Top 5 questions for businesses that need to fill a labour shortage in Canada
There are more than 300,000 temporary foreign workers (“TFW”) in Canada employed across the country in different positions. In order for these individuals to work in Canada they must hold a valid work permit or benefit from an exemption that permits them to work without a work permit.
If you are a business owner interested in hiring a TFW the process can be very complex, especially given that hiring a TFW is regulated by Employment and Social Development Canada (“ESDC”) with a rigorous compliance regime for employers.
If you are looking to hire a TFW to fill a labour shortage because you have not been able to find a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to fill the position, then your business will need to proceed under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. This program addresses genuine labour shortages in Canada and is intended for employers trying to fill jobs in cases where qualified Canadian citizens or permanent residents are not available.
Below are five questions you should carefully consider when starting to navigate this interesting but difficult process:
1- What kind of position do you want to hire for?
The process of hiring a TFW will start with an understanding of the position you are looking to fill in your business.
Are you looking to fill a highly technical position and you have not been able to find anyone with the necessary training or experience in Canada? Or are you looking to fill a low-skill position but cannot find permanent residents or Canadian citizens to fill the position because there is a shortage of low-skill workers in your area?
These types of situations typically require you to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) from ESDC based on the shortage of labour in the local market. With the LMIA you can then apply to hire a TFW from outside of Canada.
2- Have you made adequate efforts to hire a Permanent Resident or Canadian first?
In order to be permitted to hire a TFW, your business will first need to demonstrate that you have made adequate efforts to hire a PR or Canadian citizen for the position. This is a mandatory step that takes at least one month. Your business must advertise the position in the Canada Job Bank and also undertake a number of other recruitment activities targeted towards hiring PRs and Canadian citizens.
If this step is not correctly implemented, your business will not be able to hire a temporary foreign worker.
There are some occupations where there is an exemption from the advertising requirement. If one of these exemptions applies to your business or the position you are hiring, then it is not mandatory to demonstrate your recruitment efforts in Canada.
3- Is your business eligible to hire temporary foreign workers?
If you are looking to hire a TFW your business must be economically viable and demonstrate that it is able to pay the salary expenses related to the TFW without reducing your existing work force.
Your business must typically provide documents to show its legal status (e.g. incorporation documents) as well as its financial health (e.g. tax returns and payroll documents for existing staff members). Depending on the circumstances of your business you may be asked to provide additional documents such as a commercial lease agreement or major contracts for the business.
4- Are you ready for when the TFW starts working?
Going through the application process to hire a TFW can be challenging, particularly for the first time. But the process is not over when the TFW receives his or her visa and starts working for you.
When you apply to hire a TFW, you undertake to pay the employee at a particular wage to perform specific job duties and under certain work conditions. There are rules and formulas that determine the minimum wage based on the job description and place of employment. For example a graphic designer will have to be paid at least $35.90 per hour if employed in Toronto but in Fredericton, New Brunswick the employee could be paid $30.77 per hour.
You are required to meet these conditions throughout the term of employment of the TFW. For example you cannot reduce the TFW’s wages or require them to work for more hours than what you initially requested. This is monitored through various inspections and check-ups from ESDC to ensure your performance.
Therefore, it is extremely important that you understand your obligations when you are preparing and submitting your application because there is a requirement for ongoing compliance and there are consequences for the business if you are found to deviate from your initial job offer. And you should make sure you have a compliance program in place to be able to track your progress and be able to respond to any requests from ESDC.
5- Is there any way to hire TFWs without applying for an LMIA?
Yes! There are opportunities to hire temporary foreign workers who are already in Canada and who hold an open work permit.
The biggest group of open work permit holders are those who have graduated from an eligible post-secondary program and hold a post-graduate work permit. Those with an open work permit can be hired to legally work for you without the need for an LMIA.
There are some other exceptions for when you can hire a TFW without an LMIA such as if the person is exempt under a free-trade agreement such as NAFTA to work as a professional or is a high-level executive that is being sent to your business in Canada as an intra-company transferee from a parent or subsidiary company outside Canada.
Given the range of options available it is best to seek the advice of an immigration lawyer to assess the best way for your business to proceed.
And don’t forget that many of the TFWs that work for you may soon become eligible for permanent residency. Your investment of time and money in hiring a TFW will no doubt pay off when he or she becomes a permanent resident of Canada as an ideal candidate to permanently join your team.
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Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court.