Canada Eliminates 4-Year Limit For Temporary Foreign Workers

Canada has announced changes in its Temporary Foreign Worker policy. John McCallum, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and MaryAnn Mihychuk, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, announced the first steps in a government effort to remove the notorious “4-in-4-out” policy, seen by critics as the “revolving door” of indentured labor to the country and abused by unscrupulous employers.

“In many ways, the four-year rule put a great deal of uncertainty and instability on both temporary workers and employers. We had the sense that it was an unnecessary burden on applicants and employers, and also on officers who process applications,” Immigration Minister John McCallum said in a news release posted late Tuesday.

Introduced in 2011 by then conservative government, the “4-in-4-out” rule kicked out migrant workers after four years of employment and effectively cut off pathways for them to become permanent residents. It was aimed at limiting work for some temporary foreign workers in Canada to four years who then became ineligible to work in Canada for the next four years.

To prevent unnecessary hardship and instability for both workers and employers, the four-year cumulative duration rule will no longer apply to temporary foreign workers in Canada, effective immediately.

“We believe this important recommendation . . . requires rapid action, which we are taking today,” McCallum added.

Ethel Tungohan, a political science professor at York University said everyone was expecting the rule to be announced in January and were surprised by the announcement, but conceded that it’s a positive development.

“Many migrant workers have felt insecure with their status because of this rule. This is the result of the hard work by advocacy groups who have been lobbying the government for change,” Tungohan said.

Ottawa said it will also require low-wage employers to advertise openings first to the under-represented groups in the workforce — youth, persons with disabilities, indigenous people and newcomers — before they fill the positions with temporary migrant workers.

However, the percentage of low-wage migrant workers at a business will still be capped at 20 per cent for employers who accessed the program before June 20, 2014, and at 10 per cent for those who did after that date.

No further details were announced yet as to how the government is going to develop more pathways for eligible migrant workers to become Canada’s permanent residents.

In 2013, there were 492,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada mostly coming from the United States, Mexico and the Philippines, employed mostly in hotel and food service, construction, agriculture and caregiving.