Human Resources and Social Development Canada

Human Resources and Social Development Canada

September 24, 2007 14:00 ET

Temporary Foreign Worker Program Improved for Employers in B.C. and Alberta

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Sept. 24, 2007) - The Honourable Monte Solberg, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, the Honourable Colin Hansen, Minister of Economic Development and Minister responsible for the Asia-Pacific Initiative and the Olympics for British Columbia, and the Honourable Olga Ilich, British Columbia's Minister of Labour and Citizens' Services, today announced improvements to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. These improvements will make it faster for employers in British Columbia and Alberta to hire foreign workers when there are no Canadian citizens or permanent residents available to fill the position.

In addition, the federal government and the Province of British Columbia are working together on the development of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will strengthen protections for temporary foreign workers. A similar agreement with Alberta was announced in July.

"Canada's New Government is taking steps to improve the Temporary Foreign Worker program so we can help ease some of the pressures businesses face when dealing with labour shortages," said Minister Solberg. "The pilot project we are introducing today represents a real shift in the way we do business."

The pilot project will allow eligible employers needing workers in 12 specific occupations to receive their Labour Market Opinions much faster than in the past. A Labour Market Opinion assesses the potential impact hiring a foreign worker will have on Canada's labour market. The pilot will be undertaken in B.C. and Alberta. The 12 occupations in the pilot project have been identified as being in high demand and include the construction, tourism and hospitality sectors.

"Hiring temporary foreign workers is an important way for employers in British Columbia to address increasing labour shortages and remain competitive in our global economy," said Minister Hansen.

"I'm very glad to hear that construction is one of the sectors covered by the pilot," said Keith Sashaw, President of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association. "Speeding up the process will really help the construction industry in Vancouver."

"Of course, Canada's New Government realizes that if we bring in temporary foreign workers to help alleviate our labour shortages, we know it is vital to protect the rights of these workers while they are here," said Minister Solberg. "By developing a Memorandum of Understanding with British Columbia, we want to ensure measures are in place to protect foreign workers from exploitation or unsafe working conditions."

The Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia are developing a Memorandum of Understanding that will facilitate information sharing, and will recognize the importance of ensuring the safe and just employment of temporary foreign workers in our economy.

"Through better co-ordination between our levels of government we will be working to ensure all workers in B.C. have their rights protected," said Minister Ilich.

"We think this is a balanced approach meeting the immediate needs of employers and at the same time ensuring foreign temporary workers are protected. We can learn a lot from this 12 month pilot," said Jerry Lampert, President and CEO of the Business Council of B.C.

In Budget 2007, Canada's New Government committed an additional $50.5 million over two years to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to reduce processing delays, and respond more effectively to regional labour and skill shortages, so employers could better meet their human resource needs.

This news release is available in alternative formats upon request. For more information on the pilot project, please see backgrounder.



Human Resources and Social Development Canada/Service Canada (HRSDC/SC) is implementing the Expedited Labour Market Opinion (E-LMO) Pilot Project. The pilot will begin in British Columbia and Alberta beginning September 24, 2007.

The pilot represents a significant shift in how HRSDC\SC will assess employer requests for Labour Market Opinions in 12 specific occupations. Employers will first be assessed to determine their eligibility to participate in the E-LMO process. Eligible employers who agree to meet program requirements will receive LMOs requested within three to five days. This is a significant reduction from the current processing times which can now take up to five months.

To become eligible to participate in the pilot project, employers will be required to confirm in writing that:

(a) they have made reasonable efforts to hire or train Canadian citizens or permanent residents;

(b) there is not a labour dispute in progress at the employer's workplace; and

(c) the working conditions, including the wages to be paid, meet the minimum acceptable working conditions for the occupation.

The E-LMO Pilot Project will affect the following 12 occupations:

- Carpenters;
- Crane Operators;
- Hotel and Hospitality Room Attendants;
- Hotel Front Desk Clerks;
- Food and Beverage Servers;
- Food Counter Attendants;
- Tour and Travel Guides;
- Registered Nurses;
- Dental Technicians
- Pharmacists;
- Snowboard and ski instructors; and
- Retail Sales Persons and Sales Clerks.

These occupations represent about 25 per cent of the combined volume of regular requests for labour market opinions in B.C. and Alberta.

The E-LMO Pilot Project will be initially limited to the above occupations that appear on Occupations Under Pressure lists in both British Columbia and Alberta. The occupations for the pilot have been identified as being in high demand sectors where there is a high degree of confidence in the labour market information for the sector and it is easily accessible.

The occupations are from sectors where labour market information indicates that the hiring of temporary foreign workers will not have a negative impact on the Canadian labour market. This is a pilot project, which will be measured for success, and depending on results, will be expanded to include additional occupations.

The E-LMO Pilot Project is a two-step process: (1) employer applies to Service Canada (SC) to become eligible to access the Pilot; (2) if approved, SC expedites all regular requests from that specific employer for E-LMO applications.

A team of up to 15 SC officers will be dedicated to processing E-LMOs which also helps to speed up processing.

The initial launch of E-LMO in September 2007 will be a paper-based application form. The form will list the prevailing wage rate for each occupation in every geographic region in both BC and Alberta, so that employers will have immediate access to the correct prevailing wage rate in their area of each province. An interactive online application form is expected to be launched in March 2008.



The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) helps employers meet their immediate skills requirements when qualified Canadian workers cannot be found.

Through the TFWP, the Government balances the needs of employers with the rights of temporary foreign workers (TFWs). We want to ensure TFWs understand that, while in Canada, they benefit from the same protections as Canadian workers. As an example, TFWs must be paid similar wages to Canadian workers doing the same job.

Budget 2007 announced $50.5 million over two years to support improvements to the TFWP, streamlining the process to hire foreign workers, better responding to regional labour and skills shortages, and improving protection of foreign workers.

On May 16, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration introduced amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to help prevent vulnerable foreign workers from being exploited or abused.

We are also working with our provincial counterparts, who are responsible for labour standards and occupational health and safety, to ensure that foreign workers are aware of their rights and responsibilities and the recourse mechanisms available to them.

Information to Employers and TFWs

The Government of Canada intends to take more concrete steps to protect the rights of temporary foreign workers, by distributing information directly to employers and employees.

Products currently available include:

- An information pamphlet on "Hiring Foreign Workers" for employers.

- A guidebook that provides employers a step-by-step guide on how to use the TFWP to hire foreign workers.

Additional products are in development, including an information brochure for Seasonal Agricultural Workers in Spanish and 11 other languages.
In addition, HRSDC is working with provincial governments to improve co-operation on matters concerning employment standards and temporary foreign workers. HRSDC initiated discussions with Alberta to develop a Letter of Understanding (towards a Memorandum of Understanding). Similar discussions with other provinces and territories will commence in the coming months.



Every year, Canadian employers hire thousands of foreign workers to help address skill and labour shortages.

The Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program is the Government of Canada's principal tool to help employers meet immediate skill requirements when qualified Canadian workers cannot be found. Employers may recruit workers for any legally recognized occupation from any country. As a result of labour shortages in certain sectors and regions of the country-such as the Alberta oil sands and the construction sector in British Columbia-the program has become increasingly important for businesses trying to remain competitive in Canada's booming economy.

The TFW Program has a number of components: the Live-in Caregiver Program; the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP); the pilot project for occupations requiring lower levels of formal training; the oil sands construction projects in Alberta; and the hiring of foreign academics.

Human Resources and Social Development Canada/Service Canada (HRSDC/Service Canada) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) jointly administer the TFW Program. HRSDC/Service Canada deals strictly with employers applying for temporary foreign workers, while CIC deals directly with the temporary foreign workers.

HRSDC/Service Canada provides a labour market opinion to CIC when an employer asks to hire a temporary foreign worker. A labour market opinion determines whether the worker entering Canada will have a positive, negative or neutral impact on the Canadian labour market. CIC then issues the necessary documents for a foreign worker to work in Canada, subject to its screening processes for security, health and other considerations.

HRSDC/Service Canada will work in partnership with provincial and other federal government departments to ensure employers and foreign workers receive complete and accurate information regarding their rights and responsibilities under the TFW Program.

Improvements to the TFW Program

Budget 2007 provided an additional $50.5 million over two years to reduce processing delays and more effectively respond to regional labour and skill shortages. Improvements include expanding the online application system and maintaining lists of occupations under pressure-that is, occupations with known shortages of workers.

The TFW Program allows employers to hire foreign workers when sufficient numbers of Canadian workers are not readily available.

The Budget also provided for the development of mechanisms to monitor employer compliance with the terms and conditions of the TFW Program, and for the development of a formal process to address instances of non-compliance.

Regulatory amendments will be introduced over the coming year with a view to implementing such measures. Stakeholders will have an opportunity to comment on the development of the regulatory package.

To ensure that these new investments in the TFW Program will improve protection for workers, and to better inform future policy and program development, we will be seeking feedback from many stakeholders, including employers and unions.

Quick Facts

In 2006, there were 171,844 temporary foreign workers living in Canada, which represents a 122-per-cent increase over 10 years. Temporary foreign workers entering Canada on the basis of a labour market opinion represent about 50 per cent of this number. The remaining foreign workers enter using exemptions under NAFTA or GATS, on student visas or as spouses.

There was a 400-per-cent increase in demand for foreign workers in Alberta between May 2006 and May 2007. In May 2006, employers requested 1,957 workers. In May 2007, employers requested 8,186 workers.

Top 10 Source Countries for Canadian Temporary Foreign Workers (2006):

1. United States 15.0%
2. Mexico 12.4%
3. France 7.7%
4. Philippines 7.6%
5. Australia 6.6%
6. United Kingdom 6.4%
7. Jamaica 5.6%
8. Japan 5.0%
9. Germany 3.6%
10. India 3.4%

Percentage of Temporary Foreign Workers by Province/Territory (2006):

Newfoundland 0.6%
Prince Edward Island 0.1%
Nova Scotia 1.2%
New Brunswick 0.8%
Quebec 13.1%
Ontario 44.7%
Manitoba 2.1%
Saskatchewan 1.4%
Alberta 13.5%
British Columbia 21.8%
Yukon 0.1%
Northwest Territories 0.2%
Nunavut 0.0%

For more information about the Government of Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program, visit HRSDC at or CIC at



The Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program allows employers to hire foreign workers to fill labour shortages when Canadian workers are not readily available. The program, managed by Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), operates under the authority of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and its Regulations. IRPA prescribes who may enter and work in Canada. As well, IRPA outlines the respective roles and responsibilities of HRSDC and CIC in regulating the entry of foreign nationals into Canada's workforce.

Human Resources and Social Development Canada

Many of the employers who want to hire a foreign national must apply to HRSDC/Service Canada for what is called a labour market opinion. HRSDC assesses the potential impact of the worker on Canada's labour market-in other words, how the offer of employment will affect Canadian jobs.

As part of this labour market opinion, HRSDC/Service Canada works case by case to ensure that employers offer prevailing wage rates and acceptable working conditions, and that there are benefits to the labour market associated with hiring the foreign worker. It also ensures the employer has first made a comprehensive effort to fill vacant positions with Canadian workers. If these conditions are met, a positive labour market opinion is given, and the employer receives a letter to that effect.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Many of the foreign nationals who wish to work in Canada require a work permit from CIC. HRSDC/Service Canada provides a positive labour market opinion when the employment of the foreign national is not likely to have an adverse effect on the Canadian labour market. Following receipt of a positive labour market opinion from HRSDC, CIC determines whether it will issue a work permit and whether the foreign worker will be allowed into Canada.

Provincial and Territorial Governments

The working conditions of temporary foreign workers are the responsibility of the labour department in each province or territory. Temporary foreign workers are covered by the same labour legislation and have the same rights as Canadian workers. Ninety per cent of occupations are provincially regulated, and employment and labour standards for those occupations are the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments. The other 10 per cent of occupations are federally regulated, and the employment and labour standards fall under the Canada Labour Code.


Employers request a labour market opinion or arranged employment opinion from HRSDC/Service Canada. Employers are responsible for informing their prospective temporary foreign workers of the labour market opinion assessment results. To receive a positive labour market opinion, employers must meet all the requirements of the labour market opinion, including the following.

Under the TFW Program, they must

- demonstrate comprehensive and ongoing efforts to recruit Canadians, including youth, Aboriginal people, recent immigrants and Canadians in areas of high unemployment

- demonstrate efforts to hire unemployed Canadians through HRSDC and provincial employment programs

- consult with the local union if the position is covered under a collective agreement.

Under the Low-Skill Pilot, they must

- sign an employer-employee contract outlining wages, duties and conditions related to the transportation, accommodation, health and occupational safety of the foreign worker

- cover all recruitment costs related to the hiring of the foreign worker

- help the worker find suitable and affordable accommodation

- pay the foreign worker's airfare to and from Canada

- provide medical coverage until the worker is eligible for provincial health insurance coverage

- register the worker under the appropriate provincial workers' compensation and workplace safety insurance plans

- when the employment offer is longer than 12 months, indicate that wages will be reviewed and adjusted, if necessary, at the end of a year to ensure prevailing wage rates are being respected.

For more information about the Government of Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program, visit HRSDC at or CIC at

Contact Information

  • Lesley Harmer
    Minister Solberg's Office
    Human Resources and Social Development Canada
    Media Relations Office