Temporary foreign workers
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is designed to help employers who cannot find qualified Canadian workers. The program permits eligible foreign workers to work in Canada for a limited period of time. To access the program, you must demonstrate that you cannot find Canadian workers to fill job openings.
Take the time to thoroughly understand this program before you apply to hire temporary foreign workers. Use the following information to make the best decisions for your workplace.
Employer Rights and Responsibilities
As an employer, you must comply with immigration processes and policies. You must also observe provincial employment, labour and safety requirements in your workplace.
For example, you must:
- Follow the requirements of Service Canada/ESDC and CIC
- Abide by the employment contract and terms of the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), including paying the typical wage rate
- Adhere to the criteria outlined in Canadian immigration regulations
- Follow all licensing and certification requirements outlined by the appropriate regulatory body
- Orient and train the new employee
- Abide by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, if applicable
Your responsibilities and the rights of your employee depend on several factors. These include the type of job and the requirements of the program under which you recruited the worker. Consult with Service Canada and CIC, and communicate with others in your company who recruit temporary foreign workers. This will help you establish consistent in-house practices when recruiting, orienting and training these workers.
Immigration Processes and Policies
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) governs matters concerning immigration and refugee protection in Canada. You’ll find the Act at Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.
Provincial Employment, Labour and Safety Requirements
You can find detailed information about provincial workplace and safety requirements on the B.C. Ministry of Labour's Employment Standards for Foreign Workers and the WorkSafeBC website is a good resource on occupational health and safety.
Certification and Licensing Requirements
Employers must ensure all workers meet the certification and licensing requirements for the career they are hired for. If you are uncertain what the requirements are, contact the appropriate regulatory agency or body.
Selecting a Third-Party Representative
If you are planning to recruit temporary foreign workers, you may consider using the services of a third-party representative to help with your recruiting efforts.
There are three types of third-party representatives that can help you recruit foreign workers:
- Employment and recruitment agencies
- Immigration lawyers
- Immigration consultants
How to protect yourself when engaging a third-party representative
There are a number of things to consider when selecting an employment agency.
Before entering into an agreement with an agency, lawyer or consultant, you should confirm that they are in good standing with their regulatory body. A valid employment agency licence or a membership in good standing does not necessarily guarantee that the third-party representative will abide by contracts or federal and provincial laws. Therefore, you should also confirm that the representative has the required experience to meet your specific hiring needs. If possible, conduct reference checks with their previous B.C. clients.
In B.C., any business or individual who recruits or offers to recruit employees is considered an “employment agency.” As such, they must be licensed under B.C.'s Employment Standards Act. You should always confirm that an employment agency you intend to use is properly licensed.
In addition, individual recruiters who help employers in B.C. find foreign workers must be licensed in B.C., even if their business or main operations are located outside of the province. Businesses or organizations that offer recruitment services do not get licensed – only individuals (including those within businesses and organizations) are licensed. Recruiters who operate without a licence could receive significant fines.
If employers use recruiters who are not licensed in B.C., the employer can be fined and/or have their registration to hire temporary foreign workers cancelled.
Find a licensed recruiter.
Lists of Third-party Representatives
The B.C. Ministry of Labour provides a list of licensed employment agencies online. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find lists by agency name and by location. The Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) also has an online listing of its members that are in good standing.
Other factors to consider
When you select an agency, it not only represents you in the administrative processing that takes place in source countries but also represents you in the selection of workers. The quality of its services will impact your company's performance and reputation.
In addition to confirming that the agency, lawyer or consultant is a member in good standing, you should consider the following factors:
- How knowledgeable is the employment agency of your particular industry and the required career skills and background?
- Are they knowledgeable about these factors in B.C., Canada and the source country?
- How long have they been in business?
- How does the employment agency locate workers in the source country?
- Does the employment agency subcontract?
- Do they work in partnership with another agency in Canada or in the source country?
- What assurances are there that the subcontracted agency will act ethically and within the law on your behalf?
- How long does the agency expect the recruitment process to take?
- Remember that third-party representatives have no influence over the processing speed or approval rates of LMIAs and work permit applications in Canada.
- Do the agency's recruitment fees seem reasonable for the services that they offer?
- If an agency promises to recruit a worker at no cost to you, it is very likely that they are illegally charging the worker. This is a violation of the Employment Standards Act. If it seems too good to be true, it likely is.
- Does the agency consider the ability of its applicants to function in one of Canada's official languages?
- Work permit applicants may be unsuccessful if the immigration officer is not satisfied that they have sufficient official language capability to perform the work sought in Canada.
- Does the agency conduct reference checks to confirm the experience and skills that workers list on their resumes or applications?
- The foreign worker must provide the visa office with evidence that he or she has the required work experience.
- Some source countries have problems with fraudulent documents and employment records. Some recruiters have a reputation for encouraging applicants to make false or misleading statements. In these countries, the incidence of work permit refusal by Canadian immigration officials is high. It is possible to receive approval through Service Canada and then have the foreign worker refused at the visa office overseas.
- Can you work closely with the third party representative to ensure that certification issues are identified and addressed? This is particularly important if you are recruiting for a regulated occupation.
- It is important to remember that it is very difficult to get enforcement action against agents and representatives who are not Canadian-based. As a result, if you are found liable for the actions of such an agent, you could encounter challenges in seeking compensation from the agent.
Employment agency fees
Employment agencies charge employers a fee for recruiting each worker. These fees are in addition to other expenses related to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The fees are the responsibility of the employer, and they cannot be passed on to the employee.
It is important that you understand the financial considerations that should be included in a contract with the selected employment agency.
Negotiating a recruitment contract
A written contract should be signed by both the employer and the third-party representative to protect both the company and the worker(s).
At a minimum, you should address the following in the contract:
- Who will prepare the application for the LMIA, if one is required
- Services the agency will provide
- Roles and responsibilities of both parties
- The employer’s level of involvement in the process
- Fee structure (which should include all costs)
- Confirmation that the agency has the legal ability to work in the countries from which workers will be recruited
- Roles and responsibilities of any sub-contractors
- How and when the agency will communicate with the employer and provide progress updates
- Confirmation that the agency has not charged the worker any fees or made any additional arrangements with workers outside the scope of the employment agreement
Your role in the recruitment and selection process may vary depending on the required skill level of the worker(s). If the occupation is regulated, you are responsible for following all licensing and certification requirements outlined by the appropriate regulatory body.
Review the contract carefully before agreeing to the terms, including all services and associated fees. Retain copies of the contract and any other documents prepared.
Monitoring the third-party representative and conditions of employment
You hold responsibility and a degree of liability for any employment agency or third-party representative you contract with. If your third-party representative breaks the law while working on your behalf, you could be charged under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, the Criminal Code of Canada, or the Employment Standards Act.
You must also adhere to the terms and conditions set out in the LMIA and employment contract. In addition, if you (or third parties acting on your behalf) are at any point found to be in non-compliance with federal and provincial laws that regulate employment and recruitment, you may be deemed ineligible to hire foreign workers.
If you discover that an employment agency has not complied with provincial or federal government regulations, you should immediately contact B.C. Employment Standards, Service Canada, or Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
You can file complaints about a third-party agent with the appropriate regulatory body (e.g., the Law Society of British Columbia or other provincial/territorial law societies, the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants, or the Chambre des notaires du Quebec).
Preparing for the Arrival of Foreign Workers
You and/or your agent should screen and select temporary foreign workers in the same way that you would hire Canadian workers. This includes abiding by Canadian human rights and employment standards.
Once you’ve selected a temporary foreign worker (TFW), there are a few things you can do to make sure your new employee has a smooth arrival. You and/or your employment agency should review the following with your new employee(s):
- Confirm that the work period is temporary and defined under the terms of the employer's labour market opinion and the worker's permit.
- State the terms of the employment contract, including wages and all benefits.
- Outline the terms of transportation to and from the employee’s home, and outline the type of accommodation that will be provided (if applicable). Your new employee should understand that he or she is free to find different accommodation after they arrive.
- Confirm that your worker did not pay any fees to the employment agency. Also confirm that the employment agency did not make any promises outside the terms of the employment contract.
- Determine whether you (as the employer) or your new worker is responsible for providing work-related tools, equipment or uniforms.
Community and workplace considerations
As an employer, you can promote a positive and productive employer-employee relationship by actively helping your new employee settle in British Columbia.
To help them get settled, many employers assign a co-worker or a community volunteer to help the newcomer:
- sign up for the B.C. Medical Services Plan
- apply for a social insurance number
- set up bank accounts
- understand Canadian currency
- advise of options for telephone, Internet, and other utility services
- understand transportation options, schedules, and fees
- learn about the climate and the appropriate clothing required
- get involved with cultural organizations, religious organizations and social support groups
- find information on local hospitals and medical services
- understand day-to-day living needs (banking services, grocery stores, shopping centres, etc.)
Find additional information for TFWs at WelcomeBC.ca.
Preparing for Workplace Processes, Standards and Safety
Many employers assume that skilled and experienced workers can transfer their knowledge from one country to another without a problem. Often this is not the case. Workplace processes, quality standards, workplace safety standards, and tools and equipment vary between different countries. Employers with experience in hiring workers from outside Canada have acknowledged that they were not always prepared.
You can address these issues by developing an orientation and training plan. This is an effective way to strengthen your existing in-house standards and training practices while addressing the unique needs of foreign workers.
For more information, visit WorkSafe BC. It’s an online resource for workplace injury prevention. It also provides resources in different languages.
Transitioning to permanent employment
Through B.C.'s Provincial Nominee Program, you can keep your temporary foreign worker by offering them permanent employment and supporting their application for permanent status in Canada.
This program is available for qualified high-skilled workers, entrepreneurs and entry-level and semi-skilled workers in select careers. For another helpful guide, see WorkBC's Diversity at Work - Recruiting and Retaining Immigrants.
Provincial Role and Activities
The provincial government plays an important role in the TFWP. It has jurisdiction over:
- regulation of professions
- establishment of labour and occupational health and safety standards
- consumer protection
- workers compensation
- resolution of related conflicts through labour boards and civil courts
- the Provincial Nominee Program
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What fees can employment agencies or employers charge foreign workers?
No one can charge a fee to a person for:
- Helping that person find a job
- Providing information about prospective jobs
A foreign worker cannot be required to pay for immigration assistance as a condition of being placed in a job.
A foreign worker cannot be required to post a bond or pay a deposit to ensure they will finish a work term or employment contract, or to pay a penalty if they do not.
A foreign worker cannot be required to pay back any costs the employer paid to an employment agency or anyone else to recruit the worker.
Q. Do employment agencies have to be licensed to do business in B.C.?
Employment agencies in B.C. must be licensed under the Employment Standards Act. Licensed employment agencies may receive payments from employers for recruiting employees.
Q. How much does it cost to recruit a foreign worker?
The cost of recruiting a foreign worker varies, and is based on career, country of origin, requirements of the federal Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program and the fee charged by the third-party representative. If a recruiter claims that they can find you temporary foreign workers for free, they are likely passing on the fees to the workers. This is illegal in B.C.
It’s important that you do research and calculate the expenses specific to your job posting before you start looking for a temporary foreign worker. You can avoid additional unexpected fees by always getting a clear outline of fees in writing, as well as selecting a third-party representative based on the quality of their work.
Q. Can I lay off or fire a temporary foreign worker?
An employer may terminate the employment of a worker if they provide the employee with the required notice or pay in lieu of notice.
An employer or an employment agency cannot force a foreign worker to return to his or her country of origin if the employer terminates an employment contract before the work permit expires or if the worker finds another job. The Government of Canada has the only legal authority to remove a person from Canada.
An employer cannot terminate the employment of a worker who files an Employment Standards complaint. An employer can not otherwise discriminate against a person with respect to their employment.
Q. How long does the entire process take – from submitting an LMIA to when a worker arrives?
Timelines vary based on country of origin, career, Labour Market Impact Assessment, work permit response times, advertising requirements and the process of selecting workers. On average, the entire process takes between six to eight months.
Q. What is the difference between the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and B.C.'s Provincial Nominee Program?
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) allows employers to recruit foreign workers to work in B.C. on a temporary/short-term basis as approved by Service Canada. This program provides a temporary solution to labour and skill shortages in B.C.
The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) selects immigrants for permanent residence in B.C. To be eligible, immigrants must have the ability to become economically established in B.C. and provide significant economic benefits to the province.
Temporary foreign workers can apply, if eligible, to the PNP and become permanent residents of Canada. To make this happen, the employer and the TFW (nominee candidate) must submit a joint application to the program.
Citizen and Immigration
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Citizenship and Immigration Canada: Who Should Apply for a Work Permit
Citizenship and Immigration Canada: Work Permit
Citizenship and Immigration Canada: Work Permit Exemptions
Citizenship and Immigration Canada: How to Hire a Temporary Foreign Worker
WelcomeBC: Provincial Nominee Program
Ministry of Labour
Employment Standards for Foreign Workers
Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology
Employment Standards Act