Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program you need to know: LMIAs
By Michael Niren,
July 21, 2014

The Canadian Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) has been under intense media coverage over the last few months. Major changes in how the TFW program will be implemented will impact Canadian employers and temporary foreign workers.  The following are some of the changes coming soon.

Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs)

In most cases, employers require government approval before hiring a foreign worker now called  a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), formerly known as a Labour Market Opinion (LMO). An LMIA is issued by Service Canada in cases where a Canadian employer is unable to fill the position with a local Canadian worker. The main means of demonstrating this is though advertising the jobs in Canada and making efforts to hire Canadians but the applicants are not qualified for the position offered.

More details about LMIAs

The application fee for LMIA requests is now $1000 per worker, an increase from the $275 per worker fee for LMOs.

Under the new LMIA system job positions are to be be divided into just two categories: high-wage and low-wage. Jobs are considered high wage if the salary meets or exceeds the median wage in the province where the job will be performed, and low-wage if the salary is below the median.

Types of LMIAs

High-Wage LMIAs:

For high-wage positions, the LMIA procedure is much like that of the old LMO. However, a few major changes have been made:

  • The application forms have changed from the old LMOs and are more extensive
  • Employers must complete a ‘transition plan’ that will explain how they intend to permanently fill the job being held by the temporary foreign worker;
  • Employers are required to keep more detailed records during the foreign worker’s stay in Canada;
  • Certain applications will be processed more quickly. Foreign workers in skilled trades, high paid workers with salaries in the top 10% of Canadian earnings, and workers coming for 120 days or less will all receive LMIA decisions in 10 business days;
  • A new time limit for high-wage work permits may be imposed, but has not yet been announced.

Low-Wage LMIAs

The procedures and criteria involved for Low Wage LMIAs is somewhat different than for High-Wage LMIAs.  More restrictions are imposed on Low Wage job offers than are high wage as follows:

  • Positive LMIAs for low-wage jobs will now allow employers to hire a foreign worker for only one year at a time.
  • For organizations with more than 10 employees, low-wage foreign workers can make up no more than 10% of the work force.
  • Transitional measures will apply to employers whose work forces do not comply with this new rule.
  • Employers in the accommodation and food service sector as well as the retail trade sector will no longer be allowed to apply for LMIAs for jobs in 10 lower-skill occupations.
  • As with high-wage LMIA applications, employers must now pay a higher application fee, complete longer application forms, and keep detailed records about their recruitment practices.

Do all job offers to TFWs require a LMIA?

As in the case of the old LMOs, Canadian employers can recruit some TFWs without an LMIA. The following are categories where work permits are LMIA exempt:

  • Workers covered under the NAFTA agreement;
  • Intra-Company Transferees;
  • International Experience Canada participants (also known as Working Holiday permit holders);
  • Post-Graduate work permit holders;
  • Bridging Open Work Permit holders; and
  • Participants in certain academic exchanges such as post-doctoral fellows and visiting professors.
  • Programs such as those above have now been reclassified as ‘International Mobility Programs’.

In addition, beginning in summer 2015 employers hiring through some International Mobility Programs must have their job offers approved by a Canadian visa office before their hired employees can request a work permit. The processing fee for the job offer approval application will be $230.

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This article should not be relied upon as legal advice - the comments may not be applicable to you and may not be up to date. If you have any questions, you should contact a lawyer.