BlogNew registry for BC employers seeking workers or caregivers from abroad

1 December 2020

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Beginning on December 15, 2020, BC employers looking to hire foreign workers through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) stream or caregivers through federal the Home Child Care Provider Pilot or Home Support Worker Pilot will need to register online with the provincial government to receive a “certificate of registration”. Although there is no charge to obtain a certificate of registration, BC employers will no longer be able to access these immigration programs to hire foreign workers if they have not obtained one.

The concept for the online employer registry was originally introduced in 2018 under BC’s Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act (TFWPA), which aims to create more transparency and protections for foreign workers who accept job offers in BC. According to BC’s Ministry of Labour, an estimated 5,000 employers in British Columbia are expected to obtain certificates of registration in order to hire foreign workers. By creating and enforcing a registration requirement, the BC government will now be made aware which BC employers are hiring foreign nationals, including who the Directors of these companies are, and will also know if local employers are using the services of recruiters and the terms of their agreement.

Furthermore, the TFWPA confers significant powers on the BC government to investigate workplace abuses and unfair practices, including situations where foreign workers are misled about their working conditions and asked to work for less pay, work longer hours, or to perform different duties. The TFWPA also provides for sanctions against employers who make threats of deportation or similar complaints to government agencies designed to silence foreign workers. Under the TFWPA, employers who engage in these practices can be penalized and have their certificates of registration revoked.

BC joins a group of several other provinces including Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia that have all created registration requirements for local employers to address the issue of foreign worker abuse, which is an issue that has drawn national attention in recent years.

Unfortunately, foreign workers who come to Canada to work for a specific employer or in a specific occupation are vulnerable to workplace abuses and unfair practices because it is unlawful for them to work for anyone else while in Canada or in a different occupation unless they can obtain a new work permit, a process that requires job hunting and new immigration applications that can take many months to process. The result is a significant imbalance of power within an employment relationship and, therefore, foreign workers are less likely to bring attention to any problems they experience in the workplace for fear that they will lose their jobs and livelihood in Canada.

While the employer registry will undoubtedly discourage employers from engaging in workplace abuses and unfair practices, foreign workers who wish to accept job offers to work in BC must also take responsibility for their own immigration cases and perform their own due diligence.

In my practice as a Vancouver immigration lawyer, I have heard many stories of how foreign workers were misled about what having a job offer could do for them. There have been stories of foreign workers who were offered jobs but had their job conditions substantially changed within days or weeks of starting. Sadly, many foreign workers are willing to put up with these abuses on the promise that they will be able to qualify for Canadian permanent residency through their employment. However, nobody can ever guarantee that someone will qualify for permanent residency.

Furthermore, just having a job offer from a Canadian employer does not guarantee that the person can obtain a work permit and be allowed to start working in Canada. Immigration officers will not grant work permits unless they are satisfied that the applicant has the skills and experience to perform the duties of the job, which includes an assessment of the applicant’s ability to speak one of Canada’s official languages, English and French.

The BC government’s initiative to implement the TFWPA will hopefully create more confidence for workers to come to British Columbia and bring their valuable skills and experience. However, before considering a job offer everybody should be aware of the potential problems that can arise in their employment and immigration status and learn about the potential avenues for recourse.

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Sas and Ing Immigration Law Centre LLP

A partnership between Catherine Sas Law Corporation and Victor Ing Law Corporation

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About the Author