Canadian Employers: Permanently Retain Your Temporary Foreign Workers

CIC News
Published: January 6, 2014

Canada’s temporary foreign worker program allows Canadian employers to fill short-term labour shortages with qualified workers from abroad. To protect Canadian workers, the program is designed primarily for short term work permits of less than four years. However, because foreign workers typically have skills and experience which are in high demand in Canada, employers often wish to retain them for longer periods.

In order to employ a foreign worker on a permanent basis, the worker will have to become a permanent resident of Canada. There are over 60 programs that grant Canadian Permanent Residency, many of which facilitate applications for individuals with support from a Canadian employer. This means that it may be in an employer’s best interest to help their workers transition to permanent residency.

At first glance, the permanent residency process may seem difficult to navigate. There are several dozen programs, each with different eligibility requirements, requiring different documentation, and (in most cases) having its own annual limit on the number of applications considered. The increasing complexity of Canada’s immigration system means that a seamless transition to permanent residency requires advance planning. However, Canadian employers may be pleasantly surprised to find assisting an employee with permanent residence may be simpler than renewing a work permit.

Canadian Experience Class

From the employer’s perspective, the simplest immigration option for foreign workers is often the Canadian Experience Class program (CEC). To be eligible, foreign workers must demonstrate proficiency in English or French, show that they have at least one year of full-time work experience in a qualifying occupation in Canada, and plan to settle outside Quebec. Compared with other immigration options, the CEC program requires very little involvement from the employer’s side. In general, an employer is only required to provide a detailed reference letter. Employers and foreign workers who wish to take advantage of this program are encouraged to move quickly because of the annual cap on applications processed.

Federal Skilled Worker Program

For employees who are not eligible for the CEC program, employers outside Quebec may consider the Federal Skilled Worker program. Foreign workers currently in Canada working in any skilled occupation with a valid work permit may be eligible to apply to this program in the Arranged Employment subcategory. Applicants must also show that they meet the minimum points requirement in a system where points are assessed for age, education, work experience, English and French ability, adaptability and arranged employment. Typically, documentation is more extensive and time consuming compared to the CEC program. There is no annual cap in this program for workers who qualify for Arranged Employment, but they must maintain a valid work permit right up until the time the permanent resident visa is approved.

Provincial Nominee Programs

Most provinces have immigration programs geared towards helping employers recruit and retain foreign workers who meet their business needs. These programs are known and Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). Requirements differ by province and by occupation, but in most cases the employer is required to make a joint application with the foreign worker to the provincial immigration office. Compared to the CEC and Federal Skilled Worker programs, PNP applications generally involve more documentation and sustained follow-up from the employer. At the same time, PNPs can be an excellent useful solution for foreign workers who have difficulty meeting the requirements of the Federal Programs.

Workers in Quebec

Employers with foreign workers working in Quebec must make use of Quebec’s immigration programs if their employees intend to settle permanently in the province. Foreign workers with one year of full-time skilled work experience may qualify for the Quebec Experience Class program. Like the CEC program, Quebec Experience requires little effort on the employer’s part. To qualify for the program, applicants must demonstrate high intermediate proficiency in French in addition to other eligibility criteria.

Canada’s need for skilled workers is reflected in the diverse options that foreign workers may consider when applying for permanent residency.

“The Canadian government understands that when we encourage the world’s best and brightest to settle in Canada, our country benefits on many levels,” said Attorney David Cohen. “Part of this includes helping those who already have experience living and working in Canada to find a way to stay here permanently.”

The timeframe for achieving permanent residency varies from program to program. However, most applicants should expect the process to take a minimum of 12 months. During this time, workers are expected to maintain their status in Canada, or to leave the country. To ensure that businesses and livelihoods are not interrupted, it is important to start the permanent residency process.

To find out if you are eligible for one of over 60 Canadian immigration programs, please fill out a free online assessment today.

To learn more about securing a Canadian work permit, please visit today.

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