These are some of the most common questions that we deal with from Canadian employers with respect to hiring foreign workers to work in Canada through the Labour Market Impact Assessment or LMIA.
How much time does LMIA approval take?
There are 2 time frames to consider – preparation of the LMIA application; and the government processing time.
The time needed to prepare an average LMIA is 6-8 weeks. This allows for the minimum required 4-week period of advertising to run and includes time for translation of advertising, and provision of documents by the employer.
The time frame ultimately depends on how responsive the employer is to requests for information, as delays in providing documents or information will similarly delay the overall process. Note, there are specific occupations whereby the advertising period is shorter (agriculture) or where advertising is not required (highly skilled, highly paid occupations under the Global Skills Strategy). However, in the majority of cases the standard advertising period is required before you can hire foreign workers.
The government processing time for an LMIA can be anywhere from 10 business days to 4-5 months. There is a significant variation in processing time depending on the type of LMIA submitted and the office that is processing it.
Also, the process to hire low wage workers is more involved than the process to hire high wage workers. With low wage workers there are additional employer obligations that form part of the employer employee contract regarding affordable housing, round trip transportation, provincial health coverage, etc.
What is the Cost of an LMIA?
There are a few different costs to keep in mind – professional fees, advertising fees and government processing fees.
Professional fees will vary depending on the type of LMIA you require and who you choose to work with. It is reasonable to expect a quote for the entire LMIA process up front, so that you have a solid understanding of your final out of pocket costs before you start the process. Depending on your situation, you may require a consultation first, before a firm LMIA price can be provided, in order to assess whether or not an LMIA is suitable for your situation and what type of LMIA will be required.
Advertising fees will vary depending on the type of LMIA you require. You will need to focus advertising efforts to meet various federal and provincial standards. Always, the job vacancy advertisements must be tailored very precisely to support the specific LMIA application. But again, it’s reasonable for you to expect a quote in advance of starting the process.
Government processing fees for LMIAs will also vary depending on what type of LMIA you require. For an LMIA to enable a work permit under the Temporary Foreign Worker stream, the government charges $1000 to assess the application. There is no government fee associated with an LMIA to enable an applicant to apply for Permanent Residence; however, if a dual intent LMIA is requested then the $1000 fee will apply. A dual intent LMIA allows the foreign national to apply for a work permit so that they can start work before their application for Permanent Residence is approved.
Hiring foreign workers is much more costly than hiring Canadian citizens. And keep in mind that it is illegal for the worker to pay for any portion of the cost to obtain an LMIA. Canadian law mandates that the employer covers the costs of obtaining an LMIA.
How Hard is it to Get an LMIA?
It is entirely possible to get an LMIA approved if you are working with a representative who is experienced with the process. The Canadian government has designed the LMIA process to be difficult; and a refusal is always the default position of the government. They want to make this the last and limited resort to fill job positions in order to preserve job opportunities for qualified Canadians and Canadian permanent residents. It is always helpful to keep in mind their main goal it to restrict access to the Canadian job market and limit the number of temporary foreign workers as much as possible.
However, there are many cases in which Canadian workers are simply not available in the Canadian labour market to fill your vacant positions. Hiring foreign nationals is the only option. Working with an experienced representative on your recruitment efforts using the LMIA process is likely the best investment you can make if you need to hire temporary foreign workers.
The LMIA application is made to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) through their LMIA online portal.
How many LMIAs can an employer get?
There is no one answer to this question, as it depends on many factors that will be unique to each situation. In most cases, it is possible to get as many LMIA approvals as are legitimately needed. However, for certain low wage occupations, there is a CAP on the number of foreign workers that any one business can employ; and there can be certain restrictions in place due to regional unemployment levels.
What is the next step after LMIA approval?
The LMIA is just the first part of the process to hire a temporary foreign worker. Remember we said the Canadian government does not make this easy! The worker is not authorized to start working for you yet. They will still need a work permit with the name of your company indicated (unless they have already become a Permanent Resident).
Once you have received the LMIA confirmation letter, you should forward a copy to the foreign worker that you intend to hire, and ask them to keep you updated on their next steps in submitting the necessary work permit application. An approved LMIA has only a 6 month validity period, so it’s important that the worker act quickly to submit their immigration application before the LMIA expires.
If I hire someone using an LMIA, what happens if they don’t work out?
If you decide after the foreign worker starts to work for your company that it isn’t a good fit, you can terminate the foreign worker according to the labour laws in your Province. Ensure that you notify Service Canada of the date the worker is no longer in your employ.
If you decide that you can no longer offer the position before the foreign worker actually starts to work for your company, you need to notify both the worker and Service Canada as soon as possible.
Cancelling a job offer can have serious immigration consequences for the foreign worker, so it’s a decision that should not be taken lightly.
Can I give my worker a promotion?
When a foreign worker is employed with an LMIA based work permit, both the LMIA approval and the work permit specify the name of the employer, the position, and the location of work. None of these criteria can change unless a new LMIA and a new work permit is first obtained. The exception is that the name of the employer can change if the business is sold and the worker remains in the same position and same location.
If you want to give your foreign worker a promotion, you first need to go through the LMIA process in order to demonstrate a labour shortage for the new position, obtain an approved LMIA, and then have the foreign worker obtain a new work permit for the new position. Once the new work permit is issued, the worker can be promoted to the new position.
Can I give my foreign worker a raise or bonus?
When you submitted the LMIA application, a wage rate was specified on the application and in the advertising. Increasing that wage rate once the foreign worker is working for you can cause problems during a Compliance audit. Service Canada’s position is that if you had advertised a higher wage rate in the first place, you may have had Canadians or Permanent Residents who were interested in the position, and then you would not have needed to hire a foreign worker.
The one exception to maintaining the rate of pay is if the prevailing wage rate changes while your foreign worker is employed by your company. The prevailing wage rate is the government acceptable wage rate for each position and location. When you submit the LMIA application, you committed to checking the prevailing wage rate on a yearly basis, and adjusting the foreign worker’s wage rate to match if the prevailing wage has increased.
If a regular scheduled pay increase is part of your normal operations, it may be possible to specify that on the LMIA application when it is submitted in order to give yourself the option to provide the same pay raises to a foreign worker that you provide to your Canadian employees. The important part is to include this information on your LMIA application so that it is noted in your file with Service Canada.
The Provincial minimum wage changed in our province and now the LMIA approved wage rate is below minimum wage. What do I do?
Provincial Labour standards always override the LMIA approval. If the minimum wage for the Province is now greater than the LMIA approved wage rate, you need to adjust the rate for any low wage workers to at least match the minimum wage.
The Way Immigration works regularly with Canadian employers seeking foreign workers to advise and assist with the LMIA application process. We are very familiar with the temporary foreign worker program and would be happy to assist your business with creating an immigration strategy that focuses on maximizing your ability to hire temporary foreign workers while minimizing the cost and hassle to your company.