The federal government is fast-tracking approvals for temporary foreign workers already in Canada, to make them available to fill labour gaps in critical sectors such as agriculture and health care during the pandemic.
Many foreign workers with employer-specific permits lost their jobs this spring due to the pandemic. Some have left Canada but others are still here because of travel restrictions.
The goal is to help employers in the agriculture, agri-food and health care sectors meet urgent needs for additional employees during the global health crisis.
Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said in a media release that the temporary policy change will allow Canadian businesses to recruit the workers they need and help the unemployed contribute to the Canadian economy during the pandemic.
“It just underscores the importance and the value of the contribution of the temporary workers who come here,” Mendicino told CBC News.
“In many cases, these are workers who come back every year. There is a relationship there, a connection to not only their employers but their colleagues and frankly to Canada and that is a good thing because it allows us to meet our food supply needs.”
Under the temporary new rules, a foreign worker can start a new job before being issued a new work permit. The approval process normally takes 10 weeks or more; the government plans to shorten that to 10 days or less.
Mendicino said workers still need to apply for the permit but once that process is completed and the permit is issued, it is applied retroactively.
“If they lose their job today and they get a job offer tomorrow, they can start working tomorrow and that’s good news because it means that we are that much further along in meeting our food supply needs,” he said.