You are the Human Resources Director for a Canadian-based company with affiliates and subsidiaries in numerous countries. One of your responsibilities is to manage the temporary foreign workers your company employs in Canada. In some cases, you may decide you’d like to hire and keep a temporary foreign worker on a permanent basis on Canadian soil.

In a previous article, we told you about the rules for attaining permanent residence status. In other cases, you may decide to continue to employ a temporary foreign worker on a temporary basis in Canada. In this article, we tell you about the circumstances in which temporary foreign workers may be granted renewals of their work permits and be allowed to keep working in Canada. 

Renewal of Existing Work Permit — Same Labour Market Opinion (LMO) Exempt Category

If you want to keep a temporary foreign worker in Canada, the first thing you should do is determine whether there is any time left for the issuance of a renewed work permit. For example, if the temporary work permit was issued on the basis of the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) intra-company transfer category as a Senior/Executive Manager, then that category allows the worker to hold a work permit for seven years in total. So, if the worker has been working in Canada for less than seven years, you can file for an extension of his or her current work permit.

Application for New Work Permit — Change of LMO Exempt Category or LMO Application

If the temporary foreign worker has no eligibility room left on his or her current work permit, then you will have to consider whether the worker is
eligible for a work permit under another Service Canada LMO exempt category. These include the NAFTA professional category, the reciprocal
benefits category and the significant benefits category.

If the worker is not eligible for another exempt category, then you must apply to Service Canada for a Positive LMO. When deciding whether to
issue a Positive LMO, Service Canada will consider whether allowing the foreign worker to enter the Canadian labour market would result in:

  • job creation or preservation of jobs;
  • skills transfer to Canada; and
  • filling a labour shortage.

You must also demonstrate that there has been a genuine attempt to fill the position with a Canadian and that no such candidate was found.
Alternatively, you must show that due to the nature of the position and the lack of those specific skills in Canada, no attempt was made to advertise or locate a suitable Canadian candidate.

If Service Canada issues a Positive LMO, then a work permit renewal application can be made to Canada Immigration.

Where to File?

Regardless of whether you are applying for a renewal of an existing work permit, a work permit under another LMO exempt category, or a work permit pursuant to a Positive LMO, you must consider where to file the application. The majority of work permit extension applications are filed through the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville, Alberta. The advantages of filing through the inland office are:

  • the foreign worker does not have to leave
    Canada to do so;
  • the employer or its legal counsel can file
    the application on the worker’s behalf; and
  • the worker does not have to appear in
    person at the Canadian Immigration office,
    which allows him or her to avoid the stress
    of having to prove his or her case.

The other method for renewing a work permit is for the worker to appear at the port of entry/border and ask the immigration secondary officer to consider issuing a new work permit. Technically, immigration officers are discouraged from entertaining such applications because the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada wants to streamline these types of applications through Vegreville and allow port of entry
to concentrate on processing other types of applications.

However, the reality is that some work permit renewals are adjudicated at the border. Officers will be less reluctant to process this type of an application if the worker can establish that circumstances existed that made an inland application impossible. The advantage of a port of entry application is that the typical processing time ranges from 10 to 30 minutes, as opposed to the four- to six-week average processing time through the inland office in Vegreville. The disadvantage is that workers must largely make the case themselves and can face not only greater scrutiny but also a lecture from the processing officer on where their company should file future renewals.