US and Canadian Immigration Lawyer Andy Semotiuk: There are a lot of stories in the press right now about temporary foreign workers (TFWs) having to depart Canada. A few of the stories are a little more doom and gloom than others, but this one is a good example, under the headline Foreign Workers Exiled Under New Immigration Rule:
As of today, an estimated 70,000 temporary foreign workers have lost their legal status in Canada. Under a new, so-called “4 and 4″ rule, migrant workers can only labour in Canada for four years; once they leave the country, they must wait another four years to re-apply for a work permit. Over the weekend, dozens of demonstrators gathered in front of a citizenship office in midtown Toronto to say the new rules are dividing communities and weakening Canada’s economy.
Syed Hussan of the Migrant Workers’ Alliance for Change told Torontoist on Sunday that, although the new rule covers the period from April 1, 2011, many affected workers have actually been here much longer. “We’re seeing this new wave of mass exclusion of migrant workers,” Hussan said. “To deport a trained workforce, and then to replace it with a new set of workers who won’t know their rights, will create more precariousness and more vulnerability.”
This wasn’t a bolt out of the blue. The change related to the maximum four-year period of authorization for temporary foreign workers has been in the mix since 2011, so they have had plenty of time to learn about it and prepare for this day.
Since the rule does not apply to professionals under NAFTA or other high level workers such as inter-corporate transferees, the pain will mainly be felt by lower skilled workers. However, the key to the problem of TFWs staying in Canada are the changes to the Canadian Experience Class, plus the new Express Entry program.
Prior to the introduction of Express Entry, many temporary foreign workers could expect to apply under the Canadian Experience Class for permanent residence. In the process, they could obtain a bridging work permit until their permanent residence was approved. With the introduction of Express Entry, that option is effectively off the table. Workers must now pass through the Express Entry pool, making it impossible to get a bridging work permit.
If the intention of the federal government was to introduce changes in immigration policy that will produce a lot of angst, frustration, and uncertainty for TFWs and their Canadian employers, then it has succeeded. If, on the other hand, the intention was to introduce an intelligent functional change to the TFW program which would benefit both Canada and the worker, it has failed.
We should be encouraging such workers to seek to improve themselves during their temporary work here, contribute to the Canadian culture and economy, and then apply to stay permanently as persons who have a proven track record in the workplace and in the community. Unfortunately, we have done none of that.
Andy Semotiuk is a Canadian and US immigration lawyer with immigration law firm Pace Immigration. You can learn more about Andy at My Work Visa.