Potential Options To Remain In Canada For TFWs Facing Uncertain Future

CIC News
Published: March 23, 2015

Thousands of temporary foreign workers who have made Canada their home are facing an uncertain future in Canada, with the full effects of the so-called ‘4-in, 4-out’ rule scheduled to kick in on April 1, 2015.

Changes made by the government of Canada to the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program in 2011 mean that after a temporary foreign worker has reached a four-year cumulative duration limit, he or she will not be granted another work permit in Canada for the next four years. After that time has elapsed, the worker may again be permitted to work in Canada temporarily for up to four years. Foreign workers in management or professional positions, designated as National Occupational Classification (NOC) code 0 or A, respectively, are not affected by these regulations. A complete list of exemptions may be found at the end of this article.

The first temporary foreign workers to whom the rule applies could reach their four-year limit next week, with more workers expected to be affected as time goes on. While many of these workers and their families have established new lives in Canada and wish to remain in the country, doing so may prove challenging. That being said, it may well be the case that all is not lost. Here are some potential immigration solutions for temporary foreign workers facing an uncertain future in Canada.

Express Entry

Canada’s new Express Entry immigration selection system, which came into operation on January 1, 2015, strives to make the immigration process simpler and quicker for eligible candidates.

Express Entry is not an immigration program in itself, but rather a system used by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to select candidates for immigration to Canada through the following economic immigration programs:

Temporary foreign workers may be eligible for one or more of these federal programs, in which case they are encouraged to create an Express Entry profile and seek out ways to increase their score under the Comprehensive Ranking System.

To find out if you are eligible for any of over 60 Canadian immigration programs, including the federal economic programs that are processed under Express Entry, please fill out a free online assessment today.

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)

In Canada, the federal government and the provinces and territories share jurisdiction over the selection of immigrants. Apart from the territory of Nunavut and the province of Quebec, which has its own unique immigration system outlined below, all other provinces and territories have immigration programs that allow them to nominate individuals who wish to immigrate to Canada and who are interested in settling in a particular province. Each PNP is tailored to the specific needs of the provinces and territories, which aim to select new immigrants who will be able to settle into life and work in the region and effectively contribute to the community, both socially and economically.

Temporary foreign workers with ties to a particular province may be eligible for a PNP stream in that province. Indeed, workers may also be eligible to apply to a PNP in a province where they may never have lived or worked. With a multitude of programs and sub-categories, however, potential candidates are encouraged to research potential immigration options through the PNPs.

Click here to learn more about immigration to Canada through a PNP.


The points-based Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP) may be an immigration option for certain temporary foreign workers currently in Canada. Please note that, though knowledge of French is not a requirement for the QSWP and candidates with little or no French proficiency may be eligible, a portion of points may be awarded for this factor.

Click here to read a recent CICnews article on immigration to Quebec through the QSWP, including details regarding the upcoming application cycle.

Moreover, temporary foreign workers who have at least 12 months of work experience in Quebec within the past two years may be eligible under the Quebec Experience Class (Programme de l’expérience Québécoise, or PEQ). This immigration program requires candidates to have at least advanced-intermediate French proficiency.

Potential candidates for the QSWP or PEQ should bear in mind that they should have the intention to reside in Quebec and that the government of Quebec has discretion to reject an application if it does not deem that the applicant has the intention to reside in the province.

Family Class

Canadian citizens and permanent residents may sponsor close family members for Canadian immigration. For temporary foreign workers who have established a legitimate relationship with a spouse or common-law partner, the spousal sponsorship category of Family Class immigration may provide an immigration solution.

Both the Canadian citizen or permanent resident (also called the ‘sponsor’) and the foreign national (the ‘sponsored person’) must be approved by CIC in order for the sponsored person to receive a visa.

Click here to learn more about spousal sponsorship requirements and here to assess for eligibility.

Visitor status

Temporary foreign workers who are in Canada and wish to remain in the country can apply to extend their stay in Canada as a visitor. Foreign workers who may reach their four-year limit on cumulative work permits soon, but wishing to immigrate permanently to Canada, should note that it is quite likely that they will have to switch to visitor status for a period.

CIC can issue visitor status for any length of time, with a six-month period typically being granted as long as applicants can show you have the funds to support yourself. This may be renewed, though renewal is at the discretion of CIC officials.

An individual may not work or take part in a study program while in Canada on visitor status.

Study in Canada

Temporary foreign workers who have completed a four-year period of cumulative work in Canada but wish to study in Canada may do, as long they do not work while studying.

Canadian universities and colleges are renowned for their research, innovation and diversity. High academic standards and thorough quality controls mean that students may gain a high-quality education that will benefit their careers over the long term. Learn more about studying in Canada.

Assessing the options

“Individuals affected by the regulations may be confused or downhearted at the moment. Many of them have created lives in Canada, provided for their families, and built ties to local communities,” says Attorney David Cohen.

“While the future may seem unsure, and there are certainly no guarantees, what is sure is that those affected will have to leave Canada unless they first take stock of their options, and then act on whichever avenue appears most beneficial to them and their situation.”

Exemptions to the ‘4-in, 4-out’ rule

When a foreign national is applying for work authorization, the following categories or occupations are the exceptions for which a work permit can exceed the four-year limit: 

  • NOC types 0 (management) and A (professional).
  • LMIA-exempt jobs under:
    • International agreements (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA);
    • Canadian interests;
    • Self-support; or
    • Humanitarian reasons.

Note: With regard to spouses of temporary foreign workers who are LMIA-exempt, only spouses/dependants of those working in occupations that are NOC type 0 or A would be exempt from the cumulative duration considerations when seeking a work permit.

  • Applicants under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Program (SAWP).
  • When no work permit was required in order for the foreign national to work in Canada, therefore providing no basis for assessing cumulative duration of work done in Canada. Examples include certain business visitors, foreign diplomats, performing artists and those working for a foreign news company reporting from Canada. See here for a full list.
  • Permanent resident (PR) applicants who have received a positive selection decision or approval in principle in the PR category for which they have applied.
  • Provincial nominees applying for an employer-specific work permit who intend to perform work pursuant to:
    • an international agreement between Canada and one or more countries, other than an agreement concerning seasonal agricultural workers; or
    • an agreement entered into by one or more countries and by or on behalf of one or more provinces.

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