CIMM - Temporary Foreign Workers: Permits, Processing, Facilitation - Mar 10, 2021
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- Temporary foreign workers play a vital role in critical sectors of the Canadian economy and society, including in agriculture, agri-food processing and healthcare. Their contributions have become even more important as we continue to deal with this unprecedented public health crisis.
- Temporary foreign workers, as with most others entering Canada, are subject to mandatory quarantine for 14 days from the day they enter Canada and COVID testing – both prior to and on arrival. There are limited exemptions to the quarantine and travel requirements.
- My Department has a number of measures in place to facilitate the arrival and continued ability to work of temporary foreign workers in Canada.
- We are supporting temporary foreign workers already in Canada through measures such as allowing them to change employers quickly once they’ve found a new job, providing more flexibility for temporary workers to renew their status if it expired, and allowing visitors to apply for a work permit without having to leave the country.
- Ensuring the protection of temporary foreign workers in Canada is a top priority. This Government is working with a number of partners to ensure the safety of temporary foreign workers in Canada during this global pandemic.
- Temporary foreign workers play a vital role in our economy by helping employers fill jobs when no Canadians or permanent residents are available, and by bringing skills and expertise to companies seeking a competitive advantage.
- Work permits are a demand-driven area; there are no set levels or limits on the number of temporary foreign workers admitted to Canada in a given year.
Temporary Foreign Worker Program and labour market impact assessment process
- The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) enables employers to fill labour and skills shortages on a temporary basis when Canadians are not available, while ensuring that foreign workers are protected.
- Employers under the TFWP need a labour market impact assessment (LMIA) before they can hire a foreign worker. An LMIA confirms:
- there is a need for a temporary foreign worker,
- no Canadians or permanent residents are available to do the job.
- The TFWP, including the LMIA process, is administered by Employment and Social Development Canada.
- Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is responsible for the assessment of work permit applications made abroad and in Canada under the TFWP. This includes an assessment of whether the foreign national meets the requirements for the intended employment position.
Facilitative measures for temporary workers in Canada
- For temporary foreign workers already in Canada, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has introduced several measures to help clients affected by the disruption in services and travel due to source country restrictions.
- For example, IRCC has taken steps to encourage and support temporary foreign workers to apply for work permit extensions and is providing more time to submit additional documentation.
- A public policy was also put in place on May 12, 2020, that allows temporary foreign workers in Canada who have lost their job or are changing jobs to start work right away while their work permit application is processed.
- As the in-Canada service collection network is currently not collecting biometrics, a public policy was put in place on July 15, 2020, that exempts foreign nationals in Canada from the requirement to provide biometrics and that applies to all pending and new applications or requests for a temporary resident visa or status, work permit, study permit or temporary resident permit from foreign nationals in Canada.
- To help foreign nationals still in Canada and unable to return home to restore their immigration status, in July 2020, the Department implemented a public policy that provided a longer period for all foreign nationals (visitors, students and workers) - until August 31, 2021, to restore their legal status, instead of just 90 days from permit expiry. It also allows former work permit holders with a job offer to work while they wait for a decision on their restoration and work permit applications, when they would otherwise not be allowed to work until their work permit was approved and temporary resident status restored.
- On December 12, 2020, the Department implemented a public policy allowing agricultural workers from Trinidad and Tobago (and other source countries), who worked in Canada in 2020 and were unable to return home due to that country’s requirements for returning nationals, to be eligible for an open work permit while they wait to return home.
Facilitative measures for overseas work permit applicants
- Additional special measures have been introduced to facilitate work permit issuance to those overseas applying to work in the agriculture sector.
- Work permit applications for agricultural, agri-food, truck driving and health care occupations are being prioritized. Temporary resident visas for workers who are exempt from the requirement to obtain a work permit and are coming to work in essential occupations are also being prioritized.
- We have also provided an exemption from the requirement to provide biometrics for work permit applicants in the agriculture, agri-food, health care and trucking sectors where enrolment is not possible due to travel restrictions or visa application center closures. An officer retains the discretion to collect biometrics at the port of entry on a case-by-case basis.
- Foil-less visas are being used in exceptional cases where a visa counterfoil cannot be affixed into a passport due to, for example, visa application centre closures.
Work permit processing times
- Processing times for work permit renewal applications finalized in Canada from January 1 to December, 2020, are at 103 days, slightly lower than in 2019 (108 days). The service standard is 120 days.
- Processing times for work permit applications finalized from January 1 to December, 2020 are at 72 days, higher than both in 2018 and 2019. The service standard is 60 days.
- Ministerial Instructions are currently in effect to September 30, 2021, that require that applications for a temporary resident visa (including a transit visa), a work permit or a study permit submitted by foreign nationals who are outside Canada at the time of the application be submitted using electronic means (in other words, applicants must apply online).
- There are exceptions for foreign nationals who are unable, by reason of disability, to apply electronically. In addition, there are two groups of temporary residence applicants that are exempt from the requirement to submit an application online:
- Applicants holding an identity or travel document that is of the type issued by a country to non-national residents, refugees or stateless persons who are unable to obtain a passport or other travel documents from their country of citizenship
- Applicants under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program
Impact of temporary workers on Canadian economy
- While IRCC does not have data on the economic impact of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of temporary workers to provincial economies, particularly in fields such as agriculture and health.
Worker safety and rights (protection of vulnerable workers, agricultural)
- In April 2020, changes were made to the employer compliance regime due to Covid-19 to better protect vulnerable workers.
- Employers are now required to allow foreign workers to meet the requirements under the Quarantine Act and any provincial legislation regarding Covid-19, as well as to pay wages to foreign workers who must quarantine upon arrival in Canada in order for the workers to not be left destitute. Additionally, penalties have increased for employers who do not cooperate with inspections.
- Specifically, for foreign workers coming to Canada under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program employers must provide adequate housing that allows workers to maintain six feet distance during Covid-19.
- Temporary foreign workers on employer-specific work permits who are experiencing or at risk of abuse in their jobs can apply to the Open Work Permit for Vulnerable Workers, introduced in 2019, which helps workers to quickly exit situations of workplace abuse and find a new job without compromising their authorization to work in Canada. An open work permit allows its holder to work for almost any employer across Canada.
- Approximately 56,000 workers enter Canada each year to support crop planting and harvesting. Key source countries include Mexico, Guatemala, Jamaica and a number of Caribbean countries. An additional 4,000 workers support food processing. Workers largely come from China (fish and seafood) and the Philippines (meat).
- While travel restrictions are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, there are exemptions for temporary workers coming for a non-optional purpose. This includes those coming to work in critical industries, including agriculture, food processing and health.
- Stricter quarantine requirements, including on-arrival testing and three-day prepaid quarantine in government-approved accommodations are also now in effect for all travelers arriving by air, with few exceptions (as of February 22, 2021).
- Temporary workers coming to work in Canada in agriculture and agri-food occupations, including through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and Agriculture Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, benefit from a delayed coming into force of the three-day government-approved accommodations requirement for quarantine on arrival, until March 15, 2021.
- The Government is considering how these arrivals will be managed as of March 15.
- The new planting and harvesting season has just begun and it is going well, even with testing requirements and the latest travel restrictions. The Government is working with partner countries to ensure that challenges in getting workers to Canada are addressed as quickly and reasonably as possible.
- While agriculture represents a small share of all work permits issued, a lack of workers in this sector severely affects businesses and Canada’s food security. As a result, both Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada are prioritizing work permit applications for the agriculture sector.
- IRCC continues to explore pathways to permanent residence for temporary foreign workers, including through its ongoing work on sectoral and regional pilot programs. The Agri-Food Pilot, launched on May 15, 2020, is testing an industry-specific approach that complements Canada’s existing suite of economic immigrations programs, offering a new pathway for year-round workers in meat processing, mushroom and greenhouse crop production, and livestock-raising industries.
- The three-year pilot aims to attract and retain experienced workers in these industries by providing them with an opportunity to become permanent residents. It will process a maximum of 2,750 applications annually, with an estimated 16,500 new permanent residents landing throughout the pilot.
- Between May 15 and January 31, 2021 IRCC received 167 applications ready for processing, adding up to a total of 365 persons. It has been 8 months since the program launched and as of January 31, 2021 no final decisions have been made.
Expired work permits and maintained status (formerly “Implied Status”)
- The Department recognizes that workers whose immigration documents expired may find themselves in a precarious position due to their lack of status. During the Covid-19 pandemic, all temporary residents, including workers, students and visitors who remained in Canada have been encouraged to apply to restore their status and renew work or study permits. At the onset of the pandemic the Department also implemented flexible processing procedures such as allowing extra time to submit supporting documents to facilitate efforts made by applicants to maintain their status while their application is processed.
- As of October 20, 2020, a temporary worker who applied online to extend their work permit automatically receives a ‘Proof of authority to work’ letter from IRCC confirming that their authority to work has been extended. This letter can be attached to their expired work permit as proof of continued legal status and authority to work.
- The problem of unauthorized workers in Canada is a long-standing issue – the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities have studied this issue, acknowledging vulnerability of the population and complexity of the problem. Stakeholders have called for regularization.
- Limited data suggests there are up to 500,000 undocumented workers in Canada with half living in the Greater Toronto Area.
- There is demand for workers in the construction industry – 40% of Ontario’s construction jobs in 2017 were in the Greater Toronto Area and 22% of workforce expected to retire by 2026.
- The Temporary Public Policy for Out-of-Status Construction Workers in the Greater Toronto Area recognizes the economic contributions of these workers and aims to address their vulnerability due to their lack of immigration status.
- This public policy, launched on January 2, 2020, is an opportunity to: support Canada’s economy in an in-demand sector; regularize a vulnerable group who has been working and contributing; and ensure immigration status and workplace protections.
The public policy is a small, one-time initiative that provides an opportunity for up to 500 construction workers without status to become eligible for permanent residence, as well as their family members in and outside Canada.
- Administration of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in Quebec is a shared responsibility between the federal government and the provincial government.
- The Government of Canada continues to ensure that the admission of temporary foreign workers under this program supports labour market needs.
- Questions specific to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program should be directed by the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.
Supporting facts and figures
- In 2020, the volume of work permit extensions processed was 19% higher than the same periods in 2019. This is the result of prioritizing work permit extensions to facilitate labour mobility.
- In 2020, while work permit extension numbers grew, initial work permits issued dropped to around 200,000 (approximately half of the 2019 volume), due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the total number of work permits issued drastically decreased, the arrival of agricultural workers remained relatively stable as compared to previous years.
- In 2019, IRCC issued work permits to approximately 405,000 foreign nationals.
- 75% of these work permit holders were authorized to work in Canada without the need for a labour market test under the International Mobility Program.
- 25% of these work permit holders required a labour market test under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
- This total does not include other sources of temporary labour, such as international students and refugee claimants, who also have certain rights to work.
Canada’s two programs for temporary foreign worker programs
- The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (administered by Employment and Social Development Canada) helps employers who are unable to fill labour market needs where Canadians or permanent residents are not available and includes agricultural workers and other workers who require a labour market impact assessment. Approximately 95,700 foreign nationals (out of 405,000) were issued a work permit in 2019 under this program. Over 56,000, or 59%, of these permits were issued to agricultural workers. Other occupations under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program include caregivers and some high-skilled foreign nationals (including graphic designers and computer engineers) under the Global Talent Stream.
- The International Mobility Program (administered by IRCC) facilitates the entry of foreign nationals under international agreements (e.g. trade agreements), where their employment is deemed to create significant social, economic, or cultural benefit to Canada, or where the work creates reciprocal opportunities for Canadians and permanent residents to work abroad. This program exempts applicants from a labour market impact assessment. Approximately 307,000 foreign nationals (out of 405,000) were issued a work permit in 2019 under this program. 32% or 98,000 of these permits were issued under the Post-graduate Work Permit Program. Other populations who receive work permits under the International Mobility Program include International Experience Canada participants, spouses of skilled workers and students, and work permits issued pursuant to trade agreements including the Canada-United States-Mexico Trade Agreement.
Administration of temporary work permit programs at the federal level is divided among three Departments
- IRCC assesses work permit applications made abroad and in Canada as well as renewal requests. Immigration officers ensure that the foreign national meets the requirements for the intended employment position and the relevant category of work permit. IRCC is responsible for monitoring employer compliance where no labour market impact assessment is required (though Employment and Social Development Canada assists with field inspections).
- Employment and Social Development Canada reviews applications for labour market impact assessments, considering the terms, conditions and genuineness of the employer’s job offer and the employer’s efforts to recruit Canadians. Employment and Social Development Canada is responsible for employer compliance where a labour market impact assessment is required.
- The Canada Border Services Agency processes applications at a Canadian border or port of entry. Canada Border Services Agency officers have the final say on whether a foreign worker may enter Canada, subject to legal and regulatory authorities.
Provinces and territories
- While the temporary worker programs are largely administered by the federal government, Quebec has a distinct role in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Under the 1991 Canada-Quebec Accord, the Program is jointly managed by Employment and Social Development Canada and Quebec’s Ministère de l'Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration for employers seeking authorization to hire temporary foreign workers for jobs in Quebec. Employers seeking to hire temporary foreign workers in Quebec must obtain approval from both Employment and Social Development Canada and the Ministère de l'Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration before IRCC can issue a work permit.
- Employers hiring temporary foreign workers to work in agriculture, with the exception of the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program, and other low wage jobs under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program are required (in policy) to provide workers who are not eligible for provincial or territorial health coverage with equivalent private health insurance.
- In addition to provincial coverage, employers hiring under the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program from key countries such as Mexico, Caribbean countries, Guatemala and Honduras purchase a package of private life, short-term disability, and health insurance for their workers.
- Employers under the International Mobility Program set up medical insurance and workers’ compensation benefits for their workers when they arrive in Canada as required by their province or territory and in line with any commitments listed in the offer of employment. While the eligibility criteria and waiting periods for provincial and territorial health insurance vary by jurisdiction, some provinces are temporarily extending coverage for COVID-19 related medical services to all residents of their province and waiving the waiting period.
Processing times for Work Permits (WP) including Extensions (WP-EXT) Applications under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and International Mobility Program (IMP) between January 1, 2018 - December 2020 (in Days)
|Year||Work Permit||WP - EXT||ALL Work Permits|
|IMP||TFWP||WP - Total||IMP||TFWP||WP –EXT total||IMP||TFWP||Total|
Please note: Data more recent than December 31, 2020 have not been publicly released.
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