ARCHIVED – Backgrounder — Temporary Foreign Worker Annex to the Agreement for Canada–Nova Scotia Co‑operation on Immigration

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is jointly administered by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC)/Service Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), under the authority of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and its regulations.

An employer who wants to hire a temporary foreign worker (TFW) must first apply to HRSDC/Service Canada for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO). The LMO assesses what impact the TFW would have on Canada’s labour market and whether there are Canadians or permanent residents available for the employer to hire. Some TFWs are exempted from this requirement. In those cases, the TFW may apply for a work permit without an LMO.

CIC is responsible for issuing work permits to TFWs. Following receipt of an application for a work permit and a copy of the letter confirming that an employer received an LMO authorizing the hiring of the TFW, CIC determines whether the TFW is eligible to receive a work permit.

Improving the TFWP

In recent years, the federal government has undertaken numerous initiatives to improve the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and to enhance protections offered to temporary foreign workers. Examples include:

  • On April 1, 2011, new regulations aimed at improving the integrity of the program while protecting workers from possible exploitation will take effect. These measures will ensure a more rigorous assessment of the genuineness of the job offer, impose a two-year period of ineligibility from hiring TFWs for employers who fail to meet their commitments to workers, and limit to four years the length of time many TFWs can continue working in Canada on a temporary basis.
  • In December 2009, CIC introduced an online application for those applying for a work permit.
  • In May 2009, HRSDC limited the period in which the authorization to hire a foreign worker (an LMO) remained valid. Employers now had to use the LMO within six months of the date it was issued or apply for a new LMO. This ensured that when employers were authorized to hire a foreign worker, the LMO was based on analysis of current labour market conditions so that hiring a foreign worker does not have a negative impact on the Canadian labour market.
  • In January 2009, HRSDC introduced an online LMO application system to reduce processing time and to facilitate communications among the federal partners involved and issued new national advertising requirements for all occupations in all regions, simplifying the steps to navigate before employers can apply to hire a TFW.
  • In September 2008, CIC launched the Canadian Experience Class to provide an additional pathway to permanent residence for many temporary foreign workers and foreign student graduates.
  • In 2008, the federal government produced a pamphlet for foreign workers to inform them of their rights in Canada. It was published in English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Tagalog and Hindi.
  • Between September 2007 and April 2010, HRSDC operated the Expedited Labour Market Opinion (E-LMO) pilot project in British Columbia and Alberta. The pilot project successfully eliminated the LMO processing backlog while testing new approaches to assessing employer compliance with regulations.

Nova Scotia’s role in managing the TFWP

This agreement is an Annex to the Agreement for Canada-Nova Scotia Co-operation on Immigration that was signed in 2007. With this Annex in place, the Government of Nova Scotia may now identify situations where occupations could be exempted from the requirement to obtain an LMO. In order to benefit from this LMO exemption, applicants will have to meet criteria that will be set by the province.

In finalizing this process, the provincial government may choose to place increased importance on certain types of jobs or sectors. The criteria for the exemption will take into consideration Nova Scotia’s economic goals and priorities.

The agreement includes a commitment to develop several pilot projects. One proposed pilot project would grant “open” work permits to accompanying spouses and dependants of all TFWs in the province. That means spouses and dependants would be able to work for any employer and be exempted from the normal requirement to obtain an LMO, the usual authorization required to hire a TFW. Currently, this option is only available to the spouses of certain skilled TFWs.

Another pilot project would see open work permits being offered to spouses and dependants of Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have been living abroad but wish to re-establish themselves in Nova Scotia.

Protection of TFWs

With greater involvement in managing TFWs, the Government of Nova Scotia agrees to make information available to better inform foreign workers on provincial health insurance and workers’ compensation benefits, as well as applicable employer- or government-sponsored pension plans.

Nova Scotia also agrees to inform TFWs about how they are protected under occupational health and safety, employment, and labour relations standards. This is in addition to a number of measures that were recently adopted by the federal government and take effect April 1, 2011.

Federal initiatives

The agreement affirms HRSDC’s commitment to work with all provinces and territories toward establishing national service standards for processing LMO applications. Furthermore, HRSDC will soon provide employers with a notification of receipt of their LMO applications. Employers across Canada will benefit from these improvements.

Through this agreement, the Government of Nova Scotia will identify particular sectors, occupations or workers that will be exempted from the LMO process. These exemptions will be in addition to existing provisions for exemptions from the LMO requirement. For those seeking guidance on whether they need a LMO, CIC has a service standard of responding to 80 percent of inquiries within five business days.

Agreements with other provinces and territories

To date, similar TFW agreements have been signed with Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Yukon. The Government of Canada continues to work with other interested provinces and territories to develop agreements that ensure the TFWP continues to respond to regional and local labour market needs.

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