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Workers without borders: How we’re helping you access the workers you need

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Business owners across the country are facing challenges finding the workers they need. While it’s easier (and cheaper) to hire a Canadian for the job, sometimes there just aren’t enough qualified or willing applicants. The immigration system can help businesses fill both permanent and temporary positions. 

However, it can be a confusing and costly process. There are so many different immigration streams to consider—and piles of paperwork involved with each one. That’s why we’re pushing the government to make sure the immigration system is easier for you to navigate and meets the needs of your business. 

How can my business hire a foreign worker?

While many immigrants apply for a Canadian Visa themselves, there are several ways for employers to directly hire a foreign worker. These include:

  • Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP): This program allows you to hire a worker from abroad for a temporary position when a Canadian worker isn’t available. 
  • Atlantic Immigration Pilot: This program allows businesses in Atlantic Canada to hire workers at certain skill levels for permanent jobs they can’t fill with local candidates. To qualify, employers must commit to four settlement-related obligations. Once hired and in Canada, employees can then apply for permanent residency through the program. 
  • Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot: Similar to the Atlantic Immigration Program, the new Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot will allow community groups in eleven municipalities to work with local employers to hire immigrants. It will offer community support to help settle and integrate newcomers who can then apply for permanent residency. This program was opened to communities to apply in the fall of 2019. 
  • Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP): This program is part of the TFWP but is specifically aimed at businesses in the agricultural sector. Employers in primary agriculture for commodities such as fruits and vegetables, poultry and dairy can hire temporary foreign workers (TFWs) from participating Caribbean countries or Mexico for a maximum period of eight months between January 1st and December 15th. 

Red tape and costs

Typically, foreign workers and employers must go through a two-step process in order to receive a Canadian work permit. First, most employers hiring through the TFWP or the SAWP must submit an application to ESDC for a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), followed by a second application by the worker to Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for the actual work permit. 

The LMIA is issued by ESDC who, after considering numerous protective labour market factors, authorizes the Canadian employer to hire a foreign worker. This means jumping through several hoops, like filling out a very lengthy and confusing application form, while also demonstrating that you tried recruiting a Canadian worker within the last three months. Once you submit an application, there is a $1,000 fee (plus administrative fees) for each position, which is not refunded if your application is denied.

If you persevere through all this red tape, you may still wait months for an answer to your application. Some businesses reported waiting as long as 18 months before getting a response! We found that more than half of businesses waited between 6 and 12 months to receive an answer. If your business is seasonal, this can put a major kink in your hiring plans.

Integrating new employees

Many business owners ease new employees into their community by helping them find accommodations or offering additional language training. However, outside urban centres it can be difficult or expensive to access services that can assist a new immigrant in settling into their new community.

How we’re working to make it easier to hire the workers you need

Whether it’s red tape, timelines or costs, it can be difficult for you to hire – and keep – the foreign workers your business needs. We’re asking the government to minimize these barriers by:

  • Implementing an “Introduction to Canada Visa,” which would give foreign workers of all skill levels, including entry-level, the opportunity to work with an employer for two years as a defined step towards permanent residency.
  • Ensuring that the skills of economic immigrants welcomed into Canada match the current needs of the labour market to help address labour shortages.
  • Ensuring information about immigration programs, including the TFWP, is more accessible to small businesses.
  • Conducting a full review of the LMIA process to reduce the complexity of applications, improve government customer service, and significantly reduce delays in processing applications. 
  • Improving accessibility and awareness of services to help small businesses settle foreign workers in their new communities, including improving access to language training.

Hiring a foreign worker can be an overwhelming process, but CFIB is here to help you through it! Call a Business Counsellor today with any questions you have or issues your business has experienced when hiring a foreign worker.