Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, foreign nationals in Canada may receive interim employment authorization while their inland work permit applications are pending

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On May 12, 2020, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced a temporary policy (Policy), which allows temporary foreign workers already in Canada to receive interim approval for employment in a new job or with a new employer, while their work permit application is being fully processed. The Policy went into effect on the same day as the announcement. 

The rationale for the Policy is as follows:

  1. Many temporary foreign workers holding employer-specific work permits lost their jobs this spring. Some of these foreign nationals were unable to leave Canada due to international travel restrictions or the reduction in available flights.
  2. Temporary foreign workers in Canada who receive offers of new employment must normally apply inland and then wait for a new work permit to be issued before they can commence their employment with the new employer. The typical processing time for such applications is currently 89 days.
  3. Many employers in sectors that have ongoing labour needs and who provide critical goods and services to Canadians (such as agriculture, agri-food and health care) find themselves with urgent needs for additional employees.

In order to qualify under the Policy, applicants must:

  1. Be present in Canada with valid status;
  2. Have an employer-specific work permit or have been working under a work permit exemption (this does not include business visitors or short-term workers under the Global Skills Strategy); and
  3. Have submitted an application for a new work permit with a valid job offer under either the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program.

The Policy will not be relevant to temporary foreign workers who are extending their existing employer-specific work permits, since they may already continue working under implied status. It will also not be relevant to open work permit holders, who may already change jobs or employers without additional approval. However, the Policy will clearly benefit temporary foreign workers who wish to work in a new job or for a new employer. It will also benefit foreign nationals who need to request restoration of status concurrently with their work permit applications. 

Eligible applicants should complete the following steps:

  1. Applicants must first apply online for their new work permit. They will only be permitted to submit a paper application if they cannot apply online because of a disability or because there is a problem with the online application. If an applicant’s status has already expired, but less than 90 days have elapsed since the expiration date, he or she will need to concurrently apply for restoration of status.
  2. Once their work permit application has been filed, applicants must complete the IRCC Web form. When completing the enquiry section, applicants must copy the text (see below) that applies to their situation, making sure that they complete the sections in square brackets (i.e., dates, name(s) of employer(s), and title of the job).

The appropriate text for work permit holders changing jobs or employers is as follows:

Priority Code PPCHANGEWORK2020: I am requesting consideration under the Temporary public policy to exempt foreign nationals in Canada from certain requirements when changing employment during the coronavirus pandemic and request that the applicable exemptions be granted until the decision is made on my work permit application or it is withdrawn.

I attest that: I hold/held a work permit valid until [DATE] for employer [NAME] / in occupation [JOB TITLE] and I have received new job offer for [new employer NAME] / [new occupation JOB TITLE].

I have submitted my application for a work permit online OR I submitted my application by paper and the postal/courier tracking number is [NUMBER].

I intend to work for the [new employer NAME] / [new occupation JOB TITLE] specified in the aforementioned work permit application.

I understand that providing false, misleading or incorrect information is a violation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and may result in enforcement measures against me.

The appropriate text for workers who have been work permit exempt is as follows:

Priority Code PPCHANGEWORK2020: I am requesting consideration under the Temporary public policy to exempt foreign nationals in Canada from certain requirements when changing employment during the coronavirus pandemic and request that the applicable exemptions be granted until the decision is made on my work permit application or it is withdrawn.

I attest that: I am/was authorized to work without a work permit for employer [NAME] / in occupation [JOB TITLE] until [DATE] and I have received a new job offer for [new employer NAME] / [new occupation JOB TITLE].

I have submitted my application for a work permit online OR I submitted my application by paper and the postal/courier tracking number is [NUMBER].

I intend to work for the [new employer NAME] / [new occupation JOB TITLE] specified in the aforementioned work permit.

I understand that providing false, misleading or incorrect information is a violation of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and may result in enforcement measures against me.

If the applicant has applied on paper and does not know his or her application number, the courier tracking number should be used instead.

  1. Applicants should wait for IRCC to send them an email confirming that may begin working in the new job or for the new employer while their full application is pending. Applicants who have applied online should receive this email in about 10 business days. However, it they have applied on paper, it may take longer.

It might have been preferable to immediately allow inland work permit applicants to commence their employment, in a new job or with a new employer, as soon as their applications had been filed. Nevertheless, the Policy is a welcome change for temporary foreign workers who might otherwise need to wait 90 days or more for their work permit applications to be approved.

Please note that the information provided in this article does not constitute legal or professional advice or a legal opinion of any kind.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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