How Long does it Take to Bring a Foreign Worker to Canada?

CIC News
Published: April 16, 2014

Many employers know that, when looking for a new employee, time is of the essence. In the days, weeks, or months that an important position remains unfilled, a company can lose untold sums of money and valuable resources. It is therefore important for employers hiring abroad to be aware of the timeframes needed to bring in various foreign workers from abroad.

The length of time between identifying a foreign hire and that hire beginning work in Canada can vary greatly. Factors such as the employee’s nationality and occupation, as well as fluctuations in government workloads and requirements, can greatly affect the time that it takes for an application to be processed. In this article, CIC News has outlined a few of the most common scenarios that employers face when bringing workers to Canada, as well as some tips for bringing in workers in the fastest timeframe possible.

A Typical Scenario – Labour Market Opinion Application

A typical work permit application requires the Canadian employer to secure a positive Labour Market Opinion. Issued by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), an LMO confirms that a Canadian employer is permitted to hire a foreign worker for a particular job. LMOs are issued based on evidence provided by the employer showing that there is a shortage of Canadian workers who are qualified for the position or that hiring a foreign worker will benefit the local labour market in some way.

Before applying for an LMO, employers are generally required to advertise the position in Canada for a period of four weeks. Conducting advertising that meets ESDC’s requirements is usually the main factor in delaying submission of an LMO as each occupation has specific advertising requirements. Other required documentation is routine and can typically be prepared by employers.

Once an LMO application is prepared, employers can submit their application to a Service Canada office responsible for their province. Once the application is submitted, employers can expect a minimum processing time of 1-2 months. This timeframe varies widely depending on the workload of the office to which the application has been submitted.

In Quebec, jobs that require an LMO also require a certificate d’acceptation du Quebec (CAQ) issued by Immigration Quebec. This requirement does not add significantly to the total processing time, but it does involve more participation on the part of the foreign worker compared to applications in other provinces.

Minimizing LMO Processing Delays

Expedited processing of LMOs is possible, but rare. To have an application expedited, an employer must demonstrate an unusual situation where the lack of a foreign worker is causing a significant problem, such as a work stoppage.

The total time required to obtain an LMO may also be reduced if the position is exempt from the normal advertising requirements. In this case, the employer can apply for an LMO immediately rather than waiting four weeks to complete recruitment efforts. Common advertising exemptions include specialized service technicians, entertainment sector positions, owner-operators, and post-graduate work permit holders.

If an initial LMO application is refused, re-applying can take several months in total, particularly if new advertising is requested. For this reason, minimizing the risk of refusal by avoiding common mistakes is crucial.

Determining if a Temporary Resident Visa is Needed

Once an LMO has been approved, the timeframe for bringing in a foreign worker largely depends on whether or not that worker needs a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) to enter Canada.

Whether or not a worker needs a TRV depends on their citizenship. If a worker is from a TRV-exempt country, they do not require a visa in order to come to Canada. Instead, he or she could request their work permits in person when entering Canada. If a worker requires a TRV, he or she must apply through a Canadian visa office and wait to receive a visa before travelling.

Timeframe for a TRV-exempt Foreign Worker

If a worker is TRV-exempt, he or she can come to Canada as soon as the Canadian employer receives a positive LMO and can present a work permit application to an immigration officer at a port of entry (Canadian airport or land border crossing).

TRV exempt workers should be aware that they may be asked to show proof of their eligibility to work in Canada. This can include carrying a copy of the positive LMO as well as other supporting documentation. Workers must enter Canada within six months of an LMO’s approval date in order for the LMO to remain valid.

Even if a worker is TRV-exempt, he or she may still require additional permission to enter Canada. This is most commonly needed if the worker possesses a criminal record. A worker may also be required to undergo medical examinations before being issued a work permit. A medical examination is generally required if the worker will be working with children or in the public health field and/or has been residing temporarily in certain countries. In the event a TRV-exempt worker requires a medical, he or she will be required to submit their work permit application to a visa office.

Timeframe for a Foreign Worker Requiring a TRV

TRV requirements can increase the waiting period significantly. Processing times vary from office to office. Individuals should be prepared to submit a full application with supporting documentation as needed. Supporting documentation can sometimes be tedious to collect. This is especially true for applications that require to submission of police clearance certificates.

Employers hiring individuals who required TRVs should be aware that it can be difficult to plan a timeline for arrival until a TRV is obtained. Once the visa is issued, both parties will be able to make more concrete plans. As with TRV-exempt applications, the physical work permit will be issued to the foreign worker when they enter Canada at a border crossing or airport. Visas are typically valid for the expected length of the job in Canada.

Best Case Scenario – LMO-Exempt Work Permit

In some cases, the requirement for an LMO may be waived if the job in Canada and the foreign worker meet certain criteria. This includes:

  • Intra-company transferees;
  • NAFTA and GATS professionals;
  • International Experience Canada participants; and
  • International Students who have recently graduated from Canadian institutions

Being able to qualify for one of these LMO-exemptions significantly reduces the amount of time it will take to bring the foreign worker to Canada. If a foreign worker requires a TRV, they may apply for their work permit at a visa office without having to wait for the employer to obtain an LMO.

If a foreign worker is exempt from requiring a TRV, they may apply for a work permit directly at a Canadian port of entry once the Canadian employer provides them with an employment offer.

Advice for Employers – Plan Carefully

Every year tens of thousands of foreign workers enter the Canadian workforce for set periods of time. Although the process of identifying a qualified worker and receiving the necessary authorization to bring them to Canada can at times seem daunting, it is well within reach for even small organizations.

“Enterprises of all shapes and sizes can benefit from the global talent foreign workers have to offer,” said Attorney David Cohen. “The key to bringing a worker into Canada is for the employer to approach the process from an organized and realistic standpoint.”

For more information on applying for a Canadian Temporary Work Permit, please contact Campbell Cohen today.

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