Business Immigration Lawyer on TPP, Foreign Workers

Corporate Immigration Law Firm Weighs In on Potential Changes to TFWP under New Trade Deal

Life for a corporate immigration law firm includes a lot of acronyms. There are the obvious ones, like CIC—Citizenship and Immigration Canada. There are the more specific ones, such as TFWP (Temporary Foreign Worker Program), which are undoubtedly still tied to immigration. And then there are the surprising ones, like TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), which may not seem to have an immediate link to immigration issues. But if you look more closely, the controversial agreement could have some profound effects on the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and how business immigration lawyers do their jobs.

What is TFWP?

For those unfamiliar with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, it’s an immigration program through which skilled individuals living in other countries can be hired and brought into Canada to work for a term of four years. After this, their work visa expires, and they are disallowed from re-entering Canada on another work visa for at least four years. The goal of this “four in, four out” system is to ensure that Canadians—in this context, citizens and permanent residents—have priority access to available jobs. This is not the only economic immigration program in Canada, but it has been perhaps the most scrutinized by corporate immigration law firms and other critics. This is because it has created opportunities for corporations to create a “revolving door” of cheap labour that is damaging both to Canadians and to the foreign workers brought in through the program. There has been more than one case where a business immigration lawyer has needed to step in, and calls for program reform have followed too.

How Will TPP Affect It?

Under current conditions, a company must prove to the CIC and applicable labour authorities that they made an effort to hire a Canadian for the job first. However, once Canada becomes a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, these conditions may change. An off-shoot of TFWP, the International Mobility Program, allows for intracompany transfers and importing labour from countries with which Canada has free-trade agreements—without the requisite stage of first seeking to fill the jobs in question with Canadians. Business immigration lawyers, as well as other experts, are concerned that since several nations in the TPP are still developing nations, this can create a new situation within which corporations will be able to displace existing workforces with foreign nationals who will be underpaid and unprotected.

However, since much of the partnership’s specific language and provisions are still secret—and Canada has seen a significant change in government, with not just a new Prime Minister, but a new minister for Immigration, Citizenship, and Refugees, since the deal began—the situation is very fluid. It is certainly the hope of this corporate immigration law firm that the TPP deal creates positive opportunities, without creating opportunities for exploitation.