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Canada relaxes temporary foreign worker program rules to address labour shortages

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Canadian food services employers will be able to hire up to 30% of their workforce through the TFWP, and other changes coming for temporary foreign workers.
Canada has introduced measures to make it easier for Canadian employers to access temporary foreign workers.

These measures, announced on April 4, come in response to a nationwide labor shortage. Canada is experiencing a low unemployment rate and high job vacancies at the same time.

One solution to address labor shortages is to bring in temporary foreign workers to fill jobs where there are no Canadians available to do the work. The changes coming into effect for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) are meant to help Canada build its workforce, according to a government media release.

There are five major changes coming for the TFWP. Starting immediately:

Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) will be valid for 18 months, up from nine. LMIAs are documents that demonstrate to the Canadian government that a foreign worker employed in Canada will have no negative effect on the labor market. Before the pandemic, LMIAs were only valid for six months.
Also, the maximum duration of employment for High-Wage and Global Talent Stream workers will be extended from two years to three. This extension will help workers qualify for more pathways to permanent residency, enabling them to contribute to the Canadian workforce in the long term.

The benefits of a spousal open work permit

In addition to these measures, the Seasonal Cap Exemption, which has been in place since 2015, will become permanent. There will no longer be a limit to the number of low-wage positions that employers in seasonal industries can fill through the TFWP. The maximum duration of these positions will be increased from 180 days to 270 days per year.

Then effective April 30:

  • Employers of sectors with demonstrated labor shortages will be allowed to hire up to 30% of their workforce through the TFWP for low-wage positions for one year. The seven eligible sectors include food manufacturing, wood product manufacturing, furniture and related product manufacturing, accommodation and food services, construction, hospitals, and nursing and residential care facilities. All other employers will be allowed to hire up to 20% of their workforce through the TFW Program for low-wage positions until further notice, an increase from the former 10% cap for many employers.
  • Finally, Canada will end the current policy that automatically refuses LMIA 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.

Canada’s labor market is even tighter than before the pandemic. The job vacancy rate reached a historic peak in the third quarter of 2021. Much of the unmet demand for labor is in low-wage occupations. In November 2021, the following sectors faced the highest number of vacancies according to Statistics Canada:

  • Accommodation and Food Services – 130,070 vacancies
  • Health Care and Social Assistance – 119,590 vacancies
  • Retail Trade – 103,990 vacancies
  • Manufacturing – 81,775 vacancies

Last year, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program approved some 5,000 positions under the Global Talent Stream and 23,000 positions in the High-Wage stream. Together, these programs represent about 21% of all approved LMIA positions for 2021.
About 50,000 to 60,000 foreign agricultural workers come to work in Canada each year, accounting for more than 60% of all foreign workers entering Canada under the TFWP.

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