The Canada Border Services Agency (the “CBSA”) recently stated that it caught more citizens of the United States working in Canada without authorization in 2012 than any other nationality.

After Americans, citizens of the Philippines and Israel were the most frequently apprehended for working illegally in Canada  Other nationalities with a high frequency of arrest for working illegally in Canada include India, Ireland and Mexico. 

While it may be surprising that United States citizens topped the list, it is important to keep in mind that they are subject to less enforcement.  Specifically, US citizens are not required to apply for a visa in advance of travel to Canada’s border.  The greater ease with which United States citizens can enter Canada means that there are fewer mechanisms in place to control and monitor their activities in Canada.  Israeli citizens are similarly exempt from the requirement to apply for a visa in advance of arrival in Canada.      

The CBSA stated the following in reviewing the incidences of illegal workers in Canada. 

Individuals working illegally in Canada undermine the integrity of our immigration system and hurt those foreign workers who abide by our laws

CBSA appears to have stepped up its enforcement of Canada’s immigration laws in recent years, with a particular focus on those working in Canada. 

This has occurred in lockstep with the exponential growth in the number of temporary foreign workers entering Canada on an annual basis, which has increased from approximately 60,000 to roughly 250,000.  CBSA enforcement includes not only checks at Canada’s borders but also raids against organizations suspected of illegally employing foreign workers. 

The concern is that as the number of foreign workers increases, so will the incidence of abuse of the immigration system.  This is a particularly sensitive issue given the recent public criticism of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (the “TFWP”) - the system of rules and regulations governing the entry of foreigners to Canada. 

Specifically, prominent labour groups across Canada have criticized the TFWP as undermining the Canadian labour market by allowing foreigners to take away jobs that would otherwise have been available to Canadians and as being responsible for driving down Canadian workers’ wage rates and working conditions.

What does this mean for employers?

The latest statistics from the CBSA make it clear that the agency is vigorously enforcing Canada’s immigration laws, regardless of nationality.  Employers should accordingly take the necessary steps to understand the rules and regulations governing the entry of foreigners into Canada’s labour market.   This can help to reduce the risk not only that individuals will be found to be violating Canada’s immigration laws but also that employers will be found to be operating in contravention of the TFWP. 

Employers that do not adhere to Canada’s immigration laws can be subject to harsh sanction, including a revocation of their right to hire foreigners, fines, as well as the imprisonment of those responsible for facilitating the illegal entry of individuals to Canada’s labour market.