Canada extends Temporary Foreign Worker Program measures, launches new pathway for refugees

By Elizabeth Raymer

Law360 Canada (March 28, 2023, 3:34 PM EDT) -- Two new federal government measures are aimed at tackling a labour shortage in Canada, with the extension of a program for foreign workers and the launch of a new economic pathway for skilled refugees.

Employment and Social Development Canada announced it would extend temporary measures under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) in response to “critical labour shortages in key sectors.”

The temporary measures were introduced during the period of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and through the government’s TFWP Workforce Solutions Road Map. The continued measures, announced on March 27, include: 

  • “permitting employers in seven sectors with demonstrated labour shortages (such as accommodation and food services, construction, and food manufacturing) to hire up to 30 per cent of their workforce through the TFWP for low-wage positions;
  • keeping the Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA) validity period at up to 18 months; and,
  • maintaining the maximum duration of employment for low-wage positions at up to two years.”

The measures will remain in place until Oct. 30. In addition, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough announced that, effective April 3, the TFWP would begin transitioning to the LMIA online portal as the primary method to submit LMIAs.

“This shift to an online system will further improve processing, helping employers address their labour market needs quickly,” Employment and Social Development Canada said in a statement.

According to government data, the Canadian labour market has remained tighter than before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the job vacancy rate reached an historic peak in the third quarter of 2021. At the same time, the official unemployment rate “remains at a near-record low of 5.0%,” the department reported.

Despite an increase in demand, “national average processing times for LMIAs have improved by over 10 days in fiscal year 2022-23,” and average LMIA processing times now sit at about 29 days nationally, down from 40 days at the beginning of this fiscal year.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser has also announced that Canada will launch a new economic pathway under the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP) to help employers hire skilled refugees and other displaced individuals.

“The EMPP pairs skilled refugees and other qualified displaced individuals with Canadian employers who need to overcome labour shortages in key occupations,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said in a statement on March 27.

The new pathway aims to complement existing EMPP pathways, and will open this summer.

“It will give employers more opportunities to fill a wide range of in-demand jobs, including nurse aides, personal support workers, long-term care aides, software engineers, web designers, mechanical and electrical engineers and technicians, teachers, tourism and hospitality workers, and truck and delivery service drivers,” the federal department said in its release.

“The EMPP gives employers another avenue to address their labour market needs, while offering EMPP candidates an opportunity to restart their careers and their lives in safety with their families here in Canada.”

As well, the EMPP will now include a more flexible approach to eligibility “by allowing other displaced people who lack a durable solution and need international protection to apply.”

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