New measures are coming into effect from 21 February that will impose additional fees and restrictions on Canadian employers looking to employ certain types of foreign workers. The Canadian federal government announced the move after reviewing several scandals the sector has seen in recent months.
The new rules will apply to intra-company transfers, employees entering Canada under NAFTA, employers hiring through the International Mobility Program, and employees hired through reciprocal agreements with other countries, like working holiday schemes.
Under the new rules, Citizenship and Immigration Canada requires employers to pay an « employer compliance » fee of $230, and provide details about their company or organization as well as the original offer of employment, in order to be allowed to hire a foreign worker without a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). An extra $100 fee will apply to employees in possession of work permits.
In a statement, CIC has said, « The fees collected will offset the cost of introducing robust employer compliance activities featuring inspections of thousands of employers. »
Experts warn that the new rules may go against NAFTA conventions, and could also significantly hamper business operations throughout Canada, while critics argue that the system has not been explained properly and lacks transparency.
However the federal government has defended the changes by highlighting some of the abuses of the previous programs carried out by employers over the past few months. In one case, employers brought skilled Irish workers using work-holiday visas in order to get around the LMIA precondition. In another case, the Royal Bank was found to have used the intra-company transfer system to apply for visas for Indian workers to replace their Canadian employees in 2013.
According to the CIC, employers could now face substantial penalties if they are found to bring in foreign workers using false declarations.
The new rules are an attempt to apply the same level of scrutiny to foreign workers exempt from the labor market assessment as temporary foreign workers are subjected to. Statistics show that foreign workers entering Canada without a labor market assessment under the International Mobility Program have outnumbered temporary foreign workers, with almost 140,000 workers coming to Canada through the International Mobility Program as opposed to less than 85,000 temporary foreign workers.
Elaborating on the changes, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said, « Our government is committed to reforming its work permit programs to encourage the hiring and training of Canadians, limit the use of foreign workers in Canada to those situations where it is a benefit to Canada, and ensure that abuses of the program or of foreign workers by employers will be detected and dealt with. »
Despite criticism that the changes have been announced without sufficient stakeholder consultation, union organizers who helped expose abuses of the International Mobility Program have welcomed the changes as an attempt by the government to rectify the problems with the current system.