Rehiring Foreign Nationals during the COVID-19 Economic Recovery


From an operational perspective, shutting something down is easy; restarting can be much harder.  After extensive layoffs in the spring, June reported significant National GDP growth (6.5 percent), which means the economy has great capacity to recover.  And although Ontario is currently seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases and may be facing a second wave economic set back, I wanted to think positively and to take a look at immigration policy changes aimed at rehiring foreign nationals in Canada quickly and efficiently as the economy continues to recover.

When COVID-19 hit, and the economy shut down many people were laid off work including many foreign nationals.  In addition, many individuals who were here on other status were stranded in Canada due to an inability to obtain flights to return home.   This left many foreign nationals out of work with a potentially complicated path towards finding local employment.  Below is a review of some of the temporary immigration policy changes that have been made in order to facilitate bringing these individuals into the work force to support Canadian economic growth and recovery.

Rehiring Laid-off Foreign Nationals

If an employer is looking to rehire foreign national employees who were laid off in the spring, they may do so as long as the existing work permit remains valid, and the employee is rehired into the same position and employment conditions for which the work permit was originally issued.  In these circumstances a business may go ahead and rehire the employee immediately on the strength of the existing work permit.  If during the period in which the employee was laid off work the existing work permit expired, or if the employer wants to hire them into a new position that does not fall under the same conditions as their existing work permit (i.e. the employee is being offered a promotion or position in a different location), please keep reading …

Hiring a New Foreign National Employee Already in Canada with an Existing Status Other than a Work Permit

If an employer is looking to hire an individual who is already in Canada with valid immigration status that does not authorize them to work for the company hiring them, or if the conditions of work for an existing employee has changed, the employee will need to qualify for new  work permit under an existing category of permanent residence.  This may mean that an employer may need to apply for a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to support the work permit request, however the employee can now apply for their initial work permit through the Case Processing Centre (CPC) in Edmonton, as opposed to through a Canadian visa post abroad.  The significance of this change is that an application made through a visa post would require the employee to exit and re-enter Canada in order to activate the new work permit, whereas CPC Edmonton will simply mail the work permit directly to the employee.  To qualify for this program the employee must have been physically present in Canada on August 24, 2020, and have continuously remained in Canada after that date.  This policy will remain in effect until March 31, 2021.

The current processing time for an initial work permit under this program is 192 days.  This is extensive and the individual must have the new work permit in hand prior to starting the new position.  But keep reading, there is still some hope….

Hiring a New Foreign National Employee Already in Canada with an Existing Work Permit for Another Employer

If the candidate that an employer wants to hire previously held a valid Canadian work permit within the previous 12 months, they may be able to start working for their new employer while their new work permit is still pending.  In this case once the work permit application has been filed, a request can be submitted through the IRCC webform for authorization to commence work with the new employer immediately.  IRCC will then respond to the request advising if they grant authorization to commence working during this interim period.  If the request is approved the employee may commence work as soon as the positive webform response is issued.  IRCC advises that it may take up to 30 business days to receive a response to this request, however IRCC’s responsiveness to webform requests tends to be closer to the 1-2-week range.  As the response to this request will be issued to the employee, employers should ask for a copy of the email response, and keep in their employee files in the event of a future audit by IRCC.

Hiring a New Foreign National Employee whose Status Document has Expired

If a person’s immigration status in Canada has expired during the pandemic period, the above policies can still apply, however, they will need to apply for Restoration of Status along with their work permit application.  Normally, Restoration of Status can only be applied for within 90 days of having lost their immigration status in Canada  However, given current extenuating circumstances, current policy allows anyone who lost their immigration status after January 30, 2020 to apply for Restoration of Status up until December 31, 2020.

Individuals Eligible for Permanent Residence

If you are an individual reading this article and you are in Canada and facing difficulty in locating a new employment position with your existing employer specific work permit, you may want to complete a consultation and see if you may qualify for Canadian Permanent Residence. 

Being a Permanent Resident will provide an individual with blanket permission to work for any employer in any location in Canada.  In addition, once an applicant has filed an application for Permanent Residence (eAPR), when their existing work permit is due to expire, they can apply for an open work permit that will allow them to remain in Canada and work for any employer until a decision has been made on the permanent residence application.  An open work permit gives an individual more flexibility and allow them to reassure potential employers that they are available to work immediately without additional support required by the employer.

If you have any questions in this regard or about anything else in this article, please feel free to give us a call or send us an email.  We are here to help.

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