AGRI - Mexico Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program - May 22, 2020
[Redacted] appears where sensitive information has been removed in accordance with the principles of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
- Given the importance of agricultural workers in the labour market, the Government has prioritized processing of work permit applications in this sector in order to facilitate travel for workers to Canada during this pandemic, including workers from Mexico.
- The Mexican Ministry of Labour is responsible for coordinating with workers on preparing work permit applications and arranging for travel under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, and their capacity has been reduced due to COVID-19.
- Since applications for the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program workers are all submitted on paper in Mexico, the closure of the visa application centre has had a greater impact there than in other Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program countries who are submitting applications online.
- IRCC is working closely with Global Affairs Canada to coordinate with foreign government authorities, including in Mexico, to ensure that flights to bring temporary foreign workers to Canada are able to take place and workers can reach the airport despite local travel restrictions.
- Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program is part of bilateral agreements with Mexico and participating Caribbean Footnote 1 countries. Under the agreement the relevant local Ministry of Labour is responsible the recruitment and selection of workers, submission of work permit applications and coordination of travel. Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program workers also enjoy greater flexibility in Canada to change employers while also having greater protections put in place.
- Out of the 30,000 applications for Mexican agricultural and agri-food workers that would normally be expected this year, approximately 25,000 would be under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. So far in 2020, approximately 18,000 Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program applications have been received and finalized, leaving approximately 7,000 still to be submitted. Over 80% of applications each year are for returning workers who have previously been to Canada.
- According to our system, over 15,000 workers have already arrived in Canada.
- The Department is implementing the following process to facilitate application intake from the Mexican Ministry of Labour for returning workers from Mexico.
- While the visa application centre in Mexico City remains closed to the public, it is assisting with limited back office support where needed to allow Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program application intake from the Mexican Ministry of Labour to continue. [redacted]
- Worker pays application fee to the visa application centre via local bank transfer.
- The Mexican Ministry of Labour submits application form and limited supporting documents through the visa application centre.
- Biometrics waived where required to finalize application under current biometrics Public Policy for overseas applicants with enrollment upon arrival.
- IRCC processes application in approximately one week and provides letter of introduction to Mexican Ministry of Labour who can then arrange travel with the employer groups.
- Identifying available workers from other Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program countries to replace the shortfall of Mexican workers is not an option for this season as all participating Caribbean countries are facing restrictions due to COVID-19 and since Mexico is the largest participant in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, the ability to identify new pools of workers elsewhere is limited. In addition, employers are often requesting the same workers year after year as they develop good working relationship and workers have experience and skills for the specific job. Therefore it may not be as easy for employers to pick any worker available.
- Industry stakeholders have proposed that the Government allow Mexican workers to apply for work permits on arrival in Canada.
- Applicants under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program are not permitted under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations make applications for a work permit at a port of entry.
- In addition, under the current Order in Council Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Prohibition of Entry into Canada from any Country other than the United States), foreign nationals are required to present to the air carrier a valid work permit or a letter of introduction confirming that their work permit has been approved before travelling to Canada.
- Another proposal was for returning workers has been to extend expired work permits.
- The Department does not have the authority to extend a work permit without an application.
- Ensuring that workers are properly documented before travelling to Canada prevents large numbers of unplanned arrivals at Canadian airports, reduces the likelihood of logistical challenges for Canada Border Services Agency and Public Health Agency Canada upon arrival in Canada, and is consistent with public health measures in place.
- In addition, workers and employers need to have a robust self-isolation plan before they board planes.
Supporting facts and figures
|Country of Citizenship||2018||2019||2020|
|March 2018||April 2018||March 2019||April 2019||March 2020||April 2020|
|Mexico||3 267||5 601||3 089||6 860||1 527||6 913|
|Other Countries||1 622||2 406||1 453||2 645||668||2 422|
|Grand Total||4 889||8 007||4 542||9 505||2 195||9 335|
- Current process for Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program workers:
- Primary agriculture farms / workplaces identify a labour need.
- Employer submits Labour Market Impact Assessment application for workers to Employment and Social Development Canada (either specific individuals or for generic workers).
- Employment and Social Development Canada approves Labour Market Impact Assessment.
- Employer forwards Labour Market Impact Assessment approval to relevant foreign Ministry of Labour or Recruiter.
- Ministry of Labour (for Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program) or Recruiter (Low-Skill Pilot) contacts worker and prepares application for work permit
- Applications submitted online to IRCC; paper applications via visa application centre for Mexico Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.
- Biometrics collected by application centres (Public Policy to waive biometrics for overseas key industries applicants is in place; enrollment of biometrics is done by Canada Border Services Agency upon arrival at the airport in Canada)
- Medical exam required for applicants from Central America (Mexico and Jamaica do not require medicals).
- IRCC Mexico / Kingston / Port of Spain process work permit applications.
- Visa issued (foil-less process in place where physical visa counterfoil can’t be printed) or electronic travel authorization (eTA) issued for eligible workers; Letter of Introduction issued in order for work permit to be printed at the port of entry.
- Employers work with Ministry of Labour / representatives to arrange travel.
- Employers transport to workplace and designated housing.
- Upon arrival at designated housing, quarantine period begins
- While formal approval for Mexico visa application centre to be deemed an essential service remains outstanding, the visa application centre has begun limited back-office work to process Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program paper applications as of May 19, with expectation of completing this process 2-3 times a week depending on the number of applications the Ministry of Labour has ready to submit. [redacted]
- The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program stems from long standing bilateral labour agreements with countries in the Caribbean and Mexico. Unlike other work permits, all Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program workers must depart Canada by December 15 each year. After Mexico, Jamaica is the second largest source country for Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program with smaller numbers from other islands.
- The Agricultural Stream program is used to bring similar types of agricultural workers to Canada, however, it can include workers who are not seasonal (e.g., greenhouses) or not covered by Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program agreements (e.g., Guatemalans). These applications also do not need to go through the Ministry of Labour.
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