On April 1, 2011, the Harper Conservatives pushed through sweeping changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP): a new rule, known colloquially as “4-in, 4-out”, which imposes a limit on the work permits of foreign nationals who are in Canada. It means that after a four year period these workers have to leave the country and can only reapply for a subsequent permit after another four years has passed.
As of April 1 , 2015, the majority of temporary foreign workers who were granted permits on or before the date the regulation was passed will no longer be legally permitted to work in Canada. Many of these temporary foreign workers may end up seeking the aid of an immigration law firm and lawyers in Canada to help them navigate through this change.
The regulation was promoted by the conservatives as a means to give Canadian citizens and permanent residents precedence, in matters of employment. However, in most cases TFW can only be hired through an LMIA approval, which requires up to 8 weeks of advertising of the position to Canadians and permanent residents at an average wage for the region. Effectively, in order to hire TFW, the employer has to prove that no Canadian wants the job, or has the requisite skills. Immigration lawyers in Canada view the justification as difficult to maintain because Canadians did not want the job in the first place.
Moreover, a recent report by the parliamentary budget office (PBO) on TFW proves that they work mostly in low paying agriculture, restaurant or nanny positions. The report suggests that the positions available are given to temporary foreign workers due to the employer’s unwillingness to raise the wages offered.
Select temporary foreign workers will be exempt from the “4-in, 4-out” rule of TFWP. These include higher skilled positions (NOC 0 and A), employees working under international agreements such as NAFTA, applicants to the Seasonal Agriculture Workers Program, and applicants granted work permits on humanitarian grounds.
In response, the Migrant Worker Alliance (MWA) started a petition urging the government to end the 4 in 4 out rule and to provide temporary foreign workers a path to permanent residency. MWA also organized a “Cross-Canada Day of Action” to protest the 4 in 4 out rule on March 29th.
Temporary foreign workers may have other ways to remain in Canada depending on their particular situation. The Federal government has consented to give reprieve to TFW in Alberta as well, who will have the opportunity to apply for permanent residence until July 1, 2015 and will be granted bridging work permits. It would be interesting to see whether the government will be willing to extend this reprieve to more TFW.
Moreover, these changes will have a significant negative impact on businesses that rely significantly on temporary foreign workers, and in turn on the products and services these businesses supply. Many immigration lawyers in Canada agree that without willing Canadians or permanent residents to fill these positions, the 4 in 4 out rule may not be the best option for Canadian businesses or the Canadian economy.