By Moustafa Daly
Canadian authorities announced launching the Recognized Employer Pilot (REP) program to make hiring foreign labor easier for local businesses.
The three-year pilot program is part of the existing Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program, allowing Canadian businesses to hire foreign workers in professions suffering a labor shortage.
One of the contentious issues the pilot program is designed to address is the bureaucratic hurdles often faced by foreign labor on a TFW permit.
“The only difference is that that sponsor may now have an easier method of getting approved,” explains Benjamin A. Kranc, senior principal at Kranc Associates. “Until now, they need essentially reprove themselves each time [they want to renew the permit].
The REP pilot will make renewing permits for their foreign employees easier for employers without having to go through a Labour Market Impact Assessments (LIMAs) – currently a prerequisite to obtaining and maintaining a temporary work permit. Obtaining LIMAs is a lengthy process that assesses an employer’s pursuit of foreign labor in light of the impact that the hiring decision would have on the Canadian labor market, the availability of Canadians in the same profession, and whether the hiring decision could result in job creation for Canadians, among other criteria.
“In terms of viability, if managed effectively and with proper oversight, the Recognized Employer structure could indeed become a valuable channel for foreign labor to enter Canada,” Afshin Sarhangpour, immigration consultant at Nimaria.
“It has the potential to create a win-win situation, where Canadian employers can fill labor gaps, and foreign workers can contribute to the Canadian economy while enjoying fair treatment and protection,” he adds.
How can Canadian employers join the program?
Employers must have at least three positive LIMAs in their records for the same occupation over the preceding five years to apply. The Canadian authorities must also designate the jobs in question as in-shortage.
Employers can then apply online to be considered a recognized employer under the REP pilot.
“The selection process for recognized employers is likely to involve a rigorous evaluation of their commitment to workplace standards, labor conditions, and compliance with Canadian regulations,” says Sarhangpour, adding that the process could ensure foreign workers are treated fairly to their and their employer’s benefit.
Once approved, REP employers will obtain an extended LIMA valid for 36 months – while the normal duration is usually set at nine months.
The REP pilot launches in September 2023 but only for employers in the agriculture sector.
“There is indeed demand in the agricultural sphere, but I would not assume that most of those workers will be on a path to permanent residence,” cautions Kranc.
Sarhangpour agrees that the agriculture sector in Canada is suffering consistent shortages: “Seasonal labor shortages in agriculture have been a challenge, and this scheme could potentially address those gaps by offering a more streamlined pathway for foreign workers.”
For employers in all other business and industrial sectors, the REP will be open for applications in January 2024.
“As it expands to other sectors, I believe the scheme's impact could be significant, addressing labor shortages across various industries and contributing to Canada's economic growth,” says Sarhangpour.
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