Due to the ongoing economic shutdowns as impacted by COVID-19, many temporary foreign workers in Canada on valid employer-specific work permits have lost their employment. These foreign workers could be a boon to help solve labour shortages being felt by other employers in Canada.
Unfortunately, the process to secure a new work permit for a new employer can take several months, making it difficult for employers in need to access this pool of existing labour.
Earlier today, the Government of Canada announced a new, temporary policy that will substantially reduce the time it takes for temporary foreign workers with an employer-specific work permit to start a new job with a different employer. Effective immediately, temporary foreign workers with employer-specific work permits can get preliminary approval to start working in a new job with a different employer even though their work permit application is still being processed. Previous rules required temporary foreign workers to obtain a new work permit naming the new employer prior to starting work at a new job, a process which often takes several months. The new preliminary approval process will take 10 days or less.
To be eligible, foreign workers must:
- be in Canada with valid status;
- have an employer-specific work permit under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or International Mobility Program; and
- have submitted an application for a new work permit with a valid Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or a valid Online LMIA Exempt Offer of Employment under International Mobility Program.
A work permit applicant who satisfies the above conditions can submit a request to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) for authorization to start working at their new job before the work permit is processed. Their request will be reviewed within 10 days and if approved, authorization will be sent to the worker by email. IRCC has not yet released details on the application process.
The requirements imposed on employers hiring foreign workers have not changed. An employer needs to have, or obtain, a valid positive LMIA or provide a valid Online LMIA Exempt Offer of Employment in support of the work permit application.
COVID-19 has had significant adverse effects on the Canadian labour market. This new policy will provide temporary foreign workers with greater labour mobility and employers with access to additional labour during these unprecedented times. The expedited authorization process will allow employers to employ temporary foreign workers limited by employer-specific work permits in a fraction of the time it takes under existing rules.
MLT Aikins can assist employers to ensure immigration compliance obligations are met when hiring temporary foreign workers.