Temporary Foreign Workers gaining permanent residence in Canada at all time high
A recent report from Statistics Canada shows that a growing number of immigrants who come to Canada as temporary foreign workers are staying longer and obtaining permanent residence.
The report, titled “How Temporary Were Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers?” aimed to investigate how long foreign workers stay in the host country and what influences their decision to do so. Using a national longitudinal administrative dataset of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in Canada, the study looked at data for four groups of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) aged 18 to 64 who received a work permit between 1990 and 2009. In total, the group represented more than 1.3 million work permit holders.
The study highlighted that TFW’s have been “playing a growing role in Canada’s labour force and immigration system” and that the length and stay of TFW’s in Canada has “strong implications for the country’s immigration and labour policies”. While the study’s findings suggest that the majority of of TFWs left within two years of obtaining their first work permit, it also highlighted that “the tendency to stay longer has increased among more recent arrivals.” The overwhelming majority of those who stayed over the long term obtained permanent resident status.
Host-country policies and regulations were found to be critical to the length and type of stay of TFWs, with the study noting that the lengthening stays among new arrivals beginning in the late 1990s was “consistent with Canada’s increased reliance on TFWs and the expanded pathways to permanent residence.”
The study noted that these pathways tend to be more numerous for high-skilled temporary workers. The study says this reflects the fact “Canada’s immigration selection system rewards candidates for human capital assets such as education, Canadian work experience and official language abilities.” To this end, certain work experience gained as a TFW in Canada can be counted toward a candidate’s eligibility under the Canadian Experience Class as well as towards their federal Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System score. Such work experience is also favoured by a number of Provincial Nominee Programs, which allow Canada’s provinces and territories to nominate a set quota of immigrants each year.
The study notes that the primary pathways to permanent residence for low-skilled workers are through provincial or territorial nomination programs, or PNPs, that respond to local labour needs.
Country of origin also plays a key role in determining how long TFWs stay in Canada, with those originating from countries with “lower levels of economic development and social stability” staying longer in Canada as temporary residents or becoming permanent residents than those from more prosperous, stable countries. Social stability also played a role in length of stay, with 37.9 per cent of TFWs from countries with low social stability gaining permanent resident status by their fifth year.
Individual characteristics, and regional socio-economic conditions were found to have a “relatively weak” association with length of stay. That said, TFWs who arrived “at the prime working age (25 to 44)” had a higher tendency to stay as temporary or permanent residents than those on the younger or older end of the age spectrum.
The study concluded that the duration of stays still remains strictly regulated, despite what they suggest as “a common misconception that host countries often do not have sufficient control over how long TFWs reside in the country”. It argues that “The duration and type of stay of TFWs in Canada are strongly restricted by the regulations governing their work permit terms.” Canada has historically relied on a steady inflow of permanent immigrants to meet demographic and labour market needs. Until recently, the use of TFWs has been small in scale and limited to particular industrial sectors and geographic regions. They conclude that “It remains to be seen whether the pattern will change as TFW’s gain importance in the overall labour migration to Canada”.