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Back to the blog October 21, 2021

Hiring Foreign Nationals for Service and Seasonal Positions – Labour Market Impact Assessment Program

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by: Heather Bell

Canada’s tourism and hospitality sectors have always relied on foreign workers, often through a program called International Experience Canada (IEC). IEC offers international youth, age 18 to 35 years, an open work permit (Working Holiday) or employer specific permit (Young Professional) for up to 2 years. The rules differ depending on the country of origin, but all foreign nationals get the same opportunity: to work and travel in Canada. Thousands find themselves in resort towns like Whistler, Sun Peaks and Big White, and in big cities, like Vancouver and Victoria.

The COVID-19 Pandemic caused the government to temporarily suspend invitations to the IEC program in 2020. While the program resumed in 2021, current rules require IEC applicants to be fully vaccinated or to have a job offer.

The number of IEC invitations that have occurred in 2021 paints a bleak picture for service and seasonal businesses. For British nationals, 2,654 invitations of the 5,000 quota have been issued in 2021 as of October. Australia, which has an unlimited quota, only 885 invitations have been issued, with 1,052 candidates in the pool. Invites are one thing. Approved work permits are another. As of August 2021, only 1,070 IEC work permits were issued to applicants destined for British Columbia, compared to over 9,500 in 2019.

Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)

Businesses that rely on the IEC program must look at alternative avenues to hire foreign staff for service and seasonal positions. This may mean giving Service Canada’s Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) a chance.

The LMIA is not our first choice for any work permit. But there are some advantages if processing times are reasonable, and the position is unskilled or semi-skilled. One option is the Short-Duration LMIA, which receives expedited processing. Expedited processing is estimated at 10 business days or less. This is not guaranteed and it’s essential the LMIA application is submitted correctly to be considered.

It’s also important to note that a foreign national does not need to be identified at the time of submission or approval of most LMIAs, including the Short-Duration LMIA.

Short-Duration LMIA is for:

• positions requested where the employment is for 120 calendar days or less; and
• the being wage offered is at or above the provincial or territorial hourly median wage.

For British Columbia, Service Canada’s hourly median wage is $25.00 (as of May 2020). Alberta’s hourly median wage (as of May 2020) is $27.28. The hourly median wage is typically adjusted annually.

Strict recruitment efforts are still required, but for certain service or seasonal work, even if it’s unskilled, businesses are offering these wages or higher to attract staff. An LMIA work permit of 120 days could cover a busy winter or summer season, when additional staff are needed.

Another LMIA stream that receives expedited processing is Skilled Trades, where the position falls under the list of eligible skilled trade occupations and the wage as well is at or above the provincial or territorial hourly median wage.

LMIAs are an investment of both time and money. 30 days of recruitment is required for most programs, and there is a $1,000 non-refundable processing fee for each position requested. Service Canada leaves little room for error, and a refusal can happen simply for having a job posting expire before the 30 days is reached. Hence why we cannot stress how important it is to do both the recruitment and application correctly from the beginning.

Skilled Positions

For skilled positions, more work permit avenues are available where an LMIA is not required. And if the position is offered to a visa-exempt national outside of Canada or any foreign national with status in Canada, the work permit can be processed quickly at the Port of Entry.

LMIA-exempt work permits for skilled positions include, and not limited to:

Francophone Mobility – Foreign national requires a high level of French and be destined to work outside of Quebec.

International Trade Agreements – Multiple trade agreements have a professional list, allowing those professions to obtain a work permit with a valid job offer. Depending on the agreement, the list may include trade workers, technicians, chefs, supervisors and managers. Trade Agreements with professional lists include: Canada-US-Mexico; Canada-Peru; Canada-Colombia; Canada-Korea, CPTPP (Canada-Mexico-Australia-Japan).

Provincial Nominee Program – most provinces and territories have a provincial nominee program. In British Columbia, the program has been hugely successful for those with permanent job offers, both in skilled and semi-skilled occupations.

Our Advice

When a business is planning their recruitment strategy for the upcoming busy season, make sure it meets the requirements of the LMIA program. This will serve two purposes. First, it will capture any qualified and available candidates in Canada. Second, if those don’t exist, the business is ready to proceed with an LMIA if necessary without having wasted time.

How we can help? Our job is determine the best work permit program available for the business and potential foreign national hire. For LMIAs, we ensure businesses know the requirements from the beginning, and to prepare these applications on their behalf so they can be successful in hiring foreign workers without delay.