As fighting continues in Ukraine and tensions increase globally, the number of Ukrainians newly seeking refuge within Canada’s borders has surpassed 10,000. Many prominent Canadian politicians and corporate leaders have voiced their support both for Ukrainian refugees and for expedited work permit policies and processes.
As Human Resources professionals this affects us in various ways. However, the most complex issue we will face here is the legal and administrative process surrounding hiring, training, and retaining permanent residents and foreign nationals. Notably in the case of Ukrainian refugees and the invocation of emergency travel orders and expedited work permits, we want to make sure we take all the necessary steps to keep up to date on changing policies to remain compliant with a fluid situation.
The conflict in Ukraine has perhaps highlighted the rising number of refugees seeking work permits in Canada, but it is certainly not a new concept for those of us keeping a close eye on the ability to offer jobs to newcomers and foreign nationals from all over the world. According to the IRCC, Canada welcomed 405,303 new permanent residents in 2021. Unlike some other first world nations, Canada actually sought out these new residents by implementing the Immigration Levels 2021-2023 plan, in order to boost economic recovery post-pandemic and counteract the drop in population growth experienced since the start of COVID-19.
Though seemingly well meaning, the plan of safe harbor and work permits for all Ukrainians who pass background and security checks has received some pushback. Many people have mentioned that although Canada is ready to issue temporary visas and work permits on a priority basis, this will not last forever. The emergency status also clashes with the traditional Canadian process of integrating refugees and granting them permanent residence over a period of several years. This temporary protection status leaves many wondering if the Ukrainian refugees will be left applying for asylum after two years, or perhaps, seeking employer-sponsored visas.
No matter the red tape and the future uncertainties, corporate leaders across Canada are welcoming helping hands due to a labor shortage sweeping the nation. Flavio Volpe, President of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association and a first generation Canadian, is confident they are able to onboard 500 people immediately and that those with temporary work permits and refugee status, are encouraged to apply. He also notes that Ontario has somewhere in the area of 300,000 open positions currently.
SO, WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN FOR US?
Work permits are not going anywhere, and talent is global, especially in this new post-COVID world.
- LMIA: Make sure that if you have even considered hiring a foreign worker, you have looked into conducting the required Labor Market Impact Assessment, unless the position falls under the International Mobility Program.
- Restrictions: All Ukrainian refugees will receive an open work permit under the CUAET, although there will be a medical restriction on the permits of those who did not have a medical examination due to the emergency status of their permit process. This can be lifted if the employee, or potential employee, receives a medical examination and chest x-ray within 90 days of arrival.
- Although Ukrainian refugees under CUAET are in a temporary status, their work permits mirror those of all other foreign nationals, in that they are eligible to work for most Canadian employers but remember to keep up to date with the end date of their work permit and keep abreast of possible sponsorship, or repatriation statuses.
- Make sure you are up to date on legally compliant requirements. For example, Canadian employers cannot require applicants to be permanently eligible for work.
With a little luck and a lot of work, we can be a small piece in a big effort to help not only our respective organizations, but millions of people looking for some stability here in Canada.