Overhauling the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Improving clarity, transparency and accountability of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

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

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) includes 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 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.

  • Based on employer demand to fill specific jobs
  • Unilateral and discretionary
  • Employer must pass Labour Market Impact Assessment (formerly LMO)
  • Lead department ESDC
  • No reciprocity
  • Employer-specific work permits (TFWs tied to one employer)
  • Majority are low-skilled (e.g. farm workers)
  • Last and limited resort because no Canadians are available
  • Main source countries are developing countries

International Mobility Programs

Objective: To advance Canada’s broad economic and cultural national interest.

  • Not based on employer demand
  • Base largely on multilateral/bilateral agreements with other countries (e.g. NAFTA, GATS)
  • No Labour Market Impact Assessment required
  • Lead department CIC
  • Based largely on reciprocity
  • Generally open permits (participants have greater mobility)
  • Majority are high skill / high wage
  • Workers & reciprocity are deemed to be in the national economic and cultural interest
  • 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 Canadians can accurately compare statistics on the two distinct programs 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.

The following table provides historical data (2003–2013) on overall numbers of foreign nationals working in Canada by program stream.

Table 1: Canada - Entries Footnote 1 of temporary residents Footnote 2 not subject to Labour Market Impact Assessment by sub-status 2002-2013 Footnote 3 - International Mobility Program
Yearly sub-status 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
NAFTA 13,422 11,680 11,517 11,877 13,359 14,083 15,567 14,986 17,500 18,557 19,868 19,806
Other FTA 385 265 288 308 357 375 517 469 507 657 735 777
International agreements 2,829 3,189 4,871 1,461 1,698 2,108 2,681 2,312 1,313 972 841 776
Provincial agreements 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 359 1,571 2,519 4,353 6,429
GATS 1,684 617 502 434 521 636 602 370 358 326 282 285
Workers - International arrangements subtotal 18,320 15,751 17,178 14,080 15,935 17,202 19,367 18,496 21,249 23,031 26,079 28,073
Reciprocal employment 19,100 20,944 24,790 31,413 34,173 35,964 44,623 48,944 54,275 59,208 63,586 58,939
Employment benefit 7,643 7,882 7,841 8,173 9,951 10,113 10,850 10,074 13,405 14,514 15,453 15,730
Spouse/common law partner 2,804 3,491 4,389 5,194 6,314 8,158 9,856 9,249 9,130 10,776 12,253 15,251
Research and studies related 3,465 3,373 3,460 3,650 4,017 5,171 6,221 6,626 7,022 9,712 11,294 15,791
Other Canadian interests Footnote 4 4,716 1,311 1,135 1,778 1,624 1,486 1,436 1,536 1,808 1,959 2,231 2,145
Workers - Canadian interests subtotal 37,728 37,001 41,615 50,208 56,079 60,892 72,986 76,429 85,640 96,169 104,817 107,856
Other work permit holders without LMO subtotal Footnote 5 4,734 985 1,064 886 945 1,302 1,149 1,344 1,025 875 1,522 1,604
International Mobility Programs Total 60,782 53,737 59,857 65,174 72,959 79,396 93,502 96,269 107,914 120,075 132,418 137,533
International students Total 76,290 69,215 65,512 67,404 71,379 73,770 79,264 84,870 95,257 98,394 104,829 111,841
Humanitarian population Total 34,696 32,607 26,138 20,427 23,798 29,592 37,953 34,194 24,965 26,547 21,417 10,992
Total 171,768 155,559 151,507 153,005 168,136 182,758 210,719 215,333 228,136 245,016 258,664 260,366
Table 2: Canada - Entries Footnote 6 of temporary foreign worker work permit holders by sub-status 2002-2013 Footnote 7 - Temporary Foreign Worker Program
Yearly sub-status 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Information Technology Workers 830 1,050 1,298 1,760 2,130 2,971 3,190 2,687 2,867 612 213 29
Other high-skilled workers with LMO Footnote 8 23,254 21,969 22,453 24,049 26,201 30,042 31,992 26,414 22,471 23,889 28,084 27,643
High-skilled workers Total 24,084 23,019 23,751 25,809 28,331 33,013 35,182 29,101 25,338 24,501 28,297 27,672
Live-in Caregiver Program 4,664 5,007 6,624 7,103 9,050 12,930 11,848 8,740 7,521 5,878 6,242 4,671
Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program 18,622 18,698 19,049 20,282 21,253 22,571 24,188 23,386 23,933 24,693 25,710 27,566
Low Skill Pilot Program - Primary agriculture Footnote 9 123 341 430 877 2,231 3,170 4,513 4,844 5,161 6,209 6,632 7,099
Low Skill Pilot Program - Other 2,145 1,985 2,355 2,892 4,298 12,139 21,147 14,167 8,961 8,763 13,709 16,315
Low Skill Pilot Program subtotal 2,268 2,326 2,785 3,769 6,529 15,309 25,660 19,011 14,122 14,972 20,341 23,414
Other low-skilled workers with LMO Footnote 10 1 2 0 2 1 6 4 1 3 2 1 0
Low-skilled workers Total 25,555 26,033 28,458 31,156 36,833 50,816 61,700 51,138 45,579 45,545 52,294 55,651
Other Total Footnote 11 192 142 161 223 323 299 349 225 222 345 373 417
Temporary Foreign Worker Program Total 49,831 49,194 52,370 57,188 65,487 84,128 97,231 80,464 71,139 70,391 80,964 83,740

Source: Citizenship & Immigration Canada, RDM Preliminary 2013 Data

Table 3: Canada - Temporary residents Footnote 12 not subject to Labour Market Impact Assessment present Footnote 13 on December 1st by sub-status 2002-2013 Footnote 14 - International Mobility Programs
Yearly sub-status 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
NAFTA 11,532 11,161 11,462 12,172 13,224 14,229 15,974 16,318 19,251 21,748 23,927 25,192
Other FTA 341 314 308 356 412 452 603 628 632 786 959 1,059
International agreements 2,014 2,337 3,125 1,828 2,209 3,124 4,053 3,973 2,100 1,417 1,078 1,022
Provincial agreements 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1,120 5,417 9,935 11,502 12,985
GATS 2,328 1,219 629 448 448 532 511 414 334 263 246 229
Workers - International arrangements subtotal 16,215 15,031 15,524 14,804 16,293 18,337 21,141 22,453 27,734 34,149 37,712 40,487
Reciprocal employment 16,377 18,635 23,544 28,457 30,854 32,747 40,941 52,837 59,690 64,892 68,121 68,298
Employment benefit 6,563 7,215 8,111 9,122 11,045 11,765 12,709 13,325 15,325 24,494 37,557 48,961
Spouse/common law partner 5,484 8,126 10,544 12,682 14,767 17,974 21,178 23,310 23,520 26,014 29,424 35,647
Research and studies related 5,321 5,838 6,648 7,817 9,625 12,015 15,764 22,835 28,719 36,202 44,761 58,106
Other Canadian interests Footnote 15 1,882 1,130 1,076 1,190 1,405 1,518 1,429 1,438 1,408 1,490 1,820 1,925
Workers - Canadian interests subtotal 35,627 40,944 49,923 59,268 67,696 76,019 92,021 113,745 128,662 153,092 181,683 212,937
Other work permit holders without LMO subtotal Footnote 16 735 1,487 1,919 1,962 1,976 2,507 2,149 2,239 2,305 3,551 5,491 6,166
International Mobility Programs Total 52,577 57,462 67,366 76,034 85,965 96,863 115,311 138,437 158,701 190,792 224,886 259,590
International students Total 150,287 159,419 164,506 166,846 169,812 175,642 177,645 195,760 217,882 239,044 265,414 293,503
Humanitarian population Total 120,866 126,231 117,887 102,629 92,601 90,729 103,916 113,087 108,911 103,717 95,875 79,013
Total 323,730 343,112 349,759 345,509 348,378 363,234 396,872 447,284 485,494 533,553 586,175 632,106
Table 4: Canada - Temporary Foreign Worker work permit holders present Footnote 17 on December 1st by sub-status 2002-2013 Footnote 18 - Temporary Foreign Worker Program
Yearly sub-status 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Information Technology Workers 1,310 1,391 1,652 1,981 2,327 3,064 3,571 3,557 3,889 1,777 761 218
Other high-skilled workers with LMO Footnote 19 15,018 16,566 17,713 19,552 22,222 29,374 38,199 38,102 29,420 27,383 32,652 41,488
High-skilled workers Total 16,328 17,957 19,365 21,533 24,549 32,438 41,770 41,659 33,309 29,160 33,413 41,706
Live-in Caregiver Program 11,972 13,854 17,372 20,350 24,379 33,675 38,423 39,559 36,364 28,519 23,109 16,927
Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program 18,594 18,696 18,909 20,250 21,259 22,454 24,070 23,442 23,969 24,669 25,789 27,889
Low Skill Pilot Program - Primary agriculture Footnote 20 112 339 422 405 1,075 1,849 2,826 3,414 3,722 4,448 5,430 6,056
Low Skill Pilot Program - Other 1,192 1,239 1,443 1,872 3,232 11,488 26,730 33,813 25,317 21,209 24,539 33,757
Low Skill Pilot Program subtotal 1,304 1,578 1,865 2,277 4,307 13,337 29,556 37,227 29,039 25,657 29,969 39,813
Other low-skilled workers with LMO Footnote 21 159 12 1 1 0 3 3 3 5 5 2 1
Low-skilled workers Total 32,029 34,140 38,147 42,878 49,945 69,469 92,052 100,231 89,377 78,850 78,869 84,630
Other Total Footnote 22 152 103 128 199 265 260 334 319 277 303 368 480
Temporary Foreign Worker Program Total 48,509 52,200 57,640 64,610 74,759 102,167 134,156 142,209 122,963 108,313 112,650 126,816

Source: Citizenship & Immigration Canada, RDM Preliminary 2013 Data

A temporary resident who has been granted permanent resident status on or before the observation date (December 1) is excluded from the count from their grant date onwards. Temporary residents are grouped according to the principal reason for residing in Canada during the calendar year.

In 2013, temporary foreign workers (who required an LMIA) that entered Canada numbered 83,740, or about 0.44 percent of the national Labour Force, which is approximately 19 million.

Table 5: Percentatge of foreign workers in Canada's workforce
Yearly Status 2013 % of Canadian workforce (19m)
LMO Exempt
NAFTA 19,806 0.10
Other FTA 777 0.004
International agreements 776 0.004
Provincial agreements 6,429 0.03
GATS 285 0.001
Reciprocal employment 59,939 0.31
Employment benefit 15,730 0.08
Spouse/common law partner 15,251 0.08
Research and studies related 58,791 0.31
Other Canadian interests 2,145 0.01
Other workers without LMO 1,604 0.008
LMO Exempt Worker Total 137,533 0.72
LMO Required
Live-in caregiver program 4,671 0.02
Seasonal agricultural worker program 27,566 0.14
Low skill 23,414 0.12
High skill 27,762-- 0.14
LMO Required Total 83,740 0.44
Foreign workers Total 221,273 1.16

Publicly reporting more data

To further increase transparency and accountability beginning in fall 2014, ESDC will publicly post data on the number of temporary foreign workers approved through the TFWP on a quarterly basis and will post the names of corporations that receive positive LMIAs.

Reforming the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Ensuring Canadian workers come first: Restricting access to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Using wage instead of National Occupation Codes

The TFWP is administered based on wage instead of the National Occupational Classification (NOC). 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 the provincial/territorial median wage will be considered high-wage.

The primary categories under the former TFWP were:

  • High-skilled workers: includes occupations that typically require post-secondary education and/or formal certification, specifically managerial, scientific, professional and technical positions as well as the skilled trades. These occupations are coded at NOC skill type 0 or NOC skill level A or B.
  • Low-skilled workers: includes occupations that usually require lower levels of formal training, such as a high school diploma or a maximum of two years of job-specific training, such as general labourers, food counter attendants, and sales and service personnel. These occupations are coded at the NOC C or D skill level. It is important to note that not all low-skilled occupations classified according to NOC codes are low-paying (e.g. oil and gas drilling workers).
  • Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program: allows for the entry of foreign workers from Mexico and a number of Caribbean countries to meet the temporary, seasonal needs of agricultural producers when there are shortages of available Canadians.
  • Agricultural Stream: allows employers to hire temporary foreign workers from any country for on-farm primary agricultural positions for a maximum of 24 months when Canadian citizens are not available. Many of the requirements of the Agricultural Stream mirror the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program since working conditions for the temporary foreign workers are similar.
  • Live-in Caregiver Program: enables qualified temporary foreign workers to come to Canada when Canadians are not available to provide unsupervised and full-time care for children, seniors or people with disabilities in the private residence of those persons for whom they are hired to care.

The primary categories under the new TFWP are:

  • High-wage: positions where the wage offered is 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 where wage offered is below the provincial/territorial median wage; examples of low-wage occupations include general labourers, food counter attendants, and sales and service personnel.
  • Primary Agricultural Stream: includes 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 Program: no change.

New Labour Market Impact Assessment

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) 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.

Cap on low-wage positions

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) was created 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. However, since there was no specific limit on the number of temporary foreign workers that a company could hire, over time many employers built their business model on the program.

For example, of the 12,162 employers who used the TFWP in 2013, 2,578 employers have a workforce of over 30 percent temporary foreign workers. Perhaps most striking, 1,123 employers have a workforce composed of 50 percent or more temporary foreign workers.

Percentage of Employer Workforce that is Temporary Foreign Workers:

Table 7: Number of employers Footnote 23 by percentage of workforce made up of temporary foreign workers in 2013 Footnote 24
TFW % Number of employers Estimated TFW entries
All 12,162 20,235
>=10% 6,097 16,278
>=30% 2,578 9,678
>=50% 1,123 4,522

These numbers clearly 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. Reforms are needed 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 cut in half the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers once fully implemented.

Employers with 10 or more employees applying for a new LMIA are 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 who are above the 10 percent cap time to transition and adjust to this new cap, it will be phased in over the next couple of years . For those employers that currently have a low-wage temporary foreign worker workforce that is above the cap, effective immediately, when those employers apply for a new LMIA they will be limited at 30 percent or frozen at their current level, whichever is lower . The Government may consider lowering the cap further in the future.

This transition measure will be further reduced to 20 percent beginning July 1, 2015 and reduced again to 10 percent on July 1, 2016 . 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.

This 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.

Table 8: Expected reduction in temporary foreign workers Footnote 25
Province/ Territory 2013 Total Low Wage Entries 30% cap Year 1 20% cap Year 2 10% cap Year 3
Newfoundland and Labrador 673 174 232 254
Prince Edward Island 396 358 372 377
Nova Scotia 680 173 234 327
New Brunswick 938 621 682 775
Quebec 2,211 565 747 1,155
Ontario 4,419 684 989 1,369
Manitoba 735 142 420 481
Saskatchewan 1,388 455 565 704
Alberta 14,307 5,247 7,160 8,407
British Columbia 5,227 1,217 1,819 2,362
Nunavut 11 - 5 5
Northwest Territories 73 32 44 47
Yukon Territory 41 10 15 15
Canada Total 31,099 9,678 (31% reduction from 2013) 13,284 (43% reduction from 2013) 16,278 (52% reduction from 2013)

Refusing applications in areas of high unemployment

Employment and Social Development Canada refuses to process 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 six percent.

For many youth, these jobs are their first opportunity to participate in the labour market and each time an employer hires a temporary foreign worker in one of these jobs it potentially deprives a Canadian from that all-important first job. This measure will reduce the number of temporary foreign workers by approximately 1,000 each year.

Employer applications will not be processed if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • applying for an LMIA in a Statistics Canada economic region with an annual unemployment rate over 6% or higher;
  • seeking an LMIA in a specific occupation identified under North American Industry Classification System as Accommodations & Food Service or Retail Sales (NAIC 72, 44, 45); and
  • seeking an LMIA in an occupation in one of the selected National Occupational Classification Codes (see below table) skill level “D” occupations.
NOC Code NOC4 Title
6641 Food Counter Attendants, Kitchen Helpers and Related Occupations
6661 Light Duty Cleaners
6611 Cashiers
6622 Grocery Clerks and Store Shelf Stockers
7611 Construction Trades Helpers and Labourers
8612 Landscaping and Grounds Maintenance Labourers
6672 Other Attendants in Accommodation and Travel
6663 Janitors, Caretakers and Building Superintendents
6662 Specialized Cleaners
6651 Security Guards and Related Occupations

The labour market information used to identify unemployment rates in economic regions is based on annual data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) from Statistics Canada and will be posted on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program website.

Reducing the duration of work permits set out in Labour Market Impact Assessments

The duration of work permits set out in Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) are limited to a maximum of one year for all low-wage positions, rather than the 2 year duration that existed previously. Employers of 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

To ensure foreign workers are coming in on a truly temporary basis and that the program is used as a last and limited resort, and to encourage employers to make even greater efforts to hire and train Canadian workers before seeking temporary foreign workers, the Government has reduced how long a temporary foreign worker in the low-wage stream can work in Canada. This measure does 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.

The purpose of these annexes was never to create a scenario where employers could hire temporary foreign workers without seeking to hire Canadians first. However, over time there has been a significant increase in the number of temporary foreign workers coming to Canada through these agreements and a number of cases have come to light where companies have used these provisions to bring in temporary foreign workers without giving Canadians the first chance at available jobs.

Accordingly, the Government has given notice that it is changing the existing agreements. As a result, more employers will be subject to the new, more rigorous LMIA before being able to hire TFWs. Any new agreements with provinces and territories will be much more limited in scope and better ensure that Canadians are always given first chance at available jobs.

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.

The transition plans are in addition to the existing recruitment and advertising requirements that employers must meet to ensure that Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs. Transition plans will oblige employers of high-wage temporary foreign workers to help Canadians obtain in-demand skills through activities like investing in skills training or taking on more apprentices, or an employer can provide proof that they are helping a high-skilled temporary foreign worker transition to becoming a permanent resident of Canada.

Employers will also be required to undertake additional recruitment activities, including reaching out to organizations serving groups traditionally under represented in the workforce (e.g. new immigrants, Aboriginal people, youth, Canadians with disabilities) to fill available jobs. Employment and Social Development Canada will assist employers by providing them with contacts at these organizations.

Employers will need to report on the success of their transition plan should they ever reapply to hire high-wage temporary foreign workers. Employers must also report on the results of their transition plan if they are selected for an inspection.

By requiring employers to undertake measures that go above and beyond previous requirements to hire Canadians, the number of high-wage temporary foreign workers is expected to decrease.

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.

Highest-demand occupations

Initially, the 10-day service standard for highest-demand occupations will be limited to the skilled trades where the wage offered is at or above the provincial/territorial median wage. Positions in the skilled trades are essential to the development of major infrastructure and natural resource extraction projects, which are vital to Canada’s economic growth. Over time, other occupations may be added based on evidence from more and better labour market information.

Highest-paid occupations

The 10-day service standard will also be available to employers requesting temporary foreign workers in the highest-paid occupations – for positions where the employer is offering a wage that is at or above the top 10 percent of wages in the province/territory where the job is located, such as Physicians. This wage level indicates that a temporary foreign worker is the highest-skilled in their occupation and that those skills are not easily found in the Canadian labour market.

Shortest-duration occupations

Finally, the 10-day service standard will also be available for employers seeking temporary foreign workers for a short duration, defined as 120 calendar days or less in any occupation where the wage offered is at or above the provincial or territorial median wage. Positions falling under this category include those related to repairs to manufacturing equipment and warranty work. Renewal of short-duration LMIAs will not be permitted, except in exceptional circumstances.

Foreign pilots in Canada

In recent years, concerns have been raised that some airlines are excluding Canadian pilots from seasonal jobs by requiring job applicants to already be trained on specific types of planes (type rating) before they are hired, which is counter to general industry standards of airlines paying for and ensuring pilots obtain their training on the specific airline’s planes after they have been hired.

The Government of Canada consulted widely on this issue, and most stakeholders agreed that seasonal variations in fleet capacity should not stop airlines from training pilots for specific aircraft. It was noted that many airlines successfully contract flight time, pilot training and other training elements, such as flight simulator time, with other airlines or with aircraft manufacturers in order to meet their training requirements. There was a consensus that there is no shortage of Canadian commercial pilots who could be trained to fly specific types of aircraft.

Based on stakeholder consultations, the following changes are being made for airlines requesting foreign pilots through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process.

Effective July 1, 2014, airlines must:

  1. meet the minimum advertising requirements for high-wage occupations;
  2. specify the following criteria in their job postings:
    • no more than a maximum of 4,000 flight hours for a First Officer and 5,000 hours for a Captain as required experience;
    • possess a valid commercial pilots' licence;
    • require English and/or French language proficiency;
    • include industry standard medical testing requirements for commercial flight;
    • state both the legal and common names of the airline operating in Canada;
  3. not include as an essential or asset requirement the necessity of holding a type rating for a specific type of aircraft. However, requiring applicants to have experience flying equipment that is similar in configuration and complexity to the airline’s fleet is considered acceptable;
  4. indicate when training bonds will be applied and they must cover a minimum of two years employment;
  5. negotiate a transition plan with ESDC documenting the airline’s future efforts and commitment to decrease the reliance on foreign pilots while increasing its complement of Canadian/permanent resident pilots. The transition plan will be reviewed by ESDC for progress and can affect the outcome of future LMIA applications; and
  6. submit LMIA applications a minimum of three months before the first day of work to ensure Service Canada officers can thoroughly review the application. Any exception to this timeline must be requested prior to the LMIA being submitted.

Better and more labour market information

The Labour Market Impact Assessment has been made more effective through the use of more and better labour market information.

New job matching service

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 are 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.

Statistics Canada Quarterly Job Vacancy Survey

To provide better information on job vacancies in Canada, Statistics Canada is conduction a new Quarterly Job Vacancy Survey at a cost of $8 million per year. This survey will collect information on occupations in-demand, job openings, the duration of job vacancies, educational requirements for occupations and other pertinent data.

The new Job Vacancy Survey collects data from up to 100,000 employers compared to 15,000 employers under the current Job Vacancy Survey. The data is available at the provincial/territorial level and by Statistics Canada Economic Region unlike the current survey, which provides data only by province/territory. Additionally, the new survey will provide quarterly job vacancy estimates by occupation and skill level required.

This information contributes to research on emerging skills shortages. This survey will be launched in spring 2015.

Statistics Canada Annual National Wage Survey

Statistics Canada is also conducting a new annual National Wage Survey at a cost of $6 million per year. The data is being collected from up to 100,000 employers, compared to 56,000 households previously. The previous survey’s information is only accurate at the provincial level; however, the new Wage Survey includes a sample size large enough to provide reliable data broken down by province/territory and by Statistics Canada Economic Region.

The new Wage Survey helps program officers better assess whether wages being advertised to Canadians are consistent with the prevailing wage for that occupation. This ensures that the position is offered to Canadians at a wage that is attractive to Canadians. The annual National Wage Survey was launched in spring 2015.

Better use of existing government data

The survey data will be supplemented by information from the Employment Insurance (EI) program and other internal sources to accurately determine the availability of qualified Canadian workers. For example, program officers will know if employers requesting temporary foreign workers have recently laid-off Canadian workers. Additionally, program officers will be able to determine if employers are requesting temporary foreign workers in regions where there are unemployed Canadians with the appropriate skills. Furthermore, EI data can be used to help match unemployed workers with available jobs.

Stronger enforcement and tougher penalties

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.

Despite the fact that the Low Skill TFW Pilot Project was created in 2002, no inspections were done at that time. In recent years, the Government began conducting inspections, and there is now a dedicated team of inspectors for the TFWP at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). Nevertheless, an additional investment into the TFWP inspection regime is required to ensure stronger enforcement.

Effective immediately, the Government is massively increasing the number of inspections so that one in four employers using temporary foreign workers will be inspected each year. These inspections will be as a result of tips, employers being deemed high-risk and random audits.

In addition to massively increasing the number of inspections, the Government has recently significantly expanded the authority of inspectors to better catch employers who are breaking the rules. As of December 31, 2013, ESDC and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) were granted additional inspection powers to:

  • immediately inspect complaints of possible rule breaking;
  • conduct warrantless on-site visits;
  • interview temporary foreign workers and other employees with their consent;
  • strengthen the criteria as part of the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process by, for example:
    • extending from two to six years the period during which ESDC and CIC can verify the wages, working conditions and occupations provided to previously employed temporary foreign workers at the time of a new LMIA or work permit application;
  • compel employers to provide documents for the purposes of verifying their compliance with the rules of the program;
  • impose a new condition on employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a workplace free from abuse; and
  • ban employers who break the rules.

Under these expanded and strengthened authorities, employers must also keep all documents related to their applications, including recruitment documents like résumés, for six years. This allows the Government to verify whether the employer followed the rules of the program both at the time they applied and after the temporary foreign worker arrived. Furthermore, as of fall 2014, ESDC will be able to compel banks and payroll companies to provide bank records and payroll documents to help inspectors verify that employers are complying with the rules of the TFWP.

The Government has also recently significantly increased the scope of its inspections. In the past inspectors were only able to review whether employers were compliant with 3 of the 21 program requirements. Since December 31, 2013, inspectors can now review all 21 program requirements when conducting their inspections.

The three program requirements inspected prior to December 31, 2013, were:

  • Have provided each foreign worker with employment in substantially the same occupation as stated in the offer of employment.
  • Have provided each foreign worker with wages that are substantially the same as those in the offer of employment.
  • Have provided each foreign worker with working conditions that are substantially the same as those in the offer of employment.

The additional 18 program requirements being inspected since December 31, 2013, are:

  • Have provided accurate information in the context of an LMIA application.
    • This means that if employers are found to have provided false or misleading information on any part of the LMIA application they will be found non-compliant. This includes all the answers to questions provided on the form as well as more than a dozen attestations.
  • Are actively engaged in the business for which the offer of employment was made, unless the offer was made for employment as a live-in caregiver.
  • Are in compliance with federal and provincial/territorial laws that regulate employment and recruitment in the province/territory in which the foreign worker is employed.
  • Have met any specific agreed-to commitments, as set out on the positive LMIA, made at the time the LMIA was issued in relation to job creation for Canadians and permanent residents.
  • Have met any specific agreed-to commitments, as set out on the positive LMIA, made at the time the LMIA was issued in relation to job retention for Canadians and permanent residents.
  • Have met any specific agreed-to commitments, as set out on the positive LMIA, made at the time the LMIA was issued in relation to hiring Canadians and permanent residents.
  • Have met any specific agreed-to commitments, as set out on the positive LMIA, made at the time the LMIA was issued in relation to training Canadians and permanent residents.
  • Have met any specific agreed-to commitments, as set out on the positive LMIA, made at the time the LMIA was issued in relation to development of skills and knowledge for the benefit of Canadians or permanent residents.
  • Have met any specific agreed-to commitments, as set out on the positive LMIA, made at the time the LMIA was issued in relation to transfer of skills and knowledge for the benefit of Canadians or permanent residents.
  • Have made reasonable efforts to provide a workplace that is free of abuse which includes:
    • physical abuse;
    • sexual abuse;
    • psychological abuse; and
    • financial abuse.
  • Retain any document that relates to compliance with these conditions for a period of six years, beginning on the first day of employment of the foreign national.
  • Report at any specified time and place to answer questions and provide documents.
  • Provide any documents required as part of an inspection.
  • Attend any inspection that is on premises.
  • Give all reasonable assistance to the person conducting the inspection and provide that person with any document or information the person requires.
  • Employers of live-in caregivers must also ensure the foreign worker resides in a private household and provides child care, senior home support care or care of a disabled person in that household without supervision.
  • Employers of live-in caregivers must also provide the foreign worker with adequate furnished and private accommodations in the household.
  • Employers of live-in caregivers must also have sufficient financial resources to pay the foreign worker the wages offered.

Increased detection of abuse

The Government launched a Confidential Tip Line in April 2014 for Canadians to report abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). More than 1,000 tips had been received to date.

In addition to the tip line, a new Complaints Web page has been launched to allow the public to submit tips easily and securely online.

The Government will continue to follow up on each and every complaint to make sure that employers who are breaking the rules are caught and face the consequences.

We encourage all Canadians who have concerns or information to call our anonymous and confidential tip line. Any allegation of abuse will be investigated.

To report abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, contact:

Service Canada Confidential Tip Line

1-866-602-9448 or

use the Online Fraud Reporting Tool

More criminal investigations

Employers suspected of criminal activities under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) are referred to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).Investigations in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program could lead to charges under the following sections of the IRPA:

  • s. 124 – employing a foreign national that is not authorized to work in Canada;
  • s. 126 – counselling misrepresentation; and
  • s. 127 – misrepresentation.

The CBSA is receiving new financial resources to increase its capacity to investigate suspected cases of offenses by employers under the IRPA. The new financial resources for the CBSA will allow additional criminal investigations to be conducted every year. This will better ensure that employers suspected of criminal activities under the IRPA face the full legal consequences of their actions. There are very serious criminal sanctions including fines and jail time for employers found to be in violation of the IRPA. For example:

  • Employers who employ “a foreign national in a capacity in which the foreign national is not authorized … to be employed (s. 124)” can be fined up to $50,000 and imprisoned for up to two years or both.
  • Employers who intentionally misrepresent or withhold information or provide false information to contravene the IRPA (i.e. lie on their Labour Market Impact Assessment application about their efforts to hire Canadians) can be fined up to $100,000 and imprisoned for up to five years or both.

Furthermore, employers found guilty of human trafficking can be fined up to $1 million and imprisoned for up to life, or both. These penalties are not only applicable to the employer, but also may be applied to persons who aid or abet individuals in coming into Canada in contravention with the Act.

An example of a case that resulted in a conviction occurred after a CBSA investigation revealed that an individual produced fraudulent employment offers and worked as an immigration consultant without a licence between September 2008 and June 2009. He continued to commit immigration fraud between October 2011 and June 2012 by using several aliases. He purported himself as a representative for a number of Winnipeg-based companies, made fraudulent job offers to foreign nationals and issued forged Government of Canada documents. In October 2012, he was sentenced to four years and six months in prison and also ordered to pay more than $380,000 in restitution.

Improved information sharing

The Government is improving its ability to collect and share information between government departments and other levels of government to make sure that employers who break the rules are caught.

The Minister of Employment and Social Development wrote to all provincial and territorial governments requesting that existing information sharing agreements be strengthened, or that new information sharing agreements are quickly concluded where none currently exist.

Better information sharing between the Canada Border Services Agency and other federal government departments will help ensure that EDSC is aware of employers that are not complying with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act or related Regulations (IRPR), for example are under investigation by a law enforcement agency. Employment and Social Development Canada will not process any LMIAs for employers that are under investigation until the investigation is complete and the employer is found to have not broken any rules.

The federal government is also taking steps to significantly improve the level of information sharing between different levels of government. While the federal government is responsible for determining whether an employer is facing a legitimate labour shortage and is justified in hiring a temporary foreign worker, the provinces and territories have primary responsibility for establishing and enforcing health and labour standards, such as safe working conditions, for all workers, including temporary foreign workers. Provinces also have primary responsibility for laws governing recruiting of workers.

The benefits of information sharing agreements between the federal government and the provinces and territories are clear. For example, employers who violate provincial labour laws, health and safety standards or recruiting laws will face greater scrutiny and oversight from Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) inspectors as these would be considered high-risk employers. Likewise, the federal government will share information with the provinces and territories on employers who break the rules of the TFWP to allow provinces and territories to follow up and prioritize their investigations on matters, namely labour laws, health and safety standards and laws governing recruiting.

Further, in order to be allowed to employ temporary foreign workers, employers must comply with provincial laws that regulate employment, and the recruiting of employees, in the province in which the foreign national works. Better information sharing between the federal government and the provinces/territories will result in the federal government being better informed when employers are in violation of provincial/territorial laws and prevent them from accessing temporary foreign workers.

ESDC has information sharing agreements with Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. These existing agreements will be strengthened and new agreements will be put in place with the remaining provinces and territories.

The Government will also continue to encourage provincial and territorial initiatives to crack down on unscrupulous recruiters. The issue of legal recruitment is primarily a matter of provincial/territorial jurisdiction and passing on recruitment fees to temporary foreign workers is a violation of labour laws in some provinces. Provinces with existing laws on unscrupulous recruiters are Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Colombia. The Minister has expressed that all provinces and territories are expected follow suit.

TFWP roles and responsibilities
ESDC

Issues Labour Market Impact Assessment to employers and conducts investigations.

CIC

Assesses applications for work permits submitted by temporary foreign workers, which if granted, authorizes them to work in Canada and can also conduct investigations of employers.

CBSA

Determines eligibility and admissibility at the port of entry when temporary foreign workers arrive in Canada and issues work permits.

Also conducts investigations and executes removal orders, as required, under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Province / Territories

Establish and enforce health and labour standards.

Establish and enforce laws on recruitment.

Blacklist, Suspension and Revocation

If an employer breaks the rules, or is suspected of breaking the rules, of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), Employment and Social Development Canada has the authority to suspend or revoke the employer’s Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). LMIAs are suspended when an employer is suspected of breaking the rules and LMIAs are revoked when, following an investigation, an employer is in fact found to have broken the rules.

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) will not process any LMIAs for employers that are under investigation until the investigation is complete and the employer is found to have not broken any rules.

In addition to revocation, if an employer breaks the rules of the program, they will be banned from the TFWP and fined.

Rationale for suspending or revoking a Labour Market Impact Assessment
Suspended LMIA
  • there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the employer or group of employers provided false, misleading or inaccurate information in the context of the request for that assessment;
  • new information becomes available after the positive assessment is provided and if known at the time would have led to a different assessment;
  • there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the employer is not complying with the conditions set out in subsection 209.3 or 209.4 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) in respect of that work permit or any other work permit and the failure to do so may not be justified under one or the other of those sections; and
  • the employer’s name has been added to the list referred to in subsection 209.91(3) of the IRPR.
Revoked LMIA
  • new information becomes available after the assessment is provided indicating that the employment of the foreign national under the work permit is having or will have a significant negative effect on the labour market in Canada;
  • the employer or group of employers provided false, misleading or inaccurate information in the context of the request for that assessment; and
  • the employer’s name has been added to the list of referred to in subsection 209.91(3) of the IRPR.
What does this mean?
Suspended LMIA
  • LMIA is suspended pending a thorough investigation of the employer;
  • Unused positions tied to a suspended LMIA will be put on hold;
  • Processing of applications for new or extended work permits based on the LMIA is also suspended until the LMIA suspension is lifted
  • Foreign nationals already working for the employer may continue working.
Revoked LMIA
  • LMIA is permanently canceled;
  • LMIA cannot be used by any temporary foreign worker to obtain a work permit from CIC
  • CIC will revoke work permits tied to the LMIA.

Since early 2014, the names of employers whose LMIAs are suspended or revoked are being added to a public Blacklist website. Beginning in fall 2014, the Blacklist will include the names of any employer who has been suspended as well as any employers who has been found in violation of the TFWP rules and what consequences they face.

In addition, employers found to have broken the rules as a result of investigations conducted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada will now be disclosed on the employer Blacklist. This is another part of the Government’s efforts to improve the clarity, transparency and accountability of the TFWP.

Monetary fines for employers who break the rules

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.

These new significant fines will help ensure that the TFWP is used as intended — as a last and limited resort when Canadians are not available. These new fines would be in addition to fines that can already be imposed on employers convicted of offences under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).

The following provides examples of the penalties that can be applied based on the nature and severity of the offence; this is not an exhaustive list:

Breaking the rules of the TFWP

Potential sanctions:

  • LMIA suspended
  • LMIA revoked
  • Name of employer published on the "Blacklist"
  • Fine
  • Banned from the TFWP
Criminal offence under IRPA

Potential sanctions:

  1. LMIA suspended
  2. LMIA revoked
  3. Name of employer published on the "Blacklist"
  4. Fine
  5. Banned from the TFWP
  6. Referred to CBSA for further investigation, could face fines and jail time
Criminal offence under Criminal Code

Potential sanctions:

  1. LMIA suspended
  2. LMIA revoked
  3. Name of employer published on the "Blacklist"
  4. Fine
  5. Banned from the TFWP
  6. Referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency, such as the RCMP, for further investigation, could face fines and jail time.

Raising the Fee

Labour Market Impact Assessment Fee of $1,000

Employment and Social Development Canada made significant changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which substantially increased the cost of delivering the program. The costs for administering the TFWP, including all of the reforms outlined above are borne entirely by employers who use the program, not by taxpayers. 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
April 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, 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.

Protection of Temporary Foreign Workers

While in Canada, temporary foreign workers have the same rights and protections as Canadian workers under applicable federal/provincial/territorial employment standards and occupational health and safety laws. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) has a number of provisions to ensure the well-being of temporary foreign workers during their stay in Canada.

Temporary foreign workers need to know their rights and where to go for help if they are facing exploitation or abuse. All temporary foreign workers coming into Canada will receive an information package from the Canada Border Services Agency at their port of entry. This package will outline their rights and responsibilities and will provide information on whom to contact should they believe their rights are being violated. Under these reforms, information will also be made available to temporary foreign workers at convenient locations, such as ports of entry, Service Canada offices, visa offices and application centres and non-governmental organizations that support foreign workers.

The issue of legal recruitment is primarily a matter of provincial jurisdiction and passing on recruitment fees to temporary foreign workers is a violation of labour laws in some provinces. To improve protections for temporary foreign workers, the Minister of Employment and Social Development has written to all provincial and territorial governments encouraging provinces with laws governing unscrupulous recruiters to strengthen them, and encourage provinces without laws governing unscrupulous recruiters to implement them as quickly as possible.

The provinces and territories also have primary responsibility for establishing and enforcing health and labour standards, such as safe working conditions for all workers, including temporary foreign workers. These rules and regulations govern areas including work hours, overtime pay, sick or vacation leave and health and safety standards. All temporary foreign workers have the same rights as Canadian citizens in filing a complaint against an employer under provincial labour standards codes.

The countries of temporary foreign workers participating in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program station government representatives in their consulates across the country so that they can assist the workers in a variety of situations and serve as interpreters when needed. Before the workers’ departure to Canada, these foreign governments organize information sessions to ensure that workers understand the program and their rights and responsibilities.

We encourage all temporary foreign workers who have concerns or information to call our tip line at 1-866 602-9448 or to visit the Complaints Web page.

On-farm primary agriculture and live-in caregiver exemptions

On-farm primary agriculture, including the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), is exempt from the following measures, as there are proven acute labour shortages in this industry and the unfilled jobs are truly temporary:

  • LMIA fee
  • Cap on low-wage temporary foreign workers
  • 1-year LMIA that a low-wage temporary foreign worker will be allowed to remain in Canada (SAWP only) duration
  • Reduction in the period

Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) is exempt from the following measures:

  • Cap on low-wage temporary foreign workers
  • 1-year LMIA duration
  • Reduction in the period that a low-wage temporary foreign worker will be allowed to remain in Canada

All other measures including stronger enforcement and tougher penalties apply to on-farm primary agriculture, SAWP and LCP.

Reforming the International Mobility Programs

International Mobility Programs

The International Mobility Programs (IMP) include all streams of work permit applications that are LMIA-exempt under one umbrella. By exempting some foreign nationals from needing a labour market impact assessment before being able to work in Canada, the IMP aims to provide competitive advantages to Canada and reciprocal benefits to Canadians.

For example, labour mobility is a key part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA provides reciprocal benefits, allowing foreign nationals in certain occupations from partner countries to work in Canada without the requirement of a labour market test like the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), but also allow Canadians to work abroad with similar privileges. While about 12,000 Americans worked in Canada through the NAFTA professional occupation provision in 2011, the number of Canadians working in the United States through the same provision more than tripled that, with about 39,000 in all.

As part of the review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the Government of Canada committed to introducing a series of reforms for those workers who are exempt from the LMIA process to ensure these exemptions continue to promote Canada’s economic and labour market interests.

The renamed International Mobility Programs (IMP) will include new fee for work permits through IMP, a new employer compliance system on par with the system being put in place for the TFWP, and additional changes to specific IMP streams.

New Fee and Employer Compliance System for the International Mobility Programs

Many foreign nationals can apply for work permits without requiring an assessment of the labour market. However, employers are not required to submit any information directly to the Government of Canada regarding job offers made to LMIA-exempt foreign workers, limiting CIC’s ability to monitor employers.

Under the reforms, employers hiring through IMP will be required to submit the job offer and other relevant information to CIC. Foreign nationals will not be able to apply for a work permit until their employer has done so.

A robust compliance system, featuring inspections of thousands of employers hiring LMIA-exempt foreign workers each year, will also be put in place to monitor employers. Inspections could lead to penalties being levied against employers who are not following the rules, as well as bans from hiring foreign nationals and even criminal investigation when warranted.

This system will be made possible by the collection of a new compliance fee of $230 per work permit, once authorities are in place. The fee will apply in cases where the work permit is employer specific and LMIA-exempt. This ensures that those using the program will pay its costs, rather than Canadian taxpayers.

New Privilege Fee for Open Work Permit Applicants

Some LMIA exemptions allow for foreign nationals to apply for open work permits. This includes, for example, young people entering Canada through the International Experience Canada (IEC) initiative, international students who have graduated and received a post-graduation work permit, and some foreign nationals who are working in Canada while they wait for their application for permanent residence to be finalized. Having an open work permit is a unique privilege, as it does not tie the foreign national to one specific employer in Canada.

There is, however, often inadequate information available about the types of jobs open work permit holders take while in Canada and what effect they may have on the labour market.

To respond to this, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will be imposing a $100 privilege fee on holders of open work permits as soon as possible. These fees will allow for improved data collection on the employment of open work permit holders. In addition, the funds collected will be used to increase awareness among and promote participation of Canadians in opportunities to live and work abroad, and to provide information to foreign nationals with open work permits and their employers to promote the transition to permanent residence through the new Express Entry system that is coming online in 2015.

With these measures, the Government of Canada will be able to compile better information and develop an improved understanding of the role of open work permit holders in the Canadian labour market. Increased awareness and participation of Canadians in reciprocal opportunities will enhance the economic and social benefits of the International Mobility Programs.

Changes to Specific Exemptions

The Government of Canada is undertaking a comprehensive review of the IMP programs, with a view to ensuring that all streams under this program should remain LMIA-exempt. Streams that do not warrant an exemption will be reclassified under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and workers will require an LMIA. Additionally, the Government is making the below changes to specific exemptions; these changes involve adjusting several specific exemptions to ensure they continue to operate as intended and in Canada’s best interests.

International Experience Canada (IEC)

International Experience Canada consists of 32 agreements with partner countries that allow young Canadians to live and work abroad for up to two years without meeting labour market or many of the other strict requirements to work and travel in other countries, while providing reciprocal opportunities for youth from those countries to do the same in Canada. It is the largest sub-category of the International Mobility Programs, with about 54,000 young people entering Canada in 2013. The number of spots available for each country is negotiated each year.

However, the imbalance between the number of young people from partner countries participating in IEC and the number of young Canadians participating is the most serious concern for this initiative. IEC agreements are based on providing reciprocal opportunities for young people coming to Canada and for young Canadians going abroad. However, the number of young Canadians going abroad has been stagnant in recent years, and there are several countries to which virtually no Canadians apply to go.

To remedy this, CIC will enhance its efforts through increased promotion of the program to make young Canadians aware of the opportunities it presents, and by working with partner countries to reduce administrative barriers to Canadian participants. At the same time, we will review each mobility agreement on a country-by-country basis to ensure the rate of reciprocity is improved.

Intra-company transferees with specialized knowledge

Companies are able to transfer Canadians to overseas branches and foreign nationals to their Canadian branch without a labour market impact assessment. Exemptions for intra-company transferees are also explicitly stated in some trade agreements that Canada is a party to, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Trade in Services. There is some evidence, though, that these provisions have been misused. For example, in some situations, foreign nationals were able to enter Canada for jobs that may not have been as specialized as the program intends, as suggested by providing wages lower than the Canadian prevailing wage for their occupation.

To address this, guidelines have been put in place to better define “specialized knowledge” and officers will compare an applicant’s intended salary to the prevailing Canadian wage for that job to ensure that the applicant is truly specialized in his or her field. The new guidelines also clearly state that these types of workers cannot receive training in Canada that would result in the displacement of Canadian workers. A wage floor has been imposed for foreign nationals from countries that Canada does not have a free trade agreement with, set at the prevailing wage for the worker’s occupation and region of destination.

As a result, foreign nationals entering Canada using this labour market test exemption will be highly-skilled and truly bring specialized knowledge to Canada. Some may be candidates to apply for permanent residence here. These provisions will continue to greatly benefit Canadian companies with operations abroad, allowing them to compete globally and to provide jobs in Canada.

Canada–Quebec Accord

The Canada-Quebec Accord has governed Quebec’s role in the selection of foreign nationals destined for the province since 1991.The Accord states, “Québec’s consent is required in order to admit into the province any temporary foreign worker whose admission is subject to Canada’s requirements relating to the availability of Canadian workers.” These reforms will be implemented in Quebec; however, as the TFWP is jointly administered, it may take longer to implement some of the reforms.

Timeline of measures coming into force

Activity Implementation Date
LMIA Fee Effective immediately
Introduction of Cap Effective immediately
High-Wage Transition Plans Effective immediately
Launch enhanced Tip Website Effective immediately
New guidelines for intra-company transferees with specialized knowledge Effective immediately
10-day Processing Times for certain occupations Effective immediately
Fee for open WP holders Summer 2014
Strengthening compliance system for employers of LMIA-exempt foreign workers Summer 2014
Information Sharing Agreements between CIC, CBSA, and ESDC to be completed Autumn 2014
Monetary fine regime to come into force Autumn 2014
Criminal Investigations Autumn 2014
Negotiate and implement all other Information Sharing Agreements with provinces March 2015
Implement expanded inspection regime March 2015
Begin data collection for the Wage and Vacancy surveys Spring 2015
Limit Duration for low-wage TFWs Effective immediately
Begin utilizing administrative data as part of the LMIA evaluation process Summer 2015
Compliance fee for employer-specific work-permits Summer 2015
Measures Compelling Documents from third parties Late 2015

Past reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Flexibility on Prevailing Wage Ended

Beginning in April 2012, employers were given the flexibility to pay temporary foreign workers up to 15 percent below the prevailing wage for a high-skilled occupation, and 5 percent below the prevailing wage for a low-skilled occupation, provided they could demonstrate that the wage being paid to a temporary foreign worker was the same as that being paid to their Canadian employees in the same job and in the same location. This flexibility was ended in April 2013.

The prevailing wage flexibility was introduced to ensure that temporary foreign workers were compensated at the same wage as Canadians working in the same occupation in the same location. The wage flexibility was ended and employers are now required to always pay temporary foreign workers at or above the prevailing wage for that occupation in that region.

Advertising

As of July 2013, employers have been required to make greater efforts to recruit Canadians first before requesting to hire temporary foreign workers. The new advertising requirements doubled the length and reach of employers’ advertising efforts, increasing Canadians awareness of and ability to apply for available jobs.

All employers are now required to advertise their positions in Canada for a minimum of four weeks, rather than the previous two weeks. The four-week requirement applies to all advertising methods used by the employer. Employers are required to continue actively seeking qualified Canadians to fill the advertised position(s) from the time their application is submitted to when it is approved.

Employers are also required to conduct additional recruitment activities. Prior to July 2013, employers were required to advertise on the Government of Canada’s national Job Bank website or an equivalent provincial/territorial website, plus one additional method of recruitment consistent with the advertising practices for the occupation.

Now, employers are required to use two additional methods of recruitment beyond the national Job Bank. One of these methods needs to be national in scope if hiring for a high-wage occupation. Employers hiring for low-wage occupations need to demonstrate that they have made efforts to hire Canadians from under-represented groups in the work force, such as youth or Canadians with disabilities.

Over the years, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program’s advertising requirements have increased and expanded:

Low-Skill Stream High-Skill Stream
Recruitment method Length of time Recruitment method Length of time
2006
  • Job Bank or equivalent provincial/territorial site
  • one additional method
14 days
  • Job Bank or equivalent provincial/territorial site
  • one additional method
14 days
2013 Footnote 26
  • Job Bank
  • two additional methods
  • demonstrate efforts made to hire Canadians from under-represented groups (e.g. Aboriginal people, Canadians with disabilities, new immigrants)
Minimum of 4 weeks
  • Job Bank
  • two additional methods (one of which needs to be national in scope)
Minimum of 4 weeks

To meet advertising requirements, employers must conduct recruitment activities consistent with the normal practice for the occupation.

For example, employers can advertise:

  1. on recognized employment websites such as Monster or Workopolis;
  2. on the website of a professional association;
  3. in national newspapers, professional journals or newsletters; and
  4. in local and regional employment centres.

Employers who wish to use the program must comply with strict criteria to ensure that Canadians have first chance at available jobs. Before seeking to hire temporary foreign workers, employers must clearly demonstrate that they made significant and genuine efforts to recruit or train Canadians and they could not find Canadians to meet their labour and skills needs.

If an employer breaks the rules of the program, they will face significant consequences, including fines and being banned from the program. There are also serious criminal sanctions, including additional fines and jail time, if employers lie on their Labour Market Impact Assessment applications about their efforts to hire Canadians.

Language requirement

Since April 2013, English and French are the only languages that can be identified as a job requirement, both in advertisements by employers intending to hire temporary foreign workers and in Labour Market Impact Assessment applications.

This measure was introduced to prevent employers from advertising a position where the applicant’s skills in a foreign language are not linked to a genuine job requirement. This ensures that language cannot be used by an employer to exclude qualified Canadians from being able to apply because they would prefer to hire temporary foreign workers.

The language restriction ensures that Canadians are given every opportunity to apply for available jobs. Exceptions can be made in rare and specialized circumstances, notably when the employer can demonstrate that another language is essential for the job, such as for a tour guide or translator.

Preventing outsourcing of Canadian jobs

As of July 2013, all employers applying for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) are required to respond to additional questions on their use of temporary foreign workers to ensure that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is not used to facilitate the outsourcing of Canadian jobs. This new measure was introduced as a result of concerns in spring 2013 about a situation where temporary foreign workers were alleged to be displacing Canadian workers whose positions were ultimately being transferred to another country.

The following questions were added to the LMIA application form:

  1. Will the entry of these temporary foreign workers lead to job losses, now or in the foreseeable future, for Canadians and/or permanent residents as a result of layoffs, outsourcing, offshoring or other factors related to utilizing temporary foreign workers?
  2. Is this job offer related to an activity, contract or a subcontract that will facilitate outsourcing or offshoring?

These questions help ensure that no Canadian workers are displaced as a result of outsourcing. Employers are also required to sign a declaration attesting that hiring temporary foreign workers will not result in outsourcing or offshoring.

For all LMIA applications, the TFWP assesses the impact that hiring a temporary foreign worker will have on Canada's labour market based on available labour market information for the region and occupation. These additional questions ensure that program officers have the information they need to make decisions regarding LMIA applications.

An LMIA application is rejected if hiring a temporary foreign worker would result in the outsourcing of Canadian jobs. An LMIA application is also rejected if the assessment indicates that hiring a temporary foreign worker will have a negative impact on the Canadian labour market or if an employer has not complied with the program requirements.

If an employer does outsource or offshore Canadian jobs following the hiring of a temporary foreign worker, they will be found to have broken the rules and face consequences, including fines and being banned from the program. There are also serious criminal sanctions, including additional fines and jail time, if the employer is found to have lied on their Labour Market Impact Assessment application.

Protecting temporary foreign workers from abuse and human trafficking

The Government has taken action to protect vulnerable foreign workers from the risk of abuse and exploitation in sex trade related businesses. Launched in 2012, the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking includes measures to improve the protection of vulnerable foreign nationals through better prevention and detection at an early stage. These measures include preventing sex trade related businesses from accessing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, recognizing that temporary foreign workers in sex trade related jobs faced a high risk of exploitation and abuse.

Since July 2012, Employment and Social Development Canada no longer processes Labour Market Impact Assessments from employers linked to the sex trade to prevent them from hiring temporary foreign workers. Also, Citizenship and Immigration Canada no longer processes work permit applications from temporary foreign workers intending to work for sex trade related businesses.

The restrictions apply to strip clubs, escort services and massage parlours as well as other businesses linked to the sex trade. Through collaborative partnerships and preventative action, these measures strengthen Canada's National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.

Live-in caregivers

Measures currently in place to protect vulnerable workers under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) include:

  1. assessing of the genuineness of the job offer to foreign live-in caregivers related to the employer’s ability to pay the wages offered, the need for caregiving and the suitability of accommodations;
  2. putting in place a standardized LCP employment contract with mandatory clauses and more scrutiny of non-standard LCP employment contracts;
  3. establishing program requirements through the LMIA process related to hours of work, overtime and maximum deductions for room and board;
  4. requiring employers to pay foreign live-in caregivers’ one-way airfare to Canada;
  5. requiring employers to review and adjust foreign live-in caregivers’ wages at least annually to ensure they continue to meet the prevailing wage for the occupation; and
  6. urgent LMIA and WPs processing for foreign live-in caregivers who are working in abusive and/or exploitive situations.

Glossary

Accelerated-Labour Market Opinion (A-LMO): a streamlined approach to processing Labour Market Opinions for high-skilled occupations. This process has been terminated.

Blacklist: a public list containing the names of employers who have had a Labour Market Impact Assessment suspended or revoked, or who have been fined under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Food Services Sector: as classified under North American Industry Classification System (NAICS 722), which is defined as establishments primarily engaged in preparing meals, snacks and beverages, to customer order, for immediate consumption on and off the premises.

Free-Trade Agreements: an agreement between two or more countries to establish a free trade area where commerce in goods and services, and occasionally capital and labour, can be conducted across their common borders, without tariffs or hindrances.

High-wage: wages that are at or above than the provincial / territorial median wage.

Human trafficking: the recruitment, transportation, harbouring and/ or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person, typically through sexual exploitation or forced labour.

Inspection: an investigation of an employer under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to verify employer compliance with the Program.

Job Bank: is the Government of Canada’s one-stop job listing website which assists the Government in gathering labour market information.

Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA): a more comprehensive test of the impact that hiring temporary foreign workers would have on the labour market and Canadian workers using more and better labour market information. The LMIA is replacing the Labour Market Opinion.

Labour Market Opinion (LMO): an assessment of the impact that hiring a temporary foreign worker is likely to have on the Canadian labour market. The LMO is being replaced with the Labour Market Impact Assessment.

Low-wage: wages that are less than the provincial / territorial median wage.

P/T Median-wage: the rate above which half a province’s or territory’s workers are paid and below which the other half are paid.

National Occupational Classification (NOC): nationally accepted reference on occupations in Canada, which organizes over 40,000 job titles into 500 occupational group descriptions. Previously, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program used the NOC coding system to determine the specific skill level of an occupation.

Primary agriculture: Work in the primary agriculture sector means work that is performed within the boundaries of a farm, nursery or greenhouse and involves:

  • the operation of agricultural machinery;
  • the boarding, care, breeding, sanitation or other handling of animals, other than fish, for the purpose of obtaining animal products for market, or activities relating to the collection, handling and assessment of those products; or
  • the planting, care, harvesting or preparation of crops, trees, sod or other plants for market.
  • the provision of feed lot services;

Work in the primary agriculture sector does not include work involving:

  • the activities of agronomists or agricultural economists;
  • landscape architecture;
  • the preparation of vegetable fibres for textile use;
  • activities related to commercial hunting and trapping; or
  • veterinary activities.

The below table provides a full list of valid NOC codes for primary agricultural occupations:

NOC 2006 Occupational Title
8251 Farmers and Farm Managers
8252 Agricultural and Related Service Contractors and Managers
8253 Farm Supervisors and Specialized Livestock Workers
8254 Nursery and Greenhouse Operators and Managers
8256 Supervisors, Landscape and Horticulture
8431 General Farm Workers
8432 Nursery and Greenhouse Workers
8611 Harvesting Labourers

Offshoring: shifting a business function from one country to another country.

Outsourcing: involves moving production outside of a company.

Prevailing wage: identified as the median hourly wage for an NOC in a specified geographical area.

Revocation: A Labour Market Impact Assessment can be revoked when an employer is proven to have broken the rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Skilled Trade: View a full list of valid NOC codes for skilled trade occupations.

Stream: stream is a sub-category or program, which has specific requirements that must be met by the employer.

Suspension: A Labour Market Impact Assessment can be suspended when an employer is alleged or suspected of having broken the rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Temporary Foreign Worker: a foreign national allowed into a country to work for a limited period of time.

Work permit: if granted, authorizes a temporary foreign worker to work in Canada. It sets out conditions for the worker, such as the type of work they can do, where they can work and how long they may work in Canada. Work permits can be employer-specific or open.

  • An employer-specific work permit names the specific employer the worker may work for and it may require an LMIA.
  • An open work permit does not tie the worker to a specific job offer or employer in Canada and does not require an LMIA.
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