Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said Wednesday that the changes being made by the federal government to the temporary foreign worker program will make it more efficient and responsive to Canada's labour market needs.
Finley announced a number of changes to the program while at a factory in Alberta that she says will reduce red tape and paperwork for employers and speed up the time it takes for them to apply.
Employers wanting to hire foreign workers must apply in most cases for what is called a labour market opinion, which assesses how those workers would potentially affect Canadian jobs. The employer must receive a positive opinion in order to proceed with hiring workers from outside the country, and the workers need a copy of it to apply to Citizenship and Immigration Canada for a work permit.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and Citizenship and Immigration jointly manage the program.
The labour market opinion takes a number of factors into consideration, including the efforts made by the employer to hire Canadians to fill the jobs.
Finley said the government will speed up the application process for employers with a strong track record and give them a labour market opinion within 10 business days. The accelerated labour market opinions will be offered to employers seeking workers in high-skill occupations, including the skilled trades.
The expedited process may later be expanded to other labour market areas, according to the government's news release.
The new process is available as of today, and includes a simplified online application, a call centre to support employers, and more automated systems to cut down on paperwork, share information and track compliance.
The online application system was supposed to be launched last year but was delayed until now.
The government also committed Wednesday to introducing legislative amendments to better protect temporary foreign workers and to ensure that companies comply with the program's requirements, but it didn't provide further details.
It did say, however, that a new wage model is being introduced as part of the changes to the program.
Employers will be allowed to pay wages to foreign workers that are up to 15 per cent below the average wage for a job in a specific region, but they have to show the wages are still consistent with Canadian workers, based on data from Statistics Canada.
"Our government is looking at ways to ensure businesses recruit from the domestic workforce before hiring temporary foreign workers, while also reducing the paper burden and speeding up the processing time for employers that have short-term skilled labour needs," Finley said in a news release.
Changes to the program were hinted at in the federal budget last month.