On December 2, 2022 Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) announced a new temporary public policy meant to assist Canadian employers navigate the current labour shortage, as well as to help families of temporary foreign workers (“TFW”) to be together in Canada. IRCC aims to achieve that by easing the eligibility criteria of spouses or common-law partners and working-age children of TFWs to apply for a Open Work Permit, which is less cumbersome than having to obtain a LMIA-based work permit. It was announced that this new policy will be in force by January 2023 and that it will be valid, at least initially, for two (2) years.
Currently only spouses or common-law partners of employer-specific work permit holders in skilled jobs are eligible to apply for an Open Work Permit (“OWP”). IRCC deem as “skilled jobs” professions which NOC code is TEER 0, 1, 2 and 3, formerly Skilled Level 0, A, and B. However, from January 2023 spouses and working-age children of a TFWs in any NOC code (TEER 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) will be able to apply for an OWP. IRCC is expected to announce the instructions for the implementation of this new policy before the entry into force of this new policy. Among the topics that requires further clarification is the definition of “working-age children” as the minimum age to be allowed to work is not uniform across the country. Moreover, the new policy will be implemented in three (3) phases, which are commented below.
Phase 1 includes spouses or common law partners and working-age children (“family members”) of TFWs in high-wage positions will be able to apply for an OWP. A job is deemed to be “high-wage” if the TFW’s hourly wages as per the job offer are equal or higher than the median hourly wages of the province where the TFW is working. It is worth highlighting that this phase include family members of TFW’s who are in possession of – or that eligible to apply to – either a LMIA-based work permit or a LMIA-exempt work permit. Unless IRCC stipulates otherwise in its soon-to-be-published instructions, the latter scenario could include work permits obtained through and international trade agreement such as CUSMA or through the Working Holiday of the International Experience Canada, to illustrate with two examples. During Phase 2 on the other hand, family members of LMIA-work permit holders in low-wage positions will be able to apply for an OWP. Different than the above mentioned scenario, low-wage positions are those which hourly wages are lower that the median hourly wages for the province where the principal applicant is working. It is still unknown if IRCC will implement this across the board, or if they will target specific economic industries. Lastly, during Phase 3 family members of agricultural workers might also benefit from this new policy. Agricultural workers in Canada are seasonal jobs and usually require more involvement from the employers in assisting TFWs with their accommodation.
Despite more details on the implementation of these phases are required from IRCC, this new policy will most certainly help Canadian employers tackle the current labour shortage, and will also give the opportunity to families of TFW to be together and help each other emotionally and financially while in Canada. Nevertheless, other measures could have been enacted to assist on these two goals, for instance foreign spouses or common-law partners and foreign working-age children of Permanent Residents and Canadian Citizens, could have benefited from a policy like this one. Hopefully, this is something that we will have the pleasure to inform you about in the near future.