When employers in Canada face a labour shortage, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program may provide a solution.
Employers accessing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program must be able to prove that no Canadian citizens or permanent residents are ready, willing, and able to perform the duties outlined in a job description. This proof comes in the form of a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
The process of obtaining a LMIA includes:
- a period of advertising the position under set requirements;
- an application fee of $1,000;
- the production of a transition plan showing that the employer intends to take steps to reduce reliance on temporary foreign workers over time (for high-wage positions only); and
- adherence to stringent criteria.
To learn more about the recruitment process under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, visit our LMIA page.
There are a number of potential ways for employers in Canada to avoid the LMIA application process. This may be achieved if hiring through one of the various streams of the International Mobility Program (IMP), which provides for LMIA-exempt hiring of foreign workers.
Employers and workers alike would be well advised to consider their options under the IMP before pursuing a work permit under the TWFP.
TFWP and IMP: an overview
|LMIA required||No LMIA required|
|Work permits are closed (employer-specific)||Work permits may be open or closed|
|Labour market-based (to fill shortages on a temporary basis)||To advance Canada’s broader economic and cultural interests|
|Based on specific labour needs based on occupation and region||Based partially on international reciprocal agreements (e.g. IEC, NAFTA, CETA)|
|Streams applications based on the wage of the position offered||Does not stream applications based on the wage offered, but certain streams take occupation skill level into account|
|Typically requires employers to search for Canadian workers before being able to hire a foreign worker||Employers may hire without first offering the position to Canadians|
|Employers hiring for high-wage positions usually must provide a transition plan||Employers do not have to provide a transition plan|
|Employer pays fee for LMIA application ($1,000)||Employer pays compliance fee ($230) unless job applicant holds an open work permit (in which case, no fee is required)|
|Two-week processing standard is only available for certain occupations and top 10% wage earners, otherwise the process can run to many months||Many IMP streams have a two-week work permit processing standard|
|Overseen by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)||Overseen by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)|
Foreign workers transitioning to permanent residence
Many temporary foreign workers in Canada set down roots in the country. These roots can be economic, social, or familial, or some combination. Fortunately for foreign workers, depending on their situation they may be able to transition to Canadian permanent residence.
A selection of Canada’s economic immigration programs place a value on Canadian work experience. Foreign workers with at least one year of skilled employment in Canada may be eligible under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), one of the federal programs managed under the Express Entry system. CEC candidates are well-placed to be invited to apply for permanent residence, given that Canadian work experience is rewarded under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).
Foreign workers who may not be eligible for Express Entry, or who struggle to reach the CRS cut-off threshold in Express Entry draws, may have other options under one of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). Many provinces use their PNP to help foreign workers in the given province transition to permanent residence. In some cases, this may be possible even if the foreign worker has been employed in a non-skilled position.
There may also be an immigration option for foreign workers who have established a relationship with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, either as a spouse or common-law partner.
Who’s it for?
A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) may be considered by a job candidate in conjunction with a potential employer in Canada who has provided a job offer to that candidate. The employer will need to prove that no suitable Canadian citizen or permanent resident could be found to perform this job and pay relevant fees. The employer will also need to meet other requirements in order to be deemed eligible to hire the foreign worker.
There are two types of LMIA: one for temporary work in Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), and the other for permanent immigration to Canada through Express Entry (see above).
What’s the advantage?
- For foreign workers who may otherwise be unable to secure a work permit, or find it difficult to do so, the TFWP offers an opportunity to work in Canada for a specific employer.
- The Global Talent Stream, introduced in 2017, allows employers to bring in certain foreign workers through the TFWP in just 10 business days.
- Work experience gained may assist in an eventual application for permanent immigration to Canada. For Express Entry candidates, a positive LMIA is rewarded with 50 or 200 Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points, depending on the position offered. These additional points may make the difference in securing an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence.
For employers, a LMIA (acquired through the TFWP or Express Entry) allows a business to fill labour shortages.
How much does it cost?
Under the TFWP, employers need to pay CAD$1,000 per position they’re filling. There is no employer fee for hiring a LMIA submission for a job offered to an Express Entry candidate. Moreover, the job candidate is not subject to a fee.
How long does it take?
For temporary positions, a LMIA application may take a 2–3 months.
For positions offered to Express Entry candidates, the government aims for a 10-day turnaround before a decision is made. If the decision is positive, the candidate may then upload the job offer to his or her Express Entry profile, thereby obtaining 50 or 200 additional CRS points and increasing his or her chances of being invited to apply for immigration to Canada. If he or she is then invited, the government aims to process the application to completion within six months.
LMIA-approved foreign workers do not receive an open work permit, and are instead tied to a particular employer. This means they have less immediate flexibility should they wish to change employer at a later date.
LMIA-approved Express Entry candidates who arrive as permanent residents through that system are not bound by employer, and may change job as and when they wish to.
Where can I learn more?
Read our full explanation of the LMIA process.