Canada: Loosened Restrictions on Temporary Foreign Workers Proposed

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By Peter Menyasz

Canada has withdrawn a regulation that blocked temporary foreign workers from obtaining new work permits if they've worked in Canada for four years. The change will make it easier for employers in certain sectors, including high technology industries, to employ temporary foreign workers for longer periods of time to address shortages of Canadian talent, the government said.

The restriction was imposed in 2015 as a signal to employers and workers that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program was only meant to address temporary labor shortages, not create long-term “guest workers” through continuous renewal of temporary permits, Citizenship and Immigration Canada said in an analysis released April 18 with final amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. The restrictions' implementation, however, disproportionately affected certain industries, particularly technology sectors that fuel innovation and growth where employers are unable to keep pace with demand for experienced workers.

The House of Commons Human Resources, Skills, and Social Development Committee recommended elimination of the restriction in its final report on review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, based on interventions from many affected stakeholders, including both employers and temporary foreign workers, the department said.

Other Means

“The initial intent of the limit, namely to prevent growth of long-term temporary foreign workers, is presently being met through other measures,” the analysis said.

The more recent restrictions include a cap on the number of low-wage foreign workers an employer can employ; refusal to provide labor market impact assessments for low-skill positions in the accommodation, food services, and retail sectors in areas with high unemployment; reduction to one year from two of the duration of labor market impact assessments for low-wage positions; and an increase in the processing fee for the assessments to C$1,000 ($779).

The original regulatory restriction included exemptions in cases where more than four years had elapsed since the worker was last employed in Canada, where the position filled offered significant benefits to Canadians, and where the work was subject to an international agreement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Menyasz in Ottawa at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

For More Information

The draft regulations are available here.

For more information on Canadian HR law and regulation, see the Canada primer.

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