May 14, 2020
This publication has been updated as of April 23, 2021.
Employers that hire and employ temporary foreign workers must comply with many and changing immigration rules and laws, or face severe enforcement mechanisms. In 2020 the Canadian government introduced five temporary immigration policies, changing immigration rules to address the heightened labour market challenges in Canada in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The temporary measures make it easier for both prospective employers to hire foreign workers in Canada, and for foreign workers already in Canada to work, by allowing:
Here are five temporary measure that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Canadian government department that administers Canadian immigration policy, and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) have implemented and how they benefit both foreign workers and prospective employers.
Effective August 24, 2020, a foreign national with visitor status can apply for and obtain an employer-specific work permit from within Canada. Before, a visitor had to exit and re-enter Canada to obtain a work permit. This policy responds to COVID-19’s travel restrictions by allowing certain foreign visitors to apply for and obtain a work permit from within Canada, benefitting temporary residents forced to stay in Canada and foreign workers forced to change their status to visitor because their work permit was expiring, but without a job offer allowing them to apply for a new one. Effective April 1, 2021, IRCC extended the expiration of this policy from March 31 to August 31, 2021. To be eligible under this policy, the foreign national must meet all of these criteria:
This temporary policy also allows applicants who meet these criteria and had a valid work permit in the 12 months before they applied for the new work permit the opportunity to start working for their new employer even before their new work permit application is fully approved by following the specific process.
On June 5, 2020, a new policy temporarily exempts essential workers from the requirement to give their biometrics before coming to Canada if the biometrics collection site closest to them is closed. This policy applies to the following workers:
Port of Entry in Canada. Foreign workers may be asked to give their biometrics at a Canadian port of entry (POE). Some exempt workers, such as seasonal agricultural workers, will now be giving their biometrics on arrival at a POE.
Extension. If a foreign worker’s application is in progress and they still haven’t given their biometrics but this policy doesn’t apply to them, the visa application centres (VACs) or other biometrics collection sites in the foreign worker’s country or region are still closed, and their extension to give biometrics is ending, they won’t have to give their biometrics until the biometrics collection sites reopen, even if their biometric instruction letter (BIL) says that their deadline is 30 or 90 days.
On May 12, 2020, a new temporary policy allows eligible temporary workers who are already in Canada to more quickly change to new jobs or employers while their work permit application is being processed. This policy should significantly reduce the time to process applications for changes: so far, IRCC has achieved the short processing period of 10 days or less, far faster than the prior three month processing time, it envisaged when it introduced this policy. To be eligible under this policy, the temporary worker must meet all of these three criteria:
Effective March 20, 2020, and until a yet to be determined date, ESDC has extended the validity period of LMIAs from six months to nine months. Though not an IRCC policy, this change lessens the impact of COVID-19 on employers and temporary foreign workers, giving them more time to gather documentation in support of their work permit application. For some, ESDC automatically issued LMIAs for a period of nine months. However, for LMIAs originally issued for a period of six months, the employer can request an extension to the maximum period of nine months.
There’s no doubt the COVID-19 Pandemic presents a new challenge to food security. In response, the Canadian government has made temporary changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to allow employers to more quickly hire foreign workers to fill labour shortages in the agriculture, food processing and food supply industries. Starting March 20, 2020, ESDC prioritized the processing of 23 National Occupation Codes (NOC) and waived the LMIA minimum advertising requirements for nine of those NOCs. The minimum advertising waiver ended on December 31, 2020, but the priority processing continues. The specific occupations subject to priority processing (and formerly the LMIA waiver) have changed over time, but currently include essential occupations in the agriculture, food processing and seafood processing sectors.
Specific occupations in agriculture, food processing and seafood processing. The priority processing (and formerly, the waiver) applies only to the following nine occupations:
No advertisement requirement. Prior to this waiver, employers were required to advertise on the national Job Bank and at least two additional methods of recruitment for a minimum of four weeks before applying for an LMIA. This policy eliminated this advertising requirement completely from March 20 to December 31, 2020. As of January 1, 2021, however, while these NOCs continue to be prioritized for processing, they are subject to the regular minimum advertising requirements.
Please contact your McInnes Cooper lawyer or any member of our Business Immigration Law Team @ McInnes Cooper to discuss this topic or any other legal issue.
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