Over the past several years the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program has been a boon to many Estevan businesses with employers trying to navigate a labour shortage in a booming economy.
The program has allowed many businesses to fill vacant employment spots. Though there have been a number of changes to the program, businesses have been managing, since these changes took place about a year ago. Though the April 1 deadline has passed, that would have deported low-skilled TFW if they had been working for four years and hadn’t filed for permanent residency, Estevan Chamber of Commerce economic development officer Manpreet Sangha, said she isn’t aware of anyone in Estevan who had to leave.
“The people I know, I’m glad most of them have applied for the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program, so I haven’t met anybody who has to leave the country,” said Sangha.
She said she frequented some stores who have temporary foreign workers, and after speaking to the employees found they had all applied to the SINP.
She said locally, what business owners have been most opposed to is the 20 per cent cap for TFW employees.
“If they don’t get a Canadian then there’s no other alternative, and especially in these provinces, where it’s difficult for Canadians to move or they would find it difficult to move; I would say, it becomes an issue for the employer,” said Sangha.
Rules set by the federal government that were changed last year included limiting the overall rate of TFW to 20 per cent of a business’s employees. Under those rules, if a business has five employees, no more than one could be a TFW.
“What if the other four positions, the employer is not able to fill with Canadians or permanent residents?” said Sangha, who said there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for the employer.
Sangha said foreign people working in the hospitality industry, who are employed following a labour market opinion that deemed there to be no Canadians available for the job, are subject to alternate rules.
“You see (in Estevan) most of the people here are working in the hospitality sector. They have their own number of rules,” said Sangha, noting that after six months of employment, they may apply through the SINP.
Those employment categories include food and beverage servers, counter attendants, and housekeeping and cleaning staff. That process typically takes between two and three months.
“Once you get a nomination letter from SINP, then you can apply for a federal file. It really speeds up the process at the federal level, and there is a very minimal chance that the federal government would reject that,” said Sangha.
The process for permanent residency may take between eight and 10 months, but for some, it can be longer.
Express entry is now the primary system for employers looking to find people to work who are currently living outside of Canada.
“The employer is not able to see the people, because how the system works, anybody who is living internationally, whether they are a plumber, welder or anybody else will create a profile. Employers connect with the interested employee who is then able to receive their permanent residency within six months. After that, the employee is able to come to Canada,” said Sangha.
While the costs for employers to access the programs have increased, that seems to be less of an issue for local businesses.
“I’ve talked to a couple of different managers, and there’s a whole lot of money involved in bringing anybody from any other country to your country,” said Sangha, who added that money is rarely the issue for businesses owners. Access to employees is their primary concern.