The Global Talent Stream (GTS) program (part of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program) continues to operate in the face of COVID-19. This continuity recognizes the role that temporary foreign workers play in supporting supply chains, and industries critical to the Canadian economy.
The purpose of the GTS remains to reduce processing times for assessing Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) and issuing work permits to fill (a) the unique specialized labour needs of innovative firms, (b) and shortages within certain skilled occupations.
Canada trying to reduce administrative burden on employers of temporary foreign workers
In the face of COVID-19, the Government of Canada has adjusted the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, in particular, the review of LMIA applications, for example:
- Employers need not submit minor administrative changes to the LMIA that would not change the terms and conditions.
- When COVID-19 requires an employer to swap foreign-worker applicants, the name-change process will be fast-tracked.
- For key jobs in the agriculture and agri-food sectors:
- Recruitment requirements for LMIAs are waived until October 31, 2020.
- LMIAs will be prioritized for processing.
The priority given to the agriculture and agri-foods sectors appears to be hindering 10-business-day processing of high priority LMIAs (for example, top 10% wage earners) in other sectors. Also note that Canada's immigration response to COVID-19 is changing frequently, so specific changes to GTS may come.
COVID-19 has forced Service Canada Centres to close physically, but they continue to operate online. Canada's current goal is to streamline key LMIA applications, via an online presence.
GTS goal of easier, faster processing especially important during COVID-19 crisis
One goal of the GTS program is to provide easier and faster processing of visa and work permit applications for foreign nationals who possess unique global talents or are highly skilled. The target timelines for Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) are:
- to assess applications within 10 business days
- to process work permits for qualifying workers within 14 business days.
Our recent experience has been that ESDC is continuing to meet the GTS target timelines.
Two GTS Streams: (A) unique, specialized talent for innovative firms, (B) in-demand occupations
GTS targets two categories of Canadian companies:
- Category A covers only innovative firms that can demonstrate a need for unique and specialized talent to scale-up and grow.
- Category B includes firms needing to hire highly skilled foreigners for occupations falling within a skills-shortage list. This is the more popular category.
Under Category A, one of the Global Talent Stream's designated partners (such as the Government of Alberta, Alberta Labour and Immigration) would refer the employer applicant to ESDC, on grounds that the employer is innovative and primed to grow. As for the requirement that the worker display a unique and specialized talent, that requirement depends on meeting the following three criteria:
- advanced knowledge of the industry
- an advanced degree in an field of specialization of interest to the employer, or a minimum of five years of experience in the field
- application for a highly paid position, with a salary of at least $80,000.
Usually, only one or two persons per year will qualify at a firm, under Category A. In exceptional circumstances, more could qualify, but their salaries would need to be at least $150,000.
For Category B, employers must be seeking to hire highly skilled foreign workers to fill positions from a list identifying in-demand occupations. Category B work permits are to support the training of Canadians in these fields. In our experience, Category B is the category most employers take advantage of. This list currently includes the following occupations:
National Classification (NOC) and Occupation
0213 - Computer and information systems managers
2147 - Computer engineers (other than software engineers and designers)
2161 - Mathematicians and statisticians (excluding actuaries)
2171 - Information systems analysts and consultants
2172 - Database analysts and data administrators
2173 - Software engineers and designers
2174 - Computer programmers and interactive media developers
2175 - Web designers and developers
2281 - Computer network technicians (at a minimum wage of $82,000/year or $39.42/hour, or higher prevailing wage)
2283 - Information systems testing technicians (at a minimum wage of $80,000/year or $38.46/hour, or higher prevailing wage)
5131 - Producer, technical, creative and artistic director, and project manager – visual effects and video game (with a minimum 3 years of experience in certain roles and skills; at a minimum wage of $78,000/year or $37.50/hour, or higher prevailing wage)
5241 - Digital media and designers (with a minimum 3 years of experience in certain skills; at a minimum wage of $80,000/year or $38.46/hour, or higher prevailing wage)
GTS requirements include showing that the worker will benefit the Canadian labour market
During COVID-19, the substantive requirements to qualify under the GTS program remain. Beyond documentation like a business licence, business incorporation documents, and a $1,000 processing fee per worker, the employer must work with ESDC to develop a Labour Market Benefits Plan. That Plan will demonstrate the employer's commitment to activities that will have lasting, positive impacts on the Canadian labour market. One of the goals of the Labour Market Benefits Plan is to help the Government of Canada to identify and track benefits to the Canadian economy, in the form of overall job creation, and skills and training within the Canadian labour market.
Labour Market Benefits Plans require showing both mandatory benefits and complementary benefits
Mandatory benefits for Category A: creating jobs for Canadians
Under Category A, innovative firms applying must commit to creating jobs, either directly or indirectly, for Canadians and permanent residents. That commitment is a mandatory benefit that the applicant firms must establish.
Mandatory benefits for Category B: increasing skills of Canadians
For an employer instead seeking to hire highly skilled foreign workers to fill positions in occupations on the Global Talent Occupations List (Category B), the employer must commit to increasing skills and training investments for Canadians and permanent residents, as the mandatory benefit. For example, the employer might establish a budget for training residents of Canada.
In addition to the mandatory benefit, employers must commit to achieving at least two other complementary benefits. Complementary benefits could include creating jobs, promoting skills and training, transferring knowledge to Canadians and permanent residents, enhancing company performance, or implementing best practices or policies for the workforce. For example, the employer might commit to a plan for the GTS worker to supervise and mentor a team of Canadian residents, to achieve transfer knowledge important to the Canadian labour market. Similarly, the employer might commit to hiring a number of Canadian residents within the relevant period, say, two years.
We have been unsuccessful in adding a caveat to the Labour Market Benefits Plan to acknowledge that COVID-19 might prevent the employer from meeting the target to hire Canadians. However, ESDC will allow employers to provide explanations, if the COVID situation hampers any of the commitments.
Annual review of Labour Market Benefits Plans important way to remain in good standing
ESDC will follow up on Labour Market Benefits Plans by conducting annual Progress Reviews. Employers need to respond to these fully and on time to maintain future access to the GTS program. An employer should view the Progress Review as an opportunity to make the case that the employing firm is contributing to the Canadian labour market in a lasting way.
GTS favours positions that the employer can't fill within Canada
Unlike a regular LMIA, the GTS programs includes no precondition for minimum recruitment efforts within Canada. Still, the employer should try to recruit Canadians and permanent residents before offering a job to a temporary foreign worker. As a matter of practice, the employer will need to describe its recruitment efforts, so advertising within the Canadian market makes practical sense. Conceivably, COVID-19 might impose urgent personnel needs, which might make domestic advertising impractical for positions that the Canadian labour market obviously can't meet. Thus, the lack of a formal precondition will allow for flexibility in GTS applications. We have had success in GTS applications without actual domestic advertising.
Wages offered to temporary foreign workers should be similar to wages paid to Canadian and permanent resident employees hired for the same job and work location, and with similar skills and years of experience. The requirement for the employer to pay the prevailing wage means the highest of:
- the median wage on the Job Bank
- a wage that is within the wage range that the employer pays its current employees in the same job and work location, and with the same skills and years of experience
- the applicable minimum wages that the article discussed above.
The GTS program has been an efficient and flexible means for Canadian employers to access global talent. Some talent needs have become even more pressing during this pandemic. Recent adjustments for temporary foreign workers generally, show that Canadian policy-makers and bureaucrats are aware that efficiency and flexibility are especially important now. The lack of domestic recruitment preconditions will allow the GTS program to be especially flexible in responding to urgent global talent needs during Canada's fight against COVID-19.
References can be found in the attached PDF.
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