In a letter sent to Conservative MPs and obtained by the Herald, federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney says a series of transitional measures have been put in place to “help address legitimate concerns that have been raised by employers in Alberta.” The new measures will help temporary foreign workers transition to permanent residency if they have already applied under the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program but risks having their work permits expire before their applications are processed.
April 1st is the deadline after which any TFW who arrived in 2011 or earlier will see their contract expire. Under the new policy, Alberta temporary foreign workers who are affected by this federally imposed deadline will be eligible for a one-time, one-year bridging work permit, as long as they’ve already applied for immigration and are waiting to hear the status of their application.
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, which require employers to ensure no more than 10 per cent of their work force is made up of low-wage TFWs. The exemption will mean employers can continue to seek approvals to bring in new TFWs while their existing workers pursue permanent immigration.
It is estimated that more than 1,000 of the 10,000 individuals currently waiting in Alberta’s provincial nomination queue could be eligible to participate.
Provincial Jobs Minister Ric McIver confirmed that “several thousand” foreign workers currently living in Alberta could see their work permits expire on April 1. While some of those workers are eligible to seek permanent residency through the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program, a high volume of applications means current processing times vary from 12 to 25 months.
In order to apply for permanent residency, Applicants must have an active work permit. However, the AINP’s lengthy wait times mean that many workers could find themselves still in the queue when their permits expire on April 1.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business believes this is a cause of significant frustration for employers, many of whom are fearful of losing some of their best and most experienced employees. The looming April deadline is very much an issue for Alberta.
Representatives in the food service industry have praised the move saying, ‘We do everything we can to hire Canadians first . . . But not everybody is cut out to work in the high-stress, high-pressure restaurant industry. In many cases, these (TFWs) are workers who have worked here and established roots in Alberta communities. They’ll be very, very good Albertans, and it would be unfair to them to have their applications cut short because their work permit has expired.’
However others believe there is still too much uncertainty about what these changes will actually mean. Questions remain about how many bridging permits will actually be available. There are concerns that a one-year extension won’t be enough considering that it could take up to two years to get an application through the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program.
Jason Kenney says he’s confident the new measures will not “undermine” reforms to the TFW program instituted by the federal government in June. In addition to limiting the number of low-wage foreign workers an employer can use, the reforms also limit access to foreign workers available to employers in areas of high unemployment, and make the process of applying for temporary foreign workers more expensive.