Service Canada has announced that, effective April 27, 2009, extension applications for labour market opinions (LMOs) will be treated the same as new applications. The application form to extend a LMO will be removed from circulation and all references to LMO extensions will be removed from Service Canada's materials.
Traditionally, the adjudication of an LMO extension application was somewhat more relaxed than an initial LMO request where there was a foreign worker incumbent.
This will no longer be the case. From now on, employers will be expected to look for Canadian candidates and must demonstrate that they have met the national recruiting requirements introduced on January 1, 2009 each time a LMO application is made. The elimination of the LMO extension form brings home the reality that each application will be treated the same way, whether or not there is a foreign candidate incumbent already working in the position.
Additionally, employers may be asked to demonstrate proof of past compliance with the terms of previous offers of employment to temporary foreign workers (e.g. wages and working conditions). Unless requested by Service Canada, employers are not required to submit proof of such compliance with their LMO application.
Where employers anticipate that their human resource needs will continue beyond the period covered by the temporary foreign worker's work permit, Service Canada suggests that a new LMO be requested at least four months prior to the expiry of the foreign worker's current work permit, to ensure that ample time exists for the processing of the new LMO and, if authorized, the subsequent work permit request.
This change is indicative of a trend to tighten the LMO application process. Employers should continue to monitor developments, as further changes may be announced as more emphasis is placed on protecting the Canadian labour market given the economic slowdown.
Service Canada has also announced a new employer monitoring initiative that LMO applicants will be asked to participate in (see link below).
Given these developments, it is more important than ever to assess options to see if there are LMO exempt work permit categories available for foreign national candidates.
In addition, employers with foreign nationals on work permits derived from LMOs should consider transitioning such workers to permanent resident status. This avoids the need for future LMO applications, and therefore eliminates the risk that a subsequent LMO request might not be granted.