National HR

Me Jean-Philippe Brunet, CRHA, and Me Marc-Alexis Laroche, Galileo Partners




At a time when employers are resorting more often to international recruiting, it is essential that they properly understand the rules that apply to temporary foreign workers who want to obtain a work permit to work legally in Canada.


However, before they even begin to consider the various steps involved in obtaining a Canadian work permit, employers and temporary foreign workers must take a number of factors into account if these workers are to be persuaded to immigrate to Canada. For temporary foreign workers, these factors include finding housing, being able to send their children to a child care centre, or bringing family members with them who are allowed to immigrate to and work in Canada.


To remain competitive internationally and attract more temporary foreign workers, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recently announced new changes that should simplify the immigration process for the family members of temporary foreign workers. These news rules took effect on January 30, 2023 and they are applicable for an initial two-year period.


Previous rules

Prior to the new measures announced by IRCC, only the spouses or common-law partners of skilled temporary foreign workers could obtain a Canadian work permit as an accompanying family member.


The work permit they obtained in that case was an open work permit. An open work permit is a work permit that is not tied to a specific employer in Canada. In other words, this permit is obtained independently and a job offer from a Canadian employer is not required.


Thus, to qualify for a work permit as a spouse or common-law partner, the principal applicant was required hold a skilled position. A skilled position is defined as a job with a skill level (TEER category) of 0 to 3 according to the 2021 National Occupational Classification.


This meant that spouses and common-law partners of workers with an unskilled job were not able to obtain a Canadian work permit. To qualify for a Canadian work permit, spouses and common-law partners were then expected to take individual steps, which usually involved additional immigration processes and the intervention of a Canadian employer.


In addition, the children of temporary foreign workers were unable to obtain work permits under the rules previously in force.


New measures

As mentioned above, starting January 30, 2023, new measures took effect to expand the work permit eligibility criteria for family members of temporary foreign workers.


First, spouses and common-law partners of temporary foreign workers who hold an unskilled job – i.e. a job with a skill level of 4 or 5 according to the 2021 National Occupational Classification – are now able to obtain a work permit. For example, this would include jobs that involve operating machinery, working at a fish market or as an assembler at a plant.


Accordingly, spouses and common-law partners of foreign workers are now able to obtain a work permit, regardless of the skill level of the job that the principal applicant holds in Canada.


Another important measure is that the dependent children of temporary foreign workers are granted expanded eligibility for Canadian work permits, subject to the rules that apply to hiring minor-aged workers. As mentioned above, the dependent children of foreign workers were previously unable to obtain a Canadian work permit. They had to apply individually and complete all the steps required for that purpose.


Under the new measures, dependent children of temporary foreign workers are now eligible to apply for a Canadian work permit. This means that they are also able to apply for an open work permit, regardless of the skill level related to the position held by their family member in Canada.


In addition, spouses, common-law partners and dependent children of permanent resident applicants in the economic immigration class may now apply for an open Canadian work permit. To do so, the principal applicants also need to hold a Canadian work permit.


For the time being, these new measures exclude the family members of applicants who have submitted a Canadian work permit application in the Low-Wage stream, the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, or in the Agricultural stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Nevertheless, it appears that IRCC is planning to announce other future measures that will specifically deal with these two programs.


Impact on human resources professionals

These new measures announced by IRCC are excellent news for all professionals active in the field of human resources.


In fact, many professionals in this field had already expressed the desire that family members of temporary foreign workers be eligible to apply for a Canadian work permit.


It was previously harder to convince temporary foreign workers to immigrate to Canada for low-skilled jobs, in large part due to competition from other countries and their immigration processes. In many cases, foreign workers had family members who were unable to accompany them to Canada and had to stay behind in their country of origin.


Due to this situation, some foreign workers turned down job offers in Canada, because they did not want to be separated from their family members. In cases where temporary foreign workers actually did agree to immigrate to Canada, they often left the country after a few weeks of work because they missed their family. On that note, it has been proven that when a temporary foreign worker’s family members are with them, their integration process is much more successful.


Furthermore, thanks to the expanded measures for dependent children, the children of some foreign workers will be able to take a job when they arrive in Canada. This situation could also serve as another selling point, because dependent children were previously only allowed to obtain temporary status as visitors or students.




Ultimately, although IRCC still needs to provide more details, the measures recently announced are great news for human resources professionals. These measures will ultimately increase Canada’s competitiveness and make it easier for temporary foreign workers to complete their integration into the country.


Suggested readings for more information

Carrefour RH, a site of the Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés du Québec, published a first version of this article.