Canada to Make Big Changes on Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is a program in Canada that allows employers to hire foreign workers to fill job vacancies when they can’t find qualified Canadians or permanent residents. It was started in 1973 as a last resort option, but over time it has become a very important part of the Canadian labor market.

How the TFWP Works Currently

There are a few key steps involved in the TFWP:

  1. Employers Get Approval: Before hiring a foreign worker, an employer needs to get a positive or neutral Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). This assessment basically shows that hiring a foreign worker won’t hurt the job market for Canadians. To get this approval, employers typically need to advertise the job for a certain amount of time and show that no qualified Canadians or permanent residents applied.
  2. Workers Apply for Work Permits: Once the employer has the LMIA, they can give it to a potential foreign worker who can then apply for a work visa with Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
  3. Employer Responsibilities: Employers who hire temporary foreign workers have certain responsibilities. They need to pay the worker a fair wage according to the area’s standards, provide them with safe working conditions, and in some cases even offer housing and healthcare.
  4. Closed Work Permits: The work permits issued under the TFWP are currently “closed” which means they are tied to a specific employer. This means that if a worker loses their job or wants to change jobs, they also lose their work permit and immigration status in Canada. There are some exceptions for abuse cases, but otherwise, workers are stuck with their original employer.

Criticisms of the Current TFWP

There are some problems with the way the TFWP works right now. Here are some of the main concerns:

  • Worker Vulnerability: Because work permits are tied to one employer, temporary foreign workers can be vulnerable to abuse by their employers. They may be afraid to speak up about bad working conditions or unfair treatment for fear of losing their job and immigration status.
  • Challenges for Employers: Employers, especially those who rely on seasonal workers, can find it difficult to plan and train their workforce because temporary foreign workers may not stay for long.

Proposed Changes to the TFWP

A recent report by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science, and Technology has recommended some big changes to the TFWP. Here are the main ideas:

  • Open or Sector/Region-Specific Work Permits: Instead of closed work permits tied to one employer, the report suggests giving temporary foreign workers open work permits or permits specific to a certain sector or region. This would give workers more freedom to change jobs and reduce their vulnerability to employer abuse. Employers in a specific sector or region could potentially share the responsibilities of providing things like housing and healthcare.
  • Migrant Work Commission: The report recommends creating a new commission to focus on the rights and well-being of temporary foreign workers. This commission would be a central point of contact for workers to report abuse and would also work to improve communication between the different government departments involved in the TFWP.
  • Other Improvements: The report also suggests other ways to improve the TFWP, such as providing better information to workers before they arrive in Canada, increasing the number of workplace inspections, and making it easier for temporary foreign workers to become permanent residents.

The Government’s Response

The Canadian government has 150 days to respond to the report’s recommendations. They will need to decide whether to accept the proposed changes or explain why they are not a good idea.


The proposed changes to the TFWP could have a big impact on both temporary foreign workers and Canadian employers. The goal is to create a system that is fairer for workers, protects their rights, and also meets the needs of Canadian businesses.

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