Ministers Announce Overhaul of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program


On June 20, 2014, Chris Alexander, the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration, and Jason Kenney, the Minister for Employment and Social Development, unveiled a number of changes to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program at a press conference in Ottawa.

The Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program overhaul is a result of the program coming under fire in recent months due to allegations about abuse of the program by employers.  A number of high profile companies were named in the allegations, including McDonalds Restaurants and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).  Initially, Jason Kenney responded to this controversy by enacting a moratorium on the access of food services companies to the TFW program.  The government also began publishing the names of companies who abused the system.

Decisions based on poor Canadian labour market data is also often cited as a downfall of the program, and Kenney recently announced that the federal government would spend $15 million annually on new surveys to better identify labour shortages and job vacancies in Canada.

While these changes over the past few months make an effort to correct many of the problems with the program, further changes are still necessary. Discussing the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in the House of Commons, Jason Kenney stated that the changes to the program would “severely punish non-compliant employers and prevent distortions in certain regions or industries in the labour market.”  

At Friday’s press conference, after debunking myths about the program and emphasizing its character as a “last and limited resort,” Jason Kenney announced a number of changes to the program in order to improve upon the TFW program’s transparency and accountability practices.  

The Ministers began with the announcement that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program will be separated.  The TFW program will be handled by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and the International Mobility Program will be handled by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Kenney described the following reforms as “bold, broad, ambitious, and balanced.” The reforms are organized into three pillars: limiting access to ensure Canadians are first in line for jobs, more and better labour market information and stronger screening, and stronger enforcement and harsher penalties.

Limiting Access to the TFW program to ensure Canadians are prioritized for jobs:

  1. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program will be separated.  The TFW program will be handled by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and the International Mobility Program will be handled by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
  2. Labour Market Opinions will be replaced with a new and more rigorous Labour Market Impact Assessment, which will be more difficult to obtain, for both the TFW and the International Mobility programs.  
  3. From this point on, for companies with 10 or more employees, only 10% can be temporary foreign workers.  Companies that are currently operating above this threshold have a grace period during which they can decrease the percentage of their employees who are temporary foreign workers.
  4. EDSC will no longer accept Labour Market Opinion applications for low skilled, low paid positions in the non-tradable services sector (which includes food services and the hotel industry) in regions of unemployment above 6%.
  5. Agreements with the provinces and territories will be revised over the next year in order to ensure all employers are subject to the new Labour Market Impact Assessment.

Better labour market information:

  1. As previously announced, the government has committed funding to two new labour market surveys to ensure access to more accurate information about the Canadian labour market.  
  2. The government has also pledged to better internal communication among government departments and to make better use of existing government data.

Stronger enforcement and harsher penalties:

  1. The government’s power to audit companies using the program will be increased.  Now, 1 in 4 companies using the program can expect to be audited.  Inspectors now can review a company based on 21 criteria, while previously they could only review based on 3 criteria.
  2. The government will be referring to Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) cases of fraud by employers if they misrepresent their applications.  The federal government will be contributing resources to the CBSA to help them hire additional staff to conduct these criminal investigations.
  3. The TFW program will also see a significant increase om the fees paid to the government by employers. Currently, companies are required to pay a $275 fee for each temporary foreign worker they employ under the program.  Kenney announced that this fee will increase to $1,000 per worker.  There will also be an imposed priviledge fee of $100, and the revenue from this fee will be used to increase funds for the Canada Job Grant.
  4. To increase program accountability, the government also plans to publicize not only the “blacklisted” companies who abused the program, but all companies who are employing foreign workers under the program.  This practice is likely to help deter fraudulent use of the program from Canadian companies.
  5. Abusing the TFW program will now result in harsher punishment for employers, with fines and penalties being imposed on the company.  Fines of up to $100,000 will now be a possibility for employers who abuse the system.  Other administrative, monetary, and criminal consequences could be a result.

The Ministers also announced that the number of years a temporary foreign worker can work in Canada will be decreased from 4 years to 2 years.  The moratorium on applications in the food service sector is also removed, effective immediately.

Kenney says these reforms will ensure that Canadians are given the first opportunity in the Canadian job market and that the TFW program remains a last and limited resort for Canadian employers.

To learn more about how these changes will affect you and how to immigrate to Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker program, contact FWCanada for a free assessment.

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

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