If you are an employer in Canada seeking temporary workers to help meet your labor needs, you may have considered looking outside the country’s borders for eligible job applicants.
The Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is a vital document to help you achieve this very goal.
This article discusses everything you need to know about obtaining an LMIA, including which employers need the document and the different programs and streams that fall under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Finding skilled workers is a challenge many Canadian employers are all too familiar with. Read on to discover how the LMIA process can set your business up for success and help you hire the right temporary foreign workers for your needs.
What is LMIA?
A Labour Market Impact Assessment — or LMIA, for short — is a document the Government of Canada issues to allow Canadian employers to hire foreign workers. With an LMIA, foreign individuals can gain permission to work in temporary positions within the country.
The LMIA process is crucial for obtaining a work permit for foreigners hoping to work in Canada.
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) is the governmental department responsible for issuing an LMIA, making this department one of your first stops on the journey to receiving an LMIA.
Several different professional positions may require an LMIA, including:
- Primary Agriculture: For the purposes of LMIA, primary agriculture positions are defined as being within the setting of a farm, nursery, or greenhouse. These positions must involve one of the following activities — operation of agricultural machinery, animal and livestock handling (including the boarding, care, breeding, and sanitation of animals), or crop management (including planting, care, harvesting, or preparation of crops, trees, sod, or other plants).
- Caregivers: To obtain an LMIA, foreign workers acting as caregivers must provide full-time care (minimum of 30 hours per week), work in a private household where care is provided, and meet the requirements of the ESDC and Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). An LMIA can be given to caregivers of children and caregivers for people with high medical needs, such as older people or those with disabilities.
- Academic Positions: For foreign academics seeking temporary work in Canada, the ESDC provides special hiring criteria in cooperation with academic institutions, such as universities and degree-granting colleges. Academic positions typically fall within the “high-wage positions” category and can qualify for a longer employment duration of up to 3 years.
- Permanent Residence Support: Foreign workers deemed higher-skilled can receive the opportunity to become established as permanent residents in Canada through the ESDC’s permanent resident support program. These types of positions must fall into one of three categories — Federal Skilled Workers Program (FWSP), Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), or Canadian Experience Class (CEC).
A Step-by-Step Process to LMIA
1. Find Out if You Need a LMIA
In most cases, an employer must obtain an LMIA before hiring temporary foreign workers. The responsibility for obtaining an LMIA falls on the shoulders of the employer — however, foreign workers can request that an employer seek out an LMIA.
The main purpose of an LMIA is to confirm that there is a need for a temporary foreign worker and that no Canadians or permanent residents are currently available to fill the position. This requirement is in place to ensure a healthy national work system that prioritizes Canadian workers first.
Some foreign workers may be exempt from the LMIA process — to discover if you and your potential foreign worker fall under an exemption, refer to the official LMIA exemption codes.
2. Determine the Type of Program You Fall Into
Before an employer can apply for an LMIA, they must know what category or program they fall into.
We have already discussed several of the different positions that can qualify for an LMIA (such as academics, caregivers, and agricultural workers). Let’s now take a look at the different programs that can determine whether or not a foreign worker can qualify for an LMIA:
- High-Wage Workers: High-wage positions offer wages that are at or above the provincial or territorial median hourly wage. Jobs considered high-wage positions include the Global Talent Stream (more on that in a moment), the high-wage stream (such as caregivers and academics), and the agricultural stream. High-wage workers can also include foreign professionals hoping to establish permanent residency within the country.
- Low-Wage Workers: Low-wage positions provide a wage below the provincial or territorial median hourly wage. For the low-wage stream, employers must follow strict cap requirements for the proportion of foreign workers to Canadian workers in low-wage positions. The current cap limit is 20%, though certain sectors may be eligible for a 30% cap (such as construction, food manufacturing, wood product manufacturing, furniture and related product manufacturing, hospitals, nursing, residential care facilities, and accommodations and food services).
- Global Talent Stream: The Global Talent Stream is designed to help Canadian employers connect with “unique, specialized, and highly-skilled temporary foreign workers.” This stream helps support specialized businesses to scale and grow within Canada’s boundaries without having to worry about finding entirely national talent. All program requirements and eligible positions for the Global Talent Stream can be found on the Government of Canada’s website.
- Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program: Agriculture is a particularly notable industry when it comes to special programs for hiring foreign workers. The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program is designed to help Canada’s agricultural sector meet yearly labor needs. To qualify for the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, a foreign worker must be citizens of Mexico or participating countries. Additionally, production must be in specific commodity sectors and the activity must be related to on-farm primary agriculture.
3. Submit an Application for an LMIA
Before you apply for an LMIA, you should first review the official ESDC checklist to ensure you have everything necessary to receive approval:
- Determine if you need an LMIA
- Determine if your application cannot be processed due to specific conditions or circumstances
- Make sure you know and follow all program requirements for low-wage positions, including determining if you want to use a third-party representative and determining if your LMIA application is subject to processing fees
- Gather all documents to support your business legitimacy and LMIA application, such as your most recent business license, your most recent Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tax documents, or your recruitment and advertisement documents
- Review the LMIA Online Portal’s resources
Once you have thoroughly reviewed this checklist, you can begin the LMIA application process. You have two options for submitting an LMIA application:
- Online via the LMIA Online Portal: The LMIA Online Portal offers a fast and secure method for submitting your LMIA application. To access this portal, you need a Job Bank account. After either creating a Job Bank account or signing into an existing account, you can access the LMIA Online Portal using your credentials. Your entire application and all relevant supporting documents and processing fees can be submitted through this portal.
- Emailing a PDF Application Form: The LMIA Online Portal is the preferred means for submitting an LMIA application. However, if you are unable to access the portal, you can request an exemption. If granted, this exemption allows you to obtain a PDF LMIA application that you must fill out and return via email to the ESDC. Your exemption request must include your company name, business number, reasons for exemption, and streams you wish to apply to. Find out more about these exemptions on the LMIA Online Portal resources webpage.
4. Pay All Processing Fees
Whenever an employer or a foreign worker submits an application relating to a work permit, a variety of processing fees must be paid before the application can be approved.
According to Canadian Immigration Lawyer, the current processing fee for each LMIA application is CAN $1,000. On top of this fee, you must also pay a $100 privilege fee. If you have submitted an incomplete LMIA application, the application will not be processed and you will not be charged the processing service fee — however, you will need to complete the application and submit it again.
5. The Foreign Worker Applies for a Work Permit
If the application is approved, the ESDC issues the LMIA to the employer, who can then use this document to help foreign workers obtain their necessary work permits.
After the employer obtains the LMIA, the temporary foreign worker must obtain a work permit. The requirements for a work permit can depend on what type of position the worker is applying for and for how long of a timeframe. You can visit the Government of Canada website to view the full specifications for who is required to have a work permit in Canada.
To apply for a work permit, a foreign worker must pay a processing fee starting at $155 and determine which permit they need — either an employer-specific work permit or an open work permit.
If an employer hires a temporary foreign worker, then that worker must apply for an employer-specific work permit. Within their application, they must provide a copy of their employment contract and either a copy of the LMIA or an offer employment number for LMIA-exempt workers.
Open work permits allow workers to seek employment from any employer in Canada, though these permits can be harder to obtain overall.
Employer Requirements for Hiring Temporary Foreign Workers
Any employer hiring temporary foreign workers must not only meet the requirements of the LMIA but also the terms of the LMIA decision letter after their application is approved. Employers must also comply with the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR).
In addition to these requirements, Canadian employers also have the following obligations when hiring foreign temporary workers:
- Employers must keep all relevant records for six years, beginning on the first day of the employment period for which a work permit was issued (including LMIA documents, IRPR documents, and conditions outlined in the LMIA decision letter).
- Employers must inform the ESDC via the Employer Contact Centre of any changes or errors with an approved LMIA and any changes to the temporary foreign worker’s working conditions.
- Employers must address compliance issues and notify the ESDC of such issues.
Under the IRPR, the ESDC has the authority to conduct inspections if non-compliance is suspected. These inspections can also occur due to random selection, further highlighting the importance of staying within the bounds of compliance when hiring temporary foreign workers.
An inspection may include:
- Review of the LMIA decision letter and annex
- Inspection of the treatment of temporary foreign workers up to six years after the worker began their employment
- Interviews with temporary foreign workers and employees to confirm employer compliance
Inspections can be on-site or virtual, as well as announced or unannounced. Additionally, inspections can be conducted without a warrant, excluding private dwellings. Official inspectors look at a total of 28 conditions to ensure an employer is following compliance properly.
Non-compliance violations that occurred before December 1st, 2015 can result in an employer being banned from the Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP) for two years. Violations after this date can result in a spectrum of consequences ranging from a warning to a penalty of up to $100,000 per violation at a maximum of $1 million per year.
Serious cases may result in a permanent ban from the TFWP and IMP.
Discover all compliance requirements and penalties on the Government of Canada’s ESDC webpage.
LMIA Processing Times in BC
LMIA processing times can vary but generally take several weeks to several months, depending on the complexity of the application and current government processing times.
In August of 2023, the ESDC reported the following average processing times for different types of LMIA applications:
- Global Talent Stream: 9 business days
- Agricultural Stream: 12 business days
- Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program: 9 business days
- Permanent Resident Stream: 63 business days
- In-Home Caregivers: 30 business days
- High-Wage Stream: 40 business days
- Low-Wage Stream: 44 business days
LMIA Expedited Processing
There are options for expedited processing in certain cases, such as for jobs on the Global Talent Stream or positions considered highly skilled or high in demand.
The ESDC has previously offered a 10-day expedited processing option for positions that fall under specific criteria. This expedited LMIA processing period is intended to help employers quickly fill genuine skill and labour requirements when qualified Canadians are unavailable.
Skilled trades and high-wage positions are the two main categories of employment that qualify for expedited LMIA processing.
However, due to complications from Covid-19, new limitations now apply to this 10-day processing period. According to the ESDC:
“Due to COVID-19, the 10-day expedited processing for the criteria listed below has been suspended until further notice. We’re currently prioritizing LMIA for occupations that are considered essential.”
LMIA Advertising Requirements in BC
Employers typically need to advertise the job locally to demonstrate that no Canadian workers are available. The specific advertising requirements may vary depending on the job and location.
To meet LMIA requirements, a job advertisement must meet the following conditions:
- The advertisement has occurred within the three months prior to submitting the LMIA application
- The advertisement was publically available for a minimum of four consecutive weeks within the three-month period prior to submitting an LMIA application
- At least one of three recruitment activities for seeking qualified Canadians and permanent residents must be ongoing until the date a positive (approved) LMIA is issued
- The advertisement includes the company operating name, business address, position title, job duties, wage, benefits (if applicable), location of work, contact information, and skill requirements
- The employer can demonstrate proof of advertisement via a copy of the advertisement and information to support where, when, and for how long the position was advertised
- The employer can prove that the print media or websites used for advertising a position targeted the appropriate audience
- The employer can prove the occurrence of other recruitment activities
Final Thoughts: Commonly Asked Questions About LMIA in BC
To close out this guide to LMIA applications in Canada and the BC province, we have gathered the three most commonly asked questions to shed further light on the LMIA process for you:
- How Long is LMIA Valid For? The LMIA is typically valid for six months from the date of issuance, though work permits can be for longer periods once obtained. For an LMIA to remain valid, employers must ensure there are no errors or changes to the LMIA that the ESDC has not been notified of.
- What Happens if LMIA is Approved? If the LMIA is approved, the foreign worker can use it to apply for a work permit to work in Canada. When a temporary foreign worker has a LMIA to present with their work permit application, they will generally apply for a employer-specific work permit that is for one particular employer and position.
- How Can I Get LMIA from an Employer? Job seekers interested in obtaining an LMIA from an employer should actively search for job openings in Canada and express their interest to potential employers who may be willing to sponsor them through the LMIA process.
To ensure the smoothest possible LMIA process, it is essential to work with professional immigration and labor law firms in Canada. LMIA processing can take time and the penalties for non-compliance can be steep, making it crucial to follow all the necessary requirements to a tee.
Always consult with official government sources and legal experts for the most up-to-date information on the LMIA process in British Columbia or any other part of Canada.