Ottawa fast-tracks hiring of temporary foreign workers

OTTAWA, Ont. - The federal government has announced a new policy, which will drastically reduce the time it takes for a temporary foreign worker to start a new job. The policy is effective immediately, the government said Tuesday.

"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."

- Marco E. L.

Mendicino, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

In announcing the move, Ottawa said that temporary foreign workers and their employers are confronted by new challenges in a rapidly changing job market because of Covid-19. "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," said Marco E. L.

Mendicino, the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

Some Canadian fleets have used the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to hire drivers to offset severe labor shortages, but the new policy is mainly aimed at the agriculture and healthcare sectors. (Photo: iStock)

In 2019, almost 190,000 employer-specific work permits were issued to foreign nationals, the government said. It pointed out that many temporary workers with employer-specific work permits have now lost their jobs. While some have left Canada, others are unable to leave due to travel restrictions or non-availability of flights.

"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," the government said. At the same time, many employers in sectors such as agriculture, agri-food, and healthcare find themselves with urgent needs for employees, it said. "While Canadians are encouraged to fill job vacancies in critical sectors, a lack of workers in agriculture, food processing or healthcare could harm Canada's food security and healthcare service capacity," the government said.

Under the new policy, a worker who is already in Canada and has secured a job offer can get approval to start working even as 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," the government said.

"The Temporary Foreign Worker Program will remain relevant should more drivers retire because of Covid-19, or if companies are not willing/able to hire more of the less experienced drivers."

- Angela Splinter, CEO, Trucking HR Canada.

While there is no specific reference to the trucking sector in the announcement, Canadian fleets have used the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to hire drivers to address specific and severe labor shortages. "The Temporary Foreign Worker Program will remain relevant should more drivers retire because of Covid-19, or if companies are not willing/able to hire more of the less experienced drivers," said Angela Splinter, CEO of Trucking HR Canada.

To be eligible for the new program, workers must:

  • be in Canada with valid status;
  • have an employer-specific work permit, or have been working under a work permit exemption; and
  • have submitted an application for a new work permit with a valid job offer under either the TFWP or the International Mobility Program.

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