When it comes to hiring workers for your agricultural business, undoubtedly your most important concern is finding a well-qualified, candidate that is a great fit for the position.
The reality though is sometimes filling open spots on your farm or in your agricultural enterprise is tough. And finding well-qualified workers is tougher; at times it may seem as though you’ve completely exhausted avenues trying to find the right labourer only to come up empty-handed.
This is when you expand your scope and start thinking outside the box. Or rather, outside the Canadian borders and consider hiring foreign workers.
Is hiring foreign workers for an ag job difficult?
Right off the bat, this will be one of the first questions that cross your mind. How difficult will it be to hire a foreign worker to fill an agricultural job?
Your business (and ag of course) is your passion, and it takes up a significant amount of your day and attention. You probably don't spend your spare time pouring over Canadian Immigration Law textbooks and literature to stay informed on international hiring practices. And we don’t blame you!
This is where we come in to help!
Our goal is to make life easier for you. With immigration law experts on our team, let us provide the information and resources you need to make the process easier. We’ll explain the different ways to hire international workers and talk in depth about the International Experience Canada (IEC) program.
International options for hiring agricultural workers and immigrants for farm jobs
There are two different routes you can take when looking to hire an international worker for farm labour or a position within an agricultural enterprise. You can fill jobs with permanent foreign workers or look for temporary solutions.
Programs for hiring foreigners
We’ve already talked in depth about hiring foreign ag workers through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The LMIA process/program determines whether hiring foreign nationals for permanent position will have a positive or neutral impact on the Canadian labour market. The goal is to prevent hiring a foreigner if it will have a negative impact.
Applying for an LMIA is a lengthy process, and requires paying a substantial processing and privilege fee. This in itself deters some employers from considering foreign nationals.
Fortunately, there are programs available where you can hire temporary workers who are visa exempt and don’t need an LMIA.
Through the International Mobility Program (IMP), Canadian employers can hire foreign workers on temporary work permits through reciprocal youth exchange agreements such as the International Experience Canada (IEC) program, international agreements such as the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (CETA), and Canadian specific programs such as Intra-Company Transfer, or Francophone Mobility.
Of these programs, the IEC is the one we’re going to focus on today due to its popularity.
The ins and outs of the IEC program
International Experience Canada (IEC) allows you to hire talent from overseas without the long and costly LMIA application process. It is much easier and simpler to navigate but is still quite detailed and specific in its requirements.
As previously mentioned, the big difference with using the IEC program is that workers are only hired on a temporary basis, not as a permanent position when using the LMIA process.
Before you dismiss hiring temporary workers, it's important to acquaint yourself with the IEC program. To help you, we’ve put together some information on the basic program facts, the application categories, and the eligibility requirements.
IEC program facts
Hiring foreign workers sounds scary, especially short-term employees. But the IEC Program has many merits that can provide a solution to your labour shortage:
- The IEC program allows international youth an opportunity to work in Canada for temporary periods of time.
- IEC is available to applicants from 18 to 30-35 years old (the upper age limit varies between participating countries).
- The program varies from 6 to 24 months depending on the agreement in place between Canada and the country of citizenship. The list of participating countries and length of programs can be found at Moving2Canada.
- The IEC program is reciprocal. Citizens of participating countries can work and travel in Canada while Canadians can work and travel in the IEC participating countries.
- The number of applicants accepted is limited and varies based upon country of citizenship.
- There are one to three categories of applications available for potential employees (France also has exclusive student summer job initiatives).
IEC application categories
There are 3 different categories under which foreign employees can apply and be hired through IEC:
The Working Holiday program grants eligible participants an open work permit, valid for 12 to 24 months. Open work permits are non-job specific, allowing those granted one the ability to work anywhere in Canada for almost any Canadian employer. As mentioned in the IEC facts, the length of time is dependant on Canada’s agreement with the country of citizenship.
Under the Young Professionals program, employees gain valuable international and skilled work experience working for a Canadian company. In this category of the IEC, jobs must be classified as a National Occupation Code (NOC) Skill Type Level 0, A, or B; as an employer you must present a signed job offer letter or contract of employment related to the applicant’s professional development before they can apply and be granted an employer-specific work permit.
Often, foreign nationals hired in the skilled trade level NOC B (for example heavy equipment operators and mechanics, specialized livestock workers, and ag consultants) will be able to apply for the Canadian Permanent Resident Status after 6 or 12 months (depends on the province). This is a work-around an LMIA application!
The International Co-op program is geared towards students enrolled at post-secondary institutions; participants intern at Canadian companies to develop valuable work skills. Jobs must be related to their field of study and classified as NOC Skill Type Level 0, A, or B. All arrangements have to be made with the Canadian employer before applying and the application needs to be registered as a student the entire time they are interning. In this program, employees are also granted an employer-specific work permit.
In order to be eligible to apply, candidates must meet the following requirements (as well as being a certain age and a citizen of a participating country):
- Have a valid passport for the entirety of their stay.
- Have the equivalent of $2500 CAN upon arrival to cover initial expenses.
- Have health insurance for the duration of their stay.
- Be allowed into Canada.
- Have a round-trip ticket or the financial means to purchase a departure ticket for the end of their authorized stay.
- Not be accompanied by dependents.
- Pay all associated fees.
Filling open agricultural job positions is tough, but gets easier if you consider the idea of hiring foreign workers. While it may seem like a daunting undertaking, there are some unique opportunities available for you as an employer. For instance, temporarily hiring a foreigner under the International Experience Canada program can successfully address your labour shortage.
We want you to find the best candidate for your job! At WorkHorse, our team is well educated on the specifics of hiring employees through the IEC program. To learn more, check out the resources mentioned above or reach out to us with your questions!
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