Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) permits Canadian employers to temporarily hire foreign nationals to fill shortages in Canada’s labour force. The TFWP is jointly operated by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).
The program enables Canadian employers recruit the foreign talent they need while making sure that these foreign workers fair rights and adequate protection to work safely in Canada. Under the TFWP, employers can hire temporary foreign workers through the following streams:
Global Talent Stream
Foreign Agricultural Workers
One key characteristic of the TFWP is the requirement for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Any employer wishing to hire a foreign national through TFWP must first obtain an LMIA demonstrating that they were unable to find a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to fill the position. Only after obtaining an LMIA will an employer be able to officially hire a foreign national, enabling the foreign national, in turn, to apply for a Canadian work permit or Canadian permanent residence.
There do exist a few temporary worker options that allow employers to hire workers without requiring an LMIA. These options are organized within the International Mobility Program which is designed to process LMIA-exempt work permit applications.
Labour Market Impact Assessments
A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is a document issued by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) assessing the impact of recruiting a foreign national in Canada. A positive LMIA suggests that there is no Canadian citizen or permanent resident to fill a position, thereby entitling an employer to hire a foreign national. A negative LMIA stipulates that a position should be filled by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.
A foreign national cannot apply for an LMIA. Rather, LMIAs are documents that can only be applied for by a Canadian employer. While sometimes it is possible to hire a foreign worker who is exempt from needing an LMIA, or who is exempt from requiring a work permit, all streams of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) require that an employer obtain an LMIA in order to hire a foreign national from outside of Canada. Most of Canada’s immigration pathways to permanent residency require that applicants show a positive LMIA in order to get points for a Canadian job offer.
International Mobility Program
The International Mobility Program (IMP) allows Canadian employers to hire temporary foreign workers without the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). While most employers hiring foreign workers will require an LMIA, there are certain circumstances where LMIA-exemptions exist. These LMIA exemptions are based on the following conditions:
reciprocal benefits enjoyed by Canadians and permanent residents.
broader economic & cultural or other competitive advantages for Canada and
In order to hire a foreign worker through the IMP, a Canadian employer must follow three steps:
Confirm the position or worker in question qualifies for an LMIA-exemption
Pay the employer compliance fee of $230 CAD
Submit the official job offer through the IMP’s Employer Portal
Post completion of the three steps mentioned above, the foreign national be eligible to apply for their work permit. LMIA-exempt workers may qualify for expedited work permit processing through the Global Skills Strategy if their position is NOC Skill Level A or 0 and they apply from outside Canada
Global Talent Stream
The Global Talent Stream (GTS) is a two-year pilot program that was launched in June 2017 through a partnership between Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The program supports certain Canadian employers to recruit highly-skilled global talent thereby enabling them to compete globally. Employers who are successfully referred to the program will be able to expedite the process.
As the name suggests, this program entitles employers to hire foreign nationals earning above the median hourly wages. If an employer wishes to hire a temporary foreign worker who will be paid at or above the median hourly wage of their province or territory then the employer must apply through the TFWP stream for high-wage workers. The first step in this process requires the employer to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) proving beyond a doubt that they were unable to find a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to fill the position.
Once an employer is issued a positive LMIA for a high-wage skilled position, they must inform the foreign worker of the LMIA results and notify them that they must apply for their authorization to work in Canada prior to the expiration of the LMIA. Once a high-wage worker receives a positive LMIA from an employer alongside their official signed employment contract, they may apply for authorization to work in Canada either through a work permit application or a permanent residency application, depending on their eligibility.
As the name suggests, the program entitles employers to hire temporary workers who will be paid below the median hourly wages of their respective Canadian territory or province. If an employer wishes to hire a temporary foreign worker who will be paid less than the median hourly wage of their province or territory then the employer must apply through the TFWP stream for low-wage workers. The first step in this process requires the employer to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) showing that they were unable to find a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to fill the position.
Employers should note that LMIAs for low-wage workers require employers to meet certain stipulations to ensure the workplace rights and safety of low-wage non-resident workers. Once an employer is issued a positive LMIA for a low-wage skilled position, they must inform the foreign worker of the LMIA results and notify them that they must apply for their authorization to work in Canada prior to the expiration of the LMIA.
Once a low-wage worker receives a positive LMIA from an employer alongside their official signed employment contract, they may apply for authorization to work in Canada either through a work permit application or a permanent residency application subject to them meeting eligibility criteria.
Foreign Agricultural Workers
Employers wishing to hire temporary foreign workers to fill specific positions related to agricultural production may be able to use one of the TFWP agricultural streams to hire workers. Canada offers two streams designed to facilitate the hiring of temporary foreign workers in the field of agriculture. In order to qualify for either stream, first an employer must ensure that they meet the following general requirements:
1. production must be in specific commodity sectors on Canada’s national commodity list;
2. the activity must be related to on-farm primary agriculture in one of the following National Occupation Classification (NOC) Codes: 0821, 0822, 8252, 8255, 8431, 8432, and 8611
If an employer meets the above-mentioned criteria, they may be eligible to hire temporary foreign workers through the regular Agricultural Stream or the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP).
Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP)
The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) enables employers to hire temporary foreign workers to fill temporary positions in agricultural production for a maximum of 8 months at a time. All positions must meet the general requirements for hiring foreign agricultural workers. As well, foreign workers must be citizens of Mexico or one of the Caribbean countries participating in the bilateral agreement facilitating the SAWP. If an employer meets the requirements for the SAWP, they can apply for an LMIA indicating the SAWP specifications.
Employers hiring through the SAWP must meet certain requirements regarding transportation of workers to and from their country of residence, housing them during the work period, and provision of adequate workplace health and safety conditions. Countries participating in the SAWP include: Mexico, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Families wishing to hire a foreign national to provide care, in a private residence, to seniors, children, or individuals with medical needs, may be able to do so through the In-Home Caregivers stream of the TFWP. This stream enables families to hire temporary foreign workers, provided that the positions to be filled meet one of the following criteria:
Caregivers for children: For those providing care to children under the age of 18 years old. The position must meet the requirements for National Occupation Classification (NOC) Code 4411.
Caregivers for persons with high medical needs: For those providing care to seniors or to persons with disabilities who require care. The position must meet the requirements for one of NOC 3012, 3233, or 4412. Families wishing to hire in-home caregivers may apply for authorization through the TFWP. Families must follow the same application procedure as employers hiring through the high-wage and low-wage streams. Additionally, families hiring in-home caregivers will have to provide evidence that:
They have a dependent family member requiring in-home care; and
They have the financial capacity to pay the wages of the in-home caregiver.
Families hiring in-home caregivers for seniors and people living with disabilities are exempt from the $1000 CAD application fee for an LMIA. As well, families hiring in-home caregivers for children will be exempt from the LMIA application fee if their gross annual income is less than $150,000 CAD.
The hiring of foreign academics in post-secondary institutions can increase Canada’s quality of education as well as enable Canadian institutions to be globally competitive in terms of academic research. For this reason, IRCC and ESDC have developed a number of procedures to facilitate the hiring of foreign academics in Canada. In many cases, foreign nationals hired in research positions at post-secondary institutions may be exempt from requiring an LMIA, a work permit, or both. Academics who do not qualify for a work permit exemption or LMIA exemption must ensure that regular procedures are followed for hiring workers through the TFWP.
Global Skills Strategy
The Global Skills Strategy is designed to facilitate the expedited processing of work permits for individuals in certain positions. Under the Global Skills Strategy, certain foreign nationals are eligible to apply to have their work permits processed in two weeks. In order to qualify for expedited processing, foreign nationals must be applying from outside of Canada. As well, foreign nationals must be applying for a work permit meeting one of the two following conditions:
LMIA-exempt workers: travelling to Canada to work in a position at NOC Skill Level 0 or A; or
Workers requiring an LMIA: possessing a positive LMIA issued through the Global Talent Stream of the TFWP.
If a foreign national meets either of these two categories they can apply for two-week processing of their work permit by submitting an online application through the IRCC web-portal. As well, accompanying spouses, common-law partners, and dependent children are eligible to submit applications for visitor visas, study permits, and work permits which will also be processed at an expedited rate.
Temporary Foreign Worker in Quebec
The province of Quebec retains significant autonomy over its immigration policies and procedures. For this reason, the province has a few unique distinctions regarding the hiring of foreign workers.
Language of Submission
All LMIA applications submitted in Quebec must be submitted in French except for LMIAs for in-home caregiver positions. If an employer has difficulty with this protocol they may contact ESDC who will work with employers to minimize the impacts of this language requirement.
Application to MIDI
As with all Quebec-based immigration programs, applications must be approved both by the provincial authorities and the federal authorities. For this reason, applications for LMIAs must be submitted both to Service Canada for ESDC processing at the federal level, as well as to the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion (MIDI) for processing at the provincial level.
In some cases, MIDI has implemented a policy exempting the requirement for an employer to obtain an LMIA for certain foreign workers. In order to qualify for this exemption, an employer must the hiring a temporary foreign worker who meets the following criteria:
has a valid work permit;
holds a skilled worker Certificate of Selection in Quebec (CSQ);
resides in the province of Quebec; and
has applied for permanent residency under the Quebec Skilled Worker class.
The facilitated LMIA process allows Quebec employers to apply for LMIAs without needing to provide evidence that they made efforts to recruit a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to fill the position.