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Changes To Temporary Foreign Worker Program Come Into Force

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Changes to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which allows employers who can’t find qualified workers locally for a given position to recruit foreign workers on a temporary basis, came into force on April 30, 2015.

The median hourly wages per occupation and region chart, which determines which jobs are considered “high-wage” or “low-wage”, has been updated.  Changes to the median wage table will affect the wage-stream of future LMIA applications, as well as threshold used to determine eligibility for 10-day expedited processing. The previous streams, as determined by occupation skill level, have been replaced by these high- and low-wage streams.

Furthermore, employers in Québec will also be subject to most of the changes to the TFWP that were originally announced in June, 2014.


Implementation of new high- and low-wage streams 

In order for most Canadian work permits to be issued to foreign nationals, Canadian businesses must first obtain authorization from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) before providing employment to a foreign national. This is known as a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

ESDC compares the wages offered by employers with the provincial/territorial median hourly wage when identifying the specific requirements employers must meet in order for an LMIA to be issued under the TFWP. Streaming by occupation skill level is no longer in place. Employers offering a wage to a temporary foreign worker that is below the provincial/territorial median hourly wage will need to meet the requirements of the stream for low-wage positions. Employers offering a wage at or above the provincial/territorial median hourly wage will be required to meet the requirements of the stream for high-wage positions.

Median Hourly Wages by Province/TerritoryAge Limit

Wage ($/hr)
British Columbia
New Brunswick
Prince Edward Island
Nova Scotia
Newfoundland and Labrador
Northwest Territories

High-wage stream

Employers seeking to hire high-wage workers must submit Transition Plans along with their Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) application to ensure that they are taking steps to reduce their reliance on temporary foreign workers over time. The TFWP is meant to be used only as a last and limited resort to address immediate labour needs on a temporary basis when qualified Canadians are not available.

Learn more about the high-wage stream.

Low-wage stream

Employers seeking to hire low-wage workers do not need to submit Transition Plans with their Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). They must, however, follow a different set of guidelines.

To ensure that Canadians are always considered first for available jobs, there is a cap to limit the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers that a business can employ. Furthermore, certain low-wage occupations in the Accommodation, Food Services and Retail Trade sectors will be refused for LMIA processing. Employers with 10 or more employees applying for a new LMIA are subject to a cap of 10 percent on the proportion of their workforce that can consist of low-wage temporary foreign workers. This cap will be phased in over 2015 and 2016 in order to provide employers who are above the 10 percent cap time to transition and adjust accordingly.

Employers offering a wage that is below the provincial/territorial median hourly wage must:

  • pay for round-trip transportation for the temporary foreign worker;
  • ensure affordable housing is available;
  • pay for private health insurance until workers are eligible for provincial health coverage;
  • register the temporary foreign worker with the provincial/territorial workplace safety board; and
  • provide an employer-employee contract.

For all low-wage positions, the duration of work permits set out in Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) will be limited to a maximum of one year.

As of April 30, 2015, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program uses the latest Labour Force Survey results for the unemployment rates in regions across Canada. These rates determine which regions are eligible for employers to submit Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) for low-wage/lower skilled occupations in the Accommodation and Food Services sector and the Retail Trade sector. LMIA applications for these sectors will not be processed in economic regions where the unemployment rate is 6 per cent or higher.

Learn more about the low-wage stream.

Expedited processing

Certain high-demand occupations and high-paid occupations, as well as occupations that are short in duration, may be provided with 10-business-day service for hiring a temporary foreign worker.

Learn more about expedited processing.
Temporary work permits in Quebec

Certain occupations in Quebec fall under the facilitated process, meaning that local recruitment efforts do not need to be performed by employers as part of their applications to hire temporary foreign workers for these occupations. Learn more about work permits in Quebec and which occupations are facilitated in Quebec.

What employers need to know

“Canadian employers needn’t be anxious about these new changes, as long as they ensure that they are compliant with the terms of their LMIAs,” says Attorney Daniel Levy of the Campbell Cohen Law Firm.

“Employers should make certain that not only are they continuing to offer at least the prevailing wage by occupation for that region, but also that the wages offered are consistent with the wage stream of the LMIA issued.

“LMIA applications are comprehensive and require a substantial amount of additional documentation and statistical information, such as a numerical breakdown of the number of Canadian applicants for the position, the number of offers of employment made, the number of unqualified applicants, and more besides. It is important to get it right, and thus negate the possibility that business will be adversely affected by a delayed or rejected application.”

To learn more about these new regulations and enquire about obtaining a work permit for Canada, please send the Campbell Cohen work permit team an email at

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20 thoughts on “Changes To Temporary Foreign Worker Program Come Into Force

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    Arturo Daquer Bello

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