Temporary Foreign Workers

Temporary Foreign Workers: the full story

In 2010, about 182,000 temporary foreign workers (TFWs) entered Canada. It’s the second-highest number of TFW entries in a single year, so some critics have argued that CIC is “throwing the door open for temporary workers.”

Does that criticism hold up if we take a closer look at the numbers?

Unlike what we do for permanent immigration, Canada does not set targets for the number of TFWs to be admitted each year. An increase in TFWs simply means that more employers need more employees.

If we look more closely at that overall figure of 182,000, we find:
  • Nearly 50,000 work permits, or more than a quarter of the total, were issued to young people coming to Canada on working holidays or professional exchanges through International Experience Canada (IEC). They require work permits, but their purpose in coming to Canada is quite different from other types of TFWs, and these programs address social and cultural goals rather than labour market objectives.   
  • More than a tenth (more than 21,000) of the overall number of TFWs entering Canada last year were issued to particular kinds of workers under international trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Trade in Services.  It is important to note, however, that as part of these international agreements, Canadians also receive reciprocal treatment that allows them to more easily work in other countries.
  • For 40 percent of foreign workers, more than 73,000 of the total, the employers had authorization from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada to hire foreign nationals. This authorization is only granted after an assessment of the labour market has been conducted and it has been determined that no Canadians or permanent residents were available to do the job. This figure includes nearly 24,000 seasonal agricultural workers, who play a critical role in ensuring a successful harvest for Canadian producers, and about 8,400 live-in caregivers, who help support Canadian families by providing care to children, the elderly and the disabled.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is operating successfully as a tool for employers to use when they cannot find suitable Canadian or permanent resident employees for the jobs they have available. It also is designed to facilitate other objectives, such as encouraging international exchange, supporting international trade agreements, and keeping families together.

1. Temporary Foreign Worker Provincially Selected (TFW-PS)
Under the terms of Temporary Foreign Worker Annexes that have been negotiated with certain provinces/territories, they have the authority to have the requirement for a labour market opinion waived for work permit applicants named in a written request from the province or territory. This authority is based on section 204(c) of the IRPR. Provisions respecting this authority might vary slightly from province to province and for greater certainty the wording in the appropriate annex should be referred to.

To date, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Yukon
Territory have such agreements in effect. They can be found at the following links:

Canada-Ontario Immigration Agreement - TFW Annex 2008

Agreement for Canada-Alberta Cooperation on Immigration - TFW Annex 2009

Canada-British Columbia Immigration Agreement – TFW Annex 2010

Canada-Nova Scotia Co-operation on Immigration – TFW Annex 2010

Agreement for Canada-Yukon Co-operation on Immigration – TFW Annex 2011

Role of the provinces/territories

In exercising its R204(c) authority, a province or territory will provide the visa office with a letter containing the necessary details such as the name(s) and birth date(s) of the individual(s) selected for the specific job, information about the employer and place of work, the duration of the job, and how it fits in with the employer's broader operations.

A copy of this letter will be attached to each TFW‘s application and upon receipt – whether at a visa office or, for visa-exempt workers, at a port of entry (POE) – the application shall be assessed for each individual as per usual procedures.

TFW-PS applicants do not require a nomination certificate.

Work Permit Instructions

TFW-PS applications shall be processed like other TFW work permit applications, on a first come first serve basis.

REMARKS: TFW-PS should be entered in the "Remarks" field to facilitate differentiating between this and the PNP provincial/territorial selection type.

EXTENSIONS: Maximum two-year extensions (or duration stated in the letter) may be issued provided the province has supplied the TFW with another letter affirming that the worker still meets the criteria for recommendation. Although no maximum number of extensions was specified in the Agreements, a general guideline of three 2-year extensions for each TFW-PS can be used.

2. Foreign Worker Nominated by a Province or Territory (PNP)
A person who has been nominated by a province or territory for permanent residence and is employed or has a job offer from an employer based in that province may be issued a work permit without requiring an LMO.

In order for this provision to be applied, the application for the work permit must include a letter from the provincial or territorial government that confirms:

- that the foreign national has been nominated for permanent residence by the province.
- that the nominated individual is urgently required by the provincial-based employer who has made the foreign national a job offer.

The duration of the work permit should be equivalent to the duration of the job offer.

"PNP" should be entered in the "Remarks" field to facilitate differentiating between the PNP and the TFW-PS provincial/territorial selection types.

Note: If there are any obvious potential medical or security concerns, these should be dealt with before any work permit is issued.

Note: It is not necessary that the application for permanent residence of the foreign national has been received by CIC for the work permit to be issued. The letter from the province is sufficient to trigger this LMO exemption.

For provinces/territories without nominee agreements (e.g. Nunavut) the legislative authority for the exemption is R205(a).

Provincial/Territorial Programs and Pilots related to TFW Annexes – R204(c) – T13

Pilot Project for Working Age Dependent Children of TFW (NOC 0, A, B) Destined to Ontario – OB 123 – July 1, 2009 to July 30, 2012*.
Special Program Code – ‗WDP‘

Pilot Project for foreign spouses and dependent children of high-skilled (see OB for list of occupations) Canadians or Permanent Residents returning to work in Ontario – OB 229 – September 15, 2010 to March 15, 2012*.
Special Program Code – ‗RCS‘

Pilot Project for Working Age Dependent Children of TFWs (NOC 0, A, B) Destined to Alberta – OB 122 - July 1, 2009 to July 30, 2012*.
Special Program Code – ‗WDP‘

Alberta Pilot Project for Spouses and Common-Law Partners of Long-Haul Truck Drivers – OB 146 – August 17th, 2009 to July 30th, 2012*.
Special Program Code – ‗LTD‘

Alberta Pilot for Occupational Specific Work Permits (steamfitter/pipefitter)
OB 279B – June 1, 2011 to May 31, 2013*

British Columbia
Pilot Project for Working Age Dependent Children of TFWs (all NOCs) destined to British Columbia – OB 337 – August 15, 2011 to February 15, 2013*.
Special Program Code – ‗WDP‘

British Columbia
Pilot Project for Spouses/common-law partners of TFWs (NOC C and D) destined to British Columbia – OB 337 – August 15, 2011 to February 15, 2013*.
Special Program Code – ‗LSS‘

*These dates refer only to the period in which qualifying work permits must be received, not to the duration of the work permits. The terms of the pilot will apply only to qualifying foreign nationals as described in the Operational Bulletins. All relevant work permits must be coded with exemption code T13 and with the appropriate Special Program code (if applicable) in order to support an effective evaluation of the pilot.
5.28. Canadian interests: Significant benefit

Can I apply for a work permit from inside Canada?

Only in some cases. You can only apply for a work permit from inside Canada if:

  • you, your spouse or parents have a valid study or work permit,
  • you have a work permit for one job but want to apply for a work permit for a different job,
  • you have a temporary resident permit that is valid for six months or more, or
  • you are in Canada because you have already applied for permanent residence from inside Canada. You will have to pass certain stages in the main application process before you can be eligible for a work permit.

There are other requirements as well.

If you are already in Canada as a visitor, you may not apply within Canada. You must apply for a work permit at a Canadian visa office:

  • responsible for the country where you live,
  • responsible for the country you are a citizen of, or
  • at a Canadian embassy or consulate in the United States of America.

You may be asked to go for an in-person interview at that office. If so, make sure you have all the documents you need to enter that country.

You must check:

  • whether you need to fill out any other forms or provide any other documents, and
  • how to pay the fee (visa offices do not accept fee payment receipts from banks in Canada).