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SAWP amended to accommodate COVID quarantine period

February 23, 2021  By Western Agriculture Labour Initiative

Ottawa amended the maximum duration of the annual Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) work permit from eight to nine months to accommodate the 14-day mandatory quarantine period upon entry to Canada.

Changed in January, the move was designed to “provide more flexibility for both employers and temporary foreign workers, and to help ensure economic and food security, the following flexibilities are being implemented for SAWP,” according to the Western Agricultural Labour Initiative (WALI).

Specifics of SAWP include:

  • Employers will continue to submit LMIAs (Labour Market Impact Assessments) that reflect their labour needs, which will not include the additional time to account for the quarantine period;
  • While the quarantine period is considered work, for the purposes of the administrating the program, the quarantine period will not count towards the work duration for the LMIA application purposes of SAWP;
  • Integrity inspectors will be notified that inspections cannot penalize employers should workers arrive two-weeks earlier than identified on the LMIA;
  • Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will issue a nine-month work permit for workers participating in SAWP, instead of the usual eight months, to accommodate the quarantine period;
  • This measure would be applicable for the 2021 season; and
  • Workers are still expected to leave on December 15, 2021.

For workers who arrived in Canada prior to this change being made

Workers who arrived before this change was made will only have an eight-month work permit. IRCC is currently focused on urgent matters and will not review these files at this time. Over the next few months, IRCC will determine what actions to take to amend those work permits that were not issued with the nine-month duration.

According to the press release, WALI is in communication with IRCC and “will follow up on this item over the spring,” adding that “employers should carefully review each work permit” and note the duration and expiry dates.

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