XXHiring Foreign Workers for the 2010 Winter Olympics

Given the magnitude of the upcoming 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, many companies are facing the need to hire temporary foreign workers to meet their labour needs.

There are a significant number of immigration and employment issues associated with hiring foreign workers to which employers must turn their minds.

Pursuant to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”), foreign nationals (non-Canadian citizens and permanent residents) can only work in Canada if they are authorized to do so, even if they do not otherwise need a visa to enter Canada. While there are a number of avenues available to obtain authorization for a foreign national to temporarily work in Canada, many employers are looking for expedited methods of bringing in foreign workers given the closeness of the upcoming Olympics. To facilitate this need, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and Service Canada (“HRSDC/SC”) has issued guidelines for faster processing of certain foreign worker applications if they fall into one of the following categories:

1. Primary Workforce – for employers needing to recruit foreign workers to service their labour needs for contracts awarded to them by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (“VANOC”) because a sufficient number of Canadians and permanent residents are unavailable; and
2. Secondary Workforce – for employers needing additional workers for the Winter Olympics because a sufficient number of Canadians and permanent residents are unavailable to meet their labour needs.

Primary Workforce Opinion Process

Companies who have been awarded contracts by VANOC to provide goods and services for the Vancouver Winter Games (master contractors) and subcontractors hired under these contractors are eligible to apply for a “Primary Workforce Opinion” to facilitate the expedited entry of temporary foreign nationals into Canada.

The Primary Workforce Opinion process is available only for certain occupations and provided that the companies wishing to hire the foreign nationals to fill the role meet specified standards with respect to items such as: wages payable to the foreign workers; transportation costs (including airfare) associated with the foreign worker’s travel to/from Canada; accommodations for the foreign workers; disclosure of information to certain government agencies to address security concerns; and other issues related their employment.

There is a long list of occupations for which employers may be eligible to apply for this expedited process if they need to fill their workforce need by hiring foreign workers. The occupations fall into the following sectors:

* Management Occupations
* Business, Finance and Administration Occupations
* Natural and Applied Sciences and Related Occupations
* Health Occupations
* Occupations in Art, Culture, Recreation and Sport
* Sales and Service Occupations
* Trades, Transport and Equipment Operators and Related Occupations
* Occupations Unique to Processing, Manufacturing and Utilities

Companies wishing to qualify under this expedited process must:

1. Attend an information session provided by HRSDC/SC;
2. Submit an application for a “Primary Workforce Approval in Principle”;
3. Attest that they will adhere to the Primary Workforce Opinion criteria based on IRPA Regulations;
4. Provide specific required information about the foreign workers they wish to hire; and
5. Pay the applicable work permit fees.

Once all of the above steps have been followed, foreign nationals may proceed to apply for their work permits. Those who are coming from visa-exempt countries may apply for their permits at the port of entry. There are specific supporting documents that need to be submitted as part of the application and deadlines that need to be met. Therefore, proper advice should be sought in terms of the steps to be followed by the employers, the documentation to submit and the timeline for submission of the various application forms and supporting materials.

Secondary Workforce Opinion Process

BC employers, other than those who have been granted VANOC contracts, wishing to hire temporary foreign workers to meet their labour needs for the upcoming Winter Games because they are unable to meet those needs by hiring Canadians and permanent residents may apply for a “Secondary Workforce Opinion Pre-Approval” for specific occupations.

Upon submission of the applicable application forms and supporting materials, HRSDC/SC will issue the employer a pre-approval confirmation letter. Upon receipt of the same, the employer must undertake recruitment efforts to hire Canadians and permanent residents to fill the roles. At a minimum, these recruitment efforts of the employer must comprise of posting the positions they wish to fill on the national job bank for at least 14 calendar days, ending at least one month before the work is scheduled to start. In addition, HRSDC/SC may require alternative/additional recruitment efforts on a case-by-case basis.

Next, the employer must submit to HRSDC/SC, the required information about their recruitment efforts and information on the foreign workers they wish to hire if they can’t find Canadians or permanent residents to fill the role. If satisfied with the recruitment efforts, the employer’s intended compliance with working conditions and standards and the labour market conditions necessitating the hiring of foreign workers, HRSDC/SC will issue a Secondary Workforce Opinion letter, a copy of which must be provided by the foreign worker to Citizenship and Immigration Canada for a work permit.

Much like the Primary Workforce Opinion process, the Secondary Workforce Opinion process also involves a series of steps and submissions that must be taken and made in a timely fashion. Employers should seek proper advice in connection with the hiring of foreign workers to fill their 2010 Winter Olympic labour needs to ensure a smooth processing of their applications.

Timeline and Additional Guidelines

The operative period for work permits, in order to allow for early arrivals to set-up for the Games and then to accommodate post-Games take-down operations, is December 12, 2009 to April 21, 2010. In addition to the above-described categories, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has issued special Work Permit Policies for selected media representatives and reporters, VANOC Secondments, athletes, team officials, National Olympic/Paralympic Committee members, International Sports Federation members and others who have been designated by the International Olympic/Paralympic Committees.

How Can We Help?

If you or an employer you know is facing the need to hire temporary foreign workers for the upcoming Winter Olympics, we can assist with any of the following:

* Identifying and advising on whether the employer qualifies for the expedited work permit processes described above;
* Assisting in the preparation of applicable application forms and submissions in a timely fashion;
* Advising on steps to be taken by employers in connection with recruitment efforts targeted at Canadians and permanent residents before foreign nationals can be hired;
* Assisting in the preparation and submission of work permit applications once a Primary Workforce Opinion or Secondary Workforce Opinion, as applicable, is issued;
* Advising on alternative methods to hire foreign workers to meet the employer’s labour needs; and
* Assessing, recommending and advising on possibilities to extend and/or renew applications for foreign workers who have been granted work permits.