A foreign national seeking to come to Canada has more than 100 different options. Many of these fall under two general programs: The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP).
In spite of the fact that both the TFWP and the IMP are designed to aid Canada’s economic growth, their stated policy objectives and eligibility requirements are different.
A breakdown of the key differences between these two marquee Canadian work permit programs follows.
Goals of the International Mobility Program and Temporary Foreign Worker Program
The TFWP provides employers throughout Canada with an opportunity to hire foreign nationals to address labour shortages in their industry when no suitable Canadians are available to fill the vacancies.
The intent of this program is to help Canadian employers that require it, while still championing Canadian citizens and permanent residents by providing them with a first opportunity to apply for vacant positions. The TFWP does not aim to provide reciprocal benefits to Canadians abroad like the benefits it provides for employers in Canada. Instead, it seeks to meet labour market needs in specific occupations and regions.
Conversely, the IMP is intended to promote Canada’s broad economic, social, and cultural policy objectives through the admission of foreign workers. In addition to strengthening bilateral and multilateral ties between Canada and the global community, it promotes Canadian arts, culture, sports, and religion. Moreover, the IMP strives to provide reciprocal benefits to Canadians abroad through multilateral and bilateral agreements (e.g., CUSMA).
Note: Canada and the two countries it shares a continent with enacted CUSMA in 2020 as a replacement for NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
Do You Need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)?
In order to prove that their hiring of foreign employees will not negatively impact the Canadian labour market, companies submit a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
LMIA application required for Temporary Foreign Workers Program. In the TFWP, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) is responsible for the LMIA, while Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is responsible for the work permit application.
IMP: The International Mobility Program is LMIA-exempt, which means that applicants attempting to work in Canada through the IMP do not have to obtain an LMIA. IRCC is responsible for the work permit application.
Who are the program leaders?
TFWP: Run jointly by ESDC and IRCC
IMP: Exclusively administered by IRCC
Is the Wage for the Position in Question Relevant to Applicability/Eligibility?
TFWP: Wage is used instead of National Occupational Classification (NOC) to determine applicability and program requirements vary by wage (stream).
IMP: Does not stream based on wage
In this program, are work permits “open”?
TFWP: In this program, work permits are employer-specific, meaning foreign nationals applying for a job are tied to a specific employer – the one with whom they obtain their LMIA and temporary work permit.
IMP: Work permits for IMPs can be either employer-specific or “open”. In other words, based on the circumstances or agreement made by the applicant, their work permit will either be tied to a particular employer or allow them to work for any employer nationwide.
There is no doubt it can be challenging to find the right fit for the TFWP or IMP as an employer, and it can be even more challenging to ensure that as a worker, you don’t miss a single step in the work permit process for either program. An experienced and certified Canadian immigration consultant can help you make the right choices.