On February 11, 2015, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) published amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (Regulations) to enhance employer accountability under the International Mobility Program (IMP). These amendments, scheduled to come into force on February 21, 2015, will greatly impact the way in which most foreign nationals obtain work permits under the IMP, including workers covered under international agreements (e.g., North American Free Trade Agreement ), individuals participating in exchange programs (e.g., International Experience Canada program), certain workers awaiting permanent resident status, and intracompany transferees temporarily assigned to work in Canada from a related enterprise abroad, charitable and religious workers, and certain persons who need to support themselves while in Canada, including refugee claimants awaiting a determination.

Beginning February 21, 2015, employers hiring foreign nationals who are exempt from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process will be required to submit information about their business or organization, the Offer of Employment form, and pay a fee to CIC. As a consequence, any foreign national who is exempt from the LMIA process will not be able to get an employer-specific work permit if their prospective employer has not submitted the required information and paid the fee before the work permit application is submitted.

The Employer Compliance Fee has been set at $CDN230.00 and must be paid online. The fees collected will help the Government of Canada offset the cost of implementing more comprehensive employer compliance and enforcement activities.

Under the new regime, employers that are found to be non-compliant may be subjected to administrative monetary penalties, a prohibition from hiring foreign workers and, in serious cases, criminal investigations and prosecutions. The aim of the new compliance system is to ensure that all employers will face the same level of scrutiny in the hiring and treatment of foreign workers.

The Employer Compliance Fee does not apply to employers hiring foreign nationals holding open work permits exempt from LMIA process, who will instead be subject to a new Privilege Fee of $CDN100.00. An open work permit allows a foreign national to work for any employer in Canada.

The Regulations will also require employers offering foreign workers temporary employment in LMIA- exempt employer-specific occupations to submit details of the job offer and their businesses in a prescribed format to CIC electronically before a work permit application can be filed by a foreign national, including:

  1. Employer name, contact information and Canada Revenue Agency Business Number;
  2. Information outlining how the offer of employment and the applicant qualifies for processing under the IMP; and
  3. Offer of employment generated in a form prescribed by CIC.

CIC has yet to release the prescribed form, nor has it provided any indication as to how quickly it will process a request to approve a prospective Canadian employer and its offer of employment to a foreign national under the IMP.

Conclusions

These amendments will significantly change the way in which foreign nationals seeking LMIA-exempt work permits obtain work authorization for Canada and will impose the same enforcement and compliance mechanisms introduced last year in respect of work permits issued under an approved LMIA on employers using the IMP. These reforms are a continuation of the Government of Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2014 and are designed to “Put Canadians First” by encouraging employers to select qualified Canadian candidates over temporary foreign nationals for available jobs.