How to Hire a Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) A Guidebook for Employers

Important Information

This is not a legal document. For legal information, consult the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Regulations.

For contact information and details on how to hire a temporary foreign worker in the province of Quebec.

Employers who would like a permanent solution to their long-term skill-shortage needs can consult their provincial or territorial governments for information on programs designed to facilitate the entry of foreign workers as permanent residents, or refer to CIC’s website concerning the Skilled Worker Class.


The federal government’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program allows eligible foreign workers to work in Canada for an authorized period of time if employers can demonstrate that they are unable to find suitable Canadians/permanent residents to fill the jobs and that the entry of these workers will not have a negative impact on the Canadian labour market. Employers from all types of businesses can recruit foreign workers with a wide range of skills to meet temporary labour shortages.

Three departments: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), Service Canada (the service delivery arm of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada) and the Canada Border Services Agency – work together to manage and deliver the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Points of Contact

Service Canada Centres

Service Canada processes applications from employers for LMOs and ensures that all necessary requirements are met. An LMO is an opinion provided by Service Canada to CIC which assesses the likely impact that hiring the requested foreign worker(s) may have on the Canadian labour market. Service Canada Centres process foreign worker requests (LMO applications) in each province.

Temporary Foreign Worker Units

The Temporary Foreign Worker Units in Montreal and Toronto, offer guidance to employers seeking to employ foreign workers who may be exempted from obtaining a Work Permit or from the  Labour Market Opinion (LMO) process by providing an opinion to facilitate the entry of workers into Canada.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

CIC and its visa offices at Canadian embassies, high commissions and consulates outside Canada process applications for work permits to determine who may be eligible to work in Canada. In most cases, CIC is the first point of contact for many foreign workers who want to work in Canada, although under certain circumstances, they may apply for a work permit at a port of entry.

Canada Border Services Agency

Border Services officers screen foreign workers at Canadian border crossings and airports to ensure that they meet admissibility requirements before issuing work permits and allowing their entry into Canada. A Border Services officer has the final say on who may enter Canada. Officers can deny entry to a foreign worker if they believe the foreign worker does not meet the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Things to Know Before Starting the Process

  • To hire a foreign worker, you generally must obtain a positive LMO (also known as an employment confirmation) from Service Canada, unless the work category is exempt from the LMO process. To determine if you are exempt from the LMO process, contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada (see Step #1 of “Hiring Foreign Workers in Just 4 Steps”).
  • If an LMO is required, you must obtain the employment confirmation before your prospective foreign worker(s) apply for a work permit.
  • When applying for an LMO, you will have to demonstrate
    1. the efforts made to recruit and/or train willing and available Canadians/permanent residents;
    2. that the wages you are offering are consistent with the prevailing wage rate paid to Canadians in the same occupation in the region;
    3. that the working conditions for the occupation meet the current provincial labour market standards; and
    4. any potential benefits that the hiring of the foreign worker may have on the Canadian labour market (e.g., creation of new jobs, transfer of skills and knowledge, etc.).
  • In most cases, foreign workers must apply for a work permit at a Canadian visa office abroad.
  • Depending on their country of citizenship, foreign workers may require a temporary resident visa (TRV) to enter Canada.
  • Depending on the type of work they will undertake in Canada and where they have resided in the last year, foreign workers may also require a medical examination before entering Canada.
  • Foreign workers may be refused a work permit and entry into Canada by a Border Services officer (regardless of whether employment confirmation has been obtained) if they are found inadmissible for a number of reasons, including criminal, security or medical grounds.

Hiring Temporary Foreign Workers in Just 4 Steps

In the majority of cases, there are four steps involved in hiring a temporary foreign worker from outside Canada. The need to complete each step will depend on the specifics of the job offer and the foreign worker’s country of citizenship and last permanent residence.

Employers and foreign workers must ensure that they provide accurate and complete information or the application process may be delayed.

The four steps are:

  1. Determine if you require an LMO
  2. Apply for an LMO from Service Canada (if required)
  3. Advise the foreign worker(s) to complete the work permit application, which is then processed by CIC (if applicable)
  4. A Border Services Officer at a port of entry issues the work permit

Step 1: Determine if you require an LMO

As previously noted, some categories of work do not require LMOs pursuant to international agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement or the General Agreement on Trade in Services, and government policy.

If You Believe the Job Offer is Exempt From an LMO

You may want to seek verification of the LMO exemption from CIC. You may choose to e-mail or fax “opinion requests” directly to their CIC Temporary Foreign Worker Unit located in Montreal or Toronto.

In order to provide a timely and accurate response to your inquiry, immigration officers at the CIC Temporary Foreign Worker Units will require the information shown below.

If an officer does not agree that an LMO exemption applies, you will be directed to complete an Application for a Labour Market Opinion and send it to the Service Canada Centre serving your area of business.

LMO Exemptions

Information Required by an Immigration Officer

Details of the job offer including

  • Copy of job offer/employment contract
  • Description of the duties, wages and working conditions
  • A statement of essential qualifications
  • Registrations or licences that the applicant may need
  • Language requirements, if applicable
  • Start and end dates of the position

Employment details

  • Name and address of employer
  • Company site where foreign worker will be employed
  • Location of any parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate company
  • Confirmation that there is no ongoing labour dispute at the site where this worker will be employed

Employee’s details

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Citizenship
  • Address in country of residence
  • Work experience
  • Educational qualifications
  • Professional or trade licences

The airport or border crossing at which this employee will enter Canada

An explanation as to why the job offer should be exempt from the LMO process

Step 2: Apply for an LMO

Service Canada provides an LMO to the employer and CIC. The LMO is an assessment of the likely impact that the hiring of the foreign worker may have on the Canadian labour market.

Categories of Occupations Generally Requiring LMOs

High-Skilled Occupations: Requests to hire skilled foreign workers (i.e., in high-skilled occupations) usually require an LMO, but as previously noted, some categories of work do not require an LMO (please see Step #1).

Lower-Skilled Occupations: Requests to hire foreign workers in occupations that usually require at most a high school diploma or job-specific training will likely require an LMO.

Seasonal Agricultural Workers: Requests to hire seasonal agricultural workers from any foreign country will require an LMO.

Live-in Caregivers: Requests to hire live-in caregivers (i.e., under the Live-in Caregiver Program) will require an LMO.

If the Job Offer Requires an LMO

You will be required to complete an Application for a Labour Market Opinion and submit it to the appropriate Service Canada Centre serving your region.

Service Canada considers the following factors in an LMO application:

  • The occupation in which the foreign worker will be employed
  • The wages and working conditions offered to the foreign worker
  • The employer’s advertisement and recruitment efforts to hire Canadians/permanent residents
  • The associated labour market benefits that may occur from hiring the foreign worker (e.g., transfer of new skills/knowledge, creation/retention of jobs, etc.)
  • Consultations with organized labour if the position the foreign worker will fill is part of a bargaining unit
  • Determination if the entry of the foreign worker is likely to affect the settlement of an ongoing labour dispute

Please note that for certain occupations you (the employer) may also be required to submit an employment contract which will be considered as part of the LMO assessment.

If the LMO is Positive

Service Canada will issue an employment confirmation and you will receive a response in writing which you should forward to the foreign worker along with a copy of a signed job offer and employment contract (if applicable).

The foreign worker can then proceed to apply for a work permit either at a visa office abroad a port of entry, or from within Canada if legally permitted to do so.

Note that a positive LMO does not guarantee that a work permit will be issued to the foreign worker. Visa and Border Services officers can refuse work permit applications and entry to Canada if they determine that the foreign worker does not meet the qualifications required by the LMO or is otherwise inadmissible to Canada.

If the LMO is Negative

Service Canada will inform you in writing of a negative decision. If you disagree with the Service Canada decision, and you have new information that may affect the decision, you may submit this information to the Service Canada Centre indicated on your refusal letter. Your request will then be re-assessed taking into account any new information you have submitted.

Step 3: Work Permit Application

In most cases, foreign workers are required to apply for and obtain a permit to work temporarily in Canada. Here are the job categories that are exempt from a work permit requirement.

Persons who may apply for a work permit at a port of entry

  • All nationals or permanent residents of the U.S., and residents of Greenland or St. Pierre and Miquelon
  • Persons whose work does not require an LMO
  • Persons who require an LMO, as long as the positive opinion has been issued before entering Canada

Persons who must apply for a work permit outside Canada

  • All persons who require a TRV
  • All persons who require a medical examination
  • International youth exchange program participants other than U.S. citizens and permanent residents
  • Seasonal agricultural workers
  • Live-in caregivers

Information Required for Work Permit Applications

Each visa office abroad may have different procedures which will be listed on their individual websites. A visa officer has the right to ask for certain information from foreign workers, including:

  • Proof of identity
  • A valid passport or travel document that guarantees re-entry to the country that issued it
  • Two photos of the foreign worker and two photos of all accompanying family members
  • A copy of the job offer or signed employment contract
  • A copy of the positive LMO issued by Service Canada (although a visa officer can access the LMO electronically, it is advised that the foreign worker be provided with a copy)
  • Proof of their present immigration status in the country in which they are applying (this applies to foreign workers who are not citizens of the country in which they are applying)

Other Requirements for Work Permit Applications

  • The fee for processing a work permit application is $155.
  • The fee for processing a TRV is $100.
  • If a foreign worker requires a TRV and a work permit, the total processing fee is $155.
  • The fee for accompanying family members requiring a TRV is $100 each.
  • An interview may be required if the visa office needs more information to determine whether the foreign worker is eligible to obtain a work permit.

Medical Examinations

Generally, a medical examination is not required for employment terms of six months or less. However, a medical examination is required under the following circumstances:

  • Workers will be employed in an occupation in which the protection of public health is essential. Here is a list of occupations requiring a medical examination.
  • Workers will be employed for a term greater than six months or have resided for six or more consecutive months in a country for which a medical exam may be required in the year preceding the submission of their application.

The visa office will issue the foreign workers the necessary medical documents, including a list of local medical practitioners authorized by CIC to perform the medical examinations.

Foreign workers are responsible for paying the fee for the examination directly to the medical practitioner.

Foreign workers who are eligible to apply for a work permit at a port of entry and who require a medical certificate must demonstrate that they have passed immigration medical requirements before arriving in Canada. A Border Services officer will not allow foreign workers to enter Canada without confirmation that a valid medical certificate has been issued.

Processing Times

The length of time it takes to process work permit applications may vary depending on the location where the application is submitted.

A visa officer can refuse a work permit application if the foreign worker is found to be inadmissible for any of the following reasons:

  • has failed a medical examination
  • has a criminal record
  • is determined to be a security risk
  • has not met the criteria and standards described in the job offer provided by the employer
  • has not satisfied the visa officer that he or she will leave Canada at the end of the period of employment

The visa office will inform the foreign worker of its decision in writing.

During the overseas processing of work permits, employers should maintain regular contact with recruited foreign workers in order to be kept up to date on the status of their applications

If their overseas application for a work permit is approved in principle, foreign workers will receive a letter explaining that they are eligible for a work permit. It is important to note that this letter is not a work permit. Foreign workers are required to present the letter to a Border Services Officer at a port of entry when seeking to enter Canada.

Step 4: Port of Entry

To enter Canada, foreign workers must have the following documents on their person to present to a Border Services officer:

  • a passport or travel document that is valid for the period of the authorized stay, unless they are citizens of the United States, or residents of Greenland or St. Pierre and Miquelon
  • a signed job offer and/or employment contract
  • an authorization letter approving a work permit application issued by CIC (if applicable)
  • a copy of Service Canada’s positive LMO (if applicable)
  • a copy of the confirmation by a CIC Temporary Foreign Worker Unit that the job offer is exempt from a work permit or LMO (if applicable)
  • evidence of credentials: education, professional and work experience (if applicable)
  • a temporary resident visa (if applicable)

Foreign workers may be denied a work permit or entry into Canada at the port of entry if the Border Services officer believes that they do not meet the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

We hope this guide has helped you better understand the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and determine if hiring foreign workers is an appropriate solution to your labour or skill-shortage needs.

If you have further questions about obtaining a Labour Market Opinion, please consult the Foreign Worker Program website or contact the appropriate Service Canada Centre that processes foreign worker requests.

If you have further questions regarding any other citizenship or immigration issue, please consult the CIC website.

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