Temporary foreign worker (TFW) program suggestions

There is a long list of ways to change and update the temporary foreign worker (TFW) programs but I really like the four suggested in this article.

Here are some of my thoughts on the ones mentioned:

  1. Remove the 10 per cent cap on low-wage temporary foreign workers

There will always be challenging positions to fill.  With lower wage jobs in general, there simply isn’t as many people who want to do them.  Canadian employers that are dealing with low skill/low wage positions don’t have the luxury of large budgets so they would hire local Canadians first as it is more practical anyways.

Employers currently post multiple ads in Canada, actively attempt to recruit Canadians and offer wages at or above the median wage for the occupation, before they are allowed to hire a temporary foreign worker. Since the Canadian government has the power to send temporary foreign workers home, and this has not occurred so far, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to show that temporary foreign workers take away Canadian jobs.

This cap hurts the Canadian economy because it prevents businesses from hiring the people they need.  Employers who cannot operate successful will eventually have to shut their doors, which will result in Canadians being laid off.

  1. Provide a permanent residency pathway for all temporary foreign workers.

The pathway to permanent residency is difficult to navigate.  For those who have managed to clear the hurdles for a temporary work permit, it shows that they are willing, capable and invested in remaining in Canada.  Together with the support of their employer (whose businesses have employed them to support the Canadian economy), this is the type of “worker” we need in the country.

If the job vacancies persist over a period of time, isn’t this sufficient evidence that skill shortage is chronic?  Temporary foreign workers should be given a pathway or at least a small advantage in their permanent residency application.

  1. Enforce temporary foreign worker rules.

With the number of audits there are presumably being conducted, the majority of employers are complying with the law. If the rules are broken, those who don’t follow them should be punished or the rules are meaningless.

  1. Clear guidelines on how temporary foreign worker applications will be assessed.

The requirements should be clear for everyone but a portion of the guidelines the government uses to assess temporary foreign worker applications are not publicly posted.  Larger employers, who have the resources to research the issues have an advantage over smaller businesses.  It is however, the small to medium enterprises (SME’s) who face the biggest hiring challenges and need the most assistance with the TFW administration.

Immigration Levels Plan released March 8, 2016

The Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) released the Federal Government’s 2016 Immigration Levels Plan on March 8, 2016.

2016 Immigration Plan

The 2016 Plan is a 7.4% increase over the 2015 level plan for immigration.  It emphasizes family reunification and humanitarian and compassionate processing over foreign workers.  Canada is also aiming to reduce application processing times.

Some of the Plan’s key points include:

  • Canada will admit between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents in 2016;
  • Fewer Economic immigrants will be accepted under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), Federal Skilled Workers (FSW), and Federal Skilled Trades (FST) programs;
  • Restoration of the maximum age for dependent children to 22 (from 19);
  • Conditional permanent residence (PR) status to Family Class spouses will be eliminated;
  • Number of new applications allowed each year for parents and grandparents has been doubled;
  • A reduction in federal business immigration by approximately 47% from 2015

A few bright spots for employers

  • Foreign workers who are selected from the Express Entry Pool and submit a complete application for permanent residence may be eligible for an Open Bridging Work Permit to extend Work Permit status
  • The Government of Canada has announced that it will undertake a coast-to-coast review of the Foreign Worker Program.
  • Changes to Express Entry (EE) are expected which includes the allocation of points for Canadian siblings and changes to the CEC category to benefit international students

Same old same old

I am disappointed that the Government has not made more of an effort to include economic immigrants and foreign workers in the 2016 plan.  In many ways the new policies are the same “old” ones.  This current government is canceling what the previous government implemented just recently and reinstated many of the original rules.

LMIA 2.0

A small bright spot is that the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) will be revisited and hopefully redesigned to be more responsive to true business needs.  Immigration Minister McCallum has acknowledged that the Foreign Worker Program (FWP) has swung from one end of the extreme (too lax) to the other (too stringent) as a knee jerk reaction to high profile scrutiny.

The LMIA review is a good sign that we have some action oriented leadership in Canadian immigration today.  It’s important to fix and readjust what isn’t working in a program instead of taking the easy way out by eliminating it.  The FWP has had its problems but it isn’t beyond repair.  If they do employer consultations, perhaps this will provide a reality check for any redesign considerations.

Foreign worker value

The Canadian economy doesn’t operate as a completely closed employment bubble.  Foreign workers provide flexibility, ingenuity and potential to meet Canada’s needs now and into the future.  In an ideal world, Canadian employers could rely exclusively on its own citizens to meet its labour needs.  However, that isn’t possible or realistic.  Foreign workers will always exist and in Canada’s case, this is often the first step onto the permanent resident pathway.

Temporary work permits facilitate what could be a mutual probationary period for potential immigrants to Canada.  Both parties have a practical way to see how things work out before firming up the relationship – this is better than a money back guarantee.

This IRCC infographic provides a good snapshot of the Immigration Plan.

Beware of the Prevailing Wage

Effective November 16, 2015, the National Occupation Classification (NOC) codes will be linked to the prevailing wage of the geographical area.  Employers supporting foreign worker/work permit applications must pay these wage rates as required by the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP).

The prevailing wage is the median hourly wage for a NOC code/ occupation in a specific location and it can be found at www.jobbank.gc.ca.  This prevailing wage is adjusted periodically by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC/Service Canada) based on information compiled by Statistics Canada.

This update impacts both the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (i.e. LMIA) and International Mobility Program (IMP) applications.  It doesn’t affect Intra-Company Transferees but employers should always be mindful of what is being offered for those international relocations as well.

Be aware and be prepared…

Employers should check the prevailing wage to ensure it is at or above the median level for the NOC before conducting the advertisement requirements for a LMIA application.  In cases where the wage changed between the initial JobBank posting (and this unexpected announcement), Service Canada may require the position to be re-advertised. Employers offering a wage that is below the prevailing wage rate will not meet the labour market requirement for the LMIA.

Please note that the prevailing wage should not be confused with the LMIA high wage/low wage application thresholds.