On July 12, 2019, Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC“) announced that it is launching a three year pilot program in the agri-food sector. This pilot creates a new stream to permanent residency for temporary foreign workers in the agri-food industry and is anticipated to be available in early 2020. The purpose of the pilot is to address labour shortages in the agricultural sector and lead to growth in the industry.
To be eligible for the permanent residency pilot, applicants must have at least 12 months of full-time, non-seasonal Canadian work experience in the temporary foreign worker program in an eligible occupation. The applicant must also meet language skills in English or French (a minimum of Canadian Language Benchmark level 4), and have an education equivalent to Canadian high school level and an indeterminate job offer for full-time, non-seasonal work in Canada, outside of Quebec, at or above the prevailing wage for the occupation in the specific location.
Following are the occupations and industries eligible under the pilot:
- meat processing;
- retail butchers;
- industrial butchers;
- food processing labourers;
- harvesting labourers for year round mushroom production and greenhouse crop production;
- general farm workers for year-round mushroom production, greenhouse crop production or livestock raising; and
- farm supervisors and specialized livestock worker for meat processing, year-round mushroom production, greenhouse crop production or livestock raising.
Changes to the temporary foreign worker program
IRCC also announced that Employment and Social Development Canada is expected to introduce changes to the temporary foreign worker program applicable to meat processor employers who are supporting foreign nationals transitioning to permanent residence. The changes will provide a path to obtaining a two year Labour Market Impact Assessment for eligible meat processor employers.
What this means for employers
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 speaking to experienced immigration counsel to consider all options and the best strategy for your company or personal circumstances.
By Krista Schofer, Gowling WLG