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Retaining Skilled Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada


Employers, have you surveyed your staff recently and found you have at least one or more skilled temporary foreign workers in your workplace? Close to 200,000 temporary foreign workers enter Canada every year. In 2010, 25% of those entered British Columbia. Often employers are only in tune with the status of their temporary foreign workers if a labour market opinion is required, or the employer supported their provincial nominee application. However, there are many temporary work permit programs available to foreigners without requiring a job offer from a Canadian company. These workers come to Canada, successfully find jobs on their own, or perhaps through contacts, and can very well be successfully retained if both employers and employees were aware of the options to extend their temporary work permit or apply for permanent residency.

Often it is the employee that comes to us seeking advice of how to stay. Our clients inform us their employer is keen to retain them, but are unaware of the employee’s options or believe immigration is too complicated of a process to go through (we hope by educating them and employers we meet that more employers will proactively seek advice as well). Yes, immigration policies and programs change frequently, and right now, it feels almost weekly. And processing times more often increase than decrease. However, Canada and especially the provinces are focusing heavily on the current and future labour shortage challenges and the need to improve efficiencies to the immigration process. Programs that are seeing improvements include those meant to help employers retain skilled employees. So, employers and employees, here are some options:

Extending a temporary foreign work permit

Obtain Accelerated Labour Market Opinion

In April 2012, Service Canada introduced the Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (LMO) program. If you are a company that has applied and received a positive LMO in the last two years, you may qualify to receive an LMO within 10 business days. For more information, visit our blog Accelerated Labour Market Opinion Announced

Service Canada Labour Market Opinion Variations

To meet immediate demand of labour shortages, there are several variations for applying for an LMO. For a list of these variations, visit HRSDC LMO Variations. One important variation to highlight is for international graduates on post-graduate work permits. With a valid job offer, the employer does not need to go through the regular recruitment efforts before applying for an LMO.

International Experience Canada Youth Workers

Approximately 30 countries participate in this international young workers program, allowing youth from 18 to 35 to gain work experience in another country for at least 1 year. Participating countries include Canada, Ireland, Australia, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Spain and Mexico. Under this program, there are three streams – youth mobility program; young professionals; and international coop program. A job offer is required under the young professionals program. Canada allows youth of some countries to apply for extensions of the youth mobility work permit or to re-apply under a different stream. Rules vary for each country, but this could be an option for employees wanting to work longer. To view the list of participating countries and the requirements, visit Participating Countries

Applying for Permanent Residency

When there is a permanent job offer, currently an employee’s best option for permanent residency is through a provincial nominee program. Every province has its own provincial nominee program. For British Columbia, there is the strategic occupations steam for workers. Under this stream, workers with a full-time, permanent job offer can apply as:

  • Skilled Workers
  • International Graduates (Pilot project for post-graduate students is available until March 2013, which does not require a job offer)
  • Healthcare workers
  • Semi-Skilled and Entry level workers

At the federal level, the skilled professionals stream allows applicants to apply for permanent residency with a valid permanent job offer approved by Service Canada. While this is another option to retain employees, there are several benefits to the provincial nominee program rather than going through the skilled professional stream. In most provinces, these include:

  • Exemption from needing a labour market opinion
  • Exemption from meeting the federal economic point system
  • For some streams, a language test is not required
  • Greater flexibility to occupation and wage requirements
  • Better access to program officers when there are questions or concerns related to an application
  • Faster processing times

These are not the only programs available, but we want to highlight that options do exist. For others, visit our  Immigration Page. We stress the importance of employers and employees looking into these options in advance, at least 3 to 6 months prior to the employee’s temporary work permit expiring. When an employer identifies the temporary foreign worker is an employee to keep, it is a good time to start the conversation. It does happen, albeit rarely, that a worker comes to us one month prior to their work permit expiring and asks what can be done.  This is not an ideal scenario and best avoided by planning in advance.

We encourage employers and temporary foreign workers to contact us to discuss the immigration process for their employees in more detail.


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