Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Temporary Foreign Worker Program The Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program is operated by two departments of the Government of Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

The TFW Program allows:

 Foreign workers to work temporarily in Canada
 Canadian employers to address labour shortages by temporarily employing foreign workers

To hire a temporary foreign worker, you must obtain a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) confirmation from HRSDC. An LMO is issued once HRSDC has assessed that the hiring of a foreign worker will have a positive or neutral effect on the Canadian labour market. As an employer, you will need to demonstrate that you have a genuine need for a foreign worker and that you are unable to fill the position with a Canadian worker.

Under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, CIC facilitates the temporary entry of foreign workers needed to address labour market shortages and to provide other economic opportunities for Canadians, such as job creation and the transfer of new skills and knowledge. With a few exceptions, foreign workers must have an approved job offer and a work permit before arriving in Canada. CIC works with HRSDC to ensure that the admission of foreign workers does not adversely affect employment opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

In response to increased labour market demand, particularly in Western Canada, and further to the Government of Canada's commitment under the Advantage Canada plan to make improvements to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to respond to employer needs, Canada welcomed more than 192,500 temporary foreign workers in 2008. This represents an increase of 17% from 2007 (165,198) and the third year of double-digit growth in the program. Since 2004, foreign worker arrivals have increased by 71%.

The TFW program is made up of four streams: high-skilled workers, low-skilled workers, the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, and the Live-In Caregiver Program.

The hiring of a temporary foreign worker begins with employers requesting Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) for a positive "labour market opinion" (LMO). Without an approved LMO, Citizenship and Immigration Canada cannot issue a work permit.

The LMO assessment includes verifying whether the foreign worker fills a labour shortage, whether the employer has advertised the job for a minimum of 14 days on the national Job Bank, and whether wages offered are commensurate with what Canadians or permanent immigrants are earning for similar work.

A new LMO is required if a foreign worker wishes to change employers. Since April 2009, employers may no longer request to extend an existing LMO; they must apply for a new one.

Pressure from employers led to three important changes: the maximum amount of time for work permits was extended from one year to two years (for those in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program the maximum is eight months); foreign workers no longer have to leave the country for at least four months while their employers apply for a new LMO; and in Alberta and B.C., LMOs have been fast-tracked in 33 jobs - including carpenters, roofers, front-desk clerks in hotels, residential cleaners and sales clerks - with a commitment to issue within five days.

The federal government is now proposing to cap the stay of foreign workers at four years. After that, foreign workers would be barred for six years from re-entering the country.

With low-skilled foreign workers - for jobs that require no more than a high school diploma or up to two years of on-the-job training - employers must sign a contract with the worker outlining wages and working conditions.

The contract must also indicate that the employer will pay for travel costs from the home country and back, will not recoup recruitment costs from the worker, will help the worker find suitable and affordable housing, and will provide medical coverage until the worker is eligible for provincial health coverage.

Further controversy exists in this area on the enforceability of these requirements because contract and employment law is governed by provincial labour laws.

Taxes are deducted from worker pay cheques. But they're not eligible for welfare if laid off. They can receive unemployment insurance, but in practice, few who apply do. And in Alberta and Ontario, seasonal agricultural workers are barred from joining unions.

It's easier for high-skilled temporary workers to bring over their families while working in Canada than it is for those in low-skilled categories. High-skilled workers can also apply to become permanent residents under the Federal Skilled Worker Program or the Canadian Experience program. Low-skilled workers must qualify under Provincial Nominee Programs.

For low-skilled workers, their best opportunity for permanent status is to apply through Provincial Nominee Programs. Some programs allow low-skilled foreign workers in designated industries to become nominated for permanent residency by their employers. Ontario's program, does not nominate low-skilled workers for permanent status.

Live-in caregivers can apply for permanent status after two years of full-time work under the Live-in Caregiver Program.

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