Historically, the agricultural sector in Canada has been suffering greatly from shortage of workers which is why this industry relies largely on foreign workers. One of the hurdles is that for most foreign agricultural workers the work permit is employer-specific, which doesn’t give much flexibility to them to move around, change employer, or arguably take higher positions in their field. Even in the case of non employer-specific work permits under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) where presumably the flexibility exists, the temporary aspect of work permit still remains an obstacle and doesn’t leave much room for career growth or plans to stay in Canada for a longer period of time.
In July 2019 the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot was introduced by the government to attract agri-food workers to Canada and reconcile the shortfalls that has been existing in this sector for the longest while. This pilot program will last for three years and details on the application process will be available in March 2020. Its goal is to attract and retain experienced full time, non-seasonal workers who can be economically established in Canada. The idea is to provide them with an opportunity to become PR instead of having to renew their work permits repeatedly whether to continue working for a longer period of time or to work for a different employer.
Not every industry in the agri-food sector is eligible for this pilot. The applicant must fulfill the following requirements:
- 12 months of full time non-seasonal Canadian work experience in an eligible occupation in processing meat products, raising livestock, growing mushrooms or greenhouse crops
- Canadian Language Benchmark level 4 (English or French)
- High School or greater (Canadian equivalency)
- Indeterminate job offer for full time non-seasonal work outside Quebec at or above prevailing wage
- Unless already working legally in Canada at the time of applying, worker must prove to have enough money to support family members, even if they’re not coming to Canada with them (50% of the low-income cut-off totals for the year they apply)
Employers supporting temporary foreign workers in transitioning to PR may be eligible for a 2-year LMIA if they are using this pilot or other existing pathways to permanent residence in the same occupations and industries eligible for the pilot. The employer must outline their plans in order to support their temporary foreign worker to obtain permanent residency. Unionized meat processors need a letter of support from the union, while non unionized ones will have to fulfill additional requirements developed by a tri-partite working group to ensure both the labour market and the migrant workers are protected. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) expects a maximum of 2,750 principal applicants to be accepted for processing each year under the pilot. With family members, the pilot could welcome approximately 16,500 new permanent residents to Canada over the course of the pilot’s three-year duration.
The Agri-Food Immigration Pilot and the expected changes to the temporary foreign worker program will provide new temporary and permanent pathways for eligible applicants, which should help agri-food employer’s plan and manage their workforce in Canada. Employers in the above-noted eligible occupations and industries are expected to benefit from this pilot with the ultimate goal of decreasing labour shortages and increasing growth in the agriculture sector through positive immigration programs.
** As there are numerous temporary and permanent immigration options in Canada, we recommend to reach out to our office to consider all options and the best strategy for your company or personal circumstances.