It is no secret that skilled workers fuel business and boost competitiveness. A shortage of skilled workers is a critical challenge in the manufacturing industry in Canada and the manufacturing sector is feeling the effects. Manufacturing based companies often need to consider immigration solutions to address workforce needs.

As a general rule, no person, other than a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, may work in Canada without valid authorization. Manufacturing based companies must ensure that they comply with immigration rules. Foreign nationals seeking to work in Canada will always require a work permit. The key is to assess the person and the purpose of the entry to determine the best immigration strategy.

Work Permit Categories

There are three key work permit categories that are often used when sending foreign workers to Canada. These are:

  1. NAFTA Professional Category

NAFTA may be used by American and Mexican citizens. NAFTA lists 63 professions that are eligible for work permits. Most require a relevant university degree. A three year work permit, which is renewable, may be obtained. NAFTA professions include, but are not limited to: engineer, scientific technician, industrial designer, and management consultant.

  1. Intra-Company Transferees

Intra-company transferee provisions may be used to transfer managerial or specialized personnel to a Canadian entity from a related foreign entity. This is the category most often used when sending personnel into Canada to set up a new operation. The transferee must:

  • Be an executive, manager or have "specialized knowledge" and must be transferring into such a position;
  • Have been with the related foreign entity for at least 12 consecutive months in the previous three years.
  1. Labour Market Opinion

If no specific work permit category such is available, an employer must apply to Service Canada to request a labour market opinion ("LMO") to offer a job in Canada to a foreign worker. If the LMO is granted, a work permit may then be obtained. Generally, the goal is to avoid the LMO process if possible by trying to bring in someone under one of the work permit categories set out above.

With the recent and proposed changes to Canada’s temporary foreign worker program, manufacturing employers need to be aware of the options and potential issues in hiring foreign workers within the manufacturing industry.

The changes reflect a tightening of the process, while ensuring that employers look for Canadian candidates first before turning to foreign national candidates. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to fill gaps in a manufacturing labour force with foreign workers. Manufacturing employers need to be aware that planning ahead is crucial to ensure they have the people they want, where they want them, when they need them.