Canadian academic calls for end to Temporary Foreign Worker Program

A Canadian academic has called on the federal government to close the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and, instead, to grant more permanent residence visas to international workers.

Professor David Green of the University of British Columbia, says that the TFWP disadvantages foreign workers, who can only work for one named employer. The employer is therefore able to pay them low, exploitative wages. This disadvantages both the foreign worker and Canadian workers who are undercut by low-wage competition from TFWP workers, he says.

Over the last year, there have been several high profile cases of alleged abuse of the TFWP in which Canadian companies are said to have laid off Canadian staff and employed cheaper temporary foreign workers instead. This is an abuse of the system.


Canada's Employment Minister, the former immigration minister Jason Kenney, has promised to crack down on any Canadian employer found to be abusing the program in this way.

A spokeswoman told journalists after the most recent case of suspected abuse that 'if we catch employers lying on their application forms for temporary foreign workers, we will not hesitate to refer the matter to law enforcement agencies for criminal investigation'.

But some academics believe that rather than policing a temporary immigration system that is almost certain to be abused, Canada might consider granting permanent residence to more low-skilled workers. They would then be able to compete for jobs with Canadian nationals.

Exploitative employers

This would make the labour market more responsive, Professor Green says, because immigrants could always take the best job they could find. This would prevent exploitative employers from paying unrealistically low wages to TFWP workers who are only able to work for one, named employer.

This would mean that Canadian and immigrant workers would be offered the same wages and so Canadian workers would not be undercut by TFWP workers.

The TFWP visa scheme started in 1973 but has been much more widely used in recent years. Canadian government figures from 2013 showed that there were more than 300,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada.

Labour Market Opinion

The TFWP allows Canadian employers to employ foreign workers. Employers frequently need to obtain a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) to show that there are no Canadians or permanent residents available to do the job before offering a position to a foreign worker who can then apply for a TFWP work permit and a Canadian visa. The worker is only allowed to work for that employer under the TFWP.

Many permanent residence applications must also be supported by an LMO. However, once you have permanent residence you can work for any employer.

Some might argue that the Professor is wrong to think that more permanent residence visas will mean higher wage rates. They might argue that increased competition between employees will drive overall pay levels down. But Professor Green argues that more permanent residents will mean that there will actually be more competition between employers for available workers which will result in higher wage rates.

Abuse of TFWP

Over the last two years, there have been several high-profile cases where Canadian employers have been accused of employing foreign workers when Canadians were willing and able to do the work.

In December 2012, a Chinese-owned company, HD Mining, was accused of bringing in Chinese miners to work in a mine in British Columbia despite the fact that there were many experienced Canadian miners in the region who applied for jobs.

Canadian mining unions challenged the company's decision to employ Chinese miners in court. The unions said that the Chinese miners were paid CAN$10 an hour less than Canadian miners and received none of the benefits that Canadian staff would have enjoyed.

'Complete vindication'

In the end, the challenge was dismissed on the grounds that the Canadian miners who applied were not skilled in the 'long wall mining' technique used at the HD mine. HD Mining said that the court decision was 'a complete vindication' of its use of the TFWP.

In April 2013, the Royal Bank of Canada was accused of laying off Canadian staff and replacing them with staff brought from India by the Indian outsourcing company iGate.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) alleged that 30 RBC workers had been made redundant and replaced by iGate staff who did the same jobs for lower pay. Before the RBC staff left, they were required to train their replacements. The bank later apologised.

Tightening of TFWP rules

This case led to a tightening of the rules governing the granting of TFWP work permits. It introduced a range of changes in August 2013. The main changes were

  • A processing fee of CAN$275 was introduced for each TFWP application
  • Employers were barred from requiring that TFWP workers should be fluent in any language other than English or French
  • Firms were required to make 'greater efforts' to find Canadian staff before hiring foreign workers
  • Canadian employers were required to state that they would not replace Canadian staff with temporary foreign workers.

The government also said that it would make it easier to revoke the licences of Canadian employers who abused the TFWP system and would make firms try harder to find Canadian workers.

Abuses continued

Nonetheless, alleged abuses have continued to occur. In February 2014, Canadian unions alleged that Canadian workers in an oil sands exploitation project in Alberta were laid off and replaced by TFWP workers from Croatia.

Earlier this month, a McDonald's restaurant in Victoria, British Columbia was accused of employing TFWP workers in breach of the scheme's rules.

A further allegation was reported on 18th April when CBC news reported that two Canadian waitresses at a restaurant in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, one of whom had worked in a restaurant for 28 years, were made redundant and replaced by cheaper foreign workers.

Free market

According to Professor Green, closing the TFWP and issuing permanent residence visas instead would allow the free market to work more efficiently. He said that, if TFWP workers were able to leave to work elsewhere for higher wages, it would prevent their exploitation.

Professor Green said that TFWP workers often have low wages because they cannot switch jobs. A foreign national who comes to Canada under the TFWP applies for a work permit to work for one employer. If he could take any job, he would not accept low wages if he could earn more elsewhere.

Professor Green gave the example of a waiter in a bar in an oil town who might be able to take better paid employment in the oil industry. 'Oil companies working nearby are willing to pay them so much more, so why would they stay?' he asked.

Quite understandable

The professor said that it was quite understandable, if morally dubious, that employers should choose to employ TFWP workers.

He said 'What the businesses are trying to do is completely rational — who wouldn't prefer a docile workforce willing to work long hours for low pay and not legally allowed to work anywhere else? But should the government be facilitating that?'

The views of the Professor are somewhat controversial. Many Countries have temporary workers schemes with a requirement that a minimum salary is paid to prevent competition for jobs from overseas nationals.

Permanent residents free to take any job

These Countries include Canada, the USA and the UK. Once you are a permanent resident then you have the freedom to take any job.

The Government therefore has less control on salary rates for immigrants who are permanent residents.

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UK immigration announces end to Tier 1 General visa extensions

The Home Office, the UK government department that deals with immigration matters, has announced that it will stop accepting applications for Tier 1 (General) visa extensions from 6th April 2015.

The Tier 1 (General) visa stream opened in 2008 as a replacement for the Highly Skilled Migrant Program (HSMP). It was part of the new five-tier points based immigration system introduced by the last Labour government.

The Tier 1 (General) visa allowed 'highly skilled migrants' from around the world to come to the UK to live and work for any employer including working for themselves. The initial visa lasted for two years

Indefinite Leave to Remain

Visa holders are able to renew their visa twice each time extending their visa for three years. In practice most Tier 1 (General) visa holders who wish to remain in the UK on a long term basis only extend their visa once and then apply for indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence) at the end of five years in the UK.

In 2010, a new Coalition government came to power in the UK promising to reduce annual net immigration to below 100,000 a year from the then level of about 250,000 per year. The new Home Secretary Theresa May soon announced that the Tier 1 General visa stream was to be closed.

Mrs May said that the visa had been intended to allow highly skilled workers to come to the UK. But, she told the House of Commons in November 2010 'At least 30% of Tier One migrants work in low-skilled occupations such as stacking shelves, driving taxis or working as security guards and some don't have a job at all. So we will close the Tier One general route'.

10,000 applications annually

Around 10,000 people annually entered the UK with Tier 1 (General) visas until the stream was closed to new applicants. There were, therefore, tens of thousands of Tier 1 General visa holders living in the UK at that time. Existing Tier 1 General Visa holders could continue to apply for Tier 1 General extensions from within the UK.

However, in April this year, the Home Office announced that, as of 6th April 2015, no further Tier 1 (General) extensions will be granted. In addition, as of 6th April 2018, no Tier 1 General visa holders will be able to apply for ILR.

As you will no longer be able to apply for a three year Tier 1 General Extension from 6 April 2015 in practice from 6th April 2018 there will be no one on a Tier 1 General visa anyway.

Applications before 6th April 2015

Tier 1 (General) visa holders whose current visa expires before 6th April 2015 should apply for an extension in the usual way and if possible before this date.

If your current Tier 1 (General) visa expires after April 6th 2015, then you can still apply for an extension but must do so before 6th April 2015. If your original visa was issued before 6th April 2010, then your extension would be for two years. If it was issued after 6th April 2010, then it would be for three years.

Sanwar Ali of said 'This change is not unexpected but it may well prove very distressing for some Tier 1 visa holders. In the vast majority of cases Tier 1 General Visa holders would, if they wished to remain in the UK already have obtained indefinite leave to remain or will have obtained a tier 1 general visa extension before 6 April 2015.

Five year mark

'However, there will be some of you who will find that your next extension will not bring you up to the five year mark. There are several options for you and we at can help.

'Your best option will probably be to transfer to the Tier 2 (General) skilled worker stream. We can help you with this process too and can even help you to find sponsors for your Tier 2 General visa application'.

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London Mayor: UK should grant immigration amnesty


The maverick mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has called on the UK government to grant an immigration amnesty to all illegal immigrants who have been in the country for ten years.

Mr Johnson said 'The alternative is to continue in a situation in which half a million people or maybe 750,000 people in Britain, most of them in London, not registered, with no papers, contributing to the London economy, making money, but not paying tax'.

No one knows how many illegal immigrants there are in the UK though the consensus seems to be that it is somewhere between 750,000 and 1,000,000. A 2012 study by the London School of Economics suggested that there were around 860,000 illegal immigrants in the UK of whom around 600,000 live in London.


Mr Johnson said that the government's attempts to crack down on immigration were 'crazy' and were harming Britain.

Mr Johnson is perhaps the best-known politician in the UK. Polling shows that he is recognised, and liked by many people who do not know the names of any other politician. He has a considerable personal following and won the mayoral election for the Conservative Party in London in 2012 with 44% of the vote at a time when the party had under 30% support nationally, according to polls.

He told Total Politics magazine 'The idea that you can go to 500,000 people, most of whom have friends and neighbours and lives in this city and sort of rip them out, deracinate them, pull them up by their roots, it's not going to happen'.

'A brilliant bloody policy'

Mr Johnson also criticised the government for its efforts to cut legal immigration. He said 'Who split the atom in Cambridge? A guy called Sir Ernest Rutherford. Where did he come from? New Zealand. What have we just done in the last couple of years? We've had a 60% reduction in the number of New Zealanders. A brilliant bloody policy'.

Mr Johnson is virtually the only high profile British politician who is willing to speak out in favour of immigration. His latest utterance is likely to be seen as a challenge to the authority of the current Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron.

The UK's press is convinced that Mr Johnson wants to become Prime Minister. The press sees the two men as bitter rivals and will be interpreted as part of a challenge for leadership of the Conservative Party.

Floreat Etona

Mr Cameron and Mr Johnson both attended the Eton College, one of Britain's top public schools, and then Oxford University. Throughout their time at school, the papers say, it was Mr Johnson who was the star speaker and the one with political ambitions. Mr Cameron, the papers say, was largely unknown.

The papers speculate that Mr Johnson is enraged that Mr Cameron is prime minister and continually interpret Johnson's every utterance as a challenge to Mr Cameron's authority. In this instance, they say that Mr Johnson is speaking out in favour of immigration because Mr Cameron has staked his reputation on reducing it.

Mr Cameron has promised to cut net immigration to the UK to 'tens of thousands a year' by 2015. He made the promise in 2010 when he was leader of the opposition. Under the then Labour government, net immigration (the number of people arriving in the country over one year less the people of people leaving the country permanently over the same period) had climbed to about 250,000 per year.

'Tens of thousands'

Mr Cameron promised to cut it to 'tens of thousands' a year by the next election in 2015 if he won the 2010 election and became prime minister. The Conservatives failed to win an outright majority but were the biggest party after the election.

Mr Cameron became Prime Minister and his government has introduced many changes to the immigration system since then to try to cut the net immigration figure.

His government has

  • Abolished the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa which allowed foreign graduates to work in the UK for two years after graduation
  • Abolished the Tier 1 (General) visa which allowed 'highly skilled people (mainly graduates) to come to the UK and work
  • Introduced a cap of 20,700 on the Tier 2 (General) visa for skilled workers. (The cap is never reached but UK immigration has made it harder to qualify for the visa)
  • Barred over 600 English colleges from sponsoring foreign students for Tier 4 student visas
  • Prevented UK citizens who earn less than £18,600 a year from bringing their foreign born spouses to live with them in the UK

Immigration rising

By September 2013, the government had cut net annual immigration to about 150,000 per annum. However, since then, the figures have been rising. In the year to December, the net immigration figure was around 210,000 and some experts believe that it will rise back towards 250,000 when the next figures are released in May.

This, the Conservatives fear, could lead many traditional Conservatives to vote for the UK Independence Party which advocates that the UK should leave the European Union so that it will be able to prevent EU citizens from coming to the UK to work. At present, EU citizens enjoy the right to travel to live and work in any country in the EU to live and work.

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Demand for H-1B visas up by 40% in 2014, says US immigration

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has revealed that it received 172,000 applications for H-1B visas in the first five working days of April this year, 40% more than over the same period last year. It has since held ballots to allocate the H-1B visa quota. It will now notify all the chosen applicants whose applications can be considered further for an H-1B visa.

Only 85,000 H-1B visas can be issued annually; 65,000 to those with bachelor's degrees or with experience, or a combination of experience and qualifications, which is considered to be 'degree equivalence' and 20,000 to those with higher degrees such as masters degrees and doctorates.

It is specified in US immigration law that USCIS should accept H-1B applications from 1st of April each year for at least five days. Where the quotas have been reached during that five day period, USCIS then holds a ballot, or ballots if both quotas have been exceeded, to distribute the available visas.

Demand up by 40% on last year

This year, the quotas were greatly exceeded and two ballots have been held. Applications of unlucky applicants have been discarded. Demand was up on last year, 2013, by 40%. Last year, USCIS received 124,000 applications over the same period.

Sanwar Ali of said 'As the US economy recovers, we can expect demand for H-1B visas to increase yet further.

If you are a US employer wanting to employ a foreign worker with an H-1B visa, you must be ready to apply in advance of the 1st April opening date so that you can submit your petition as close to the 1st April opening date as possible'.

Five firms took 33% of H1B visas

Analysis of last year's applications carried out by Professor Ron Hira of the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York shows that five outsourcing firms received about one third of all H-1Bs issued and ten outsourcing companies received over half of all H-1Bs.

The top five firms, Cognizant, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, Infosys and Accenture received about 35,000 of the 85,000 visas available leading to claims that the system is no longer working as it should.

The International Business Times reports Neeraj Gupta of the US tech firm Systems in Motion as saying 'What the visa was intended to do was to allow us to get great engineers from India, the Philippines, the Ukraine, or wherever, for our innovation economy.

Outsourcing firms

Instead these large outsourcing firms are bringing in lower paid testers and programmers are taking up so many of the visas'.

A spokesman for Cognizant said 'We create and support thousands of American jobs, including 7,000 U.S. workers hired locally over the past two years and a commitment to hire at least 10,000 more locally over the next three years'.

If you would like to apply for a visa can help. is a specialist visa consultancy with 25 years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Please feel free to contact us for further details.