For those who employ temporary foreign workers (TFWs), April Fools Day 2015 is no laughing matter—as it carries with it a deadline four years in coming.

On April 1, 2011, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) officially capped how long a temporary foreign worker (TFW) could work in Canada at one time to four years. With this “4-in, 4-out” regulation, a foreign national could only work for four years on a work permit; and then leave Canada for at least another four years before being eligible to apply for a subsequent term.

The first group of TFWs will experience this “4-in, 4-out” rule starting April 1, 2015.   The intention of this regulation was to encourage TFWs to either apply for permanent resident (PR) status or leave Canada when their status expired—thereby maintaining the integrity around genuine temporary status.

This type of cap is black and white, but the employers and workers who need the TFW programs come in in every hue.  There are just as many truly temporary TFWs as those who change their minds or use the temporary route as a transitional pathway to permanent residence.  There are also many situations where someone is trying to qualify or complete their permanent resident application while in the country but encounter unexpected hurdles or disruptions.

Although the rationale of a TFW being temporary makes sense, the processing times for immigration is making this much more difficult than the decision makers would have expected in 2011.  Unfortunately, there is no mechanism for flexibility.  The rules and regulations have changed significantly, not only in the last four years but in the last four months.  The fall-out will be interesting as the Express Entry (EE) program, which came into effect on January 1, 2015, has hindered a lot of qualified PR applicants.  Many of these skilled TFWs who have been living and working in Canada haven’t been able to get an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for PR – the pre-qualification required for the EE online system.

While there aren’t very many work around solutions available at the moment—as the TFWs who are caught up in this were likely not eligible for the exemptions to this cap to begin with—let’s hope Canadian government introduces reasonable bridging alternatives as with some of their other programs.  Whether it is an interim period or the start of more reform dialogue, what is needed are workable solutions for immigration which address the greater business needs in the Canadian economy.