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Working through the red tape

Labour Market Impact Assessment disrupts future plans for visa holders

by Kendra Lovegrove

Working through the red tape

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) - Imagine your reality slowly untangling before your very eyes. Picture having no choice but to leave the confines of the home you so graciously built for the past two years. Though this would be a nightmare for many, it can quickly become a reality for foreign workers who are unable to renew their visas.

Marian Fox and Rachel Ward are two Irish born citizens who have held International Experience Canada visas (IEC visas) for almost two years.

The two friends moved to Canada together in April 2013 searching for a little adventure and a better job market than what they were facing in Ireland.

Ward had spent five years in college in Ireland at Athlone Institute of Technology. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts honours in social care practice. However, she could only find work at a local shop in her home town in Ireland.

“The economy was really bad,” says Ward. “There were very few jobs and for me there were no jobs in the government sector. So that’s what I hoped to do when I came out here.”

However, when Ward arrived she soon took the position as a caregiver, and began her job as a nanny for a six-week-old baby.

Fox on the other hand, had been working as a travel agent, and prior to moving to Canada had lived in Spain, Egypt and the United States of America.

“[Ireland] is a busy tourist industry,” says Fox. “But no matter what, I would always have to immigrate to work, because there are no jobs in [travel consulting],” she says.

The two women sit around their kitchen table in their home in Lacewood, Nova Scotia. Their walls are covered in the memories they’ve made over the past two years. Birthday and holiday cards line the windowsills, while scarves, hats and winter coats hang on the back of the sofa.

The two have been living in this apartment for almost a year and a half. Fox says the thought of potentially having to leave is, “terrifying”.

In June 2014, the federal Conservative government announced a new process called the Labour Market Impact Assessment, also known as the LMIA. The purpose for implementing the new assessment is, “to ensure that Canadians continue to be given the first chance at available jobs,” says Remi Lariviere, Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson. “These changes will continue to strengthen and improve the program, and ensure that more employers hire Canadians before hiring temporary foreign workers.”

The assessment is to be completed only by employers looking to hire foreign workers and it involves several new steps, including new application fees. As stated by the government of Canada website, the following individuals are exempted from the process:

·Workers under international agreements
-Professionals
-Traders
-Investors

·People taking part in exchange programs
-Youth/ Teacher exchange programs
-Other joint programs

·Spouses

·Workers who are eligible for a work permit through federal/ provincial/ or territorial agreement.

·Workers nominated by province or territory for permanent residence.

·People already working in Canada who have applied for a permanent residence through the Federal Skilled Trades Program or Canadian Experience Class.

·Workers transferred within a company

·Academics

·Co-op Students

·Religious Workers

·Others
-People who need to support themselves while they are in Canada, such as those waiting on a refugee claim.

The majority of these individuals are excused from the LMIA assessment, either because they have other visas already (specifically students), are coming here for family (spouses and common law), or are seeking refugee in the country and therefore need a way to support themselves.

If an LMIA is required, then the employer must apply for one on behalf of the foreign worker from Service Canada. For their part, the foreign worker is then required to complete a work permit application.

Lariviere says the program is an option of last resort for employers to address immediate skills and labour needs on a temporary basis when qualified Canadians are not available.

However, in a recent Canadian Immigration Newsletter CIC News reported that Canada aims to attract 285,000 new immigrants in 2015. This is 20,000 more immigrants than the 2014 year. More capacity will be needed to handle new applicants to the immigration system, which the government claims the new 'Express Entry Immigration' selection system, where almost 65 per cent of overall admissions will be because of express entry selection, will handle.

“With Express Entry, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is now able to more easily identify those who are most likely to succeed economically in Canada, instead of simply processing applications on a first-come, first-served basis,” says Lariviere.

This program picks new comers through one of the federal economic immigration programs: the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, the Canadian Experience Class, and a portion of the Provincial Nominee Program.

“The new system means that immigrants are more likely than ever to have the skills Canadian employers need, and that newcomers will be more likely to arrive in Canada ready to work,” says Lariviere.

But what does this mean for immigrants who are already in the country, like Fox, Ward and thousands of others?

Caught in the new LMIA program, they suddenly are far more of a cost burden to employees. Each employer who fills out the assessment must pay $1,000.00 for every foreign employee that is assessed. If the foreign worker is denied the renewal of their visa the $1,000.00 is not returned to the employer.

The price is justified by the fact that the government says the visa holder will have answers back within ten business days, says Ward.

Then there are the new bureaucratic hoops to jump through.

The employer must also post the job on at least two websites, one of them being a government site, and must prove why any and all applicants are not suitable for the position.

“Employers must also provide additional information, including the number of Canadians that applied for their available job, the number of Canadians the employer interviewed, and an explanation of why those Canadians were not hired,” says Lariviere. “Employers must now also attest they are aware of the rule that Canadians cannot be laid-off or have their hours reduced at a worksite that employs temporary foreign workers.”

If they are successfully accepted under the LMIA program, foreign workers also face difficulties if they find themselves needing to change jobs after the renewal of their visa. Any potential new employers would then also have to fill out an LMIA assessment before the foreign worker takes a position with them, and they too would have to pay a $1,000 fee.

Though Ward has high hopes that her visa will be renewed after completion of her LMIA, Fox on the other hand believes she has a low chance of being able to stay in the country for another two years. Fox says the likelihood of her getting her visa renewed is extremely low because the company she works for won’t fill out the LMIA form. The reason for this is that they are an international company and have European offices that Fox can be transferred to.

“It’s unfortunate and it breaks my heart,” says Fox. “All I’ve thought about since January is, ‘oh my god, I’m going to have to uproot my home and leave.’”

“Both of us completely understand,” says Ward in reference to the LMIA and its conditions. “Coming from a country that is in a recession, we have seen foreigners come into our country and we do understand where [Canadians] are coming form. Canadians deserve to have jobs, and they should have jobs. We see it from their point of view, but we want it to be seen from our point of view as well.

“You come here thinking you can start up a life. The emotional aspect of that, the highs and lows, are really hard […] and you don’t want to leave the country you’ve grown to love.”


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Topics: Labour
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