Government to Help Temporary Foreign Workers Return to Work

May 12, 2020

Economic consequences are being felt in nearly every sector in Canada due to the coronavirus pandemic. Temporary Foreign Workers and their employers are facing considerable challenges from the volatile job market. 

Many temporary workers with employer-specific work permits became unemployed this spring. Some have left Canada, others are forced to stay due to international travel restrictions or fewer available flights. In order to gain new employment, they must apply and wait for a new work permit to be issued before starting their new job. This regulatory bottleneck is coupled with urgent, growing demand for labor in critical sectors like agriculture and health care.

In response to this labor shortage, the Government has announced a new, temporary policy which streamlines the time it takes for a temporary foreign worker to start a new job. 

The new policy allows a worker who is already in Canada and has secured a new job offer to be approved to work, even if their permit application is not fully processed. This will cut the average wait time for this process from 10 weeks to 10 days.

Consistent with Canada’s whole-of-government approach, multiple agencies are working together to support the economy and safeguard the health of Canadians during the pandemic.


“Immigrants, temporary foreign workers and international students are making considerable contributions to Canada’s response to the unprecedented challenge that COVID-19 poses. We know and value their efforts and sacrifices to keep Canadians healthy and ensure the delivery of critical goods and services. The new policy we are announcing will allow Canadian businesses to recruit the workers they need and help unemployed workers contribute to the Canadian economy during this pandemic.”

– The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

“Temporary foreign workers are an integral part of the Canadian workforce and Canada’s COVID-19 response. They are helping us meet urgent labour needs, to ensure our food security and deliver essential goods and services. While there will always be jobs for Canadians who choose to work in these sectors, these changes help support our economy by ensuring that temporary foreign workers already here can contribute during these extraordinary times.”

– The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, P.C., M.P., Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

Quick Facts  

  • COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the Canadian labour market. A lack of workers in agriculture, food processing or health care could harm Canada’s food security and health-care service capacity.
  • To be eligible, workers must
    • be in Canada with valid status
    • have an employer-specific work permit or have been working under a work permit exemption
    • have submitted an application for a new work permit with a valid job offer under either the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program
  • The work permit applicant must then submit a request to IRCC. The request will be reviewed within 10 days, and if approved, authorization for the worker to start working in their new job will be sent to them by email.
  • There is no change to the role of the employer in the process for hiring foreign workers. An employer needs to have, or obtain, a valid positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada, name the worker in a position on the LMIA, and notify Service Canada. For an employer-specific, LMIA-exempt situation, the employer needs to submit an offer of employment through the International Mobility Program Employer Portal.
  • In 2019, almost 190,000 employer-specific work permits were issued to foreign nationals.

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