On Friday, June 20, 2014, the Government of Canada announced a sweeping reform of its Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which will result in major changes to the process of applying for a Labour Market Opinion. Some of the changes come into effect immediately (e.g., the processing fee is going up everywhere in Canada), while in Quebec, most of the changes will likely apply only after the negotiations between the federal and Quebec governments have been completed.

In addition, the moratorium on the food services sector’s access to the TFWP, announced on April 24, 2014, has ended.

The highlights of the reform, which are in addition to the other significant changes introduced recently, are as follows:

  • The Labour Market Opinion (LMO) is now called a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Employers must provide more information, such as the number of Canadians or permanent residents who applied for an available job, the number of Canadians interviewed and the reasons why none of them were hired. Employers must also attest that they are aware of the rule that Canadians or permanent residents cannot be laid off or have their work hours reduced at worksites that employ temporary foreign workers.
  • The TFWP, which used to have one stream for temporary employment offers that required an LMO application and another for those that were LMO-exempt, is now divided into two (2) separate programs:
    • The TFWP, for temporary employment offers that require an LMIA; and
    • The International Mobility Program, for temporary employment offers that are exempt from the LMIA process (e.g., for intra-company transferees, individuals eligible under NAFTA, etc.).
  • The analysis and administration of the TFWP will now focus on the wages offered to the foreign worker rather than on how the job is classified in the National Occupational Classification.
  • The TFWP now encompasses the following broad streams:
    • High-wage stream: jobs for which the wage offered to the foreign worker is equal to or above the provincial or territorial median wage;
    • Low-wage stream: jobs for which the wage offered to the foreign worker is below the provincial or territorial median wage;
    • Agricultural stream;
    • Highest demand occupations (skilled trades), highest paid occupations (top 10%) or short-duration (120 day or less) occupations: LMIAs will now be completed within a 10-business-day service standard for jobs in these categories;
    • Live-in caregivers.
  • In areas where the unemployment rate of 6% or higher, no LMIA applications will be processed for jobs in the Accommodation, Food Services and Retail Trade sectors, or for any jobs for which little or no training is required.
  • The maximum duration of work permits for all low-wage jobs is reduced from two (2) years to one (1) year.
  • The cumulative length of time that a temporary foreign worker in the low-wage stream can work in Canada will likely be reduced.
  • The specific agreements that the Government of Canada has with the governments of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Yukon which have the effect of exempting certain jobs from LMIA will be amended, among other things so as to make more employers subject to LMIA before they can hire a foreign worker.
  • New transition plan for high-wage positions:
    • Employers wishing to hire temporary foreign workers in high-wage positions will now be required to submit a transition plan along with their LMIA application. A form for this purpose, prescribed by regulation, is now available online at the Employment and Social Development Canada website. Among other things, an employer, in its transition plan, will have to describe the activities and investments it has undertaken to help Canadians and permanent residents develop new skills and competencies. Employers are also encouraged to take steps aimed at helping such workers transition to becoming permanent residents of Canada.
    • Employers will have to report on the results of their transition plans on reapplying for a LMIA for such workers or if they are selected for an inspection.
  • The LMIA processing fee is increased to $1,000.
  • Lastly, the Government has announced that it is increasing the number of inspections and investigations it will carry out.