Temporary Foreign Workers in Alberta’s Certified Trades

Effective August 1, 2012 TFWs seeking work in compulsory certification trades in Alberta will no longer have their trade-specific credentials assessed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada/Service Canada but rather by  Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Canada Border Services Agency.

In Canada, similar to education and health care, certification standards of tradespeople falls under provincial jurisdiction. In Alberta, tradespeople must be certified by Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training (AAIT). To ensure that tradespeople trained outside of the province meet industry standard, AAIT evaluates each and every candidate wishing to work in the oil-rich and labour-hungry province.

Temporary Foreign Workers wishing to work in a compulsory certification trade in Alberta must be a certified journeyperson and must also possess one of the following credentials:

  • Valid Alberta Qualification Certificate
  • Valid Canadians provincial/territorial trade certificate which is recognized by Alberta
  • Authorization letter from AAIT – Prior to a TFW coming to Canada, the employer wishing to hire TFWs in specified occupations for specialized work, typically for short periods of time, must request an authorization letter from AAIT
  • AAIT QCP approval letter – In situations where an authorization letter from AAIT does not apply, prior to the TFP coming to Canada s/he must obtain an approved application for the Alberta Qualification Certificate Program (QCP) from AAIT. With an approved QCP application, TFWs are eligible to work in Alberta under the supervision of a certified journeyperson. The QCP approval letter remains valid for one year. Upon arriving in Canada, the TFW will have up to 12 months to complete the QCP exams. Once all industry trade requirements are satisfied, including passing the specified trade examinations, an Alberta Qualification Certificate is granted to the TFW.

As it currently stands, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC)/Service Canada have required that one of these four documents be included with each Labour Market Opinion (LMO) request from an Alberta-based employer wishing to hire a foreign skilled tradesperson. Without evidence of one of these four documents, a positive LMO would not be issued.

Up until now, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers issue work permits based on Service Canada LMOs, and do not take AAIT letters into consideration. However, effective August 1st, 2012, the assessment of TFW qualifications or certification will now be the responsibility of CIC and CBSA officers. These officers will be required to determine if foreign nationals are capable of performing the work offered, and will need to verify that TFWs have been properly assessed by AAIT. While HRDSC and Service Canada will still be responsible for issuing LMOs, CIC and CBSA officers will need to ensure that TFWs can materialise the relevant letter/certification to enter Canada to work in a compulsory certification trade in Alberta. Service Canada officers will submit notes in HRSDC’s LMO letters as well as the Foreign Worker System (FWS) to instruct CIC and CBSA officers that the TFW applicant requires the relevant trade certificate or letter from AAIT. If the required documentation has not been obtained by an applicant or an employer, it is within the authority of the CIC and CBSA officers to refuse a work permit.

Trade Certificates Issued by non-Alberta regulatory authorities

  • A Certificate of Qualification from any Canadian province/territory other than Alberta, with or without the Interprovincial Red Seal certification, would make a TFW eligible to work in Alberta without applying for and/or obtaining a Certificate of Qualification from Alberta. Eligibility is conditional upon the trade certificate being recognized in the Province of Alberta. More information regarding AAIT certification requirements can be found at www.tradesecrets.alberta.ca.
  • TFWs who have earned a Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship issued by the USA International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers and would like to work in the Alberta Ironworker trade, may be exempt from completing an application and having their work experience in the trade assessed. Trade names that may appear on these certificates include Ironworker, Ironworker-Structural/Ornamental, Ironworker- Reinforcing. CIC will be accepting these certificates as AAIT approvals for applicants seeking employment in Alberta’s Ironworker trade.

Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training (AAIT)’s Qualification Certificate Program (QCP) for TFWs requiring certification

All foreign nationals who have successfully obtained an AAIT Qualification Certificate Program approval letter will be advised that the approval letter will need to be included with a work permit application and submitted to a visa office, inland (in the case of an extension) or presented to a CBSA officer at a Canadian Port of Entry.

Once the foreign worker arrives in Alberta, s/he will be legally allowed to work for the employer and will need to pass a theory and/or practical exam before the granted work permits expires. Upon arriving in Alberta, the foreign worker will need to successfully obtain trade certification within 12 months. CIC is able to issue an initial work permit for a 12-month period, with an application for extension being conditional upon a valid Alberta Qualification Certificate.

In the event that the permit-holder fails the examination(s) and the TFW’s work permit needs to be extended, a new LMO may need to be granted, assuming AAIT has allowed the candidate to re-write the examination(s). A work permit extension will only be granted if the application also includes a new QCP approval letter issued by the International and Provincial Assessment Services Branch within AAIT.

Alternatively, if the TFW has passed the certification exams and obtained the trade certificate, his or her employer can submit an application for a second LMO, allowing the foreign worker to apply for a work permit extension before the expiration of their current work permit.

Should a foreign worker or a Canadian employer not abide by the rules governing trade certification of foreign workers in compulsory trades, they would be in violation of Alberta’s Apprenticeship and Industry Training Act, and subject to the consequences outlined therein.

For more information click here.