Sweeping changes to Canada’s temporary foreign worker program

On June 20th, 2014, the Government of Canada announced sweeping changes to the temporary foreign worker program, much of which is effective immediately. The following is a brief review of those changes.

The Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) replaces the Labour Market Opinion (“LMO”) and creates a more comprehensive and rigorous process which comes with significantly higher application fees (the LMIA fee is $1,000.00; the former LMO fee was $275.00).

Employees will no longer be classified according to occupation, but rather according to wages earned. The dividing line between high-wage and low-wage earners will be based on the median wage in the relevant province or territory. For reference, the median hourly wage in British Columbia is currently $21.79.

LMIA processing will be expedited for positions that are either in high demand, highly paid, or of short duration, and meet certain criteria. In these cases, a LMIA will be provided within 10 business days.

A new Job Matching Service has been introduced. Employers seeking an LMIA must advertise on the Job Bank, and Canadians will be able to apply directly for posted jobs that match their skills and experience. Processing officers will have access to Job Bank statistics and, in order to obtain an LMIA, employers will need to justify why Canadian applicants were not hired for posted positions.

The temporary foreign worker program will be subject to increased inspection and enforcement measures, such that one in four employers using temporary foreign workers will be inspected each year. Employment and Social Development Canada can compel production of employment-related documents from employers and, as of fall 2014, will be able to compel banks and payroll companies to provide bank records and payroll documents, respectively. Employers are now required to keep documents related to LMIA applications, including recruitment documents such as resumes, for six years.

Employers face increased penalties for non-compliance with the program rules, including suspension or revocation of a LMIA, program bans, public blacklisting, substantial fines up to $100,000, and imprisonment. Violators of laws and standards in place to protect employees may be branded as “high-risk employers” and be subject to greater scrutiny.  As a result, it is vital that employers seeking to hire temporary foreign workers become familiar with the new program rules and requirements.

For more detailed information with respect to the changes mentioned above, please see the article “Government of Canada Overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program”. If you have any questions regarding Canada’s new temporary foreign worker program or any other Canadian immigration program, please contact Ingrid Tsui.