Timing is everything. This is certainly true when it comes to applications made to work or visit Canada. In many cases, companies need employees or specialised talent to begin work immediately; either to work on a specific project, or repair specialised equipment that has or will shut down production in an entire facility.
Initial client calls and emails typically begin with ‘When do you need them to start’? The response most often received is, ‘last week’, or ‘next Monday’. Accommodating tight timelines is not always an option, especially when dealing with an application that is not Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA, a document that demonstrates that there is a need for a foreign worker to fill a position) exempt, or in situations where the foreign applicant requires a visa to enter Canada. Unlike many other countries, Canada does not currently have a system of paying more for faster service, although this may be changing soon for certain applications.
It is important for employers to understand that there are very few options for urgent processing of applications in Canada. Urgent applications are only available in select situations. These include:
- individuals entering Canada to provide urgent, specialised work where Canadians or permanent residents would lose their jobs if the work was not performed immediately;
- individuals who qualify for a Global Talent Stream LMIA;
- individuals working in certain skilled trades;
- individuals working on a short-term project of a maximum of 120 days;
- individuals who will be paid within the top 10% of wage earners in the province or territory where they will work;
- individuals who are LMIA-exempt and working in professional or managerial roles;
- individuals who have a permanent offer of employment in Canada and plan to apply for permanent residence.
For some of these applicants, although their LMIA (the often-required ‘first-step’ of the two-step immigration process) may be processed ‘urgently’ in 10-20 business days, if that person is a citizen of a country required to hold a visa to enter Canada (in addition to their work permit), they must apply for their work permit from the Canadian visa office in their home country or current country of residence. Processing times for visa offices vary greatly: currently four weeks in Russia to 30 weeks in Vietnam, for example. Further, with the new requirement of biometrics for many applicants, plus medical examinations which are required in certain instances, timing can and does surpass the listed processing times. In addition, processing time can change after the application has been submitted, and it is not uncommon for the application to take on the new, longer processing time.
While it is not always possible, it is best for employers to plan ahead as soon as they think they may require assistance from a foreign worker on a certain project or repair. With that information, legal advisors can work with the employer to use any available avenues to facilitate urgent processing so that projects can continue or begin in a timely manner.