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Subject to various exceptions, the initial conceptual starting point for any work permit application is that an employer must secure a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) for any position which it wishes to fill with a temporary foreign worker (TFW). Within this scheme there are many rules, including different considerations for low-wage vs. high-wage workers.

When it comes to low-wage workers, the system has, for the last several years, imposed various restrictions, including a cap on the number of positions an employer could fill with TFWs. Subject to some exceptions and a phase-in period, an employer has not been allowed to have more than 10 percent of its workforce composed of low-wage TFWs. This was designed to protect Canadian low-wage workers.

However, the government – without public announcement – has altered this rule. Now, “employers in seasonal industries hiring TFWs in low-wage seasonal positions that are no more than 180 calendar days in length” may exceed the cap, effectively allowing unlimited recruitment in various industries. The change defines seasonal as a situation where “both the industry and the occupation experience significant fluctuations in labour demand between peak and off-peak periods, usually occurring on or around the same dates every year.” (Note that there was a prior exemption made for the seafood industry of a 120-day work period, but this new provision is (a) for a longer period, and (b) applicable to any “seasonal” business.)

As with many changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, there are proponents and opponents. Among the opponents are the restaurant industry which claims that this creates a double standard. As of this time, there is no indication that this new provision will be broadened.

In its current form, the exemption can only be used one time, per work location, for applications received no later than December 31, 2016. No formal announcement has been made about future years, but this type of program will likely become more a fixture of the system.

This article was prepared by Kranc Associates, Canadian Corporate Immigration Counsel.

Disclaimer: The above information is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have any further enquiries regarding the applicability of this information, please contact the Regional Immigration Manager, Americas, Laura Taggart: ltaggart@crownww.com.

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