Canada Grants Microsoft Foreign Worker Exemption

Decision comes amid reforms to Canada’s immigration selection process

By Catherine Skrzypinski Dec 22, 2014

The Canadian government has permitted Microsoft Canada to hire around 400 temporary foreign workers for its training and development center in Vancouver—bypassing Canadians looking for software and engineering jobs.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the tech giant will issue 24-month work permits for international employees, and also offer paid internships to Canadian students. Almost all Canadian work permits require a labor market impact assessment (LMIA)—but Microsoft will be exempt.

In June 2014, the Canadian government announced reforms to its Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to ensure employers redouble their efforts to hire Canadians.

Yet the federal government has defended its decision regarding Microsoft, saying the arrangement is the result of the software company’s investment in the country.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), a nonprofit association representing small and midsize businesses, released a report in December 2014 asking the federal government to replace the TFWP with a visa that would provide a path to permanent residence for entry-level employees coming from outside Canada.

“One of the legitimate criticisms of the temporary foreign worker program is it often employs temporary workers to fill permanent labor market needs,” CFIB President and CEO Dan Kelly said in a Dec. 1, 2014, statement. “Given the massive cost of turnover, small businesses would much rather hire someone who is not temporary, but the permanent immigration system largely prohibits anyone with more junior skill sets. We need workers at all skill levels—including for entry-level jobs—and that need isn’t going away.”

Express Entry Takes Effect Jan. 1

Employers will become more active in hiring foreign workers as of Jan. 1, 2015, as Express Entry—a new electronic model for immigration selection—will take effect in Canada. Government officials say online applications will be processed within six months.

Employers can hire Express Entry candidates to meet their labor needs if they are unable to find Canadians or permanent residents to fill job vacancies. According to the CIC, HR departments may continue with their company’s current recruiting and hiring practices.

Benjamin Kranc, senior principal of Kranc Associates in Toronto, said that human resources professionals across Canada should be aware of all guidelines, restrictions, requirements and constraints for companies hiring and employing foreign workers in 2015 and beyond.

Kranc pointed out that HR will still need to pursue LMIAs for potential employees not planning on staying in Canada on a permanent basis. An LMIA application fee now costs $1,000 per position.

“The number of LMIA applications has decreased,” Kranc said. “Companies are worried whether they are doing [the LMIA process] right.”

He advised HR practitioners to adhere to the following when recruiting temporary foreign workers:

  • Employment ads must include salaries. The wages can be posted as a range, but the low end of the range needs to meet minimum requirements.
  • Ads should be posted on a provincial job bank site, plus a general employment website and on social media.

Once a company is ready to hire a temporary foreign worker:

  • LMIA applications may be submitted only after the conclusion of a four-week recruitment period.
  • Employment offers must not violate conditions of the TFWP—like paying below minimum wage or providing subpar working conditions—or else the company may face either a ban or a monetary penalty.

Intracompany transfers into Canada may become more difficult for corporations, Kranc explained, as high-level employees will no longer get a free pass into permanent residence. HR will need to arrange LMIAs for executives, senior managers and those with specialized knowledge.

It is important that those individuals who transfer to Canada are truly a benefit to the Canadian economy, and that they possess critical knowledge that will help their company succeed, the CIC stated.

Catherine Skrzypinski is a freelance writer in Vancouver.

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