Temporary immigration policies and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has implemented a number of temporary public policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Temporary foreign workers (TFWs) and employers can learn below about some of these policies and how they impact the TFW Program.

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About the public policies

In a news release on May 12, 2020, IRCC announced a temporary public policy regarding certain TFWs in Canada who want to change jobs. The temporary policy allows TFWs already in Canada to work in a new job while IRCC assesses their work permit application. The policy is in effect until IRCC’s Minister revokes the policy.

In a news release on July 14, 2020, IRCC announced a temporary public policy regarding certain out-of-status foreign nationals. The public policy has been extended to August 31, 2021. The policy allows certain temporary residents in Canada to have until August 31, 2021 to apply to restore their status. This includes temporary residents whose work permit, study permit or authorization to stay expired between January 30, 2020 and May 31, 2021. The policy also allows certain former work permit holders to start working while IRCC assesses their restoration and work permit application. The policy is in effect until August 31, 2021.

In a news release on March 29, 2021, IRCC announced the extension of a temporary policy change regarding foreign nationals in Canada as visitors. The change allows certain visitors in Canada to apply for and receive an employer-specific work permit without having to leave Canada. It also allows certain visitors to start working while IRCC assesses their work permit application. To do so, they must have had a valid work permit in the past 12 months and meet other criteria. Applicants have until August 31, 2021 to benefit from the temporary change in policy.

Foreign nationals must request interim work authorization from IRCC to work while IRCC assesses their work permit application. Learn about the eligibility criteria and application processes related to these public policy changes on IRCC’s webpage for foreign workers.

Note that the list of public policies above does not include all public policies by IRCC.

Priority processing of Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) requests

Employers may wish to hire a foreign national in Canada who, through a public policy change above, would:

  • apply for a new employer-specific work permit and/or
  • request authorization to work while IRCC assesses their work permit application

Employers hiring these foreign nationals may request priority processing of new LMIA applications and name additions to a positive LMIA. To do so, the employer must notify Service Canada that the individual:

  • is in Canada, and
  • wishes to benefit from an IRCC temporary public policy to work in a new job

Employers may notify Service Canada by:

  • including this information on their application or name addition fax cover sheet, or
  • if using LMIA Online, uploading a notification to the system

There have been changes to the TFW Program because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please review these changes on the TFW Program website before submitting an LMIA application. For example, in response to changes to the Canadian labour market, Service Canada’s Ministerial instructions to refuse to process certain LMIA applications have changed.

Proof of work authorization while IRCC assesses work permit application

Foreign nationals must request work authorization from IRCC if they want to work while IRCC assesses their work permit application. After submitting a request, the foreign national must wait for an approval email from IRCC before they start working. This approval email will indicate that IRCC authorizes the foreign national to work in a specific job until:

  • IRCC approves or denies their work permit application, or
  • the foreign national withdraws their work permit application

Employers are responsible for checking that each TFW they employ has the required work authorization during their period of employment.

Employer compliance and worker protections

We expect employers hiring TFWs to comply with all applicable laws and regulations that protect workers. If the employer does not follow these laws and regulations, a TFW has the right to report their employer to the appropriate government authority.

TFWs also have the right to report employer non-compliance with TFW Program regulations once they work for the employer under an employer-specific work permit. TFWs can report non-compliance using Service Canada’s Online form to report abuse or Confidential Tips Line (1‑866‑602‑9448).

If a TFW is experiencing abuse or at risk of abuse related to their job, they may be eligible for the Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers. This option is available for TFWs in Canada who have an employer-specific work permit.

TFWs in streams that require the employer to pay for roundtrip transportation

In the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), Agricultural stream, and streams for low-wage positions, the employer arranges and pays for the TFW’s roundtrip transportation. Learn about Program requirements regarding transportation on the TFW Program website.

If a TFW changes employers, the new employer becomes responsible for arranging and paying for the TFW’s return transportation when:

  • the new employer has a positive LMIA, and
  • this positive LMIA is for a stream in which the employer pays for the TFW’s roundtrip transportation, and
  • the TFW has an employer-specific work permit for this new employer (except for workers transferring between SAWP employers – see note below)

Authorization from IRCC to work for a new employer while IRCC assesses the work permit application is not the same as an employer-specific work permit for a new employer.

If a TFW has authorization to work for a new employer while IRCC assesses their work permit application, they should not expect that their new employer will pay for their return flight if:

  • IRCC denies the TFW’s work permit application for this new employer ,or
  • the TFW withdraws their work permit application

For these reasons, TFWs may wish to assess their return flight options before changing employers.

Note regarding transfers between SAWP employers: TFWs in the SAWP do not need a new work permit to transfer to a new SAWP employer. Learn more about SAWP return transportation requirements and transfers on the TFW Program website.

Job matching options

The Government of Canada does not match TFWs with employers.

Online job search tools like Job Bank or provincial or territorial job matching websites may help TFWs find a new job. The employer posting the job on the job search tool may be able to hire TFWs through the TFW Program. Community organizations and foreign government offices, like consulates, may also assist TFWs in Canada to find a new job.

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