Temporary Workers in Canada
Only citizens and permanent residents have the right to work in Canada. As a general rule, a Canadian employer must apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) before hiring a foreign worker. This is a determination by a government agency (Service Canada) that hiring the foreign worker will have a “positive or neutral economic effect” on job opportunities for Canadians. Factors to be considered include whether there are Canadians available to do the job, whether the pay is sufficient to attract Canadians, and whether the job will result in employment creation or transfer of skills to Canadians. In most cases employers must advertise the job to determine if Canadian workers are available. The minimum advertising requirement for a skilled occupation is a four week ad on the national Job Bank and two additional means of advertising. Employers must agree to pay the prevailing wage. There is a $1,000 fee for each worker requested on the LMIA. Once the LMIA is approved, the foreign worker can apply for a work permit.
However, there are many exceptions to the LMIA requirement. The exceptions should be utilized whenever possible since the LMIA process is expensive, time consuming, and unpredictable in outcome due to the possible availability of Canadian workers. The exceptions include the following.
- Many types of short term employment do not require either a work permit or an LMIA. These include religious workers; performing artists; athletes; buyers and sellers working on behalf of companies outside Canada; corporate and union personnel coming to Canada to consult with a Canadian affiliate; guest speakers; and trainees.
- Numerous other categories of business visitors also do not require a work permit. Examples include business visitors coming to negotiate contracts and engage in consultations. Another important category is after-sales service. This includes the installation, repair and servicing of commercial or industrial equipment or software sold by a business outside Canada. There must be a service agreement relating to the original sales contract. The workers must remain on the foreign payroll.
- Occupations listed in NAFTA and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) do require a work permit, but do not require an LMIA. While NAFTA is available only to US and Mexican citizens, GATS is available to citizens of many countries including India. NAFTA includes an extensive list of occupations, generally requiring a bachelor’s degree for entry. GATS is much more limited.
- Students at Canadian universities can work part time while studying, and can also get up to three years of post-graduate work permits. The spouses of foreign students studying in Canada can also get work permits.
- Several other categories of jobs, not related to treaties, also require employment authorization, but are LMIA exempt. These include intra-company transferees, investors, and persons whose work will result in a benefit to Canada.
- Canada offers young people from many countries an opportunity to visit Canada for “working vacations.” These programs vary from one country to another. They typically allow young people between the ages of 18 to 35 to work for up to 12 months in Canada.
- In June 2017 Canada launched a new “Global Skills Strategy” that allows several new classes of persons to work without work permits. This includes certain highly skilled or managerial employees to work for one 30 day period each year without a work permit, or two 15 day periods.
If you are from a country that requires a visa to enter Canada, you must apply for the work permit at a consulate. The consulate must be in your native country, or a country where you have been legally admitted. Persons who do not require a visa can apply at the border, or may choose to apply at a consulate. In some cases it may be necessary to have a medical exam before a work permit can be approved. All persons applying for a work permit at the border must have an online “offer of employment” filed in advance by the Canadian company requiring the services.
Once you are in Canada, you may apply for an extension of the work permit through the government processing office in Vegreville. Canada now allows the spouses of skilled or managerial foreign workers to obtain work authorization as well. This privilege also applies to same-sex and common-law partners. This is a major advantage over the United States, which does not usually allow partners of temporary workers to accept employment, unless they qualify independently.