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Temporary foreign workers

Foreign workers come to B.C. to work through several federal programs, such as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (which is a sub-program within the Temporary Foreign Worker program) and the International Mobility Program.

These programs are intended to help employers to staff positions when no suitable Canadian workers are available. Oversight for these programs is the federal government’s responsibility, while ensuring employers adhere to employment laws is the responsibility of provincial governments.

The legislation will set out the rules governing the licensing of foreign-worker recruiters, the registration of employers, recruiter and employer obligations and overall administration and enforcement.

The proposed Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act will:

  • require recruiters of foreign workers to be licensed with the Province;
  • require employers looking to hire foreign workers to be registered with the Province;
  • prohibit unlicensed recruiters from recruiting, and unregistered employers  from hiring, foreign workers;
  • require that a registry of licensed foreign worker recruiters and a registry of registered employers be established and maintained;
  • prohibit foreign worker recruiters and employers from engaging in certain abusive practices, including charging fees for recruitment servicers or for employment, retaining a foreign worker’s passport or other official documents and misrepresenting employment opportunities; and,
  • include regulation making authorities that will, among other things, allow government to exempt certain classes of employers from the registration requirement when it is satisfied that foreign workers in those categories are not subject to exploitation and abuse.

Having the registries in place will allow government to proactively investigate recruiters and employers of foreign workers, holding them accountable should violations occur.

Recruiters and employers who violate the legislation could lose their licence or registration, and will be subject to financial penalties and possibly jail time of up to one year. The proposed legislation will permit government to recover, and return to workers, fees charged illegally to workers by recruiters and employers to get jobs.

The legislation is intended to recognize the important role foreign workers have in B.C.’s growing economy. While most employers and recruiters are committed to treating foreign nationals fairly, there are some who require closer scrutiny and enforcement action.

Quick Facts:

  • In 2017, there were 47,620 work permits issued for foreign workers destined for B.C. — 16,865 under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and 30,755 under the International Mobility Program.
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sectors account for nearly half of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in B.C., with around 9,000 workers.
  • The next largest sector is information and cultural industries, which accounts for 9%, or approximately 1,700 workers. This sector includes tech and film related occupations.
  • The third largest sector is accommodation and food services (8%), followed by construction (6%) and manufacturing (5%).
  • Under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, 83% of work permit holders are in the Lower Mainland region, 5% are in the Thompson Okanagan region and 4% are in the Vancouver Island and coast region.