Using immigration programs to overcome labour shortage problems

Business owners from across Canada are reporting that a shortage of qualified labour is one of their fastest-growing concerns. In fact, over half of CFIB members report that they cannot find the people they need to get their products and services to market. One solution is to look outside of Canada for workers – whether temporary or permanent – to help fill the labour gaps. 

Programs for Temporary Workers: 

Temporary Foreign Worker Program

  • Not available to employers in the restaurant, hotel or retail sectors in areas of 6% unemployment or more.
  • Low-wage employers may be required to advertise to up to four under-represented groups (youth, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, and newcomers) before applying to hire a TFW.
  • Work permits issued for 1-year duration.
  • Employer must apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment ($1,000 non-refundable fee).
  • No more than 10% of an employer’s workforce can be TFWs if they accessed the program after June 20, 2014.  

International Mobility Program

  • Can hire/bring in foreign workers without needing a Labour Market Impact Assessment
  • Individuals who can access this program: international students who have graduated from a Canadian school; persons permitted to work temporarily in Canada due to free trade agreements (i.e. NAFTA), International Experience Canada participants; some permanent resident applicants. 

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

  • Allows citizens of the United States and Mexico to quickly gain entry into Canada for temporary business or investment reasons.
  • Labour Market Impact Assessment not required.
  • To work in Canada in one of 63 listed professions. 

Foreign Students

  • Eligible students may work for an eligible employer for up to 20 hours per week while class is in session and full-time during scheduled breaks in the academic calendar.
  • Students must have a valid study permit, be a full-time student, be enrolled at a designated institution at the post-secondary level (vocational program at the secondary level in Quebec), be studying in a program that leads to a degree, diploma or certificate and is at least 6 months in duration.
  • Employers must ensure the student has a valid study permit. Employers may also want to confirm that student is studying full-time in an eligible program. 

Post-Graduation Work Permit Program

  • Allows eligible international students to work for any eligible Canadian employer for up to 3 years
  • Student must have completed a program of at least 8 months at an eligible Canadian institution.
  • The foreign worker is responsible for the application process
  • The work permit is open, so the student can work for any eligible Canadian employer. 

International Experience Canada

  • Three travel and work experiences: working holiday, Young Professionals, International Co-op Internship.
  • Employers hiring under the Young Professionals or International Co-op Internship must complete an Offer of Employment and pay an employer compliance fee of $230. 

Programs for Permanent Workers: 

Express Entry

  • Manages applications in the Federal Skilled Worker program, the Federal Skilled Trades program, the Canadian Experience Class, and a portion of the Provincial Nominee Program.
  • Employers can hire an Express Entry candidate to meet labour needs when unable to find Canadians or permanent residents to fill job vacancies.
  • Access to a pool of candidates who fit current labour market needs through government Job Bank and private sector job boards.
  • No Labour Market Impact Assessment fee for permanent residence applications. 

Provincial Nominee Program

  • An employer makes a job offer to a foreign worker who can then include the offer as part of their application to their provincial immigration office. Once they have been nominated by the province, the international worker can apply to Citizenship and Immigration for permanent residence.
  • Each province and territory has its own programs that target certain groups and have varying criteria for their Provincial Nominee Program. 

Please keep in mind: 

It is illegal to hire a foreign national who does not have a valid work permit or other legal authorization to work in Canada. Employers of temporary foreign workers should examine their employees’ work permits to ensure they are properly documented, and monitor the expiry dates of the work permits in the event an extension is required. An employer who illegally employees a foreign worker can be convicted and given up to two year’s jail time and/or a fine up to $50,000. 

On July 6, 2015, new consequences were introduced for employers who violate conditions of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Employers who are found to have failed to live up to their commitments may:

  • be prohibited from hiring temporary foreign workers for periods ranging from 2 years to a permanent ban;
  • face fines up to $100,000 per violation;
  • have their name published on a public list with details of the violation(s).