On June 20, 2014, the immigration authorities announced major changes to Canada’s foreign worker program. The most significant of these changes are as follows:
- The former Labour Market Opinion (LMO) process is being replaced by a more vigorous Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
- The processing fee for a LMIA is increased to $1,000 per foreign worker position.
- Instead of assessing whether a position is high or low skilled, it will be assessed on the basis of whether it is high or low wage. Positions that pay above the median wage for a province are high wage, positions that pay below the median wage are low wage. The median wage for Ontario is set at $21 per hour.
- The Government will not be processing any pending applications for low-wage positions as of June 20, 2014. Any application that was submitted prior to June 20, for a position where the prevailing wage is below the provincial/territorial median hourly wage, and where an opinion has not been issued, will no longer be processed. In these cases, employers will be refunded the $275 per position processing fee. All other applications will be processed as normal.
- Certain listed low-wage occupations in the food services, accommodation and retail sectors are generally excluded from consideration.
- Low-wage workers cannot exceed 10% of an employer’s total work force.
- The duration of work permits will be reduced from the current two-year standard duration to one-year periods for low wage workers.
- Effective immediately, the moratorium on the Food Services Sector’s access to the TFWP has ended.
- Employers seeking to hire high-wage temporary foreign workers (with very limited exceptions) will now be required to submit transition plans to demonstrate how they will increase efforts to hire Canadians, including through higher wages, investments in training and more active recruitment efforts from within Canada.
- Employers must provide additional information, including the number of Canadians that applied for their available job, the number of Canadians the employer interviewed, and explain why those Canadians were not hired.
- LMIAs for highest-demand occupations (skilled trades), highest-paid occupations (top 10 percent) or short-duration work periods (120 day or less) will now be provided within a 10-business-day service standard.
- The Government is massively increasing the number of inspections so that one in four employers using temporary foreign workers will be inspected each year.
- Beginning in fall 2014, the Government will impose fines of up to $100,000 (depending on the severity of the offence) on employers who break the rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).
These new rules will make it much more complicated and costly for employers to hire foreign workers. The goal of the program is to ensure that employers seek to hire any available Canadians as employees before hiring foreigners.