OTTAWA – Thousands of temporary foreign workers could be heading to airports to leave Canada today as permits expire for those who have been in the country for more than four years.
The Conservative government set April 1, 2015 as the deadline for temporary foreign workers in low-skilled jobs to either become permanent residents or leave the country after changing the rules in 2011.
It used to be they just had to re-apply, but new rules require them to leave the country for at least four years before re-applying.
This has had a ripple effect across the country.
The provincially run Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program gives temporary workers in the province an advantage when it comes to gaining permanent residency.
In Alberta alone, 10,000 temporary foreign workers have applied to stay in Canada. But the province doesn’t have as generous a program or it isn’t quick enough to accommodate the deadlines.
In B.C. the rule change has caused a backlog for immigration officials.
The provincial government there has put a three-month freeze on most new applications for a program used by prospective immigrants wanting to come to the province to work.
Labour Minister Shirley Bond says the pause will allow the province to speed up processing times for the Provincial Nominee Program so people can apply online when applications are accepted again starting July 2.
Bond says the program allows B.C. to nominate 5,500 foreign nationals to the federal government every year for a chance at permanent residency in Canada.
But Bond says B.C. currently has 8,300 applications in the queue so far this year, partly because more people are applying through the PNP rather than the reformed temporary foreign worker program.
While investment-ready entrepreneurs and some skilled workers will have to wait three months to apply through the program, applications will still be accepted for other categories including health-care workers.
Bond says jurisdictions across Canada are also grappling with revamping their own Provincial Nomination Program to meet labour needs.
Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland says there aren’t enough Canadian Border Services agents to knock on the doors of every temporary foreign worker and frog-march them to the nearest airport today.
Nonetheless, he says, many of his clients are grappling with the realization that they’re no longer welcome after living and working here for years.
NDP MP Jinny Sims says the deadline will likely force many workers underground.