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Canada Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)

February 17, 2023 by Katie Enman, Immigration Consultant
Canada Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)

What is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program?

Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is a federal government program allowing Canadian employers to hire foreign workers for temporary periods of time to fill a labour shortage. The TFWP is intended for employers who are unable to find Canadian citizens or permanent residents to fill job openings.

One of the key benefits of the TFWP is it allows Canadian employers to access a larger selection of skilled and unskilled workers from an international pool of candidates. This is particularly important for industries that rely on seasonal workers (like in agricultural or tourism) and temporary workers (such as construction workers needed to complete a particular project).

An employer typically needs a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment to be able to hire a foreign worker. This application is processed by ESDC and assesses, among other things, the Canadian employer’s ability to pay the foreign worker the median wage, any previous attempts to hire for the position being requested, and any other benefits to the Canadian economy by hiring a foreign worker(s).

Here’s an example:

Luanne owns a restaurant in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is currently so short staffed in her kitchen, she needs to close the restaurant two days a week. On the days she is opened, she is filling in shifts as a line cook to ensure operations run smoothly and guests receive their food on time. Despite many attempts to hire locally (including signing bonuses, hiring fairs, competitive benefits, employee referral programs, and an above average hourly wage), she has not been able to fill these positions. On top of this, her payroll and other administrative duties are falling behind because she has no time to focus on these items when her kitchen is running so short staffed. She is looking to the TFWP to help keep her business open.

In this scenario, Luanne has a genuine need for cooks. She has attempted to hire Canadians and Permanent Residents without success. Luanna’s business is a good candidate for a Labour Market Impact Assessment.

Criticism and Concern

Despite these benefits, the TFWP has also been the subject of significant criticism and concern. One of the main criticisms of the program is it allows employers to access a pool of cheaper, more exploitable labour from abroad, which can lead to lower wages and poorer working conditions for Canadian workers. There have also been cases of foreign workers being subjected to abuse and exploitation by employers, which has led to calls for stricter regulations and oversight of the program.

In response, the Canadian government has made a number of changes to the TFWP over the years. For example, in 2011, the government introduced a new rule that requires employers to pay temporary foreign workers the same wages and benefits as they would pay to Canadian workers for the same job. This was intended to ensure that the TFWP is not used to undermine wages and working conditions for Canadian workers. It also ensures foreign workers not only have the same wages and benefits, and ensuring that they have the same access to health and safety.

In addition, in 2013, the government introduced a new system of fees for the TFWP. The higher fees are intended to discourage employers from using the program to fill low-skilled, low-paying jobs.

Despite these changes and oversight by all levels of government, some concerns remain. Some argue the TFWP still allows employers to access a pool of cheaper, more exploitable labour from abroad, which can lead to lower wages and poorer working conditions for Canadian workers. In other words, Canadian employers are not as incentivized to hire locally where they are required to pay the minimum wage if they have access to more vulnerable workers from abroad.

Looking Ahead

As can be seen over the last several years, the government has continued to make changes to the program in an effort to address these concerns as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program plays an important role in supporting economic growth and development.

The article above is intended to provide general and non-case specific information on immigration related matters. It should not be used or relied on as formal legal advice.