Farm Worker Visas in Canada: Process and Requirements

Canada’s immigration policies aim to facilitate the entry of skilled farm workers to meet the country’s agricultural demands. The Farm Worker Visa programs are an integral part of this policy, making Canada a major destination for farm workers worldwide. This article will guide you through the process and requirements of hiring foreign workers through the farm worker visa programs if you’re considering doing so. Our legal team is always available to assist you in meeting your business needs. Schedule a consultation to learn about securing work visas for your foreign agricultural workers.

What is the Farm Worker Visa in Canada

The farm worker visa in Canada is a specialized type of work permit that is specifically designed to facilitate foreign nationals who are interested in working on Canadian farms. This visa allows individuals to work on Canadian farms for a specified period, enabling them to gain valuable experience in the Canadian agricultural sector.

One of the key benefits of this visa is that it can potentially lead to permanent residency in Canada. This is because the Canadian government recognizes the importance of the agricultural sector and has created programs to encourage foreign workers to make a long-term commitment to the country. As such, individuals who work in the agricultural sector and demonstrate their commitment to Canada may be eligible to apply for permanent residency through various immigration programs.

Farm Worker Visas in Canada Graphic 1

In Canada, there are 2 major immigration programs which Canadian agricultural employers can use to bring foreign workers into their farming operations: Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) and Agricultural Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP)

The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program is a dedicated pathway enabling employers to hire foreign workers from certain participating countries for seasonal agricultural jobs. The workers must have a confirmed job offer for a position that is strictly seasonal.

The process starts with the employer applying for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to ensure no Canadian worker is available to fill the position. Once a positive LMIA is received, a formal job offer is made to the worker. Then, the worker can apply for a work permit, ensuring all immigration and visa regulations are met and the employment contract conditions are consistent with Canadian standards.

  • The worker must be from a country that participates in the SAWP (Mexico, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago
  • Have a job offer for agricultural work that is seasonal.
  • Workers must comply with immigration and visa regulations.
  • Workers and employers must meet the conditions outlined in the employment contract.
  1. An employer submits a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
  2. After receiving a positive LMIA, the employer extends a job offer.
  3. The worker applies for a work permit.
Under the SAWP, foreign workers may be asked to work on multiple farms in Canada. However, a foreign worker does not need a new work permit for each employer. It’s essential to note that a foreign worker cannot be asked to work for a different employer without his/her consent. The work permit will be employer-specific for other agricultural workers (outside the SAWP), meaning you can only work for the employer named on your work permit. If you plan to work for other employers not listed on your work permit, you must apply for a new one.
The processing time for the SAWP begins when a foreign worker submits a complete application to Canadian authorities. As of October 2023, the processing time for the SAWP is around 86 days. 

Farm Worker Visas in Canada Graphic 2

Agricultural Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)

The Agricultural Steam allows employers to hire foreign workers for non-seasonal agricultural jobs and is open to individuals from all countries. The primary step involves the employer securing a positive LMIA, confirming the unavailability of Canadian workers for the proposed job.

After receiving the LMIA, a job offer is extended to the prospective foreign worker, who can apply for a work permit. Both workers and employers must meet stringent requirements, emphasizing workers’ rights, safety, and general work permit conditions. This program ensures that foreign workers have a clear pathway to participate in Canada’s agricultural sector legally.

  • Open to workers from any country.
  • The job offered must be in an eligible agricultural sector.
  • Workers need to meet general work permit requirements.
  • Employers must comply with program-specific requirements, ensuring workers’ rights and safety.
To qualify for the Agricultural Stream, Canadian employers must satisfy two primary criteria:
  1. Production in Specific Commodity Sectors: The production must fall within designated commodity sectors. It includes a range of products such as apiary products, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, flowers, nursery-grown trees (including Christmas trees), grains, oil seeds, maple syrup, sod, tobacco, and various livestock, including bovine, dairy, duck, horse, mink, poultry, sheep, and swine.
  2. On-Farm Primary Agriculture Activities: The activities related to the job offer must be directly associated with on-farm primary agriculture. This ensures that the roles are genuinely agricultural and are performed within the boundaries of a farm, nursery, or greenhouse.
  1. Employers need to obtain a positive LMIA.
  2. Employers offer a job to the foreign worker.
  3. The foreign worker applies for a work permit.
  • Employers can request an employment duration of up to 2 years when submitting an Agricultural Stream LMIA application.
  • As of April 4, 2022, employers can request an employment duration of up to 3 years for high-wage positions. This duration must align with the employer’s reasonable employment needs.
  • For low-wage positions, the employment duration granted will be up to 2 years, based on the employer’s reasonable employment needs.

High-Wage LMIA vs Low-Wage LMIA for Hiring Agricultural Workers in Canada

An essential part of SAWP or Agricultural Steam is applying for a High-Wage LMIA or Low-Wage LMIA. Below, we will explain the requirements and process for each one.

High-Wage LMIA is tailored towards occupations where the wage is at or above the provincial/territorial median hourly wage. In the agricultural sector, employers seeking to hire foreign workers at high wages must adhere to specific guidelines to ensure a seamless hiring process.
Eligibility and Requirements
  • Employers must offer a wage that is at or above the provincial or territorial median hourly wage where the job is located.
  • Jobs offered should be full-time and non-seasonal. So, technically, the SAWP foreign workers are not hired for high-wage jobs.
Application Process
  1. The employer must submit a detailed LMIA application justifying the need for a foreign worker.
  2. Employers must conduct recruitment efforts to hire Canadians and permanent residents before offering jobs to foreign workers.
Compliance and Worker Rights
  • Employers are required to provide a workplace free of abuse, following federal and provincial labour laws.
  • High-wage workers may be subject to specific requirements regarding accommodation and transportation.

Low-Wage LMIA caters to occupations where the offered wage is below the provincial/territorial median hourly wage. For agricultural roles, this involves ensuring the welfare and rights of low-wage foreign workers.
Eligibility and Requirements
  • Wages offered must be below the provincial or territorial median hourly wage.
  • Employers must provide evidence that no Canadian or permanent resident is available to fill the position.
Application Process
  1. A comprehensive LMIA application must be submitted, elucidating the necessity of hiring a foreign worker.
  2. A transition plan might be necessary, outlining the employer’s strategy to reduce reliance on foreign workers over time.
Compliance and Worker Rights
  • Employers must meet specific requirements regarding housing, transportation, and worker protection.
  • Regular inspections and reviews may be conducted to ensure adherence to program integrity and worker safety.

Farm Worker Visas in Canada Graphic 3

The Process of Applying for a Farm Worker Visa in Canada

The process of acquiring a farm worker visa in Canada involves several stages. Here’s a detailed overview to guide you through each step effectively:

Step 1: Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)

The journey begins with the Canadian employer obtaining a positive LMIA from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). This crucial step ensures a genuine requirement for a foreign worker, confirming that no Canadian worker can take the job. The LMIA process is rigorous, safeguarding the interests of the Canadian labour market and ensuring that the employment of a foreign worker is essential.

Step 2: Application Submission

With a positive LMIA, the pathway for the foreign worker to apply for a work permit is cleared. The application process involves the meticulous submission of various necessary documents. Among these, the positive LMIA is an essential requirement, serving as a substantial foundation for the application. Additionally, the documents submitted to the IRCC must be complete and accurately reflect the applicant’s eligibility.

Step 3: Medical Examination

Certain applicants, depending on their circumstances and the requirements stipulated by IRCC, may need to undergo a medical examination. This step is imperative to ensure that the applicant does not pose a medical risk to Canadians and is fit to work in the agricultural sector, which often involves physically demanding tasks.

Step 4: Visa Approval

Following the submission and review of all necessary documents and completion of required procedures, such as the medical examination, the application moves toward approval. IRCC conducts a comprehensive review to ensure that all prerequisites are met. If the application aligns with all the requirements and successfully navigates through the evaluation process, the farm worker visa is issued.

General Requirements for the Farm Worker Visa

To be eligible for a Farm Worker Visa in Canada, you must meet these general requirements. These include:

  • A valid job offer from a Canadian employer with a positive LMIA.
  • Proof of relevant experience in farming or agricultural activities.
  • No criminal record (a police certificate might be required).
  • Medical examination (if applicable).
  • Proof of intent to leave Canada upon visa/permit expiration.

Special Considerations for Quebec

Employers hiring temporary foreign workers under the Agricultural Stream in Quebec must refer to the guidelines provided by the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion. Quebec has specific variations to the requirements and processes employers must adhere to.

Farm Worker Visas in Canada Graphic 1

When hiring temporary foreign workers in the agricultural sector in Quebec, it’s essential to consider certain special provisions and variations in the process. Here are examples illustrating some unique considerations for Quebec:

1. Joint Approval Process – In Quebec, employers must go through a joint approval process involving both federal and provincial authorities. This means that apart from ESDC’s LMIA, approval must also be sought from the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion (MIDI).

2. Language Requirements – Although not always mandatory, having proficiency in French might be highly encouraged or preferred, given that French is the official language of Quebec. Employers might look for workers who can communicate effectively in French.

3. Cultural Integration – Workers might be expected to have a basic understanding or willingness to integrate into Quebec’s unique cultural and societal norms, which are somewhat distinct from the rest of Canada.

4. Provincial Regulations and Support – Quebec has specific regulations and support mechanisms for temporary foreign workers. For instance, there might be provincially-run information sessions or guidance programs aimed at helping agricultural workers navigate their stay and employment in Quebec.

5. Special Agreements – Employers may find that Quebec has special agreements or variations in terms of wages, working conditions, and housing provisions for agricultural workers. It’s essential to be well-versed and compliant with these specific rules and agreements.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Below, you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about farm worker visas in Canada:

How can an employer sponsor a farm worker in Canada?

Sponsoring a farm worker in Canada involves a structured process where the employer plays a crucial role. Here’s a simplified guide:

  1. Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA): Begin by applying for an LMIA from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). This assessment verifies a genuine need for a foreign farm worker and that no Canadian worker is available for the position.
  2. Job Offer: Once you obtain a positive LMIA, you can extend a formal job offer to the foreign worker. The job offer should be detailed, outlining roles, responsibilities, and compensation.
  3. Work Permit Application Support: Assist the foreign worker in applying for a work permit. Provide them with the necessary documents, including the positive LMIA and the detailed job offer.
  4. Collaboration and Communication: Maintain open lines of communication with prospective farm workers, ensuring that they have all the necessary information and support required to navigate the visa application process effectively.
  5. Preparation for Arrival: Prepare for the worker’s arrival by ensuring that suitable accommodations are available and that you comply with health and safety regulations.

Can I get a Permanent Residency (PR) in Canada as a farm worker?

Yes, it is possible to obtain a Permanent Residency (PR) in Canada as a farm worker. One pathway is through the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot, which targets non-seasonal agricultural workers who have eligible job offers in specific industries and occupations. Additionally, provincial nominee programs (PNPs) may offer routes to PR for farm workers based on regional labour market needs. Ensure you meet all the criteria, such as work experience, language proficiency, and other eligibility requirements, to enhance your chances of success in obtaining PR.

How can I get a farm work visa in Canada?

Obtaining a farm work visa involves several steps:

  1. Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA): Your Canadian employer must receive a positive LMIA from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).
  2. Work Permit Application: After the LMIA approval, you can apply for a work permit from the IRCC, submitting the necessary documents, including the positive LMIA.
  3. Medical Examination: Some applicants might be required to undergo medical exams, depending on their circumstances.
  4. Visa Approval: Upon a successful review of your application and fulfilment of all requirements, IRCC will issue your farm worker visa.

How long can a farm worker stay in Canada?

The duration a farm worker can stay in Canada typically depends on the validity of their work permit, which is often aligned with the terms of the employment contract. Generally, a work permit for agricultural workers might be issued for up to 24 months. Extensions could be possible, but they are subject to eligibility, employer needs, and approval from authorities.

Do farm workers need IELTS in Canada?

Language requirements such as IELTS scores depend on the specific immigration or visa program through which a farm worker is applying. For temporary foreign worker programs, language proficiency tests like IELTS might not always be necessary. However, if a farm worker aims for permanent residency through pathways like the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot or certain Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs), meeting language proficiency requirements, possibly through tests like IELTS, might be essential.

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