Due to one-time bridging measures quietly rolled out this week, only a small fraction of temporary foreign workers in Alberta will qualify for an extended stay in Canada, the federal government says.
A lack of clarity is causing heightened anxiety among the thousands of vulnerable workers that want to find a solution before the looming April 1 deadline to leave the country. The new measures are the result of an agreement between the federal government and the province of Alberta. They are meant to help temporary foreign workers who are trying to transition to permanent residency but risk having their work permits expire before their applications are processed.
Under the terms of the agreement, temporary foreign workers who have a work permit set to expire in 2015 but are currently caught up in the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program’s queue applications may be eligible for a one-time, one-year bridging work permit.
The federal government will also provide a one-time exemption to these workers that will keep them from being counted under rules imposed last June requiring employers to ensure no more than 10 per cent of their workforce is made up of low-wage TFWs. However, even though the new measures have been praised by business groups, others are calling for more information about the number of permits that will be offered and what type of workers will receive them.
Neither the provincial government nor the federal government has made any kind of public announcement about the new measures,
More than 86,000 temporary foreign workers are working in Alberta and according to estimates “several thousand” will see their permits expire on April 1. This is when a four-year work duration limit put in place by the federal government in 2011 comes into effect.
Making matters worse is the fact the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program, a popular option for temporary foreign workers looking to transition to permanent residency, has seen a glut of applicants in recent months. Current processing times for applications now range between 1 to 2 years, meaning many workers could find themselves still in the queue by the time their permits expire.
The government estimates approximately 1,000 foreign workers could be eligible for a bridging permit under the terms of the new agreement, but that doesn’t mean 1,000 permits will be awarded.
A spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada said the federal government expects “only a small fraction” of the TFWs in Alberta will ultimately receive a bridging permit.
A worrying possibility is that the government may award the bulk of the permits to engineers, doctors, and other highly skilled individuals in the queue, leaving out lower-skilled food service and hotel industry workers.
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said he believes the new measures are meant to placate business owners who have been complaining since June 2014, when the federal government imposed restrictions on the use of the temporary foreign worker program.
Extension of Haiti Special Measures for Work Permits
Operational Bulletin 547-A – March 03, 2014
This Operational Bulletin (OB) provides an extension to the Haiti Special Measures (HSM). The HSM applies to work permits that were set to expire on March 01, 2014. This OB instructs officers on the way in which they would process applications received from Haiti nationals for work permits from within Canada.
The process of recovery from the devastating Haiti earthquake of January 12, 2010 has been slow. Various additional challenges that keep emerging have hindered the pace of recovery further. Consequently, Haiti nationals, currently in Canada, might need to continue staying on in Canada. In this situation, they would need to obtain work permits to support themselves.
To enable Haiti nationals to support themselves, the authorities have provided an extension to the HSM on Labour Market Opinion-exempt work permits. This extension is valid until September 01, 2014. Previous extensions to the HSM were valid until:
- January 19, 2011 (OB 264)
- September 01, 2012 (OB 345)
- September 01, 2013 (OB 468) and,
- March 01, 2014 (OB 547)
The Procedure for Processing Applications for Work Permits
Based on the latest extension to the HSM, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) officers would now accept in-Canada applications for work permits from Haiti nationals. These individuals would otherwise not be able to support themselves.
The HSM would apply to:
- Individuals who were issued a work permit under the previous HSM and,
- Haiti nationals who were in Canada prior to January 13, 2011 and who:
- Have a temporary status and,
- Are unable to support themselves
In most cases, Haiti nationals would need to submit a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) in addition to a work permit application. This would enable officers to determine whether:
- The job offer is authentic and,
- The employment could have a neutral or positive effect on the labour market in Canada
This is in accordance with the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR). However, the Minister has approved a public policy under the HSM. This policy grants an exemption to Haiti nationals from requiring an LMO.
Under the HSM guidelines, CIC officers would accept applications from Haiti nationals until September 01, 2014. These applications could be for:
- New work permits or,
- Extension of previously issued work permits
CIC officers would not issue work permits for more than six months under these measures. Additionally, CIC would not consider any application received after September 01, 2014 eligible for the HSM.
To be eligible for a work permit under the HSM, Haiti nationals currently in Canada must have a valid status. Individuals with an expired status would need to apply for a restoration of their status. However, they must make this application within 90 days of losing their temporary status.
In case the individuals are out of status for more than 90 days, they would need to apply for a temporary resident permit first. Only after receiving this can they apply for a work permit.
All applicants would need to pay the standard processing fee for applications for a work permit under the HSM. The fee amounts to $155.
The Interim Federal Health Program
Haiti nationals would be eligible for health care coverage under the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). This is within the scope of the HSM. However, they would need to meet certain conditions. To be eligible for the health care coverage, they must:
- Have received a new work permit or,
- Have received an extension of a previous work permit and,
- Not be eligible for:
- Provincial health insurance or,
- Territorial health insurance
The IFHP would not include the Immigration Medical Examination. It would be valid only for those applications received by the CIC by September 01, 2014. It would also not cover services or products that a person could claim under a private insurance plan. Instead, it covers beneficiaries if they require medical attention for:
- A disease
- A symptom
- An injury or,
- A complaint
It also covers:
- Hospital services
- Services provided by a doctor or a registered nurse
- Services provided by a laboratory, a diagnostic facility or an ambulance and,
- Medications and vaccines
The validity of the IFHP coverage could last until whichever of the following three conditions occurs first. Thus, Haiti nationals could enjoy the IFHP coverage:
- Until the expiration date listed on the work permit or,
- Up to a maximum period of six months or
- Until they no longer require coverage because they have:
- Become eligible for:
- Provincial health insurance
- Territorial health insurance or,
- Private health insurance
- Left Canada
IFHP coverage would also extend to the dependents of these applicants currently residing in Canada. This would include:
- Common-law partners and,
- Dependent children
Officers must issue a notice to temporary residents. This notice would inform these residents that they are eligible for applying for IFHP coverage. However, these temporary residents must:
- Have received a new work permit or,
- Have received an extension of a previous work permit
Individuals issued work permits prior to March 01, 2014 would continue to be eligible for IFHP health care coverage. This would be valid for the shorter of the following two durations:
- The duration of the applicant’s work permit or,
- A period of one year
- Medications and vaccinations would only be covered for:
- Preventing or treating a disease that could pose a risk to public health or,
- Treating a condition that is a public safety concern
Steps for In-Canada Processing
Under the HSM, Haiti nationals applying for work permits would need to:
- Write “Haiti” on the mailing applications of their work permit applications
- Provide detailed explanations of why they need a work permit to support themselves in Canada
- Include this explanation along with the work permit application
Temporary residents would need to ensure that they maintain their temporary resident status. This applies to residents who:
- Have applied for a new work permit or,
- Have applied for an extension of a previous work permit
They would need to maintain their temporary resident status by:
- Applying for a new work permit or,
- Applying for an extension of a previously issued work permit
They would need to do this before the expiry of their current status. Moreover, they would also need to pay the associated fees along with their applications.
Individuals who have already submitted an application for extending or changing their temporary status would benefit from an implied status. This would be valid until officers notify them of a decision on their application. This is in accordance with R183(5).
Special Program Coding
Officers would need to use the following code for issuing work permits under the HSM.
- H24: Work permit issued to Haitian national under the HSM; no LMO required
Expiry of Initiative
This initiative would remain valid until September 01, 2014
Source: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC