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Reforms to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program

The Canadian government has announced major changes to its Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Reforms include reorganizing the TFWP, restricting access to the Program, and implementing stronger enforcement measures and tougher penalties.

As part of the TFWP’s reorganization, the National Occupation Classification (NOC) codes will no longer be used to administer the Program. Instead, wages will be used to classify jobs. Jobs for which wages fall below the provincial or territorial median will be considered low-wage; those with wages above the median will be considered high-wage jobs. Low-wage or lower-skilled positions will be processed through Employment and Social Development Canada, and hiring in this category will require approval through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), formerly known as a Labour Market Opinion (LMO). Highly skilled or high-wage positions will be managed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and an LMIA screening will not take place.

The new LMIA process is more comprehensive and rigorous, and fees have increased from $275 to $1,000. Employers will be required to provide additional information, including the number of Canadians that applied for their available job, the number of Canadians the employer interviewed, and explain why those Canadians were not hired. The duration of the work permits will decrease from two years to one year. Further, low-wage temporary foreign workers cannot exceed 10 percent of an employer’s work force per worksite. Employers will have until July 1, 2016 to adjust to this new cap. Those with fewer than 10 employees are exempt from this cap.

The TFWP will not be available to employers in the Accommodation and food services sector and the Retail trade sector in economic regions across Canada that have an unemployment rate of 6% or higher.

Starting in fall 2014, the government will impose fines of up to $100,000 on employers who breach the rules of the TFWP. Inspections are also increasing; 25% of employers using the TFWP will be inspected every year.


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