May 18, 2023

Canada’s Record-Breaking Work Permits in 2022

In 2022, Canada is expected to have the highest number of work permits ever issued, with a record of 608,420 work permits taking effect. This is almost 200,000 more work permits than in 2021, where only 414,000 permits came into effect. The majority of work permit holders (77%) that were welcomed into Canada in 2022 were under the International Mobility Program (IMP), with 472,070 work permits coming into effect under the IMP in 2022. Comparatively, the remaining quarter of permits (136,350) were issued to workers under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). This blog post will discuss the reasons for the increase in work permits, the difference between the TFWP and the IMP, the IMP streams that saw the most permits come into effect, the TFWP streams that saw the most permits come into effect, and which provinces had the greatest number of work permit holders in 2022.


Reasons for the Increase in Work Permits

Both the IMP and TFWP have seen an increase in the number of work permits that have taken effect yearly. In 2019, there were only 303,545 work permits effective under the IMP. After a slight decrease due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the number of permits under the IMP rebounded to 310,660 permits in 2021. The IMP has, therefore, seen more than a 55% increase in effective work permits since 2019. Under the TFWP, only 98,030 work permits took effect in 2019. After seeing the same decrease in 2020 as IMP work permits, this number rebounded to 103,340 effective permits in 2021. Accordingly, since 2019, there has been a 39% increase in work permits that have come into effect under the TFWP.

Several policy changes and factors have contributed to the increase in work permits, including the following:

  • Canada's labor market needs: Canada's aging population has created a significant gap in the labor market, leading to an increase in the demand for foreign workers.
  • Pandemic-related restrictions: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread labor shortages across different sectors in Canada, leading to an increase in demand for foreign workers.
  • Simplification of application processes: The Canadian government has simplified the application processes for both the IMP and the TFWP, making it easier for employers to hire foreign workers.


The Difference Between the TFWP and the IMP

Both the TFWP and the IMP issue work permits to temporary foreign workers (TFWs) to work and live in Canada. However, there are important differences between both pathways that should be noted.

The TFWP allows Canadian employers to issue work permits to TFWs, as a means of responding to genuine labor shortages in Canada. The biggest difference between the TFWP and the IMP is the need for a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), a government document used to assess the impact of hiring a foreign national on the Canadian labor market. LMIAs are needed to issue a work permit under the TFWP. With an LMIA, work permits issued under the TFWP are generally “employer-specific/LMIA-based”, as opposed to the open work permits issued under the IMP.

In contrast, the IMP exists to promote Canada’s broad economic, social, and cultural policy objectives. Work permits under the IMP are usually issued with consideration to reciprocity (between the applicant’s country and Canada) or the significant cultural or economic benefit that comes with hiring a TFW. Consequently, the IMP contains programs like the Global Talent Stream, International Experience Canada, and the Significant Benefit work permit program (among others).

As mentioned, because the IMP’s scope is broader than the TFWP, the Canadian government does not employ an LMIA system when issuing work permits under the IMP; usually providing applicants with open work permits. Open work permits allow holders to work in most industries and for most employers, whereas employer-specific permits issued under the TFWP are usually tied to work with that specific employer, and in that industry.


What IMP streams saw the most permits come into effect?

Under the IMP, the following streams saw the most permits come into effect in 2022:

  1. Medical residents and fellows, and post-graduate employment applicants—36% of effective permits collectively;
  2. Charitable or religious workers—29% of effective permits;
  3. Other IMP participants—8%;
  4. Spouses of skilled workers—5%;
  5. Post-doctoral PhD fellows and award recipients—4%;
  6. Intra-company transfers—2%; and
  7. The International Experience Canada (IEC) program)—2%.

“Other IMP participants” covers all other applicants who received an IMP work permit but did not count towards one of the set program streams.

Some important policy changes should be noted here. IRCC has announced reduced requirements for physicians who want to apply for immigration while improving accreditation measures for foreign trained medical professionals. This move comes in response to huge labour shortages of health care and social assistance workers across Canada, explaining their prevalence among IMP permit holders.

In addition, Canada has allowed spouses of some skilled workers to apply for open work permits to tackle prevalent labour shortages. IRCC also announced an increase in program intake for the IEC for the same reason.


What TFWP streams saw the most permits come into effect?

Under the TFWP, the breakdown of work permits that came into effect in 2022 is as follows:

  1. Agriculture workers—51% of effective permits;
  2. Other temporary foreign workers with an LMIA—46% of effective permits;
  3. Live-in caregivers—2%; and
  4. Caregivers—0.2%.

“Other temporary foreign workers with an LMIA” encompasses all other professions for which a temporary foreign worker was issued an LMIA-based work permit to continue working in Canada.

Notably, Canada has made policy changes to retain and settle caregivers as part of the initiative to address labour shortages among health care and social assistance workers, including cutting the work experience requirement in half for permanent residence eligibility among these workers.


Which provinces had the greatest number of work permit holders in 2022?

Among Canada’s 13 provinces and territories, the following had the greatest share of effective work permits in 2022 under both the IMP and TFWP:

  1. Ontario—221,280 permits;
  2. British Columbia—102,845 permits;
  3. Quebec—93,500 permits;
  4. Alberta—65,565 permits; and
  5. Saskatchewan—19,205 permits.

The rest of the provinces and territories had fewer than 10,000 permits each.

Why is Canada issuing more work permits?

Canada has always been a popular destination for immigrants, and in recent years, the country has seen a significant increase in the number of temporary foreign workers arriving in the country to fill labour shortages. The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the need for temporary foreign workers to help support Canada’s economy.

The increase in the number of work permits issued in 2022 can be attributed to the government’s efforts to address the ongoing labour shortages in various industries, such as healthcare, technology, agriculture, and others. The government has also recognized the contributions of temporary foreign workers to Canada’s economy, and the need to support them during the pandemic.

Canada’s immigration system has always been flexible and adaptable, and the government has continued to make changes to immigration policies to meet the needs of the country. For example, in 2021, the government launched several programs aimed at attracting skilled workers, such as the new pathway to permanent residence for essential workers and international graduates who are already in Canada.

Moreover, Canada has a rapidly aging population, and the country needs a growing workforce to sustain its economy and support the aging population. The government has recognized that immigrants and temporary foreign workers are crucial to meeting this need.

In addition to addressing labour shortages, the increase in the number of work permits issued also serves to benefit the workers themselves. Temporary foreign workers often come to Canada seeking better job opportunities, higher wages, and better working conditions than they may have in their home countries. Issuing more work permits can help more individuals access these opportunities and improve their economic situations.

Overall, Canada’s decision to issue more work permits aligns with the country’s long standing commitment to immigration and diversity. It also serves to address pressing labour shortages and support the country’s economic growth while providing opportunities for immigrants and temporary foreign workers to build better lives for themselves and their families.


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