Immigration Minister Extends Agri-Food Pilot - Immigration Lawyer Vancouver, Canada | Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre

BlogImmigration Minister Extends Agri-Food Pilot

16 May 2023

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On May 8, 2023 the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced the extension of the Agri-Food Pilot until May 14, 2025. This unique pathway to permanent residency was first introduced in May 2020 and offers an immigration pathway for workers in the farming and food processing industries.

The Agri-Food Pilot specifically targets workers across a diverse range of occupations such as meat cutters and labourers who plant and harvest fruits and vegetables.

For a full list of the eligible occupations under the Agri-Food Pilot please refer to the following link:

Farm and food production workers have historically struggled to qualify for Canadian permanent residency because many of them are employed in entry-level positions and may not have the language proficiency or level of education needed to qualify under Canada’s major immigration pathways such as the Canadian Experience Class, which targets skilled workers with Canadian work experienceThe Agri-Food Pilot recognizes the important contributions of workers in these industries and the longstanding labour shortages that plague them.

Currently, to qualify for permanent residency under the Agri-Food Pilot, candidates must have a job offer for full-time, non-seasonal work in one of the Pilot’s eligible industries and occupations and must demonstrate at least one-year of relevant work experience gained under a work permit issued pursuant to a Labour Market Impact Assessment or “LMIA”.

With respect to educational and language requirements, successful candidates must have the equivalent of a high school education and English test scores of at least Level 4 under the Canadian Language Benchmark or French test scores of at least Level 4 under the Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens. Given these relatively modest requirements, the Agri-Food Pilot offers a viable pathway to permanent residency for many farm and food production workers who may not have otherwise qualified.

Eligible candidates must act quickly, however, because the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada only accepts up to 2,750 applications each year under the Agri-Food Pilot.  Once the annual cap is reached, it will not be reset until the next calendar year.

Candidates can now apply under any eligible occupation until the annual cap is reached and their applications will be processed on a first-come-first-served basis. Previously, the Minister imposed caps on the eligible occupations but has recently removed the occupational caps as part of the May 8, 2023 announcement to ensure that the maximum number of candidates will be able to file applications under the Agri-Food Pilot.

By the end of this year the Minister plans on introducing further changes to broaden the eligibility requirements of the Pilot and to make it easier for candidates to file their applications. For instance, the Minister has already announced that he intends to implement changes that will allow unions to confirm a candidate’s work experience in place of an employer reference letter (a good standard in immigration processing), which will assist workers in vulnerable employment situations where employers may be reluctant to assist with their permanent residency applications for reasons outside the control of the worker.

For the past several years we have seen the Minister embrace innovative initiatives to improve and expand upon Canada’s immigration programs to respond to the country’s economic and labour needs. The Agri-Food Pilot is an example of a targeted approach to address specific industrial labour shortages that is being carefully and slowly implemented. Using annual caps, the Minister can assess the efficacy of the Pilot and make adjustments, as necessary. Over time, the Pilot may even become a permanent program within Canada’s economic streams, following in the footsteps of programs like the Atlantic Immigration Program which became permanent in 2022. One thing is for certain: The extension of the Agri-Food Pilot until May 14, 2025 is welcome news to farm and food processing workers and interested candidates should stay tuned for further announcements from the Minister this year!

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