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Are you a temporary foreign worker in Canada? If so, you may have questions about your rights and responsibilities as an employee in this country.

You may also wonder how to protect yourself from abuse, exploitation, or mistreatment by your employer or recruiter. 

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First, let’s define what a temporary foreign worker is. A temporary foreign worker is a foreign national authorized to work in Canada for a limited period, usually for a specific employer. 

There are different types of temporary foreign workers, depending on the program under which they are hired. Some of the most common programs are:

  • Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP): Canadian employers can hire foreign workers to fill temporary labor and skill shortages when qualified Canadians or permanent residents are unavailable. This program requires employers to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) before hiring a foreign worker.
  • The International Mobility Program (IMP): IMP allows Canadian employers to hire foreign workers without an LMIA, based on broader economic, social, or cultural benefits for Canada. This program includes categories such as the International Experience Canada (IEC) program, the Intra-Company Transfers (ICT) program, and the Global Talent Stream (GTS) program.
  • The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP): This program allows Canadian employers to hire foreign workers from certain countries to work in the agricultural sector for up to eight months per year. This program is part of the TFWP and requires an LMIA.

Your Rights as a Temporary Foreign Worker

Second, let’s talk about your rights as a temporary foreign worker. In Canada, the rights of all workers, including temporary foreign workers, are protected by law. 

You have the same rights and protections as Canadians and permanent residents, regardless of the program under which you are hired. Some of your basic rights are:

  • The right to be paid for your work, as stated in your employment contract. This includes overtime pay, if applicable.
  • The right to work in a safe and healthy environment, free from harassment, violence, or discrimination.
  • The right to take breaks and days off, as required by the provincial or territorial labor standards.
  • The right to access health care services, either through the provincial or territorial health insurance plan or through your employer’s private health insurance plan.
  • The right to change employers if you are not satisfied with your current job or employer or if you find a better opportunity. However, you may need to apply for a new work permit before working for a different employer.
  • The right to report any abuse, mistreatment, or violation of your rights to the authorities without fear of retaliation or deportation.

Your Responsibilities and Obligations as a Temporary Foreign Worker

As a foreign national working in Canada, you must:

  • Comply with the conditions of your work permit, such as the duration, location, and occupation of your employment.
  • Respect the laws and regulations of Canada, as well as the province or territory where you work.
  • Pay your taxes and file your income tax return, if applicable.
  • Maintain a valid passport and travel documents, and renew your work permit before it expires if you wish to continue working in Canada.
  • Notify Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) of any changes in your personal information, such as your address, marital status, or dependents.
  • Leave Canada when your work permit expires unless you are eligible to extend your stay or apply for permanent residence.

How to Protect Yourself as a Temporary Foreign Worker

Now that you know your rights and responsibilities as a temporary foreign worker, you may wonder how to protect yourself from any potential problems or risks you may encounter while working in Canada. Here are some tips and advice that may help you:

Before accepting a job offer from a Canadian employer:

  • Ensure you understand the terms and conditions of your employment contract.
  • Read it carefully and ask questions if anything needs to be clarified.
  • Do not sign anything you disagree with or anything that contradicts your work permit.

Another thing is always keep a copy of your employment contract, work permit, passport, and other essential documents in a safe place. 

Do not give them to your employer or recruiter unless they need to make a copy for official purposes. They have no right to keep or take away your documents.

Others are: 

  • Keep track of your work hours, wages, and any deductions or expenses that your employer may charge you. If your employer does not pay you on time or in full or charges you illegal fees, you can file a complaint with the provincial or territorial labor authority.
  • Know your health and safety rights and responsibilities at work.
  • Know your housing rights and responsibilities if your employer provides you with accommodation. Your employer must ensure that your housing meets the minimum health, safety, and cleanliness standards required by the province or territory where you work.
  • Know your options if you want to change employers or jobs. You have the right to look for another job and quit your current job if you are unhappy with it. However, you may need to apply for a new work permit before working for a different employer. You can use the Job Bank website to search for jobs from Canadian employers who want to hire temporary foreign workers. You can also contact the IRCC Call Centre to find out how to change your work permit or extend your stay in Canada.
  • Know where to get help if you face problems or difficulties while working in Canada. You are not alone, and many resources and organizations can assist you. You can contact the following:
    • The IRCC Call Centre if you have any questions or concerns about your work permit, immigration status, or your eligibility for permanent residence.
    • The ESDC Employer Contact Centre if you have any questions or complaints about the TFWP, the LMIA process, or your employer’s obligations.
    • The provincial or territorial labor authority, if you have any issues or disputes with your employer regarding your wages, working conditions, or employment standards.
    • The provincial or territorial occupational health and safety authority, if you have any concerns or complaints about your health and safety at work or are injured or ill because of your work.
    • The provincial or territorial housing authority, if you have any problems or complaints about your housing or need to find affordable and suitable accommodation.
    • The provincial or territorial health insurance plan if you need to access health care services or have any questions or issues about your health insurance coverage or eligibility.
    • The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), if you need to file your income tax return or have any questions or issues about your taxes or benefits.
    • A support organization for migrant workers if you need legal, social, or emotional support or want to connect with other temporary foreign workers in your area.

Conclusion

Working in Canada as a temporary foreign worker has some challenges and risks. That is why it is important that you know your rights and responsibilities as an employee in this country and that you protect yourself from any abuse, exploitation, or mistreatment by your employer or recruiter. 

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In this post, we have provided helpful information and resources to help you navigate the Canadian labor market and ensure your safe and enjoyable stay in Canada.

Common Questions Related to Temporary Foreign Workers

How can I apply for a work permit as a temporary foreign worker?

  • You can apply for a work permit online or on paper through IRCC. If required, You will need a valid job offer from a Canadian employer and a positive LMIA from ESDC. You will also need to meet temporary workers’ eligibility and admissibility requirements. For more information, visit the IRCC website.

How long can I work in Canada as a temporary foreign worker?

  • The duration of your work permit depends on the type of program you are hired under, the terms of your employment contract, and the validity of your passport. Generally, you can work in Canada for up to four years unless you are exempt from the cumulative duration limit. You can check the

How can I extend my stay in Canada as a temporary foreign worker?

  • You can apply to extend your stay in Canada as a temporary foreign worker if you meet the following conditions:
    • If required, you have a valid job offer from a Canadian employer and a positive LMIA from ESDC.
    • You have a valid work permit that has yet to expire, or you apply before it expires.
    • You have complied with the conditions of your previous work permit and have worked with authorization.
    • Unless you are exempt, you have yet to reach the cumulative duration limit of four years.

Bottomline: You can apply to extend your stay online or on paper through IRCC. You should apply at least 30 days before your current work permit expires.

How can I apply for permanent residence as a temporary foreign worker?

  • You may be eligible to apply for permanent residence as a temporary foreign worker if you meet the criteria of one of the immigration programs that are designed for skilled workers, such as The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)The Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP)The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) and The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)

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