Posted on - Jan 23, 2017

by Victor Ing

On December 13, 2016 the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) repealed the “four-in, four-out” rule originally introduced in April 2011 that applied to certain temporary foreign workers to prevent them from working in Canada for more than four consecutive years without returning to their home countries.

The former rule was introduced to deter foreign workers from losing ties with their home country, while encouraging qualified foreign workers to apply for permanent residence within four years if they wished to make Canada their permanent home. However, the current government acknowledges that the rule did not have its intended effect and instead created unnecessary hardship and uncertainty for both workers and Canadians employers alike.

Since 2011 there have been many changes to the immigration landscape that made the four-in, four-out rule redundant and out-of-date. For example, changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) in recent years have made it more difficult for employers to successfully apply for positive Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) to keep temporary foreign workers in their employ. These changes include new LMIA application fees and caps on hiring low-wage workers, among other things. The increased difficulty in obtaining positive LMIAs to extend the work permits of foreign workers already in Canada made the four-in, four-out rule unnecessary.

Furthermore, changes to may open new doors to former temporary foreign workers to return to Canada<" target="_blank">Canada’s permanent residence programs have made it increasingly difficult for temporary foreign workers to obtain permanent residence to avoid the four-in, four-out rule, as it was originally intended. The best example is the introduction of IRCC’s Express Entry system in 2015, which created a point scoring system where only the highest scoring candidates are given invitations to apply for permanent residence. Unfortunately, many temporary foreign workers in Canada will not score well enough under the Express Entry system to receive invitations to apply because of its heavy emphasis on factors such as language ability and education. While it may seem like sound policy to only invite the best and brightest candidates for permanent residence, many Canadian employers in industries facing chronic labour shortages rely on the services of low-wage and semi-skilled temporary foreign workers to run their businesses on a day-to-day basis. Employers in these industries will have been amongst the most negatively affected by the four-in, four-out rule.

The demise of the four-in, four-out rule signals the beginning of further changes to the TFWP in the coming year. IRCC has already announced that more changes to the TFWP are being discussed, including implementing stricter recruitment requirements to ensure that Canadian employers hire Canadians first, especially those who are underrepresented in our communities. Employers and temporary foreign workers alike will be interested in these upcoming changes to ensure that appropriate plans are in place to extend any work permits that are set to expire in the coming year. Moreover, the cancellation of the four-in, four-out rule may open new doors to former temporary foreign workers to return to Canada.


Victor Ing is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada, and provides a full range of immigration services.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Victor Ing or call him at 1-604-689-5444.


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