February 1, 2017 – The Federal government plans to enact regulatory changes to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The details will be announced when the federal government delivers its budget, expected in late February or early March.
Policymakers say the government is trying to strike a balance on reforms recommended in a September 2016 Standing Committee report, which made 21 suggestions on how the TFWP should be changed.
It is expected that modifications will include quicker issuance of work permits for high-skilled workers and improved protection for low-skilled workers in Canada under the TFWP.
TFWP: Expected New Changes
- Revised Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) requirements on transition plans to train Canadians
- Introduction of fast-track visas for certain highly-skilled workers
- New 12-month multi use visa for workers covered under International Mobility Program
The government moved in December 2016 to abolished the cumulative duration (or four-in, four-out) rule, which limited to four years the length of time a temporary worker could stay in Canada under the program.
December also saw the introduction of a workforce cap of 10 per cent for employers who began using the TFWP after June 20, 2014. Those who have been using the program since before then were capped at 20 per cent.
TFWP: Changes Made In December
- Four-in, four-out rule abolished
- Caps of 10 per cent and 20 per cent depending how long employers have used program
- Cap exemption for seasonal industries extended
An exemption on this cap for seasonal industries seeking temporary foreign workers for up to 180 days during the 2017 calendar year was extended until December 31, 2017.
The government also plans to put further measures in place to ensure TFWs are not taking jobs away from Canadians.
TFWP: Changes Announced, But Not Implemented
- Low-wage jobs must be advertised to under-represented groups.
Low-wage employers will be required to advertise positions to under-represented groups including young people, those with disabilities, Indigenous people and new immigrants. This change is yet to be implemented.
Unions and employers have welcomed the abolition of the cumulative duration rule, that forced many people to leave the country or become illegal.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), plus Canada-wide businesses in a variety of sectors, say the rule change will help improve worker rights and assist companies in getting the staff they need to operate at full capacity.
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“Our union is encouraged by the announced changes to the TFWP, and we will continue advocating for further improvements to the program and our immigration system, motivated by our belief that if you are good enough to work in Canada, you are good enough to stay,” Paul Meinema, national president of UFCW Canada, said in December 2016.
In Alberta, businesses including meat processing plants and hotels, say the change means they will be able to hold on to trusted members of staff, and bring back others who had to return home under the old rules.
Previously, when the four years were up, employers had to begin the process of bringing in a new TFW all over again, including applying for a LMIA and also training new staff members from scratch once they arrived.
The planned changes are part of a policy pendulum swing by the federal government away from the restrictive rules imposed by the former government. The government’s new measures come on the heals of tougher immigration policies in the United States and will favour Canadian technology companies.
Conservative estimates suggest Canada will have 182,000 vacancies in the technology sector by 2019. The growing sector is driving the economy, with 71,000 companies employing 5.6 per cent of the workforce and responsible for 7 per cent of the country’s output.
More people are employed in technology than a combination of oil and gas, mining and forestry – a startling indication the Canadian economy is undergoing a significant transition, meaning it needs workers with the right expertise.
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