Hiring a temporary foreign worker

In Nova Scotia, where 92% of local companies have less than 20 employees, small businesses have to bear the brunt of workforce shortages alongside the larger corporations. As this issue deepens, temporary workers provide an avenue for employers to address their immediate labour needs.

To address skill and workforce shortages, Canadian employers bring in over 90,000 temporary foreign employees each year.

The federal departments of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), play a major role in the process of hiring temporary workers. They will decide if hiring a worker supports economic growth in Canada, and determine whether or not the candidate is eligible for a work permit.

There are generally four steps involved in hiring a temporary foreign worker. These will vary depending on the job offer, and the worker’s country of citizenship and last permanent residence.

STEP 1: The Employer determines if a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESCD) is required

A LMIA is a confirmation by Service Canada that the foreign worker is required in the province and that the employment offer will have a positive or neutral impact on the Canadian labour market. Generally speaking, LMIA’s are required. However, certain types of jobs are exempt due to special pilot programs or international agreements that exist, such as the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

A positive assessment is given when hiring a foreign worker does not have a negative effect on the Canadian labour market.

STEP 2: The employer applies for a LMIA from ESDC (if not required go to STEP 3)

In making its decision, ESDC will consider whether:

Details of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program

STEP 3: The employer selects and hires a foreign worker

It is the employer’s job to recruit, interview and hire a suitable foreign worker who meets the job requirements. The employer must provide a job offer which meets prevailing wage rates and labour standards.

Once ESDC provides a positive LMIA and approves the job offer, the employer sends a copy of the LMIA and a letter of employment to the foreign worker so that he/she may apply for a work permit.

STEP 4: The worker applies to the federal government – Citizenship and Immigration Canada – for a work permit

The foreign worker may need a work permit to work legally in Canada. The work permit is typically specific to the employer making the job offer and specific to the position.

In most cases, the worker must apply for a work permit from outside of Canada at a visa office serving their country of nationality or legal residence. Some workers, such as those from the US or Europe, can apply for the work permit at a Canadian port of entry, providing they have the necessary documentation.

Depending on current citizenship or place of residence, a temporary resident visa may be required in addition to a work permit. If this is the case, a visa officer will process your application for a temporary resident visa at the same time. You do not need a separate application. Countries and territories that require a temporary resident visa to enter Canada.

Workers from certain countries or working in certain occupations (e.g., teaching, health care, working with food or children) may also require a medical exam before their work permit is granted.

NOTE: Temporary foreign workers have the same rights and responsibilities in the workplace as any other Nova Scotian. It is the duty of the employer to ensure that the worker receives the proper training and orientation. Be aware of Nova Scotia’s legislation and regulations related to employment rights and to health and safety.