- Country of destination: Canada
- Country of origin: Not specified
- Sectors: Agriculture, Horticulture, and Food Processing, Construction, Engineering, and Manufacturing, Healthcare, Information and Communications Technology, Tourism and Hospitality
- Skill level: All
- Timeline: 1973 - ongoing
- Number of beneficiaries: 527,247 between 2013 and 2018
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) allows Canadian employers to temporarily hire foreign nationals for up to one year for a variety of high- and low-paid jobs to fill gaps in their workforces.
Why was it started?
The program was started in 1973. Initially, it included only caregivers and agricultural workers. It was later expanded to include a variety of high- and low-skilled jobs.
In 2014, the program was reformed. It now includes five streams: high-wage workers, low-wage workers, global talent, foreign agricultural workers, and foreign academics. Only employers who have conducted a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) can hire temporary foreign workers.
How does it work?
The required LMIA verifies that there is a need for a temporary worker and that no Canadians or permanent residents are available to do the job. TFWP employers in Quebec face additional requirements.
The cost of applying for an LMIA is CAD$1,000 (this fee is not required for employers in agriculture). Employers must advertise the job for a period of time under set requirements, produce a transition plan that shows that the employer intends to take steps to reduce reliance on temporary foreign workers over time (for high-paid positions only, agriculture is exempt), and adhere to strict criteria for employing a foreign national.
To qualify for the TFWP, an applicant must (1) have a job offer from a Canadian employer who has offered him or her a temporary position and obtained permission from the Canadian government to hire a foreign national via an LMIA and (2) not be inadmissible to Canada for any reason (medical, criminal, financial).
Workers must also apply for a work permit from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. This permit is for a specific period of time that cannot exceed one year (as of March 20, 2020, workers in the low wage stream have been permitted to work in Canada for two years, to reduce the administrative burden on employers). TFWP workers in Canada can legally work only for the employer named on their work permit and cannot switch employers once they enter Canada.
As of 2022, the Canadian government has added six specialized applications on top of the general application streams: Express Entry, Academics, Caregivers, Global Talent Stream, Agriculture, and Positions in Quebec.
What impact has it had?
The TFWP continues to bring foreign workers into Canada. Downsides of the program include the fact that it is a program of last resort, used to fill jobs only for which there are no qualified Canadians available; work permits are employer-specific; and there is no reciprocity. As of 2021, there were 82,150 TFWP permit holders in Canada.
In 2023, the government of Canada announced that it will extend work permit eligibility to spouses, common-law partners, and working-age dependents of temporary workers of all skill levels for a period of two years. This measure is expected to grant 200,000 family members of foreign workers the right to work in Canada.
- Chartrand, Tyler, and Leah F Vosko. 2020. “Canada’s temporary foreign worker and international mobility programs: Charting change and continuity among source countries.” International Organization for Migration.
- Government of Canada. 2021. “Government of Canada: Temporary Workers.” Canada.ca. January 5.
- Varrella, Simona. 2021. “Top 10 origin countries of TFWP permit holders Canada 2019.” Statista.