Canada




Canadian businesses are relying more and more on Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) and international students to fill vacant jobs and that’s helping a growing number of these temporary residents get their permanent residency here.

In its latest Research to Insights: Immigration as a Source of Labour Supply report, Statistics Canada says the number of temporary foreign workers in Canada was seven times as high at the end of last year as it had been at the turn of the millennium.

“The number of TFWs, work permit holders on Dec. 31 in each year, increased seven-fold from 111,000 in 2000 to 777,000 in 2021,” states the statistical and demographic services agency.

During the decade that ended in 2019, the percentage of temporary foreign workers in the labour force doubled, rising from two per cent in 2010 to four per cent in 2019.


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In some sectors, the importance of temporary foreign workers was even more pronounced, with 15 per cent of all agricultural workers being foreign nationals in 2019 and 10 per cent of those in the accommodations and food services sector and the administrative and support, waste management and remediations services sector as well. 

“TFWs were also overrepresented in some higher-skilled industries, such as professional, scientific, and technical services sector, where they comprised six per cent of the workforce, and the information and cultural industries, where they comprised five per cent of the workforce,” notes Statistics Canada.

International students, too, are increasingly contributing to the Canadian labour force.

In the decade that ended in 2019, the number of international students working in Canada annually jumped from 22,000 to 354,000, a 16-fold jump. While only 18 per cent of international students were holding down jobs while going to school in Canada in 2000, half of them were working while taking classes by 2019.

TFWs And International Students Are Choosing To Make Canada Their Home

With that work experience, many of them are choosing – and succeeding – in becoming permanent residents of Canada.

“Temporary foreign workers and international students are transitioning to permanent residency in greater numbers,” notes Statistics Canada.

“About 25 per cent of TFWs who arrived in Canada in the late 2000s and early 2010s became permanent residents within five years after obtaining their first work permit, compared with the rate of 18 per cent among those who arrived in the early 2000s.”


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In the last two decades roughly one third of international students in Canada became permanent residents within 10 years of being in Canada. And the more education and Canadian work experience they had under their belts at the time of their applications, the more likely they were to get that permanent residency.

“The transition rate reached 50 per cent for international students at the graduate level and 60 per cent for those with Canadian work experience,” notes Statistics Canada.

Roughly Half Of New Permanent Residents To Canada Are Former TFWs Or International Students

By opening its arms to former temporary foreign workers and international students, Canada has been able to greatly increase immigration, grow its population, and provide businesses with a bigger labour pool.

“In recent years, 40 to 60 per cent of new economic immigrants were former TFWs or international students,” notes Statistic Canada.

“In 2020, that number rose to 67 per cent among principal applicants in the economic class. The increasing selection of economic immigrants from among temporary foreign workers – the two-step selection – is an important contributing factor for the improvement in the labour market outcomes of new immigrants in recent years.”

International students who come to Canada under a Study Permit can later apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit, and eventually, apply for permanent residence through the Express Entry system.

Canada welcomes more than 350,000 international students every year. To be eligible to study in Canada these students must demonstrate that they:

  • have been accepted by a school, college, university or other educational institution in Canada;
  • have enough money to pay for their tuition fees, living expenses, and return transportation;
  • are law-abiding citizens with no criminal records;
  • are in good health and willing to complete a medical examination, and;
  • can satisfy an immigration officer that they will leave Canada at the end of their authorized stays.

Once issued a study permit, these students can work in Canada under the following categories:

PGWP Allows Foreign Student To Work In Canada For A Maximum Of Three Years

Upon graduation, a foreign student may apply for a PGWP which is usually issued for the length of the study program, up to a maximum of three years.

The valuable work experience gained while an international grad works in Canada under the PGWP can count towards a permanent residence application through Canada Express Entry system.

Under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) used by Express Entry system programs, applicants for immigration are assigned points based on:

  • Skills;
  • Work experience;
  • Language ability;
  • Language ability and education of the applicant’s spouse or common-law partner;
  • Possession of a job offer supported by a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment;
  • Possession of a provincial government nomination for permanent residence, and;
  • Certain combinations of language skills, education and work experience result in a higher chance of the applicant becoming employed (skill transferability).

Many of the temporary foreign workers who got their permanent residency last year or are expected to get it this year applied under last year’s one-time, temporary-to-permanent resident (TR-to-PR) program which took applications until November.

That pathway targeted healthcare and other workers in Canada and recent international graduates from Canadian colleges and universities. It applied across the country with the exception of the francophone province of Quebec which operates its own immigration system.

By the close of the year, the pathway had accepted 84,177 applications and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) figures show Canada had welcomed 23,885 new permanent residents under this TR-to-PR pathway.

Another 22,190 have already received their permanent residency under this pathway in the first four months of this year.

Immigration Minister Expected To Unveil New Program For Temporary Residents Soon

In its Immigration Levels Plan for 2022 to 2024, Canada has targeted 40,000 new permanent residents under federal economic public policies for this year, which includes the TR-to-PR pathway, with a range of 30,000 to 48,000 new permanent residents.

The Immigration Levels Plan also targets an additional 32,000 new permanent residents under that pathway for 2023.

But Immigration Minister Sean Fraser is eyeing an entirely new pathway for temporary residents to get their permanent residency and has reportedly told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that he expects to have something to present in the House of Commons in a few months.

“We’re in the depths of planning the policy so we can have a policy that’s not driven by a need to respond urgently in the face of an emergency, but actually to have a permanent pathway that provides a clear path for those seeking permanent residency who can enter Canada,” he reportedly said.

That’s music to the ears of Canadian businesses struggling to find workers to fill jobs that are now going begging.

Statistics Canada reports the country’s unemployment rate is at a record low of 5.1 per cent and the ratio of unemployed people to job vacancies was also at an all-time low of 1.2 in March.

At the same time, job vacancies are soaring and have reached a record high.

“Job vacancies climbed to 957,500 in the first quarter, the highest quarterly number on record,” noted Statistics Canada in a report released June 21.

“As employers continued to face an increasingly tight labour market, vacancies were up 2.7 per cent, up by 24,900, from the previous peak observed in the fourth quarter of 2021, and up 72.3 per cent, or by 401,900 jobs, from the first quarter of 2020.”

Ottawa Offers Three Types Of Temporary Work Visas For Foreign Nationals

In Canada, there are three types of temporary work visas for foreign nationals who want to work in the country:

  • open;
  • employer-specific, and;
  • post-graduate.

With an Open Work Permit, a foreign national can work anywhere in Canada for any employer without that business having to go through a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

Employer-specific work permits, on the other hand, only allow foreign nationals to work for specific employers who have tried, through the LMIA process, to find Canadians to do those jobs. When the employer is unable to find a suitable candidate in Canada, he or she can hire a foreign national who then has to get an employer-specific visa.

The last type of work permit is for international students who have studied at a Canadian college or university, graduated, and now want to continue to live and work in Canada. 

Through agreements with many other countries, Canada offers the IEC program and issues work permits to foreign nationals of those countries who want to come here:

  • for a working holiday which allows them to work for many employers without having a job offer before they come to Canada;
  • as young professionals planning to come to Canada for a job that boosts their professional development with the same employers back in their home country, or;
  • for an international co-op internship, typically to allow them to graduate from a study program at a Canadian college or university which requires they complete a work term in Canada.

Employers hoping to hire a foreign national can avail themselves of this international talent and labour through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), and; the International Mobility Program (IMP).

The Global Talent Stream (GTS), a part of the (TFWP), can under normal processing situations lead to the granting of Canadian work permits and processing of visa applications within two weeks.

Employers can also bring in foreign nationals to fill available positions through the Express Entry system, which receives immigration applications online.

Applicants who meet eligibility criteria submit an online profile known as an Expression of interest (EOI), under one of three federal immigration programs or a participating provincial immigration program, to the Express Entry Pool.

The candidates’ profiles then are ranked against each other according to a points-based system called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The highest-ranked candidates are considered for ITAs for permanent residence. Those receiving an ITA must quickly submit a full application and pay processing fees within a delay of 90 days.

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