May/June 2024 Temporary Foreign Worker Program information article
Advice & TipsComing to CanadaMay/June 2024Previous Issues

How Can the Temporary Foreign Worker Program Help Small Businesses?

A federal program is available to help franchisors and franchisees bring skilled workers to Canada. But who can benefit—and how?

The Canadians who work in the franchise industry are skilled, hardworking, and come from varied backgrounds. But for some small businesses, finding the talent to fit their needs in a tight labour market can be difficult.

There are government programs that can help franchisees fill their workforce requirements while assisting those new to the country in their transition to life in Canada. Read on to learn the ins and outs, and whether these programs are right for you.

The following information comes from the Learn & Grow webinar “Franchise Success in Canada: A Guide for Newcomers” with Susanna Franklin, business development associate at Career Canada Immigration, an organization that provides recruitment services for businesses looking to hire foreign workers.

What is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)?

This federal program is applicable to essentially every sector in Canada—healthcare, agriculture, hospitality, retail, construction, transportation, and beyond. The main benefit for business owners is that it guarantees a worker will stay employed with them for the term of the agreement. They don’t need to worry about a candidate switching to a different role in a different company, since the foreign worker they hire through this program can work only for their business for a period of two years (hence the term “temporary”).

How an employer can apply, qualify for, and use the TFWP can be simplified into four steps:

  1. Apply for a labour marketing impact assessment (LMIA)
  2. Recruit the candidate
  3. Secure the work permit
  4. Onboard the candidate

Keep in mind that this is not a quick process. The first two steps often take 30 to 40 days, while step three can take three to six months, followed by one to two weeks for onboarding the candidate. In total, that means you could be waiting for up to eight months from the time you start the process to the moment your worker begins as a trained employee.

Of course, these timeframes are approximations only and will vary from applicant to applicant. That being said, if you need to staff your business within the next six months, this program likely won’t be for you, as it is time consuming.

What’s an LMIA?

As an employer, you can’t just hire a foreign worker directly. To become eligible for the TFWP, you must apply for a labour market impact assessment, or LMIA, which is the first step to be able to hire foreign workers through the TFWP. Employers often begin the process in November or December, in preparation for staffing their business by the summer, though this can vary by sector or specific role.

The LMIA is essentially a document that says an employer is now eligible to hire a foreign worker. The government provides the document through Service Canada.

Before it’s approved, the franchisee must confirm that there’s a shortage of the specific type of labour needed for the business, and that you’ve tried to hire Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Who is eligible to apply for an LMIA?

There are a few eligibility criteria:

  1. Your business should be active for at least one year.
  2. The vacancy that you’re hiring for should be a full-time position.
  3. You need to be able to guarantee the candidate full-time work, because once they’re in Canada, you’ll be their only source of income.
  4. You must show that your business is in good financial standing, and you must offer the candidate at least the median wage.

The federal government’s Job Bank website allows you to search median wages by role and province, to help ensure that you adhere to the program’s criteria.

There are also differences in applications for low-wage and high-wage roles.

With a low-wage role, the employer must:

  • provide assistance with transportation, housing, and insurance, in addition to a paid one-way flight ticket from their home country.
  • assist the candidate in securing housing and ensure that the cost does not exceed 30 per cent of the position’s salary.

For a high-wage position:

  • the employer is not required to assist with transportation or housing but must still insure the worker for the period that the candidate is not covered by provincial health insurance, in addition to providing a one-way ticket to Canada.

There is also a $1,000 application fee for each LMIA; however, each LMIA covers up to five workers for the same role, in the same company, for the duration of the LMIA.

Note that there is a third type of LMIA—dual intent, which is when a foreign national who has applied, or may apply, for permanent residence in Canada also applies for a temporary period as a visitor, student, or worker. This type of LMIA can help an applicant earn comprehensive ranking system (CRS) points that work toward their permanent residency. The $1,000 fee is waived for dual intent applications, and the role for which you are applying can be a low- or high-wage role. However, with this type of application, the employer must state that it will assist the candidate in attaining their permanent residency, which requires a longer commitment.

Other costs associated with the TFWP are the work permit fee ($155) and the biometrics fee ($85).

What are the steps to secure an LMIA?

To apply for an LMIA, you must first register your business on the government of Canada’s Job Bank website, which only takes about 20 minutes. Once you have registered, you can post ads for the roles or vacancies you wish to fill. Those ads remain live on the Job Bank for 30 days. Once that 30-day period is over, you can then move to the next step: providing Service Canada with your business registration and financial details.

There are two ways to show that your business is in good financial standing. The first is that you share your tax documents like the PD7A or Schedule 100 for review. Alternatively, you can request that your accountant provide a letter that says your business is in good financial standing.

You’ll also need to be able to provide answers to basic questions about your business, including your locations and the number of part-time and full-time employees.

Again, it can take six to eight weeks for the LMIA to be completed and approved or denied, which depends on the type of role. An application for a healthcare role, for instance, may be processed fairly quickly, while other industries like foodservice may take a little longer.

Once I have the LMIA in hand, what do I do next?

After you get your LMIA, the foreign worker can then apply for their work permit, which requires them to share the job offer and the LMIA, as well as their own documentation, including their educational documents, their employment documents, their financial information, and all other background verification documents that are required by the Canadian government.

As mentioned previously, the work permit is for a two-year term. It’s a closed work permit, which means that the candidate can work only for this employer during this time.

Service providers such as Career Canada Immigration can help guide you through this process and ensure that you have all necessary documentation in place to secure the LMIA and the worker’s permit.

What if it turns out the candidate is not a good fit for our company?

As with any hiring process, there’s a window in which you can evaluate whether the foreign worker adheres to the standards of your business and is suitable for the role. If they’re let go, the candidate has a short period of time to look for another employer who would be able to support them. If that doesn’t work, they sometimes move to visitor status or, in the worst-case scenario, they move back to their home country. (Ed’s note: Franklin says that she has never seen this happen in her experience with Career Canada Immigration.)

This is a general overview of the TFWP. Keep in mind that every application will be different, and that it’s always best to ask for help from experts in the field as you navigate the process. Before taking the first steps to secure your LMIA, you should consider how quickly you need the worker, whether you can fill the role with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, and for dual-intent LMIAs, if you’re prepared to support the worker in their journey to permanent residency—which, again, can take some time. But for those who are looking for a new source of skilled employees for their small business, this program can be a very valuable tool.

For more information on Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program and how to apply, visit