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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 for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program includes:

  • a period of advertising the position under set requirements;
  • an application fee of $1,000 (paid by the employer);
  • 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.

LMIA exemptions

There are a number of potential ways for employers in Canada to avoid the LMIA application process, by hiring through temporary work permit streams outside the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. 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 requiredNo 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 regionBased partially on international reciprocal agreements (e.g. IEC, NAFTA, CETA)
Streams applications based on the wage of the position offeredDoes 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 workerEmployers may hire without first offering the position to Canadians
Employers hiring for high-wage positions usually must provide a transition planEmployers 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 monthsMany 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.

About the author

Rebecca Major profile picture
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Rebecca Major

Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Rebecca Major is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (R511564) with nearly 15 years of licenced Canadian Immigration experience, gained after graduating with a Bachelor of Laws in the UK. She specializes in Canadian immigration at Moving2Canada.
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Citation "USMCA Work Permits for Canada." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation