5 things to know when hiring foreign workers

Need foreign labour support? Here are some key items to help you through the process.
December 03, 2018
Written by Gordon S. Campbell
While Canada welcomes more permanent resident immigrants per capita than any other nation, the entry of foreign workers unfortunately remains sensitive. But the Canadian agricultural sector remains in a privileged position when it comes to immigration policy and labour from abroad.

As a lawyer practicing both immigration and agri-business law, here are the top five things you should know to get the greenhouse workers you need.

1. Plan a year in advance to succeed in Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA)
No matter what immigration agricultural “stream” you’re planning to use to bring in workers, if they’re coming on only a temporary basis you’re most likely going to need a positive LMIA. Failing to get the domestic advertising requirements just right or messing up the job descriptions tied to National Occupational Classifications (NOCs) are two common errors I see leading to LMIA failure.

Advanced planning is required not just for the LMIA, but to also obtain work permits for all workers. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) now has worldwide fingerprint and photo biometrics for foreign workers that could especially lead to delays in the processing of permits.

2. Try Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP)
A key change to the immigration landscape has been the rise of PNPs. While these are mostly permanent residency streams, they could present an opportunity for greenhouse operators to bring in long-term workers. They avoid LMIA hassles, though come with their own sets of conditions.

The Government of Ontario has an In-Demand Skills Stream dedicated to the agriculture and construction sectors. The only jobs that qualify in this stream are C and D NOC classes like 8432 (Nursery and Greenhouse Workers - C) and 8611 (Harvesting Labourers - D). Requirements include: (a) full-time permanent job offer; (b) worker has one-year related work experience in Ontario; (c) employer in business at least three years with $500,000 gross revenue; (d) employer already has three full-time Canadian employees at location.

Greenhouse owners looking to transition out of the business might also be able to use PNP entrepreneurial programs to sell the business to immigrants, who may qualify by: (a) a minimum number of years’ experience running a business (often three years); and (b) a minimum amount to invest in a Canadian business ($600,000 to $1.5 million is a typical range of liquid assets).

3. Consider the Francophone Mobility Program for higher-skilled positions
This is one of the best kept secrets for bringing in higher-skilled temporary foreign workers outside of Quebec. It again avoids the LMIA hassle. Language of work in Canada need not be French.

Because of its higher skill requirements, greenhouse operators are likely limited to three potential NOCs:  0821 (Managers in Agriculture - 0), 0822 (Managers in Horticulture - 0) and 8255 (Horticulture Supervisors - B). We’ve had good success with this program. The worker need not be from a francophone country, or primarily educated in French, so long as their habitual language of daily use is French at the time of application.

4. Be diligent in compliance verification
The government has significantly ramped up its enforcement activities along with vigilance on LMIA issuance. Compliance verification typically takes one of three forms: (1) on-site inspection and questioning (with or without prior notice); (2) Employer Compliance Review (ECR) done where a prior employer seeks ongoing LMIA workers, with verification done by paper means of past LMIA condition compliance; (3) review under Ministerial Instruction (often in response to a tip). Consequences of non-compliance include rejection or revocation of LMIAs and being deemed ineligible to hire future temporary foreign workers.

5. Use an immigration lawyer
Before starting my practice, I too used to think you could do it yourself. Then I started hearing from clients who had tried it themselves and met disaster. Or didn’t know alternative programs existed.

Most immigration lawyers only charge a consultation fee of $300 to $400 and use block fees rather than hourly rates so you’ll know the costs up front. Their goal is to maximize prospects of immigration success.


Gordon S. Campbell is managing lawyer at Aubry Campbell MacLean. He practices immigration law in Canada and agri-business law in Ontario. Learn more at compleximmigration.ca and acmlawfirm.ca.

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