Before the 1970s, most foreign workers were admitted as visitors. Contract labour programs, however, were set up in mining, logging, agriculture, and domestic work during this period. Some of these contract labour programs became part of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) that was created in 1973. Since the 1970s, other streams were created that make up the TFWP that is now in place.

Domestic Workers/Caregivers

Before the Second World War, the demand for domestic workers was met mostly by women in Europe who arrived as permanent residents, as well as Caribbean women recruited to work in Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes. When the supply of European domestic workers dwindled after the Second World War, Canada set up contract labour programs under bilateral agreements with governments in Caribbean countries known as the 1955 West Domestic Scheme and the 1957 Caribbean Domestic Scheme. These programs allowed Black women between the age of 18 to 35 from mainly Jamaica and Barbados to enter Canada to work as domestic workers under bilateral agreements. The conditions were that: they were in good health, had no family ties; and had a minimum of a grade eight education. After one year as a domestic servant, these women were given a landed immigrant status and were able to apply for citizenship after five years.

When the Temporary Foreign Worker Program was formally established in 1973, domestic workers lost their path to permanent residency. Under the TFWP, one-year employment visas became mandatory for all non-immigrants wishing to work in Canada to fill labour shortages under the Employment Authorization Act. Public outcry and mass mobilizations led to the re-establishment of a sub- program that allowed domestic workers to apply for permanent residence.

In 1981, temporary foreign workers who provided live-in care giving became eligible for permanent residence under the Foreign Domestic Movement Program (FDM) after fulfilling two years of full-time, live-in service and other requirements. This program was renamed the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) in 1992, with the introduction of new requirements.

The LCP ceased to exist as of November 30, 2014. It was replaced by two pathways to permanence under new streams within the Canadian Experience Class that are subject to higher work, education and language requirements. Recently, two new caregiver pilots were announced to replace the old pathways, which include new measures intended to address some issues raised by migrant organizations over the past decades. (see the section on Recent Policy Changes below).

Agricultural Workers

Agricultural labour migration in Canada has been part of contract labour programs since at least the 1940s. In the late 1960s, the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) was created to allow the entry of agricultural workers from Caribbean countries (e.g., Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados) on a seasonal basis under bilateral agreements. In 1974, a bilateral agreement was also signed with Mexico. Even though agricultural workers can be hired under the general TFWP, the SAWP remains a sub-program of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

There has been no pathway to permanent residence for seasonal agricultural workers. However, a new agricultural worker pilot program to be launched in early 2020 was recently announced, which is intended to provide a pathway to permanence for seasonal agricultural workers.

High-Skilled Workers

The majority of temporary foreign workers are high-skilled foreign workers. They are either exempt from labour market opinions (now called labour market impact assessments) or do not require a work permit that is tied to a specific employer (open work permits). These TFWs enter under international arrangements (e.g., General Agreement on Trade in Services, North American Free Trade Agreement), or as workers that are of significant benefit to Canada (e.g., International Experience Canada entrants, intra-company transferees, post-graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, spouses of high-skilled TFWs and foreign students).

In 1997, a stream was created for information technology workers who were required to have labour market opinions. It is a tiny stream of TFWS that is in decline – 210 entrants in 2012.

Since 2008, TFWs in high-skilled streams can apply for permanent residence under the Canadian Experience Class, provided they meet requirements related to study and/or work experience in Canada.

In 2014, temporary foreign workers who are not required to have a labour market impact assessment became part of the International Mobility Program (please see the section Recent Policy Changes below).

‘Low-Skilled’ Workers

In 2002, a Low-Skill Pilot Program (LSPP) was launched to allow the hiring of temporary foreign workers in low-wage hospitality, food services and processing industries mainly in Western provinces (i.e., Alberta, British Columbia). TFWs in this stream may be highly skilled, but they are still considered low-skilled based on the jobs they are hired for. They can become permanent residents in Canada under provincial nominee programs in some provinces.


Temporary Foreign Worker Program

On June 20, 2014, major changes were introduced. The high-skill and ‘low-skill’ stream of TFWs were separated into two distinct programs: the International Mobility Program made up of foreign workers who do not require Labour Market Impact Assessments (formerly called Labour Market Opinions); and a smaller Temporary Foreign Worker Program made up of foreign workers who are required to have LMIAs who are considered low-skilled.

Other changes were introduced to encourage employers to hire Canadians before considering temporary foreign workers.

  • LMIA fee increased from $275 to $1,000 for every temporary foreign worker position requested by an employer.
  • Employers with 10 or more employees are subject to a cap of 10% on the proportion of low-wage TFWs in their workforce per worksite. Implementation is phased over two years (30% in 2014, 20% in 2015 and10% by 2016). TFWs in workplaces that exceed the cap have to leave or be deported when their work permits expire. Exemption for TFWs in Alberta who are awaiting decisions on their permanent resident applications was recently announced.
  • No processing of LMIA applications for the accommodation, food services and retail trade sectors in areas of high unemployment (over 6%). TFWs who work in these sectors in these areas can no longer renew their work permits.
  • Reduced duration of work permits from two-years to one-year. LMIAs and work permits have to be renewed annually.

Caregiver Pilot Programs

On November 30, 2014, the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP) ended. Paths to permanent residence for caregivers were created under the Canadian Experience Class: the Caring for Children Class (in-home care for children under 18 years of age with optional live-in arrangement); and the Caring for People with High Medical Needs Class (i.e., registered nurses; registered psychiatric nurses; licensed practical nurses; nurse aides, orderlies and patient service associates; home support workers). Applications under this stream were capped to a maximum of 2,750 applications per year in each stream. These five-year pilots ended on June 18, 2019 as they were replace by two new pilots.

New Caregiver Pilots in 2019

On June 18, 2019, two new caregiver pilots were launched with two streams: Home Child Care Provider; and Home Support Worker. Unlike the previous pilots, applicants are processed for permanent residence at the outset.  They can also bring their families, who can have open work permits or study permits.  Applicants are divided into two categories depending on how much Canadian work experience they have acquired: 0 to 23 months; and at least 24 months of Canadian work experience.

As a bridge pathway for caregivers who entered after the Live-In Caregiver Program ended on November 30, 2014, a 3-month interim pathway was created from March 4, 2019 to June 4, 2019.  This was re-opened on July 8, 2019 for another 3 months.

For more details on these new pathways, contact us or watch for an invitation to our community forums on our Facebook page.