native of India who recently earned a master’s in business administration from the University of Toronto, and currently works at BMO Financial Group, as an exemplary immigrant of the type that the Department of Citizenship and Immigration wants to attract through the CEC program.

The CEC program allows temporary residents, either foreign graduates of Canadian post-secondary institutions or temporary foreign workers, to apply for Canadian permanent residence if they meet the program’s educational and work experience requirements.

CIC has said that programs like the CEC attract immigrants who are more likely to succeed because they require applicants to have Canadian work experience to qualify, which is a strong predictor of economic success in Canada.

Immigration authorities also prefer the CEC to more traditional immigration programs like the Federal Skilled Worker Program because individuals who apply under the post-graduate stream of the CEC have Canadian educational credentials, which provide more employability than many foreign credentials.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney noted this perceived advantage of post-graduate CEC applicants, saying “international student graduates have educational credentials that are recognized by Canadian employers as well as official language skills that are important factors for success.”