While a number of changes continue to be made to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, foreign workers and their employers are seeing the effects of changes from made to permanent residency deadlines in 2011. That year, Canada’s federal government changed the rules around how long temporary foreign workers in low-skilled jobs could stay in the country without permanent residency, setting the limit at four years. April 1, 2015 was the deadline for foreign workers to either become permanent residents, or leave the country.
“People will have to deal with the reality, now, that they won’t be able to work past the four years legally, “Alex tells CBC’s Andrew Chang. “So, they’re going to have to, from a legal perspective, look at other alternatives, open work permits, applying for permanent residency…alternatively, I’m sure there will be people who will go underground, and that’s unfortunate.”
Chang points out there may be concerns this new rule will only work to encourage illegal foreign workers, creating a problem similar to the one faced in the United States, where there exists a vast network of illegal workers.
“Unlike the United States, we are a country that’s terribly set up for illegal work,” Alex explains. “Everything expires with your work permit here, from drivers licenses to care cards, to social insurance numbers.”
In the United States, Alex says, illegal workers can still use social services, like banking, without consequence. In Canada, the rules are set up so that’s not possible.
Not all Canadian low-skilled temporary foreign workers are feeling the consequences of the deadline, however. Low-skilled foreign workers in Alberta have been exempt from the new rules, Alex says, thanks to an outcry from Alberta employers who cite a high employment rate as a barrier to finding Canadian workers.
Though the deadline came into effect last month, the question remains about how government officials will ensure temporary foreign workers are following the rules.
“In each region, Canada Border Services will have a unit [looking out for illegal work],” says Alex. “But they certainly don’t have the resources for a massive sweep.”
Alex Stojicevic is the managing partner of Maynard Kischer Stojicevic Immigration Law in Vancouver. MKS provides immigration services to both individuals and businesses. Contact MKS for help with work permits and navigating the foreign worker process.
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