Alberta lifts restrictions on temporary foreign workers

Daniel Levy
Published: May 3, 2022

Effective May 1st, Alberta is lifting restrictions on the hiring of new temporary foreign workers.

All pending applications, including those submitted prior to May 1, are subject to this change.

Prior to the change, the Alberta government had a "refusal to process" list containing occupations for which employers could not submit applications to the Canadian government to hire temporary foreign workers in the province.

The Canadian government operates the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and was refusing to process TFWP applications for these occupations on the advice of the Alberta government. These were occupations that, according to the Alberta government, had labour surpluses. Alberta was seeking to encourage employers to hire unemployed Albertans for these occupations instead.

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Alberta has justified the loosening of its TFWP restrictions on the grounds it will support sectors of the provincial economy that are grappling with labour shortages and are struggling to find Canadian workers.

According to Statistics Canada, the province has about 88,000 job vacancies.

Alberta says it will monitor impacts of this change and make adjustments as necessary to ensure the TFWP continues to benefit its economy.

The purpose of the TFWP is to enable employers in Canada to hire foreign workers to fill job vacancies when they can not find a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to do the job. An employer typically needs to submit a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) application to the Canadian government.

The Canadian government will then evaluate whether the hiring of the foreign worker may have a positive or neutral impact on the Canadian labour market. Evidence must usually be provided that there are no qualified workers in Canada available to do the job. If a positive or neutral LMIA is granted, the foreign worker can then go ahead and submit a work permit application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Nationally, Canada is experiencing labour shortages across the country with over 800,000 job vacancies. This is resulting in federal and provincial governments easing their regulations to enable employers to recruit more foreign talent to supplement the Canadian labour market. In early April, the Canadian government relaxed its TFWP rules in response to the country's historically low unemployment rate and historically high job vacancy rate.

Canada's unemployment rate stands at 5.3 per cent, the lowest on record.

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