In a move that will likely be greeted with enthusiasm by many, the government of Canada has announced that, effective immediately, the the four-year cumulative duration rule will no longer apply to temporary foreign workers in Canada. This rule, also known as the ‘four-in, four-out’ rule, limited the time some temporary foreign workers may work in Canada to four years.
Previously, after the four-year limit, certain individuals became ineligible for another Canadian work permit until a further four years had elapsed. This limitation was established in April, 2011.
The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) was established to respond to labour market shortages in Canada, by allowing employers to hire internationally when no Canadian citizen or permanent resident is ready, willing, and able to fill a position. In order to begin working through the TFWP, an individual must first obtain a temporary work permit supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
Certain individuals working in Canada under the TFWP were already exempt from the four-in, four-out rule. These individuals included workers in managerial or professional occupations (skill level 0 or A of the National Occupational Classification, or NOC), workers who were employed in Canada under an international agreement such as NAFTA or the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, and workers who were otherwise exempt from the LMIA requirement.
The announcement was made on December 13, 2016, by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, John McCallum, and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, MaryAnn Mihychuk.
These changes were developed in response to a report from the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development, and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. In reference to the changes, McCallum stated, “In many ways, the four-year rule put a great deal of uncertainty and instability on both temporary workers and employers. We had the sense that it was an unnecessary burden on applicants and employers, and also on officers who process applications… We believe this important recommendation from the Committee requires rapid action.”
The two ministries further stated that the changes have been made ‘in order to prevent unnecessary hardship and instability for both workers and employers.’
Further improvements to the TFWP expected
The elimination of the four-year cumulative duration rule was described as a first step ‘as part of the Government’s commitment to bring forward a suite of meaningful changes to make the Temporary Foreign Worker Program work for workers, for employers and for the Canadian economy.’ The press release accompanying the announcement stated that, ‘These initial improvements are being taken now while the Government continues to work on the development of a more comprehensive policy.’
Low-wage work caps
The announcement also clarified requirements for employers relating to low-wage workers. The government now requires certain low-wage employers to advertise positions to between two and four groups who are under-represented in the Canadian work force, including young people, people with disabilities, Indigenous people, and newcomers to Canada. The date that these changes will come into effect is yet to be announced.
The cap on the proportion of low-wage temporary foreign workers that an employer may engage in one workplace is maintained at 20 percent for employers who have used the TFWP since before June 20, 2014, and at 10 percent for employers who began using the TFWP after that date. The Government also confirmed that the exemption on this percentage cap for employers in seasonal industries — such as farming — who are looking to engage temporary foreign workers for up to 180 days during 2017 will be extended until December 31, 2017.