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Having Trouble Finding Staff? Foreign Workers May Be the Answer

With an aging population and a declining birthrate, where will BC tourism employers find workers? Part of the answer to that question may be outside Canada.

Where do our workers come from now?

Canadian citizens and permanent residents have the right to work in Canada. However, each year a number of foreign workers are given temporary work visas. However, temporary foreign workers help by meeting short-term and acute needs in the labour market that are not filled by the domestic labour force. In 2012, 202,510 foreign worker positions were approved in Canada and 28,060 in British Columbia. The top ten source countries were the USA, Mexico, France, Jamaica, the UK, India, Philippines, Japan, Guatemala, and Korea. ¹

Within the tourism industry over the last ten years, especially in places like Whistler, we have seen an overall increase in the number of temporary foreign workers from Australia, the UK and Japan. As the pool of Canadian workers shrinks and industries like tourism grow, employers are increasingly looking outside Canada for workers. As a tourism employer, you can hire foreign workers on one of four major types of temporary working visas—a Work Visa, a Working Holiday Visa, a Student Visa, or through the Provincial Nominee Program.

Canada’s temporary foreign worker program attracted the attention of the federal government in 2013 due to criticisms over the use of the program as a way for companies to find low-cost labour rather than to remedy temporary shortages of workers.  Some companies rely heavily on temporary workers, bringing them back year after year but the program is actually meant to provide labour temporarily when Canadians are not available to do the work.  To remedy this problem, new rules were announced in the 2013 federal budget to tighten requirements for companies seeking to hire temporary workers, making companies more accountable in their attempts to hire Canadians first before looking to foreign candidates.  Some of the changes include the requirement to advertise open jobs longer and in more places within Canada and restrictions on requiring that workers speak foreign languages.  As part of the changes, companies are also be required to pay processing and other administration fees.

What is a Work Visa?

Work Visas are granted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.  A foreigner wishing to work in Canada must obtain a job offer from a Canadian employer and approval from Service Canada (Employment and Social Development Canada  - ESDC) before entering Canada. Work Visas allow foreign workers into Canada to temporarily meet employers' labour demands. Work Visas are granted only after it has been determined that the foreign worker will not be taking a job from a Canadian. Applications cost $275.00 and typically take 2-4 months to process – sometimes longer.

Work Visas are usually granted for up to two years. Naturally, many individuals on Work Visas don't want to leave when their Work Visa expires. With Canadian work experience, it can sometimes be easier to apply to immigrate. For example, immigration applicants may be able to claim additional points on their permanent residence application and it might be possible for them to have their permanent residence application processed while they continue to live in Canada.

To get more information and download applications for the Foreign Worker Program, visit:

What is a Working Holiday Visa?

The second type of temporary work permit is the Working Holiday Visa. This type of visa allows young people typically between the ages of 18 and 35 to travel to Canada and work at the same time, for 12-24 months. Every year young people from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom work in Canada on this type of visa.

A Working Holiday Visa may be obtained from one the three programs operating under the International Experiences Canada (IEC) Program.  Each IEC Program has its own criteria, application quotas and submission deadlines. To learn more, read the article on International Mobile Youth Programs.

Student Visas

While studying in Canada, international students are eligible to work in Canada after meeting certain requirements — and after receiving the appropriate work permits. There are four programs that students (and their spouse) can use to obtain a work permit: Working Off-Campus, Co-op & Internship programs, Working After Graduation and Spousal Visa.

What is the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BCPNP)?

Although foreign workers are not the complete solution to the tourism industry's upcoming skills shortages, they are definitely a part of it. With fewer and fewer Canadian workers and an almost endless supply of willing foreign workers from all over the world, BC employers will increasingly look outside Canada for workers to fill both temporary (visas) and permanent (BCPNP) employment.

Get more information at: BC Provincial Nominee Program

Where will we get our workers from?

Although foreign workers are not the complete solution to the tourism industry's upcoming skills shortages, they are definitely a part of it and, increasingly, a bigger part. With fewer and fewer Canadian workers and an almost endless supply of willing foreign workers from all over the world, BC employers will increasingly look outside Canada for workers to fill both temporary (visas) and permanent (BCPNP) employment.

¹ Source: Employment and Social Development Canada

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