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What is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program?

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program has generated some controversy since being introduced nearly 40 years ago. More recently, temporary foreign workers have made headlines for being barely paid and working too many hours.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada was forced to make changes, but what is this program and who is eligible?

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program allows Canadian employers to employ TFW’s for a limited amount of time to fill temporary labour shortages. Before an employer can hire a temporary foreign worker, they must get a Labour Market Impact Assessment done by Employment and Social Development Canada. Only when the LMIA identifies there isn't a Canadian citizen that can do the job, can the employer hire a worker from outside the country.

The employer, however, doesn't have to get the LMIA done every time. He can also hire temporary workers through the International Mobility Program. This program kicks in for employers where the government determined there are great advantages to hiring foreign workers.

Temporary Foreign Worker Program Infographic

What do you need to do if you want to become a temporary foreign worker in Canada?

You have to meet all the requirements set out by CIC to:

  • enter the country;
  • stay in Canada;
  • get a work permit; and
  • get a work visa (if required).

Please note: If you are bringing a spouse or common-law partner, she or he has to meet the same requirements as you do.

In 2015, and based on your TFW status, your spouse can apply for an open work permit if you are:

  • approved to work in Canada for a period of six months or longer;
  • have an occupation at skill level 0, A or B;
  • provide a letter from your employer as to your employment and that you meet the skill level - note: you can also provide a copy of your employment contract as proof; and
  • a copy of recent pay slips.

Any of your children that want to come with you to Canada have to apply for their own work or study permits.

What does your employer have to do in order to get permission to hire you?

  • The employer may have to file a LMIA;
  • The employer will have to pay the "employer compliance fee," and an additional fee if the TFW has an open work permit; and
  • The employer has to submit an Offer of Employment form to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

What if I want to get permanent residency status, can I get that as a temporary foreign worker?

Who can apply for permanent residence is limited to which program the TFW is under. TFW’s in the live-in caregiver program were able to apply for permanent residency under these rules in 2015:

  • You must have 24 months of full-time, live-in employment;
  • Your hours must total 3,900 of full-time employment. These hours may be completed within 22 months at a minimum. You can include up to 390 hours of overtime; and
  • You must have completed the above requirements within four years from the date of your arrival to Canada.

You can also apply for permanent residency if you are in the federal skilled worker program, the provincial nominee program or the Canadian experience class.

I heard the government overhauled the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. What does this mean?

The government made regulatory changes that will force employers to comply with the rules when it comes to TFW’s. There are fines and bans as potential consequences if the employer doesn’t adhere to the rules regarding TFW’s.

These changes also include the implementation of the new high and low-wage streams.

Effective April 30, 2015, employers offering a wage to a temporary foreign worker that is:

  • Below the provincial/territorial median hourly wage, will need to meet the requirements of the Stream for Low-wage Positions; and
  • At or above the provincial/territorial median hourly wage, will be required to meet the requirements of the Stream for High-wage Positions.

There has also been an update to provincial/territorial median hourly wages under the updated rules.

Read more:

Hire a temporary worker

Temporary Foreign Workers Program