Northern Exposure

Employers Take Note: Canadian Immigration Process Changing

By Isabelle Dongier

Winds of change keep blowing on Canadian immigration lands. The federal government has recently taken several steps to rationalize and centralize its operations. Here are the latest changes, announced in May and June, of interest to companies employing foreign workers in Canada:

Restructuring of the visa office network: This includes the closure of the Canadian Consulate in Buffalo, New York. It’s been a major processing center for applications for visas, work permits, student permits, and permanent residence status. Permanent residence applications are now sent to the Case Processing Pilot Office in Ottawa (CPP-O). Resident visa processing is now shared between other Canadian consulates in the United States (New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Seattle). Only two visa offices (New York and Los Angeles) will deal with all new study and work permit applications originating in the United States. Washington, D.C., will process applications for temporary resident permits and rehabilitation applications to overcome inadmissibility based on health or criminal grounds. Another significant change allows holders of a work permit who are from visa-required countries, but who reside in Canada, to apply for their new visa by mail or courier at the CPP-O. They will no longer have to deal with a visa office outside of Canada.

Centralization of Temporary Foreign Worker Units in Toronto, Ontario, and Montreal: Effective July 1, the units at Vancouver, Calgary, and Moncton are closing. Requests from employers about the application of Labour Market Opinion (LMO) exemptions will be centralized in Montreal for Quebec and the Maritimes and in Toronto for Ontario and the center and western provinces. Time will tell how this will affect the processing times, which currently are one to two weeks.

Labour Market exemption for work permit renewal of Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ) holders currently working in the province of Quebec: Temporary foreign workers in Canada who need a work permit renewal can now benefit from a Labour Market Opinion Exemption for up to two years if they have been issued a CSQ in the skilled worker category. This benefit was already available for workers based in other provinces who have been nominated for permanent residence under a Provincial Nominee Program. This significant improvement facilitates the work permit renewal process while awaiting permanent residence and exempts the employer from going through the LMO, including demonstrating labor shortage and local recruitment efforts.

Accelerated Labour Market Opinion Application (A-LMO): On April 25, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada put in place a new program to simplify and expedite the processing of LMO applications for higher-skilled positions such as management, professional, and technical occupations. A positive LMO will be issued within 10 days. This is a significant improvement compared to the standard process that may now last three to four months. The shorter responses will occur where the employer meets all the requirements and in particular:

  1. has been issued at least one positive LMO in the previous two years;
  2. has a clean compliance record with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program within the last two years;
  3. has agreed to participate in a post A-LMO compliance review;
  4. has not been the subject of an investigation, infraction or a serious complaint and does not have any unresolved violations or contraventions under provincial employment or recruitment laws;
  5. has met all the standard criteria for LMO approval (such as acceptable wages and working conditions, advertisement, and recruitment efforts) and has demonstrated the positive impact of hiring a foreigner (filling a labor shortage, transferring skills to Canadians, creating or retaining Canadian jobs).

These are only a few examples of the numerous changes that have occurred in the area over the last weeks or months. More changes are to come. Employers with foreign workers in Canada should no longer rely on well-established practices or rules and should always verify that their information is current to avoid unnecessary delays or negative decisions.

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