Canada: Overhaul of Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program was overhauled on June 20, 2014.  Many of the changes were effective immediately, while others will be phased in.

The changes represent the most significant reforms in some time and affect nearly all aspects of the program.  Employers must be aware of the changes to ensure that they remain compliant with the rules.

Some details of the changes are set out in this government publication:  Overhauling the TFWP / ESDC Publication.  Page 30 of that document sets out the timetable for some of the future changes.

We have set out some of the main changes below. 

Renamed Program

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) now only refers to what was formerly known as the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) system. LMOs are now called Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs). The TFWP is administered by ESDC/Service Canada.

The new name for non-LMIA work permits is the International Mobility Program (IMP).  IMP deals with work permit categories such as NAFTA Professionals, Intra-Company Transferees and the International Experience Canada program.

The New LMIA Regime

Significant changes have been made to the reconstituted LMIA program.

Highlights of the changes are set out below:

  • The application fee is now $1,000 per worker (up from $275);
  • There is now a concept of "high-wage" versus "low-wage" occupations.  

    This is determined by comparing the wage being offered to the TFW to the provincial/territorial median wage. If the wage being offered for the position is above the provincial/territorial median wage, it will be considered a high-wage position. If it is not, then it is a low-wage position.

    The applicable provincial/territorial median wages are set out in the LMIA application form, and are also available at this link:  Provincial Median Wages. This provincial median wage figure needs to be compared to the wage being offered to the TFW for the position.

    Whether an occupation is "high-wage" or "low-wage" will dictate the path an employer must follow to transition to a Canadian workforce.
  • If the employer is applying for a high-wage occupation, the employer must provide a Transition Plan in most situations. A Transition Plan is not required when applying for an LMIA for a low-wage occupation.  

    There are some exemptions to the requirement to file a Transition Plan with a high-wage LMIA application. One exemption is where the position requires "unique skills" but no guidelines on how ESDC will interpret "unique skills" have yet been provided. The other exemption relates to situations where the request is for a limited duration which means that the "job is time-limited and will no longer exist after the TFW leaves". 

    To meet the Transition Plan requirements, employers must conduct:
    • At least three distinct activities to recruit, retain and/or train Canadians/permanent residents in the occupation specified on the application;
    • One additional distinct activity to engage an organization serving underrepresented groups to identify potential candidates for recruitment or training (e.g. immigrant settlement offices, Aboriginal, youth, or provincial/territorial unemployment centres).
    • Employers may also choose to do the following:  "One activity which facilitates the permanent residency of a TFW (e.g. making a permanent job offer or offering language training to the foreign worker to support the individual's permanent resident visa application).  However, if the employer chooses only to support the permanent residency of a TFW, and does not proceed with it, the employer will be in breach of the Transition Plan and may be found non-compliant if inspected."
  • Employers should carefully review the form and Transition Plan requirements before filing an LMIA as the form has been changed from time to time, and will likely be changed again as further clarifications on the requirements are provided.

    It will be important to ensure that the Transition Plan is updated if necessary (for example, if a planned activity does to take place).  Otherwise, if the employer faces a review of the Transition Plan on a subsequent LMIA application, or if there was an inspection and the Transition Plan activities were not conducted, an employer could face a finding of non-compliance.

    Employers also need to ensure that they record the results of the activities in terms of how many Canadians or permanent residents apply, are interviewed and/or are hired as a result of the activity, as this will need to be reported in Transition Plans filed with subsequent LMIA applications.

    Transition Plans create more compliance requirements. The Transition Plan should not be taken lightly, as failure to complete the activities will negatively affect future LMIA applications.
  • There is now supposed to be a 10 business day LMIA processing timeline for three situations.  If none of these situations apply, the LMIA will be processed under regular processing times, which are much longer.
    • Highest paid occupations: Where the TFW candidate will be in anoccupation/NOC where the prevailing wage is at or above the top ten percent wage threshold for the economic region where the job will be located. 

      Each province and territory has a different top ten percent wage threshold figure. That figure is available at this website:  Top 10% Provincial Wage Thresholds.  The figures will change from time to time based on new labour market data.

      For example, the top ten percent wage threshold for Ontario is $45.00 per hour (as of September 2014), which equates to $81,900 annually based on a 35 hour week and $93,600 based on a 40 hour work week.  

      Therefore, if the TFW candidate was going to work in Toronto, the LMIA application is supposed to be assessed in ten business days if the TFW is going to work in an occupation/NOC code where the median wage according to the Job Bank wage report ( Job Bank Wage Report) for the occupation in the Toronto region is at or above $45.00 per hour.  Very few occupations qualify.

      Occupations that may qualify for the top 10% highest wage occupations will vary depending on the province and the particular economic region within the province where the job will be located.
    • Highest demand occupations:  This is limited to certain skilled trades, where the wage to be paid to the TFW is at or above the provincial median wage.  The eligible trades are set out here:  List of Highest Demand Occupations.
    • Short duration occupations:  Where the TFW is required for no more than 120 calendar days and where the wage being paid to the TFW is at or above the provincial median wage.  A renewal of this type of LMIA will not be permitted except in exceptional circumstances.
  • Employers that meet the criteria for processing under the 10 business day service standard will not receive this service if:  (i) the application is missing information; (ii) additional time is required to consult the employer on details contained in the application; or (iii) the employer is selected for an Employer Compliance Review or inspection.

    While Service Canada states that eligible LMIA applications will be processed in 10 business days, it appears at present (September 2014) that this target is not being met in all regions.

Low-Wage Positions

Additional changes have affected low-wage occupations.  Some of those changes are:

  • A cap on low wage TFWs. There is a transition period, but the cap will be reduced to 10% by July 1, 2016.  The cap applies per work site.
  • There are three exemptions to the low-wage cap:
    • If an employer has fewer than 10 employees nationally including the positions they are applying to staff with TFWs.
    • Low wage workers destined for Quebec.
    • Where an employer is hiring the TFW for a job that is "truly temporary".  That phrase is not defined, but the examples on the ESDC site include emergency or warranty work repair technicians or mechanics.
  • ESDC will refuse to process LMIAs for the Accommodation, Food Services and Retail Trade sectors for certain positions that require little or no education or training in geographic locations where the unemployment rate is at or above 6 percent.  This effectively kills access to TFWs for these sectors in most of Canada as unemployment is more than 6% in most regions.
  • Work permit durations for Low-Wage LMIAs will be limited to a maximum of 12 months (instead of 2 years).

These changes have significantly increased the difficulty of using TFWs for low-wage positions in Canada.  The policy intention is clearly to lower reliance on TFWs in low-wage positions.

New LMIA Forms

A new LMIA application form has been introduced and must be used on any LMIA application.  Here is a link to the new form for higher skilled occupations:  LMIA Application Form / High-Skilled Occupations. Employers must make sure they use the current version of the form.

The new form has a number of new questions and sections.  For example, there is a section where employers are required to summarize the results of recruitment.  This includes providing the number of applications received from Canadians and permanent residents.  Employers must also provide an explanation as to why Canadian and permanent resident candidates did not meet the requirements of the position.

The Declaration section of the LMIA form has been expanded as well.  Employers must make numerous current and future representations.  Ongoing compliance is critical in order to avoid the potential loss of access to the TFWP and the IMP.

Employers seeking an LMIA for a high-wage occupation must also usually file a Transition Plan.  A form has been created for the Transition Plan:   Schedule C - Employer Transition Plan.

Stronger Compliance and Enforcement Mechanisms

Prior to the June 20 announcement, the government made a number of regulatory changes to the Immigration and Refugees Protection Act on December 31, 2013 which significantly increased compliance requirements on employers that hire foreign workers.  Those statutory changes placed many more statutory conditions on employers.  As well, broad inspection powers were set out, such that government officials may now show up at an employer's premises, without a warrant, and conduct an inspection to investigate compliance.

The  Overhauling the TFWP / ESDC Publication contains a list of the many compliance requirements under the program that employers face (see pages 18 and 19).

The June 20 announcement continued the trend of toughening compliance requirements. The changes provide for stronger enforcement and tougher penalties. Going forward, resources have been provided to government agencies to increase the number of inspections, with the stated goal of eventually inspecting one in four employers using TFWs each year.

Given the severe consequences of a finding of non-compliance, employers need to ensure that they remain compliant and they should implement policies and procedures to ensure ongoing compliance.

Changes to the IMP

LMIA exempt work permit categories are now under the International Mobility Program (IMP).
Changes to the IMP announced on June 20, 2014 will include:

  • A new "compliance fee" of $230 per work permit;
  • A new "privilege fee" of $100 for open work permits.
  • An enhanced compliance system featuring inspections of employers hiring LMIA-exempt TFWs.

The expected dates of implementation of these changes are set out in the  Overhauling the TFWP / ESDC Publication.


The changes announced on June 20 represent a continuation of the policy pendulum swinging towards employer compliance. These changes were designed to ensure that Canadians have the first opportunity for positions in Canada. 

While the changes have had a greater effect on the ability to hire TFWs in low-wage positions, employers seeking to hire high-wage TFWs under either the TFWP/LMIA program or the IMP program also face more requirements and compliance obligations.

Compliance requirements and penalties have been toughened.  The future emphasis on inspections will mean that more employers will face some sort of compliance review, whether they are utilizing TFWs based on LMIA work permits, or under LMIA-exempt work permits under the IMP. 

Employers need to have policies, practices and systems in place to ensure compliance with all aspects of the TFWP and the IMP, as well as with all statutory requirements. This must be in place at all stages of the employment cycle, and beyond, starting at the recruiting phase. Employers must be able to provide documentation to confirm compliance if they face any review or inspection, for up to 6 years from the date a TFW starts employment.

Employers should also be aware that, given the recent introduction of some of these changes, it is still not clear how some of the changes will be implemented or interpreted by government officers.  Hopefully further clarification and transparency will be provided over time.  Forms and processing requirements and rules may also be changed from time to time by the government, without notice, so employers also need to make sure that they check for updates prior to filing LMIA or work permit applications.

Gowlings' Immigration Group can help employers develop policies and practices to support compliance, as well as providing advice on navigating the TFWP and IMP rules in order to obtain work permits for TFWs that employers need to address human resource needs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
16 Jan 2018, Seminar, Birmingham, UK

Join Gowling WLG's pensions team as they explain some of the biggest challenges facing trustees and employers in the coming year and provide practical ways of dealing with them.

23 Jan 2018, Seminar, London, UK

Join Gowling WLG's pensions team as they explain some of the biggest challenges facing trustees and employers in the coming year and provide practical ways of dealing with them.

25 Jan 2018, Seminar, Birmingham, UK

2018 is set to be another big year in employment, with employers set to face new challenges and responsibilities. At our event, looking ahead to next year, we will be discussing four key issues you might face in 2018, providing useful tips and answering your questions.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions