The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on Canadian society since it began in March 2020. Currently, as we are in the recovery stage, many parts of Canada and certain industries, in particular, are facing labour shortages. Despite adding over 337,000 jobs in February 2022, a combination of a low unemployment rate and many companies seeking to fill job vacancies at this time has resulted in a labour shortage. As a result of this trend, the Canadian government has taken steps to update the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in order to make it easier for Canadian employers to fill job vacancies with foreign workers when there are no Canadians available to do those jobs.
Some of the changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program were enacted at the same time the changes were announced, on April 4, 2022. The first change is a permanent one, as there will no longer be a limit to the number of low-wage positions that employers in seasonal industries, like fish and seafood processing can fill using the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. There has been a temporary exemption to the seasonal cap applied to those in seasonal industries since 2015, and that exemption will now be permanent. Additionally, the Government has changed the maximum duration someone can be employed in a seasonal position from 180 days to 270 days. These changes should help employers hire more seasonal workers, as the longer duration will make seasonal jobs more attractive to potential employees.
The next change implemented is a change to Labour Market Impact Assessments. Labour Market Impact Assessments are documents that prospective employers must submit to the Canadian Government in order to show that hiring a foreign worker to be employed in Canada will have no negative effect on the Canadian labour market. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Labour Market Impact Assessments were valid for 6 months. During the pandemic, the period of validity was extended to 9 months. Now, as a result of the changes, Labour Market Impact Assessments are valid for 18 months, a doubling of the previous period of validity. These changes will help employers hire foreign workers, as having 18 months of validity will make it more economical for employers to complete a Labour Market Impact Assessment.
The last change that has been implemented is a change to employment under the High Wage and Global Talent Streams. Previously, these streams had a maximum employment duration of two years. This has now been increased to 3 years. The Canadian Government insists that this change will help workers access pathways to qualify for permanent residency, enabling them to contribute to our workforce for the long term.
Not all of the announced changes were implemented on April 4, as two of the announced changes are scheduled to be enacted on April 30. The first change that will go into effect on April 30 will impact identified sectors that have labour shortages. For seven sectors with demonstrated labour shortages, such as Accommodation and Food Services, employers will be allowed to hire up to 30% of their workforce through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for low-wage positions for 1 year. All other employers will be allowed to hire up to 20% of their workforce through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for low-wage positions until further notice, an increase from the former 10% cap for many employers. The second change coming on April 30 will impact Labour Market Impact Assessments. The Canadian Government will end the current policy that automatically refuses Labour Market Impact Assessment applications for low-wage occupations in the Accommodation and Food Services and Retail Trade sectors in regions with an unemployment rate of 6% or higher.
Some Canadians may be worried that more jobs are being taken by foreign workers, and there will not be enough jobs available for Canadians. However, these fears are largely misplaced, as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program only accounted for 0.4% of Canada’s workforce in 2020, and the changes being discussed will not increase the proportion of foreign workers by such a significant amount that would deprive Canadians of jobs. Further, the Canadian Government has ensured that it will carefully monitor the implementation of these new policies and continue to review the policies to ensure that they are addressing real labour shortages without displacing Canadian workers.
As part of the implementation of the new policies, Service Canada is implementing a series of measures to increase its processing capacity for Labour Impact Market Assessments, as well as measures to expedite the processing of Labour Impact Market Assessment applications. There will be increased staffing across Canada in order to help meet these expectations. Further, applications can be completed online in order to reduce the total processing time.
Lastly, there is further work underway as part of new proposed regulations that will help prevent the mistreatment or abuse of temporary foreign workers during their stay in Canada. This summer, it is anticipated that more regulatory amendments will be added to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations in order to create better protections for foreign workers coming to Canada.
The knowledgable team at Garson Immigration Law guides clients through the immigration process, with an eye toward the ever-changing regulations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We find solutions to the most challenging immigration issues affecting both individual and corporate clients. If you have any questions on how changes to the temporary foreign worker program will impact employers or employees looking for seasonal employment, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.