Last updated on 13 May 2020
With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting almost every sector in Canada, temporary foreign workers and their employers are confronted by new challenges in a rapidly changing job market.
Many temporary workers with employer-specific work permits lost their jobs this spring. While some have left Canada, others are unable to leave due to international travel restrictions or the reduction in flights available. Under existing rules, to change jobs they need to apply and wait for a new work permit to be issued before starting to work at their new job.
At the same time, many employers in sectors that have ongoing labour needs and who provide critical goods and services to Canadians, such as agriculture, agri-food and health care, find themselves with urgent needs for additional employees.
That is why the Government is announcing, effective immediately, a new, temporary policy that will drastically reduce the time it takes for a temporary foreign worker to start a new job.
While this policy is in place, a worker who is already in Canada and has secured a new job offer, typically backed by a labour market test, can get approval to start working in their new job, even while their work permit application is being fully processed. This will cut what can often take 10 weeks or more, down to 10 days or less.
As part of Canada’s whole-of-government approach, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will continue to look for ways to support the economy and protect the health and safety of Canadians during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Immigrants, temporary foreign workers and international students are making considerable contributions to Canada’s response to the unprecedented challenge that COVID-19 poses. We know and value their efforts and sacrifices to keep Canadians healthy and ensure the delivery of critical goods and services.
The new policy we are announcing will allow Canadian businesses to recruit the workers they need and help unemployed workers contribute to the Canadian economy during this pandemic.”
– The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
“Temporary foreign workers are an integral part of the Canadian workforce and Canada’s COVID-19 response. They are helping us meet urgent labour needs, to ensure our food security and deliver essential goods and services. While there will always be jobs for Canadians who choose to work in these sectors, these changes help support our economy by ensuring that temporary foreign workers already here can contribute during these extraordinary times.”
– The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, P.C., M.P., Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion
- COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the Canadian labour market and while Canadians are encouraged to fill job vacancies in critical sectors, a lack of workers in agriculture, food processing or health care could harm Canada’s food security and health-care service capacity.
To be eligible, workers must:
- be in Canada with valid status
- have an employer-specific work permit or have been working under a work permit exemption
- have submitted an application for a new work permit with a valid job offer under either the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program
- The work permit applicant must then submit a request to IRCC. The request will be reviewed within 10 days, and if approved, authorization for the worker to start working in their new job will be sent to them by email.
- There is no change to the role of the employer in the process for hiring foreign workers. An employer needs to have, or obtain, a valid positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada, name the worker in a position on the LMIA, and notify Service Canada. For an employer-specific, LMIA-exempt situation, the employer needs to submit an offer of employment through the International Mobility Program Employer Portal.
- In 2019, almost 190,000 employer-specific work permits were issued to foreign nationals.