Thousands of temporary foreign workers in low-skill jobs who have been in Canada for over four years will have to leave from April 1, when the first possible four-year limit on their stay comes into effect since its introduction in 2011.
Under the old rules, temporary foreign workers (TFWs) were allowed to re-apply and continue working with their existing Canadian employers. But ever since the 2011 rule change the clock has been ticking down on TFWs, with a four-year cumulative duration limit imposed on their work permits. Moreover once the workers leave Canada, they will not be allowed back in as a TFW for an additional four years.
The rule has been especially harsh on TFWs who have been in Canada for over 15 years in some instances but are now being made to leave their homes and jobs in Canada.
A rush of TFWs leaving Canada is around the corner, employers and lawyers predict, with the fishing and agricultural industries set to be the most adversely affected.
The $900-million Canadian mushroom industry is one such sector where TFWs are doing jobs which Canadian citizens are unable or unwilling to do.
“Frankly, it’s a crisis with us because we’re losing workers who don’t want to leave, who have proven themselves to be valuable, and deserve an opportunity to apply for citizenship,” says Bill Stevens, the CEO of Mushroom Canada.
Stevens is calling for a reprieve, saying the industry will face substantial decreases in production if it isn’t granted.
“The whole thing amounts to a major decrease in the production of our commodity, and they’re going to suffer from it, they’re going to lose markets, and especially now when the markets are really very strong,” Stevens said.
Stevens is urging for a rethink and is calling for low skill temporary foreign workers to be given a way to obtain permanent residency, similar to the one on offer in Alberta, which was allowed a special transitional scheme where some TFWs are being given more time to become permanent residents.
The transitional measure in Alberta offers a reprieve to some TFWs as they wait for their permanent residence applications to be processed, according to Employment Minister Jason Kenney.
Immigration experts say the majority of TFWs work in fisheries, farms and restaurants, jobs that Canadians don’t want, as indicated by the high turnover of Canadian employees in those kinds of jobs. They argue that higher wages are not the solution and that the presence of TFWs increases productivity at the businesses and benefits the economy overall by creating spinoff jobs.
Canadian Immigration officials will be allowed to share the personal information of citizens and permanent residents with other government agencies, under new proposals tabled on Friday. The plan would permit the sharing of information between immigration and border enforcement officials, Canada Revenue Agency, Employment and Social Development Canada, the RCMP, and other federal and provincial agencies.
The rules are being proposed to allow government agencies to be alerted to any changes in an individual’s immigration status as well as to authenticate the identity and immigration status of individuals and reduce fraud in the use of government services.
“There is a need to clarify and make explicit the legislative authority for CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) to share personal information through its different business lines and with these partners,” the proposal states.
“CIC has relied on the Privacy Act to support some information sharing. However, this has created uncertainty regarding what information can and should be shared, and has limited CIC’s ability to share information.”
The plan gives the revenue agency a central role in the new information exchange network as it would allow immigration authorities to access the Income Verification Program in order to identify any false or inconsistent declarations of financial circumstances submitted by residency and citizenship applicants.
“This would help uphold the integrity of the immigration system as a whole and improve client service, both in the citizenship and across the government,” it said.