Sas and Ing response to COVID-19 READ

Posted on - May 28, 2020

By Victor Ing

Victor Ing

Over the past two months, millions of workers in Canada have lost their jobs or experienced dramatic changes in their working conditions due to widespread business shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. During this crisis, foreign workers who hold employer-specific work permits face additional challenges because they do not have the option to look for new employment if they lose their current jobs or to accept a different position within the same company to stay employed. In order to assist these foreign workers who have been affected by COVID-19, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced that, effective May 12, 2020, foreign workers who have received a job offer from a new employer will be able to start working for the new employer within 10 days. Furthermore, workers who need to change their positions will also be able start working in their new positions within 10 days.

Generally speaking, foreign workers hold two different types of work permits that determine who they can work for and what type of work they are allowed to do in Canada. First, there are ‘open’ work permits that allow its holder to work for any Canadian employer in any position. Secondly, there are ‘closed’ work permits (also referred to as ‘employer-specific’ work permits) that only allow its holder to work for a specific employer in a specific position and location.

When foreign workers holding closed work permits want to change employers or change the position they have with their current employers, they historically must make an application to IRCC to change the conditions of their work permit. This would even apply in cases where somebody received a promotion within the same company to a more senior position or moved laterally within the same company to a different position. Applications to change conditions are reviewed by officers at an IRCC office in Edmonton, and it takes about three to four months for that application to be decided. Normally, workers are not allowed to start working for their new employers or in their new positions until their applications to change the terms of employment are approved by IRCC.

The new rule changes announced on May 12, 2020 allow foreign workers who have found job offers to work for different Canadian employers or a job offer to work in a different position with the same employer to start working under those new conditions within 10 days, instead of having to wait the three to four months it usually takes for their applications to be fully processed in Edmonton.

For a foreign worker to qualify under these new rules, they must already be living in Canada and have valid immigration status, including implied status. Furthermore, the employer who is offering them a new position must have obtained either a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or be exempt from needing one. Once the new job offer from the employer is confirmed, foreign workers need to make an application to change the conditions of their stay in Canada and then specifically ask IRCC to process that application under these new rules.

It will take about 10 days for IRCC officers to confirm with the foreign worker that their applications qualify for processing under the new rules, and after receiving confirmation the foreign workers will immediately be allowed to begin working under the new conditions. These new rules apply equally to applications made after May 12, 2020 and to pending applications that were made before the new rules were announced.

The new May 12, 2020 rules aim to get foreign workers back to work as soon as possible if they have suffered a job loss or have had to change positions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These new provisions introduced by the Minister of Immigration will remain in effect until further notice and will provide considerable benefit to workers on employer-specific work permits who do not have the ability to readily switch employers like open work permit holders can. However, IRCC will need to continue to innovate to address other immigration problems that COVID-19 has created, including helping a whole cohort of foreign workers who were relying on having full-time employment in order to qualify for Canadian permanent residency and who may no longer have enough time to qualify when business resumes. The past few months have shown that IRCC is willing to create novel solutions to address unanticipated immigration problems arising from COVID-19 and we can expect to see new initiatives announced in the coming months.


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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