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Hiring Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) in Times of Covid 19

As we all know since last March, Canadian borders remain closed for any travel deemed non-essential. Considered temporary, this measure is subject to periodic review. Recently, authorities confirmed that the borders would remain closed until September 30, 2020. And of course, the measure could be extended after that date. Again…

But concretely, what are the criteria to distinguish essential trips from non-essential ones? How do travel restrictions affect the search for the best talent in a context that is both economically difficult and of labor shortage? Furthermore, new federal and provincial measures prioritize processing times of those professions deemed essential. How to navigate these different policies subject to change at all times and even seemingly contradictory?


Firstly, any potential recruiter should familiarize himself with the section on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website dedicated to the impact of Covid 19 on the processing of various applications: https://www.canada.ca/fr/immigration-refugies-citoyennete/services/coronaviruscovid19.html.

On this page, you will find more details on:

  • Restrictions on non-essential travel
  • Processing applications from outside and within Canada
  • The entry into Canada of TFWs: including documentary requirements related to the job offered and the obligation to present a quarantine plan
  • Hiring candidates who are in Canada in one of the following situations: they hold a valid work permit but they want to change employer, their work permit has expired or they have a visitor record


Secondly, an employer who wishes to hire a TFW in the province of Quebec will consult the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) page dedicated to a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) application for one of the essential occupations listed here: https://www.canada.ca/fr/emploideveloppement-social/services/travailleurs-etrangers/quebec.html.

Processing these applications will be prioritized and the delays will be considerably reduced. You will note that this list does not replace the list of occupations that may be the subject of simplified processing, since certain essential occupations will still need to be the subject of recruitment efforts by potential employers.


Thirdly, in some cases, employers could take advantage of changing the conditions of an LMIA including extending the validity of that document from 6 to 9 months and changing the name of a TFW on a positive LMIA.


Lastly, any employee who requests a new work permit will be able to obtain permission from the IRCC to start the new job pending the completion of processing of their application. The delay to be granted it is approximately 10 working days and the TFW must wait for the communication of the IRCC in order to start his new job.



  • Canadian companies can continue to recruit TFW to meet labor needs by meeting the conditions mentioned above.
  • Has hiring TFWs become more difficult? Yes and no. Yes, because the economic context has become more volatile than before and this has a direct impact on immigration policies. It requires extra effort to define and project its workforce needs and also, to keep pace with all these legislative changes. No, because for certain areas of activity and categories of work permit applicants, there are new measures to encourage hiring. Who would have thought before March 26 that a TFW applying for a new work permit could start employment before a decision is made? Let’s remember the delays and the frustration of both employers and employees. Or, who would have thought that certain professions, especially level C or D of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) and certain sectors, such as the food industry, would be in pole position when it comes to the priority of processing applications.
  • Let’s not forget that as policies on economic recovery and de-confinement measures are applied, companies will find themselves faced with the same realities than before Covid 19 with regards to the sometimes chronic shortage of workforce. There are recent studies showing that Canadian and permanent residents laid off because of the current situation, are not necessarily willing to re-qualify for the most in demand positions even in times of Covid 19. Consequently, some employers or entire Canadian industries will have to consider international recruitment as the only available option in order to address skills shortages.

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