Canada LMIA – Labour Market Impact Assessment

If you have a job offer in Canada and want to get a work permit, the LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) route may be the way to proceed. However, foreign workers and Canadian employers alike should know that the LMIA process is far from straightforward.

This page outlines details about Canada’s LMIA system for work permits, including who might be eligible and how to apply for an LMIA.

Labour Market Impact Assessment

Canada’s LMIA process serves as proof that no Canadian citizen or permanent resident is ready, willing, and able to fill a specific position in Canada, and so the employer is allowed to hire a foreign worker. In order to obtain an LMIA, employers must advertise the position for at least four weeks and potentially interview candidates who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Only then, and only if the business can prove that those interviewees did not fulfil the job description, may the business be given the green light to hire a foreign worker. The worker must then apply for a Canadian work permit, supported by the LMIA, before beginning work in Canada.

LMIA applications are detailed and require lots of documentation and statistical tabulation. Examples include a numerical breakdown of the number of Canadian applicants for the position, the number of offers of employment made, and the number of unqualified applicants. Employers must provide a written description of why each un-hired Canadian was not qualified for the job. Not all work permit types require a LMIA to be issued; work permit streams that are LMIA-exempt come under the International Mobility Program.

Note: This page refers to the LMIA process under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). To learn how the LMIA process works in conjunction with the Express Entry immigration selection system, please see our Express Entry page.

Please note that Quebec has some distinct processes and policies regarding LMIAs. For full information about Quebec’s LMIA process, refer here.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program

The department of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) oversees Canada’s LMIA process. In their analysis, ESDC will consider the following elements of the job offer:

  1. Is the salary offered to the foreign worker consistent with the average for the occupation in the area the position is located?

  2. Are the working conditions consistent with labour laws and/or collective bargaining agreements?

  3. Is there a labour shortage for that occupation in the area the position is located?

  4. Is there an ongoing labour dispute in the company and/or industry?

  5. Has the Canadian employer undertaken recruitment efforts in order to find a Canadian to fill the position?

  6. Will the foreign worker be able to transfer unique skills or expertise to Canadians?

  7. Will hiring the foreign worker help to create or retain jobs for Canadians?

  8. Will the foreign worker be the employee of the Canadian employer, whereby the foreign worker is expected to work on a full-time basis at a pre-determined wage?

The TFWP is divided into streams for Higher-skilled workers and Lower-skilled workers. Positions located in skill levels 0, A and B of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) system are placed in the Higher-skilled category. Positions located in skills levels C and D are placed in the Lower-skilled category.

Both streams contain two further sub-streams:

1) The Stream for Higher-Skilled Occupations — High-Wage Workers

2) The Stream for Higher-Skilled Occupations — Low-Wage Workers

3) The Stream for Lower-Skilled Occupations — High-Wage Workers

4) The Stream for Lower-Skilled Occupations — Low-Wage Workers

Positions where the prevailing wage rate, as set by ESDC, is below the provincial/territorial median wage will be considered low-wage. Those positions where the prevailing wage is at or above the provincial/territorial median wage will be considered high-wage.

Province / TerritoryWage ($/hour)
Alberta$27.28
British Columbia$25.00
Manitoba$21.60
New Brunswick$20.12
Newfoundland and Labrador$23.00
Northwest Territories$34.36
Nova Scotia$20.00
Nunavut$32.00
Ontario$24.04
Prince Edward Island$20.00
Quebec$23.08
Saskatchewan$24.55
Yukon$30.00

Therefore, when assessing which stream to follow:

1) Identify the job title’s skill level within the NOC Matrix.

2) Assess whether it is considered Higher-Skilled or Lower-Skilled.

3) Go to www.jobbank.gc.ca and in the menu click on “By wages”.

4) Type the name or NOC code of the job title.

5) Locate the geographic location where the job is located.

6) Identify the “Median Wage” for that specific geographic location. This will be the “prevailing wage rate” for this specific area in this occupation.

7) Assess this prevailing wage rate against the provincial/territorial median wage listed in the chart above.

8) If the prevailing wage rate is below the provincial/territorial median wage, it is considered low-wage. If the prevailing wage rate is at or above the provincial/territorial median wage rate, it is considered high-wage.

LMIA requirements

1) The Stream of Higher-Skilled Occupations — High-Wage Workers

Advertising:

1) National/Provincial Job Bank for at least 28 days (must remain posted until LMIA is issued)

2) Two other sources of advertising, one of which must be national in scope.

Transition Plan

Employers must complete a detailed transition plan (to be explained in the next section).

 

2) The Stream for Higher-Skilled Occupations — Low-Wage Workers

Advertising:

1) National/Provincial Job Bank for at least 28 days (must remain posted until LMIA is issued).

2) Two other sources of advertising, one of which must be national in scope.

Cap on Low-Wage Temporary Foreign Workers

Employers with 10 or more employees applying for a new LMIA under this stream are subject to a cap. This is 10 per cent of temporary foreign workers who may be employed at that worksite (to be explained below). There are some exceptions to the cap on low-wage temporary foreign workers.

 

3) The Stream of Lower-Skilled Occupations – High-Wage Workers

Advertising:

1) National/Provincial Job Bank for at least 28 days (must remain posted until LMIA is issued).

2) Two other sources of advertising, one of which must target under-represented groups.

Transition Plan

Employers must complete a detailed transition plan (to be explained in the next section).

 

4) The Stream of Lower-Skilled Occupations – Low-Wage Workers

Advertising:

1) National/Provincial Job Bank for at least 28 days (must remain posted until LMIA is issued).

2) Two other sources of advertising, one of which must target under-represented groups.

Cap on Low-Wage Temporary Foreign Workers

Employers with 10 or more employees applying for a new LMIA under this stream are subject to a cap of 10 per cent of temporary foreign workers who may be employed at that worksite (to be explained below).

Quebec facilitated LMIA process

Employers in the province of Quebec may fill selected positions without having to include proof of recruitment efforts. The list of eligible occupations for this facilitated LMIA process is available here (page is in French only).

*In the province of British Columbia, employers must also register with the provincial government in order to hire a temporary foreign worker using an LMIA.

Employer Transition Plans

Employers using the LMIA process to hire foreign workers are show adequate steps to reduce their reliance on temporary foreign workers over time. Employers are expected to proactively engage in activities to recruit, hire, and train Canadians.Canada requires employers to undertake activities in addition to the existing recruitment and advertising requirements. These include:

1) Three additional recruitment activities.

2) One additional activity targeting under-represented groups (new immigrants, aboriginal people, youth, Canadians with disabilities).

3) One activity to help temporary foreign workers transition to permanent residence (such as providing them with permanent job offers).

Employers are required to prepare projected estimates of the numbers of Canadians/permanent residents they expect to recruit through these activities. They will also need to supply proposed timelines for the activities outlined.

Lastly, employers are required to report back to ESDC with the results of the activities they implemented as part of their transition plan. The results will be compared to their submitted projections and will be evaluated if the employer is audited or seeks to re-apply for a LMIA in the future.

Employers can request an exemption from the requirement to submit a transition plan if they can prove that the position being applied for requires a unique skill set or is contract/project-based.

Cap on low-wage Temporary Foreign Workers

Employers with 10 or more employees applying for a new LMIA are subject to a cap of 10 percent of TFWs who may be employed in low-wage positions.

Refusal to process a LMIA application

ESDC will no longer process LMIA applications in the Accommodation, Food Services and Retail Trade sectors for certain positions with an unemployment rate at or above six per cent, except for a few postal codes in Yellowknife, NWT.

There is also a list of specific automatic refusal occupations in Alberta.

Work permit duration

For all low-wage positions, the duration of work permits set out in LMIAs is limited to a maximum of one year.

10-day Processing for Highest-Demand, Highest-Paid and Shortest-Duration Occupations

LMIAs for highest-demand occupations (skilled trades), highest-paid (top 10 percent) occupations or short-duration work periods (120 days or less) are provided within a 10-business-day service standard.

Highest-demand occupations list:

The 10-day service standard is limited to the skilled trades where the prevailing wage rate is at or above the provincial/territorial median wage.

Highest-paid occupations:

If the prevailing wage rate for an occupation is above the figure indicated below for the province in which the LMIA is being applied for, the application will be assessed in 10 business days or less:

Province / TerritoryWage ($/hour)
Alberta$52.20
British Columbia$45.00
Manitoba$43.27
New Brunswick$39.90
Newfoundland and Labrador$45.00
Northwest Territories$59.52
Nova Scotia$40.87
Nunavut$58.00
Ontario$48.08
Prince Edward Island$38.46
Quebec$44.23
Saskatchewan$46.15
Yukon$48.08

Shortest-duration occupations

The 10-day service standard will be available for employers seeking to hire temporary foreign workers for a duration of 120 calendar days and where the prevailing wage rate for the occupation is at or above the provincial or territorial median wage.

LMIA application fee

For every job position being requested, employers have to pay a CAD $1,000 application fee. This is not per application, but per position. The worker does not pay this fee.

Therefore, if the LMIA application is requesting 10 positions, the application fees due would be CAD $10,000.

TFWP auditing

Employers are held accountable for the promises they make in their LMIA applications. Particular focus is on the proposed activities in their transition plans. ESDC often follows up with employers through audits. ESDC will also examine submitting results if the employers choose to re-apply.

Communication is key

Employers seeking to hire with the support of a LMIA should be able to clearly articulate their business challenges, as well as manage a lot of detail. There is no secret formula to obtaining a positive LMIA.

It’s all about following detailed guidelines, paying attention to the minutiae, and providing a clearly articulated position. Most Program Officers are well-educated, reasonable people, and understand the wide majority of industries across Canada. They base their decisions on internal labour market indicators, as well as the information submitted by the employer. When these two things correctly intersect, they may issue a positive LMIA.

Program Officers take a hard stance on employers trying to circumvent the system. They don’t take kindly to employers who are being dishonest and fraudulent about their recruitment efforts.

Successful LMIA applications are detailed, logical, and well-articulated pieces of business communication; they are not just a stack of application forms and a few job postings.

It is the duty of the employer, or their representative, to explain clearly to the presiding officer:

1) What means they have taken to recruit or train Canadians.

2) Why they have had difficulty recruiting Canadians.

3) What their plan is to train Canadians so as to not become reliant upon the use of temporary foreign workers.

4) The ways in which the Canadian labour market would benefit from the hiring of temporary foreign workers through the filling of labour shortages, transfer of skills, job creation, etc.

5) The intention of the employer to abide by all applicable Canadian labour laws as they relate to hiring foreign workers.

Obtaining a positive LMIA takes a keen attention to detail and an extensive amount of work. By ensuring that guidelines are followed carefully and making a clear position to the Program Officer, the chance of receiving a favourable result will be greatly increased.

What else should job seekers know about Canada’s LMIA process?

Employers may be reluctant to undergo the LMIA process for applicants whose situations are marginal. These situations may include:

  • Working Holiday work permit holders seeking to remain on staff with their current employer at the end of their work permit.
  • Post-graduation work permit holders seeking to remain on staff with their current employer at the end of their work permit.
  • Open work permit holders seeking to remain on staff with their current employer at the end of their work permit.

Many job seekers – particularly those already working in Canada hoping to transition from one work permit to another with an LMIA – have been frustrated by their employer’s lack of knowledge of Canada’s LMIA process or their employer’s reluctance to engage with the LMIA process to the letter. For example, employers may be reluctant to post a job ad that includes details of the compensation, or may identify the wrong NOC code, or may identify the correct NOC code but fail to list appropriate duties in the job ad. Any of these errors could lead to a failure to obtain the LMIA or needing to start all over again, to the frustration and cost of the employer and the worker.

As the worker, it may be in your best interests to take an active interest in how the LMIA process is being undertaken at your current or potential place of employment. In particular, small- to medium-sized businesses that may be undertaking the LMIA process on your behalf for the first time ever, or the first time in many years, may inadvertently make costly errors due to not being acquainted with the intricacies of the LMIA process. In such a situation, it may be in everyone’s best interests for a regulated Canadian immigration consultant to oversee the LMIA preparation and application and liaise with the government on the employer’s behalf. We have a short list of recommended consultants here, each of whom has extensive expertise in securing LMIAs for appropriate cases and work permits for foreign workers.

How long does it take to get a LMIA?

LMIA processing times can be somewhat unpredictable, and the LMIA process can range from a couple of weeks to a few months. Employers and workers must also take into the four weeks required to advertise the position.

Some LMIA cases are fast-tracked (see above: ’10-day Processing for Highest-Demand, Highest-Paid and Shortest-Duration Occupations’).

The government of Canada does not have a publicly-stated processing standard or target, and LMIA processing times are not otherwise published online by any government department.

How much does it cost to get a LMIA?

Employers must pay a fee of $1,000 in order to submit a LMIA application under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

How can I get a LMIA?

Foreign workers wishing to obtain a LMIA must first have an eligible job offer from an employer in Canada. See our employment section for information and resources on finding work in Canada.

Do I need a LMIA?

It’s quite possible that you can bypass the LMIA process by getting a work permit under one the International Mobility Program streams. For workers and employers alike, it is preferable to get a work permit under the International Mobility Program, as these work permit do not require the worker to obtain a LMIA.

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