Canada: Initial improvements to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program announced

Posted by Immigration Law Team|Canada Immigration, Temporary Foreign Worker Program
Dec 16

In brief

On December 13, 2016, Minister John McCallum, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, along with Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk, Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, announced several initial changes to the current Temporary Foreign Worker Program. In particular, effective immediately, the four-year cumulative rule will no longer apply to temporary foreign workers in Canada.


In response to calls for reform of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), in 2016, the Canadian government undertook a study of the program. The appointed Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities made several recommendations which included a need for the TFWP to more accurately reflect the realities of the Canadian labour market, a need to develop pathways to permanent residency for foreign workers, and a need to reform the Labour Market Impact Assessment process. The government expressed that it would table a full response to the Standing Committee’s recommendations in the New Year.

However, in the interim, Ministers McCallum and Mihychuk announced on December 13, 2016 that, effective immediately, the “four in, four out” rule would no longer apply. Outside certain prescribed exemptions, this rule previously limited a foreign worker’s eligibility to work in Canada to four years, cumulatively, at which point he or she would be ineligible to work in Canada for the next four years. The elimination of the rule alleviates stakeholder concerns that it created instability and hardship for both workers and employers.

In addition, the government announced that changes will soon be made to the advertising requirements for low-wage employers. Specifically, these employers will be required to target advertising to underrepresented groups in the workforce which may include youth, persons with disabilities, Indigenous people and newcomers.

Minister McCallum also noted that employers who accessed the TFWP before June 20, 2014 will continue to be subject to the 20% cap on the proportion of low-wage temporary foreign workers employed at a particular worksite. For those employers who accessed the program after June 20, 2014, the 10% cap will continue to apply. However, for employers in seasonal industries wishing to employ foreign workers for up to 180 days in 2017, the exemption to the cap will be extended until December 31, 2017.

Finally, the government announced that it is committed to continuing to develop pathways to permanent residency for those temporary foreign workers who do not currently have access.


With the abolishment of the “four-in, four-out” rule, an application for an extension of a work permit will be based on the category itself (which may impose its own maximum duration) but will no longer involve an overall assessment against a cumulative duration of four years, and then an analysis if any of the exemptions apply. Employers will gain more stability with their foreign worker labour force and foreign nationals will no longer face the hardship of having to leave Canada for four years.

However, employers in the low-wage sector may be subject to more stringent advertising requirements prior to being able to show genuine recruiting efforts were made within Canada. Finally, as part of the government’s commitment to creating feasible pathways to Permanent Residence, employers and foreign workers alike can expect to see new and creative programs making Canadian permanent residency more accessible.

For further information on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, please contact PwC Law LLP.


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