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Temporary COVID policy change helps employers hire visitors | Colin Singer

Tuesday, September 15, 2020 @ 2:28 PM | By Colin Singer

Colin Singer %>
Colin Singer
Ottawa has recently introduced a temporary public policy to allow visitors to apply for a work permit without needing to leave Canada.

The move is designed to benefit employers having difficulty finding workers and allow temporary residents to contribute to the COVID-19 economic recovery. Previously, visitors already in Canada when approved for a work permit would need to leave Canada and return before their paperwork was issued.

The new temporary public policy is already in effect.

“We have heard from employers who continue to face challenges recruiting and hiring the workers they need during the pandemic,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino. “At the same time, some visitors in Canada may be able to contribute their skills where there are labour shortages. This exemption from the normal temporary work permit requirements is aimed at removing barriers to create a more agile workforce that leverages visitors with the skills and experience to accelerate our economic recovery.”

The change could help candidates in a number of different situations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • Visitors who have been unable to leave.
  • Foreign workers who had to change their status to visitor because their work permit was expiring and they didn’t have a job offer to be able to apply for a new work permit.
  • Employers facing ongoing labour and skills shortages during the pandemic.

To qualify, applicants must:

  • Have valid status in Canada as a visitor on Aug. 24, 2020, and remain in Canada.
  • Have a job offer.
  • Submit an application for an employer-specific work permit that is supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or an LMIA-exempt offer of employment, no later than March 31, 2021.
  • Meet all other standard admissibility criteria.

Candidates who meet the criteria and held a valid work permit in the last 12 months can begin working for their new employer while their application is being processed.

The policy is open to any visitor who meets the criteria, including super visa holders, business visitors and those who entered via a Global Skills Strategy work permit exemption. Candidates arriving in Canada as visitors after Aug. 24 are not eligible.

Drop in Canada work permits becoming effective

Federal government figures show a significant drop in the number of work permits that became effective through both the International Mobility Program (IMP) and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the IMP, 104,485 work permits became effective in the first half of 2020, compared to 146,510 in the first half of 2019, representing a shortfall of more than 40,000. The IMP is the program through which LMIA-exempt candidates are issued work permits.

Meanwhile, 51,385 work permits became effective through the TFWP in 2020, compared with 61,260 in the same period of 2019. This means Canada is short 50,000 temporary workers in 2020 compared to 2019.

Priority occupations

Canada has prioritized work permits in important occupations in agriculture and agri-food to help farms and other businesses during the pandemic.

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), which handles LMIA requests through the TFWP, is prioritizing applications in the following occupations:

  • 6331: Butchers, meat cutters and fishmongers — retail and wholesale.
  • 7511: Transport truck drivers.
  • 8252: Agricultural service contractors, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers.
  • 8431: General farmworkers.
  • 8432: Nursery and greenhouse workers.
  • 8611: Harvesting labourers.
  • 9462: Industrial butchers and meat cutters, poultry preparers and related workers.
  • 9463: Fish and seafood plant workers.
  • 9617: Labourers in food, beverage and associated products processing.
  • 9618: Labourers in fish and seafood processing.

Other measures put in place by ESDC include the waiving of minimum recruitment requirements until at least Oct. 31, 2020. It has also extended the validity of LMIAs from six to nine months and doubled the duration of employment from one to two years for workers in the low-wage stream as part of a three-year pilot.

All workers are required to complete a health check before boarding a flight and to isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Canada.

Colin R. Singer is immigration counsel for He can be reached via Twitter: @immigrationca.

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