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New fees, regulations on tap for employers of foreign workers

Posted on February 23, 2015
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VANCOUVER — It is about to become more difficult and costly for Canadian employers to hire certain kinds of foreign workers, with the federal government set to impose new fees and regulations next week on a sector that has been at the centre of numerous scandals in recent months.

Starting Feb. 21, employers wishing to hire foreign workers without a Labour Market Impact Assessment — the federal government’s check to make sure Canadians are not being displaced — will be required to submit information about their business or organization and an offer of employment to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, as well as pay an “employer compliance” fee of $230. Those on open work permits, which are not tied to a specific employer, will pay a new $100 fee.

The new rules will apply to employers who use the International Mobility Program, which includes senior managers, workers who come to Canada through NAFTA provisions, intra-company transfers and reciprocal agreements with other countries, such as working holiday visa programs. Until last year, these groups were included with agricultural labourers, caregivers and fast food workers in the controversial Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

“The fees collected will offset the cost of introducing robust employer compliance activities featuring inspections of thousands of employers,” Citizenship and Immigration Canada said in a statement earlier this week.

But Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said the new rules have potential to create significant delays for businesses and more clarity is needed in how they will be implemented. It is not clear, for example, whether approval will be automatic once employers upload the required documents or whether the approval of a C.I.C. official will be required.

“If it is anything other than an instant automated check, it’s a catastrophe,” Kurland said. “The worker can’t enter Canada legally with a work permit because there’s a lag time between the input of employer data and the output of a C.I.C. decision … and that lag time typically grows.”

It is possible the new requirements could also be considered trade barriers under NAFTA.

Employers have been accused of using several such programs to displace Canadian workers in recent months. Public outrage erupted in 2013 when the Royal Bank was revealed to be using intra-company transfer visas to bring in workers from India to replace Canadian workers. Last year, The Vancouver Sun reported on allegations some employers were using working holiday visas to bring in skilled workers from Ireland in order to get around the labour market assessment requirement. In another B.C. case last year, a Canadian union took a U.S. company to court when it did not follow through on an offer to employ a local crane operator on a project in central B.C., using NAFTA provisions to bring in American workers instead.

Workers who come to Canada through the International Mobility Program, without labour market assessments, have consistently outnumbered temporary foreign workers in recent years. In 2013, the most recent year for which complete figures are available, 137,527 workers entered Canada through the IMP, compared with 83,754 temporary foreign workers. Of these, the biggest group by far have been working holiday visa holders, followed by workers who enter under NAFTA.

http://www.vancouversun.com/business/fees+regulations+employers+foreign+workers/10812653/story.html

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