April 17, 2013

On March 21, 2013, the Canadian Government issued its annual budgetary “Economic Action Plan.” This year’s plan specifically focuses on enhancing the ability for Canadian nationals and permanent residents to obtain jobs ahead of foreign workers through job training and apprenticeships, expanding job-availability throughout in-demand fields, and further strengthening the Canadian workforce. As part of these initiatives, Canadian authorities have announced their intention to both enhance the review process for LMO-based work permit applications, as well as implement new pilot programs that seek to attract entrepreneurs and skilled foreign nationals to Canada.

Protecting and Strengthening the Canadian Workforce

The Economic Action Plan primarily focuses on the further development of a Canadian economy that will remain competitive in the global market, as well as provide sustainable and high quality jobs for its citizens and permanent residents. This will be accomplished both by introducing programs to improve the Canadian workforce, as well as modify the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Thus, according to the plan, “Canada continues to experience major labor and skill shortages in many regions, and Canadians who are seeking jobs should always be first in line for these opportunities. In order to help unemployed Canadians get back to work and ensure that Canadians are given the first chance at available jobs, the Government is taking action to reform Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program.”

The pilot programs aimed at fostering the growth of the Canadian workforce include:

  • Commitment to improving the avenues through which students and skilled workers can connect with employers in their industry.
  • The Canadian Job Grant – improving access to and funding for training programs that focus on current, in-demand industries throughout Canada.
  • Increased support and funding for federally-recognized apprenticeship programs.
  • Development of outreach and informational programs to connect Canadian students with career paths for current and forecasted high-demand fields.

The Canadian Government will work with all industry sectors to determine what skills are needed, the regions facing critical shortages of skilled workers and assess future skill needs.

Proposed Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program

The plan outlines several broad changes with details about implementation, requirements and protocols to be announced at a later date. Some of the general highlights include:

  • Temporary Foreign Worker Units (TFWUs) more closely scrutinize applications by Canadian employers to ensure there are genuinely no readily-qualified Canadian national or permanent resident workers.
  • Increase the recruitment efforts (e.g., the duration and proscribed method of advertising) that employers must make to hire Canadians [e.g., Labor Market Opinions (LMO) or Qu├ębec Certificate of Acceptance (CAQ)] prior to applying to sponsor TFW’s.
  • For Canadian companies heavily reliant on TFW’s, design training programs to train Canadian workers so that companies develop a stronger Canadian workforce over time.
  • Expression of Interest Program – The Action Plan confirms the Government’s intention to improve the foreign credential recognition process and create a new “Expression of Interest” immigration management system. This system will allow for Canadian employers, provinces and territories to select skilled immigrants from a pool of applicants who are seeking permanent residence in Canada, are already ranked according to a points-based system, and who best meet Canada’s economic needs.
  • Start-Up Visa Category – Starting April 1st, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will formally implement its “Start-Up Visa program to “match” qualified, foreign entrepreneurs with a network of Canadian angel investors and the business community.
  • Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations to restrict the identification of non-official languages as job requirements when hiring through the TFW process.
  • Revamp the foreign credential recognition process when assessing academic degrees and professional licenses or certifications.
  • In the coming year, the Government will also reform the Federal Skilled Worker Program, as well as strengthen Canada’s position as a country of choice to study and conduct research.
  • The Government will also propose to introduce user fees for employers applying for TFW’s through the labor market opinion process so that these costs are no longer absorbed by taxpayers.

ACTION ITEMS FOR EMPLOYERS

According to the Canadian Government, there are regions in Canada currently suffering high unemployment rates while there are shortages of qualified workers in other regions, particularly in sectors requiring either highly-specialized, vocational skills or backgrounds in the information and communication technologies industry.

As formal regulations and program details have not yet been announced, companies should be aware that some of the primary components of the 2013 Economic Action Plan directly affect corporate immigration policies, regulations, and procedures. Thus, companies should plan for both increased review and scrutiny of LMO-based work permit applications, as well as the potential for more frequent audits to ensure that employers are completing their due diligence when it comes to sponsoring foreign nationals to work in Canada.

The Action Plan does stress that it is making a commitment to meet traditional corporate immigration needs by better understanding employer demands and improving the responsiveness of the TFW Program by reducing hard-copy filing requirements and shortening processing times. It is not expected that temporary work permit applications filed by Intra-Company Transfer and NAFTA Professional applicants will be significantly affected by these new initiatives; however, companies should continue to ensure that their immigration practices into Canada remain compliant with current regulations.

Finally, it is recommended that companies be aware that CIC will be more closely scrutinizing all TFW applications and should consult with their Canadian immigration suppliers on both the appropriate category to suit the business need and the strategy for filing a qualified application for employment authorization.

Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change a moment’s notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by Glenn Faulk, Senior Manager, Knowledge Management, and SooHyung Smit, Coordinator, Knowledge Management. Pro-Link GLOBAL worked with our PLG | KGNM Correspondent Office in Canada to provide you this update.

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