In November 2009, we started a discussion on the fundamentals of Canadian work permits. Until now, Canadian employers did not have to obtain a Labour Market Opinion ("LMO") from Services Canada for certain Information Technology ("IT") professionals. Employers did not have to prove that they had advertised the position, that they had conducted reasonable recruitment efforts and that none of the local candidates, if any, were qualified to fill the IT position. Beginning in 1997, it was assumed that there was a shortage of IT professionals in Canada. This assumption, and the exception to the LMO requirement, are no longer. Effective September 30, 2010, foreign IT specialists will now generally require an approved LMO from Services Canada, before a work permit will be issued.

Special Rules for BC and Quebec

Notwithstanding this change, employers in British Columbia and Québec can still hire IT specialists without going through the LMO process.

In BC, Immigration Canada has agreed to extend the IT program for six months, to March 31, 2011. The extension is to enable the BC Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development ("ALMD") to develop objective criteria for determining which occupations will be LMO-exempt in the province and to put in place a list of LMO-exempt occupations reflective of the labour market needs of BC.

In order for BC employers to benefit from this program during the next six months, they must notify both Service Canada and the Ministry of ALMD by email of their intent to hire a worker under one of the recognized seven IT occupations:

  • Senior Animation Effects Editor
  • Embedded Systems Software Designer
  • MIS Software Designer
  • Multimedia Software Developer
  • Software Developer-Services
  • Software Products Developer
  • Telecommunications Software Designer

BC employers must ensure that their notification contains all the required elements (such as detailed description of the position, employment start and end date, salary to be paid, location of the employment, etc.). Following the notification, the employer can apply for a work permit as usual.

In Québec, the IT program remains in place until further notice. As was the case in the past, those who are going to be working in Québec will still need a "Certificat d'Acceptation du Québec" issued by Québec Immigration before applying for a work permit.

Additional Rules for Foreign Workers

Not only will employers outside of BC and Quebec have to obtain LMOs for IT specialists. After a positive LMO has been issued, a work permit application has to be made. If the foreign worker is a citizen of a country for which a temporary resident visa is necessary, the application for work permit, as for any kind of work permit, has to be made at a Canadian Embassy or Consulate abroad. If the applicant is from a visa-exempt country, he or she can submit the application (with proof of meeting the requirements under any of the occupations) at a port of entry. If it is an extension of a valid work permit, the application is made at Immigration Canada's Case Processing Centre.

Caution for Employers

As is the case with other employment law issues, the laws with respect to immigration keep changing. Given the importance of these applications and work permits, employers should make appropriate inquiries whenever they intend to bring a foreign worker into Canada. As we see with the IT specialist rules, the requirements can vary by province too.