Changes to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program 2019


Three-year Permanent Resident Pilot for Eligible Agri-Food Workers

On June 12, 2019, the Government of Canada announced that starting early 2020, it will launch a new three-year economic immigration pilot that will help retain experienced non-seasonal temporary foreign workers in the agri-foods industry. Eligible applicants under this pilot will have access to permanent residency in Canada. This pilot will provide a way to address labour market needs in the agriculture and agri-foods sector, as well as grow rural communities. The occupations and industries eligible under this pilot include meat processing, general farm workers and harvesting laborers for mushroom, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers for meat processing, year-round mushroom production, and greenhouse crop production or livestock raising workers.  

The program will accept a maximum of 2,750 principal applicants plus family members in any given year. Additionally, eligible employers in the meat processing sector who use this pilot will be issued a two-year Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). For more information and eligibility please read here.

Updates to the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP) Program

On March 1, 2019, Canada announced that it will extend the AIP program for two years till December 2021. Since 2017, the AIP program has helped address labour shortages in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, by allowing designated employers hire foreign workers without a labour market impact assessment (LMIA). The extension also comes with new updates including changes that give international graduates in the Atlantic provinces more time to apply, flexibility for hiring health care professionals and changes to the requirement for temporary work permit applications (effective May 1, 2019). According to CIC, as of May 1, 2019, there are new work permit eligibility requirements for applications made under the AIP program. Applicants must now submit language, education, and work experience documentation according to the specific AIP program they are applying for. Please see more information here.

Continuing the program through till 2021 will help attract skilled immigrants to the Atlantic Canada Region and address the unique labour and demographic challenges of the Atlantic region. For more updates and AIP eligibility requirements see here.

Changes to Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) Applications for Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program

On October 31st 2018, Employment and Social Development Canada gave notice that a copy of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) employment contract no longer needs to be included with the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) application. However, employers were still required to have a copy of the contract on file, signed by both the employer and workers (after they arrive), in the event of an inspection.

In addition, as of January 14, 2019, Agricultural stream applications from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon must be sent to the Ontario LMIA processing center. See more details here.

Biometrics Expansion to Include Foreign Workers

As stated in the 2018 changes page, starting December 31, 2018, all foreign workers will be required to provide biometrics information, including fingerprints and digital photograph to obtain entry into Canada. This biometrics expansion is meant to have no impact on LMIA assessments however special measures were put in place to support the 2019 transition. On such measure is that an employer can submit an LMIA applications that have multiple worker arrival dates for Seasonal Primary Agricultural Work Program (SAWP) positions, as long as the applications are for the same position, wage and National Occupational Classification (NOC) code. For more info, see here.

 Changes to the Caregiver Program

On the 2018 changes page it was reported that the federal government announced that Canada will end the pathway for permanent residence for foreign caregivers by 2019. Following the widespread criticism in response to these proposed changes, on February 23, 2019, the IRCC announced that caregivers will have access to two new five-year caregiver immigration pilots that will allow care givers to come to Canada together with their families and provide a pathway to permanent residency. These two new pilots, which opened for applications on June 18th 2019, are the Home Child Care Provider and the Home Support Worker pilots. In accordance with these plans, the former pilots Caring for Children and Caring for People with High Medical Needs pilots will end on June 18th 2019.

The new pilots which will run for five years from June 18th 2019- June 18th 2024 will now include an open occupation specific work permit for caregivers (eliminating the need for a LMIA) and open work permits for spouses/common law partners/study permits for dependent children to allow the caregiver’s family to accompany the caregiver to Canada. See June 18th 2019 notice ending LMIA applications here and here.

The new pilots will each have a maximum of 2,750 principal applicants for a total of 5,500 principal applicants per year, plus their immediate family members. Processing times for the new pilots will be approximately 12 months, however, a 6-month processing standard will apply for finalizing an application after the caregiver submits proof that they have met the work experience requirement. For more information about the new pilot programs and application processes see here and here.

The Minister also announced an interim pathway for caregivers’ program which will provide caregivers who came to Canada since 2014 and were formerly unable to meet the requirements for permanent residence, a modified criterion, and a pathway to permanent residence. This interim program will run for three months from March 4, 2019, until June 4, 2019. And be reopened again July 8th to accept applications for 3 months till October 8, 2019. Although this comes as a positive addition for current caregivers who would not have otherwise had a path to Permanent Residency, the present caregivers will now be assessed on and have to meet some of the standards for economic immigration programs including language and educational credential assessments. More information about the interim program see here and here.

Updates to the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) “high wage”/“low wage” income cut-off

 As of April 22, 2019, there was an increase in the “high wage”/ “low wage” cut-off amounts used in the respective provinces when determining whether an LMIA should be issued under the high wage versus low wage position streams launched in 2015. See current chart for the new cut-off amounts here.

Updates to Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) Processing Times

On May 10, 2019, Employment and Social Development Canada gave notice of delayed LMIA processing due to high volume of applications. According to the new processing times estimates, LMIA applications for the Global Talent Stream received the fastest processing (10 days) whereas LMIA applications for the Low-wage Stream received the slowest (120 days). For more information, see here.

 Open Work Permits for Victims of Abuse (Vulnerable Workers)

On December 15th 2018, the federal government published in the Canada Gazette Part I, Vol. 152, No. 50,  a notice that it will launch a new open work permit program for migrant workers and their families facing abuse, or the risk of abuse. The Government recognized that the current power imbalance which employer specific work permits create, and delay in finding another employer to timely provide an abused employee with a new permit creates a disincentive for abused workers to speak up. Thus, starting June 4, 2019, migrant workers in Canada who have an employer specific work permit and are in an abusive job situation, can apply for a free open work permit, and be empowered to leave the abusive situation. This application can only be made by temporary foreign workers who are inside Canada, with a valid employer-specific work permit and are being abused or at risk of being abused in relation to a job they hold in Canada. The open work permit that will be received should the vulnerable worker be approved will however only serve as a temporary solution, because it will have an expiry date, and the temporary worker would be unable to renew it.

This new open work permit remedy will mirror the existing pilot program in BC, and IRCC estimates that approximately 500 work permit applications will be submitted per year. Examples of abuse recognized under this program include physical harm, sexual touching that was not consented to, unwanted sexual comments, controlling where the worker can go, stealing from the worker, stopping a worker from seeing friends or co-workers, taking some or all of the money that should be paid to a worker, threats insults and intimidation, forcing a worker to commit fraud etc.

When an application is approved for an open work permit for a vulnerable worker, the employer will also face an employer compliance inspection which will result in a monetary penalty, and/or a ban on hiring foreign workers, and loss of workers for which the employer paid fees to hire, if the employer is found non-compliant. However, introduction of the open work permit for vulnerable individuals is not estimated to lead to incremental increases in the net number of compliance inspections conducted by ESDC and IRCC each year.

For step by step information about vulnerable workers’ open permit application see here.


The new open work permit program for vulnerable individuals received several praises, criticisms, and overall, it is received as a step in the right direction. For example, the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) welcomed the proposal and suggested some complementary measures including:  

·      the need for this remedy to be accessible to workers in all streams of the TFWP, (including Seasonal Agricultural Workers etc.)

·      timely decision-making process,

·      the use of processing guidelines sensitive to trauma, lived experiences of the workers as related by them and recognition that physical proof of abuse may not often be available;

·      Allowing a standard work permit of at least one year to ensure that the duration of the work permit be long enough to allow the employee find a new job and be eligible for provincial health coverage in provinces where health coverage is tied to a minimum length of work permit;

·      More support services for immigrant workers

For full report read here.

Similarly, the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) in a joint submission with other legal agencies and clinics, welcomed the amendment, and offered recommendations including:

·      The acceptance of a worker’s self-described experiences and narratives and evidence documented by legal and community organizations supporting temporary workers when determining the risk of abuse.

·      The inclusion of Seasonal Agricultural Workers in the proposed regulatory amendment as they are among the most vulnerable and abused workers.

·      Making the amendment subject to annual reviews, including reviews of negative decisions.

For detailed response see here.

Special Rules for hiring TFW in Quebec

Certain special rules govern the hiring of temporary foreign workers in Quebec including the requirement of an acceptance certificate issued to the foreign worker by the minister. Please see latest changes and updates here and here.

Updates- Global Talent Stream

In March 2019, the Government also proposed to make the Global Talent Stream permanent. In its 2019 budget, the federal government stated that the Stream has generated commitments from Canadian employers to create 40,000 new jobs for Canadians and permanent residents, develop over 10,000 co-op placements, and invest over $90 million in skills development and training. The Government pledged $35.2 to support the Global Talent Stream, over the next five years.

In June 2019, The Government of Canada updated the list of occupations eligible under its Global Talent Stream. The update includes the removal of two occupations (engineering managers, and architecture and science managers) and the addition of one (computer network technicians). The updates are said to be necessary in order to ensure the list continually reflects the Canadian labour market needs.