I am often asked how much responsibility the employer has for the work permit process and how much of it falls on the employee/candidate. With some minor exceptions, most Canadian work permits are employer driven. This means that the employer has to initiate the work permit application/extension process to support a worker before the individual can move forward.

Immigration-related applications made through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or a provincial nomination program (PNP) require the employer’s business details and signatory consent. This consent indicates that the employer is aware and involved in the process.

There are a lot of foreign workers in Canada who are desperate to stay in the country. Ideally, these workers have the employer’s active support and involvement in the immigration process. For those who are left to their own devices, it is a slippery slope. Canadian employers who let someone else manage the situation are potentially playing with fire. Those who are not getting very involved or trying to put the onus on the individual employee are putting more at risk than they realize.

The foreign worker cannot apply for an extension without the employer’s active consent. When an employee is trying to “do this on their own”, s/he don’t always get knowledgeable support from the right place. There are some creative immigration consultants (and sometimes lawyers) who are hired by the employees to take care of everything. The employee thinks s/he is making it easier for the employer by taking it out of their hands and by not involving them. They “think” their employer simply needs to provide a few bits of information and the rest will be completed by the third party. Despite the employee’s desire to remain in Canada, s/he should not let someone else go rogue on immigration paperwork. What the employer and employee must realize is that they are still ultimately responsible for what they submit. All parties need to be involved, informed and actively consenting.

Simply leaving the employee to figure things out does not discharge the employer of responsibility. The auditable component of the LMIA or the PNP means that there is employer accountability. The business will be liable when the authorities come calling. It is short-sighted for employers to think that they can offload this responsibility to the foreign worker who is left on their own to complete the paperwork; they cannot claim they knew nothing about the situation at a later date. If a program officer conducts an audit, the party taken to task (and who could be at risk of being blacklisted) will be the employer.

Organizations that value their employees provide support through practical action. Having limited resources is not an excuse for not conducting due diligence on what needs to be done for an employee’s immigration status. In the case of the foreign worker, the employer should take the time to understand what its role is. If not, the employment contract should not extend beyond an employee’s valid working status in Canada.