IRCC Minister Transition Binder 2019: Temporary Workers

Area at a Glance

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issues work authorizations (with or without a work permit) to foreign nationals seeking to work temporarily in Canada.

“Work” as defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulationsis an activity:

Work without a work permit

Work with a work permit

Work permits are a demand-driven area; there are no set levels or limits on the number of foreign workers admitted to Canada; work permits are issued in response to employers’ labour needs or to support broader immigration goals.

Scope of Impact

Alongside permanent immigration and a domestic supply of potential workers (e.g., Canadian graduates), temporary foreign workers are a longstanding source of labour and talent for Canadian employers.

Employers tend to rely more heavily on temporary foreign workers to meet demand:

Canada’s facilitative pathways for foreign workers are a competitive advantage for employers looking to attract talent: 

Permanent Residents of the Future

Increasingly, temporary workers are seen as a promising pool of talent to transition to permanent residence.

Current Programs

Temporary Foreign Worker Program

International Mobility Program

Work Permit Holders in Canada in 2018

Total: 338,000Footnote * work permit holders

Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Category Percent of permit holders
Agricultural workers 63%
Caregivers 8%
Other 29%

International Mobility Program

Category Percent of permit holders
Post Graduation Work Permit Program 29%
International Experience Canada 24%
Spouses of skilled workers/students 18%
Trade agreements 6%
Intra-company transferees 6%
Significant benefit 5%
Other agreements 4%
Reciprocal employment 4%
Other 4%

Spotlight on International Experience Canada

Under the International Mobility Program, International Experience Canada issues work permits based on bilateral, reciprocal mobility arrangements.

The Minister of IRCC is responsible for signing new arrangements, adjusting current ones, and deciding on quotas.

International Experience Canada facilitates international work and travel opportunities for Canadian and foreign youth.

While each arrangement is unique, International Experience Canada has three categories of participation which vary in purpose:

Recent Developments

Growing demand for work permits has dominated the immigration landscape in recent years. 

The Government has facilitated the work of certain foreign nationals in Canada as a means to drive economic investment and create opportunities for Canadians abroad:

Increasingly, temporary work permits are being issued as part of permanent residence programming (e.g., Atlantic Immigration Pilot, Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot) to assist in the early integration of foreign nationals into their community of destination, and to encourage successful establishment and long-term retention.

Several measures have been put in place to address worker vulnerability and strengthen program compliance:

In June 2019, a consultation process was initiated on a proposal to create occupation-specific work permits under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to explore whether offering greater labour mobility may mitigate vulnerability risks for some foreign workers.

Key Takeaways

Issuing work permits to foreign nationals, as evidenced by growth and demand, is central to Canada’s economy, especially in the context of tight labour markets.

These programs and pathways respond to a variety of economic objectives; recent focus has been on facilitating the movement of high-impact talent into the labour force and addressing worker vulnerability.

The area consistently has high visibility with stakeholders (predominantly pushing for greater efficiency and facilitation) and the public (concerned about fairness and impacts on Canadian jobs). Issues in this area can colour views about the immigration system as a whole.

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