Work Permit Holders Spouses Can Now Apply for Open Work Permits

On Dec 2nd, 2022, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced that some current Work Permit holders’ spouses and children will be eligible to receive Open Work Permits (OWP) under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

How Do Work Permits and Temporary Foreign Worker Programs Work?

A work permit is required for foreign nationals (those who are neither Canadian citizens nor permanent residents). Canadian employers can request a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before hiring foreign workers through the TFWP, a program through which foreign nationals can obtain a work permit.

It is necessary for foreign nationals with LMIA-based work permits to find another job within a certain amount of time or to leave Canada if they lose their job. In contrast, OWPs allows foreign nationals to legally work in Canada for any employer and any job, without the same restrictions as visas.

Open Work Permit Eligibility Changes

The expansion of OWP eligibility to certain closed Work Permit holders’ spouses and children is a major step toward encouraging more immigrants to settle in Canada. Canadian citizens and permanent residents, as well as spouses of international students, had already been able to be sponsored for an OWP by their spouses; however, the expansion in eligibility for spouses of current Work Permit holders under the TFWP indicates that Canada is willing to accept more immigrants.

IRCC expects over 200,000 new work permit applications from families of existing work permit holders as a result of this policy change.

In three phases, the program is expected to be implemented at the beginning of 2023:

Phase 1: People with work permits whose spouses are higher-paid workers in the TFWP

Phase 2: Spouses of lower-wage workers who are part of the TFWP in provinces and territories

Phase 3: Families of agriculture workers – This phase focuses specifically on families of seasonal agricultural workers, which Canada intends to expand in order to bolster its economy.

While the IRCC is eager to implement these changes, these dates remain tentative. As Minister Fraser reports, phases two and three will still require provinces and employers to collaborate.

What is the Need for More People in Canada?

While Canada has long recognized the importance of immigration for its economic, demographic, and societal health, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for immigrants.

In the wake of a pandemic-affected 2020 and 2021, immigration has become a key focus for the recovery of the economy as the country faces record-high job vacancies and a low unemployment rate.

Fraser pointed out in his announcement on December 2nd that ten years ago, there were seven Canadian workers for every retiree. In the next 10-15 years, if the current trajectory continues, the number of workers for every retiree will drop to two. Without these numbers, Canada will not be able to maintain its most vital industries, such as healthcare and education, much less economic growth or health, if these numbers do not rise.

By the end of 2025, IRCC aims to welcome over 1.45 million new immigrants, which will be crucial to the continued health of Canadian society.

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