Working in Canada Just Got Tougher: Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program Coming
As I’ve mentioned in the past, if you want to immigrate to Canada and you qualify, you should begin the process immediately, as rules seem to change often these days, and it seems increasingly more difficult to qualify.
Following the public outcry after the Royal Bank hired foreign workers from India to replace Canadians. Some of those workers were in Canada to train for jobs that would be outsourced to India. Canadians lost their jobs at the Royal Bank and the public backlash was fierce.
The government has moved quickly and today announced a series of reforms that will be introduced through legislation, regulation and through practise and administrative process directives.
So how exactly will it be more difficult to work Canada? The government is taking aim at both employers and temporary workers. The new provisions include:
Requiring employers to pay foreign workers at the prevailing wage
This replaces the wage flexibility employers used to enjoy in hiring foreign workers. The loss of this flexibility may make it more difficult for employers to justify hiring someone from abroad.
Suspending the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion Process
This program allowed employers who had previously issued a positive Labour Market Opinion (“LMO”) and who complied with all requirements to obtain a new LMO is just over a week. This program is no longer available so employers will have to go through the entire LMO process which can be lengthy. It also means they can’t hire foreign workers as quickly as before.
Government authority to suspend and revoke work permits
The government now has discretion to intervene where the foreign worker program is being “misused”. We don’t have a definition of “misused” yet, but I suspect this provision was aimed at the RBC scenario described above.
Adding questions to the LMO application to ensure outsourcing is not on the table
Employers will have to confirm that they are not using foreign workers to outsource jobs to a foreign country by training them in Canada. Again, this is aimed squarely at the RBC case above.
Ensuring there is a transition plan to hire Canadian workers
Employers will have to provide a plan on how they will transition from using foreign workers to Canadian workers over time. This is an administrative burden that some employers may not be able to address fully. For example, if there is a chronic shortage of Canadians with certain specialized skills, it is going to be tough to make a plan to transition to Canadian workers.
Fees for LMO’s and increasing fees for workers
In past, applying for an LMO was free. Not any longer. It’s going to cost employers to apply for an LMO with no guarantee it will be accepted. This could be a big disincentive. Work permit fees will also increase.
English and French as the only languages used as a job requirement
In my view, this will be one of the biggest challenges to overcome. In past, employers could state that a worker required a foreign language (such as Spanish or Mandarin or whatever), because that employer did business in those parts of the world, and needed a worker with those language skills. As a result, finding a fluent Canadian with those language skills was difficult, and often a positive LMO was issued and a foreign worker hired.
No longer. With only English and French as language requirements for a job, a great number of employers simply won’t be able to hire foreign workers for their language skills (among other technical skills of course). In a global economy, I simply can not understand this requirement – this will hurt our employers who do significant business overseas in different languages and who can’t find Canadians with the right technical and language skills to do the job.
So there you have it – the new changes in a nutshell.
I’ll post further details as we get them.