March 2, 2012

Recent reports from the Canadian business community reflect a growing concern that foreign workers awaiting approval of their Labor Market Opinions (LMO) are in danger of having their work permit renewal applications rejected, requiring them to depart Canada while in mid-assignment.  Canadian companies are reminded to apply to obtain a new LMO six months in advance of the expiration of a current LMO in order to allow timely processing by Service Canada.

What’s Changed?

Canadian immigration law requires that Canadian companies sponsoring foreign workers who do not qualify for either a work permit exemption or LMO-exempt work permit category must apply for an LMO to confirm that the position on offer is genuine and that employment of a foreign worker will have a neutral or positive economic effect on the Canadian labor market.   LMO applications are filed with Service Canada and require a positive opinion prior to filing an initial or renewal work permit application with the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

In recent months, there has been an increasing backlog of LMO applications adjudicated by Service Canada due to a combination of factors. As Service Canada officers have moved from emphasizing facilitation of hiring of foreign workers to more monitoring of employer compliance.

Canadian companies filing an LMO-exempt work permit renewal application can expect CIC processing times of between 15-20 days.  However, for renewals requiring LMO re-certification, companies should bear in mind that the CIC will only hold open a work permit renewal application for 60 days from date of receipt by CIC.  Therefore, it is imperative that companies file a new LMO application with the appropriate Service Canada center at least six months in advance of filing the work permit renewal application with the CIC.

Failure to file a timely LMO application can jeopardize a foreign worker’s “implied status” (where the worker can continue working legally if their renewal application has been filed) should the CIC not receive a positive LMO within 60 days of filing the renewal application.

ACTION ITEMS FOR EMPLOYERS

Service Canada is advising Canadian sponsors that there are longer wait times for some regions where there is a larger volume of LMO applications, and other delays are caused by incomplete applications and a more “rigorous LMO assessment process.” The department is, however, trying to create a more simplified online application process to cut delays.

Barring a sudden clearing of backlogged applications, foreign workers nearing six months of expiration of status should review with their Canadian sponsors if a new LMO is required to renew status.  If so, company HR should work with their Canadian immigration providers to confirm the worker remains qualified to receive a positive LMO and to determine the appropriate time to file in order to avoid rejection of the work permit renewal application by the CIC.

This news alert was provided in coordination with our Canadian KGNM– Rekai LLP.

Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This content is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or final guidance for any immigration matter. Readers are reminded that a country’s immigration laws and requirements may change with little to no advance public notice. Questions regarding specific immigration matters should be addressed to your Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist.