At his office in Burnaby, Wesley Richards is putting the final touches to a stack of financial documents to be uploaded for the third time to the visa processing office at Canada’s High Commission in New Delhi, India.
The pages tell the story of a British Columbia-based trucking company operating since 1988 and a member of the BC Trucking Association and certified by U.S. authorities to move cargo across the border.
It shows the company’s financial health with volumes of tax information, client information and employee salaries.
“But for some reason, the visa officer in India has deemed my company’s application for foreign workers as not being genuine, and I have been trying to get answers for the past two years,” says Richards.
This is after a “thorough review” by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), which approved the company to get foreign workers using the same financial data.
“No one at the visa office will explain this disconnect,” says Richards. “I have filed the same documents three times.”
Richards’ case is among the two million applications trapped in a massive backlog that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is struggling to clear. It is also reflective of an industry with a well-documented labour shortage of about 55,000 drivers by the end of 2023.
A streamlined process
The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) and immigration lawyers are calling for a more streamlined visa process that will reduce red tape to address the worker shortage, which is also impacting the hospitality, healthcare and construction industries.
It comes as Canada announced that it aims to attract about 1.3 million new immigrants over the next three years to help fill critical labour shortages and fuel post-pandemic growth.
“The trucking industry would like to work with the Government of Canada to develop a known employer program for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and other immigration programs,” the CTA said in a statement.
“Under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, CTA would also like to see the application process streamlined when it comes to Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs) and to see a clear path to permanent residency available to new entrants under this program.”
“Labour shortages in the trucking industry warrant priority action by the government of Canada to secure the supply chain and improve Canada’s economic recovery,” added Stephen Laskowski, CTA president.
The BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCFRA), which is facing a shortage of about 40,000 workers, is also calling for new policies to exempt B.C. employers from having to apply for LMIAs for a two-year period.
Under the current system, trucking companies looking to get foreign workers must go through the Labour Market Impact Assessment process. An LMIA is a document issued by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) that most employers need to get before hiring a foreign worker.
A positive LMIA will show that there is a need for a foreign worker to fill the job. Employers must advertise the vacancies to show that no Canadian worker or permanent resident is available to do the job. This LMIA is issued after an exhaustive examination of the employers’ financial records, history in the business, insurance papers, employee records, etc.
In Richards’ case, visa processing officers in India apparently are not satisfied with the work of their colleagues at ESDC and are asking him to provide all the same records to them.
“Why is there a need to duplicate this work…the LMIA application process should be waived or streamlined with IRCC requirements,” the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA) says.
It is recommending that IRCC and ESDC waive national recruitment requirements for all occupations processed under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) where labour shortages are well documented by industry and government data.
“By immediately helping employers address their labour needs over the next two years or more, IRCC and ESDC can reduce government red tape that only serves to delay and frustrate international recruitment,” the association said.
“What we need to fill the labour shortage is to reduce the red tape for employers today…so that they can get labour market impact assessments if they need them for occupations where we know there are critical labour shortages,” CILA steering committee member, Betsy Kane, told New Canadian Media.
“Why is there a need to advertise in Canada when we know there are shortages in these industries,” said Kane, adding IRCC and ESDC should identify “all the occupations where we have documented labour shortages, eliminate the recruitment process to go straight through the LMIA process.”
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told immigration lawyers at a meeting in January that IRCC is exploring the possibility of holding “occupation focused [Express Entry] draws responding to labour needs.”
Introducing an occupation-based approach to Express Entry invitations would provide IRCC with an additional tool in alleviating labour shortages, reported CIC news .
A multiple-award winning journalist, Fabian Dawson is an internationally acclaimed author, filmmaker and media expert. His work over the last four decades spans the globe and he also serves as a consultant/strategic advisor to a variety of international companies. As deputy editor-in-chief of The Province, part of the Postmedia chain, Dawson led initiatives within a special publications group to provide directed content for a variety of organisations. He was named the 2019 recipient of the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award at Jack Webster Awards. Dawson has been invited by the governments of India, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and the United States to act as a media observer/advisor on a variety of Asian-Canada issues. Dawson, now operates FD Media, which specializes in harnessing editorial assets to revenue generating opportunities.