Sanctions, Restrictions and Corporate Immigration: Important Requirements of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program That All Employers Should Know

Covid-19 has brought unforeseen and significant challenges to Canadian Employers. For these companies who rely on Canadian border being open for business travel the last six months has been particularly difficult. Under most circumstances foreign nationals currently cannot apply for work permits at the border.

Consequently, strategic planning of the management of temporary foreign workers in Canada has become even more important for employers — they have faced the need to implement retention and succession planning procedures so that important employees and their critical skills are not lost.

To begin this goal, we recommend a company conducts an Immigration Audit. This can be accomplished by running a query of all of your employees’ social insurance numbers. All employees have an obligation upon being hired to provide a social insurance number within a few days of hire. Any social insurance numbers that begin with the digits “900” and that also have an expiry date indicate that the person is NOT a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident of Canada, and in most circumstances, they will require a work permit. The work permit must either specify that they are entitled to work for your company, or that the work permit is employer non-specific.

If, after conducting the audit, you find anyone who does not have a work permit but does possess a 900 series SIN or has a work permit that specifies another company as their employer, we recommend that you contact us as soon as possible to assess your options. There may also be situations where workers who are not on your Canadian payroll are still assisting your clients or your company directly in Canada. Even though they do not have social insurance numbers, they too must have a lawful work permit or qualify for a specific work permit exemption category; therefore, verifying that they have proper documentation from Citizenship and Immigration Canada is essential.

Conducting the audit also allows your company to deal with retention issues created by the various hard cap limits on the work permits of most temporary foreign workers. It will give you a full understanding of how many temporary foreign workers you have in Canada, how long they have currently stayed, and how to manage the implications of the four-year limitation of most work permit in light of your findings.

Another Important reason to conduct the Immigration Audit concerns limiting employer liability for non-compliance with immigration law. The federal government has assessed employers’ past compliance with program requirements to determine their eligibility to hire temporary foreign workers. In cases where employers were previously found to violate their previous commitments to workers with respect to wages, working conditions and occupation, the employers may be denied access to the temporary foreign worker program for two years. In addition, offending employers’ names have also been published on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.

If a company gets placed on the "bad employer" list, then they are met with an automatic two-year ban from bringing any temporary foreign workers into Canada. So, for example, even if a company on the ban list had a critical need to for a highly specialized worker or a new president to transfer into Canada, it would be denied that opportunity. This reinforces the need for companies to be completely compliant in managing all of the foreign workers under their employ.

This makes the proper management of a company’s temporary foreign workers all the more critical.

Given these crucial requirements and the severe liability that Canadian Immigration law exacts upon employers who illegally employ foreign nationals, it is in every employer's best interests to conduct the immigration audit. This will assure that they are in compliance with the law and can begin to implement strategic plans for managing their employ of temporary foreign workers.

For more information on this publication, and any other corporate immigration law issues, please contact Naseem Malik.