COVID-19: Special measures for temporary foreign workers inside Canada who lost their jobs
Temporary workers inside Canada may start a job with a new employer more quickly through a new streamlined process (Source: IRCC). As many temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in Canada lost their jobs due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, the government has created a temporary police allowing these TFWs, who are already in Canada with an employer-specific work permit, to more quickly change employers.
Normally, TFWs who lost their job in Canada would have to apply for a new work permit and wait until a decision is made on this application—a process that usually takes 10+ weeks. Under the new process, TFWs can start a position with a new employer before their new work permit application is processed.
Important: TFWs with employer-specific work permit still have to apply for their new work permit. After applying, they must follow the instructions on this IRCC webpage, and must wait until receiving email confirmation from IRCC that they can start working in their new position.
TFWs with open work permits are always able to switch employers, so this policy does not impact them.
When employers in Canada face a labour shortage, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program may provide a solution. Employers accessing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program must be able to prove that no Canadian citizens or permanent residents are ready, willing, and able to perform the duties outlined in a job description. This proof comes in the form of a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The process of obtaining a LMIA includes:
- a period of advertising the position under set requirements;
- an application fee of $1,000;
- the production of a transition plan showing that the employer intends to take steps to reduce reliance on temporary foreign workers over time (for high-wage positions only); and
- adherence to stringent criteria.
To learn more about the recruitment process under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, visit our LMIA page.
There are a number of potential ways for employers in Canada to avoid the LMIA application process. This may be achieved if hiring through one of the various streams of the International Mobility Program (IMP), which provides for LMIA-exempt hiring of foreign workers.
Employers and workers alike would be well advised to consider their options under the IMP before pursuing a work permit under the TWFP.
TFWP and IMP: an overview
|LMIA required||No LMIA required|
|Work permits are closed (employer-specific)||Work permits may be open or closed|
|Labour market-based (to fill shortages on a temporary basis)||To advance Canada's broader economic and cultural interests|
|Based on specific labour needs based on occupation and region||Based partially on international reciprocal agreements (e.g. IEC, NAFTA, CETA)|
|Streams applications based on the wage of the position offered||Does not stream applications based on the wage offered, but certain streams take occupation skill level into account|
|Typically requires employers to search for Canadian workers before being able to hire a foreign worker||Employers may hire without first offering the position to Canadians|
|Employers hiring for high-wage positions usually must provide a transition plan||Employers do not have to provide a transition plan|
|Employer pays fee for LMIA application ($1,000)||Employer pays compliance fee ($230) unless job applicant holds an open work permit (in which case, no fee is required)|
|Two-week processing standard is only available for certain occupations and top 10% wage earners, otherwise the process can run to many months||Many IMP streams have a two-week work permit processing standard|
|Overseen by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)||Overseen by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)|
Foreign workers transitioning to permanent residence
Many temporary foreign workers in Canada set down roots in the country. These roots can be economic, social, or familial, or some combination. Fortunately for foreign workers, depending on their situation they may be able to transition to Canadian permanent residence.
A selection of Canada’s economic immigration programs place a value on Canadian work experience. Foreign workers with at least one year of skilled employment in Canada may be eligible under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), one of the federal programs managed under the Express Entry system. CEC candidates are well-placed to be invited to apply for permanent residence, given that Canadian work experience is rewarded under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).
Foreign workers who may not be eligible for Express Entry, or who struggle to reach the CRS cut-off threshold in Express Entry draws, may have other options under one of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). Many provinces use their PNP to help foreign workers in the given province transition to permanent residence. In some cases, this may be possible even if the foreign worker has been employed in a non-skilled position.
There may also be an immigration option for foreign workers who have established a relationship with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, either as a spouse or common-law partner.