Government to expedite approvals for temporary foreign workers during COVID-19 pandemic


The federal government has implemented a temporary policy aimed at reducing the time it takes for a temporary foreign worker to start a new job in Canada. The policy was announced by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on Tuesday.

“This is great news for those Global Talent Stream workers who were laid off.”

The move is aimed to help employers that have ongoing labour needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The policy is applicable to foreign workers in a number of industries, including those in the tech sector, that may have lost work due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“This is great news for those Global Talent Stream (GTS) workers who were laid off,” co-founder and CEO Global Skills Hub Yousuf Khatib told BetaKit. “[We continue] to be impressed by IRCC’s empathetic and rapid response to ensuring the promises we made as tech companies and a country to welcome immigrants to Canada is kept.”

The GTS is a federal government program intended to help companies quickly access international high-skilled talent that is otherwise unavailable in Canada. Through the GTS, the government reduces the processing time of immigration applications to two weeks, with a $1,000 fee paid by the employer to the government.

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The new temporary policy, which Khatib lobbied the federal government for, allows individuals who have been laid off and have applied for a new work permit to start working in the new job almost immediately while they wait for their permit to receive approval. The update policy cuts a 10-week process down to 10 days or fewer.

Khatib said this will help employers fill labour shortages more quickly and help immigrants begin working faster. He noted that the new policy doesn’t change any existing rules on requirements and eligibility for work permits, rather, it compresses approval timelines.

Temporary foreign workers, including workers already in Canada, are required to acquire their permit at a border or other port of entry. Travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic mean foreign workers looking for work have been unable to acquire a permit at a port of entry. These restrictions also meant employers, such as tech startups, were therefore also unable to fill open positions before this temporary federal policy was implemented.

According to the federal government, this new policy would apply to workers who are already in Canada, have secured a new job offer, and can get approval to start working in their new job, even while their work permit application is being processed.

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Global Skills Hub, a Toronto-based organization that helps Canadian businesses find and hire international talent, is currently creating a list of GTS workers who have been affected by the pandemic. In partnership with Prospect, Global Skills Hub has also launched an online forum to provide up-to-date information on the outbreak pertaining to GTS workers.

“Immigrants, temporary foreign workers and international students are making considerable contributions to Canada’s response to the unprecedented challenge that COVID-19 poses,” said Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Marco Mendicino.

“The new policy we are announcing will allow Canadian businesses to recruit the workers they need and help unemployed workers contribute to the Canadian economy during this pandemic,” he added.

Image source Unsplash.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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