Federal Budget Provides Additional Funding for Foreign Worker Programs
Annual budget also allocates funds for schemes to recognize foreign credentials of new immigrants to Canada
The government of Canada has stated that it will provide $279.8 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, and $49.8 million per year thereafter, to support the continued delivery of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP).
These two programs facilitate the entry to Canada of foreign workers to Canada. The TFWP is designed to admit workers to fill specific labour shortages in jobs where Canadian citizens and permanent residents are not available. The IMP seeks to advance Canada’s broader economic and cultural interests; IMP categories include workers under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Intra-Company Transfers, and open work permits, such as permits issued under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program or to spouses/common-law partners of workers and international students.
The funding was announced as part of the government’s budget for 2017, which was delivered by Finance Minister Bill Morneau on March 22.
Last September, a Parliamentary Committee submitted a list of suggested changes to the TFWP. The Committee proposed changes to processing methods, transition plans, monitoring, and pathways for workers to transition to permanent resident status.
Although some of those recommendations — such as the removal of the “cumulative duration” or “four-in, four-out” rule for certain workers — were implemented in December, the government stated that further reforms would be announced in the budget. Consequently, it was expected that the budget would include a more robust shake-up of the program. Earlier this year, Employment Minister Patty Hajdu stated that “the budget will be released shortly and many of our actions are tied to the budget.”
Another change that came about in December was an extension to the cap on the number of low-wage temporary foreign workers employed by firms in seasonal industries.
Recognizing foreign credentials
The budget also aims to ease the settlement of newly-arrived immigrants to Canada, specifically by allocating funds to initiatives that help newcomers have their international credentials recognized in the Canadian labour market.
Budget 2017 proposes to reallocate $27.5 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, and $5.5 million per year thereafter to support a Targeted Employment Strategy for Newcomers. The Strategy will have three components:
- Improved pre-arrival supports, so that newcomers can begin the foreign credential recognition process before arriving in Canada;
- A loan program that will assist newcomers with the cost of having their foreign credentials recognized; and
- Targeted measures to test innovative approaches to help skilled newcomers gain Canadian work experience in their profession.
The previous Conservative government had introduced a Foreign Credential Recognition Loans pilot program in 2011. In its 2015 budget, that government earmarked $35 million over five years to make the program permanent, but it was never implemented due to the election held later that year. However, government data demonstrated that loans sped up the credential recognition process, leading to a 47-per-cent increase in full-time employment and easing reliance on government income assistance. As such, the loan program has been revived by the current Liberal government.
According to the government, ‘the strategy will help reduce barriers and support newcomers as they put their skills to work in the Canadian economy.’