Canada Introduces More Rigorous Requirements for Work Permits in Attempt to Increase Immigration Compliance
In our previous posts regarding Canada, we discussed the numerous changes in immigration laws and regulations being implemented in the country. As seems to be the theme with many countries around the world, including the United States, Canada has taken steps to increase its focus on immigration compliance across major industries and implemented measures designed to make travel to the country for work purposes more difficult. As such, Employers and their foreign nationals should be aware of the following major trends:
Express Entry Permanent Residence Program. As discussed in our prior post, applicants falling under certain categories may participate in an Express Entry program that is completed in six months compared to the current normal process of one to two years. Employers and foreign nationals may determine eligibility based on criteria such as education, language proficiency, skills and work experience.
Changes to Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The Canadian government implemented long awaited reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program this year. Much like the trends in many other countries, the reforms increase the government’s enforcement powers and aim to increase employment opportunities for local Canadian nationals by putting requirements into place that ensure Canadian workers are shown preference for certain types of jobs. The reforms include changes in the screening mechanisms used to evaluate applicants for positions being offered to foreign workers. These mechanisms are enforced through the new Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which replaced the Labor Market Opinion. In addition, the fees have substantially increased from CAD 275 to CAD 1000. The reforms also increase penalties for non-compliance with immigration regulations and employers can anticipate more enforcement by the government. Specifically, about twenty five percent of businesses will be inspected per year to ensure compliance. Penalties for non-compliance include imprisonment, fines, and the company being blacklisted from future immigration benefits and programs.
Work permit extensions and LMIA requirements. Despite indications earlier in the year that employers seeking to extend work authorization for certain foreign nationals would require approved Labor Market Impact Assessments, the Canadian government introduced more flexible measures for work permit extension processes. In particular, foreign nationals with work permits expiring within two weeks may submit applications to extend their work authorization with proof that an LMIA application is pending. With sufficient proof, the Canadian government will keep the case open for two months while awaiting a decision on the pending LMIA. Although this practice allows employers more flexibility to extend work authorization for individuals requiring LMIAs, it is still important to keep filing dates and timelines in mind when initiating extension processes as LMIAs that are still pending after a case is held open for two months will result in the work permit extension being denied.
Increased restrictions on Intracompany Transferees with Specialized Knowledge. In June, the Canadian government introduced stricter requirements for foreign nationals seeking to enter Canada as Intracompany Transferrees with specialized knowledge. Specifically, the government requires the foreign nationals applying under this category to have uncommon and unique knowledge to qualify as “specialized”. In addition, individuals seeking to enter under this category will now need to demonstrate both advanced expertise and a high degree of proprietary knowledge. As a result of these changes, employers and foreign nationals should be prepared to provide additional evidence to meet the heightened standards, and demonstrate the foreign national’s specialized knowledge as well as the company’s need for their skills.