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What is a Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW)?

Many Canadian employers hire temporary foreign workers as a solution to labour and skill shortages. In this blog post, I will provide a basic overview of what a temporary foreign worker is and the different types of temporary residents. 


Temporary foreign workers, frequently referred to as “TFWs”, are a type of temporary resident. Temporary residents are migrants who have been permitted to enter Canada for a limited and set period of time.  


Types of temporary residents: 

  • Visitors 

  • Students 

  • Workers 


The length of time that a temporary resident can legally stay in Canada depends on what kind of temporary resident they are, and the specifics of their paperwork.  


Temporary residents require a temporary resident visa (TRV) or, if they are arriving in Canada by air and are coming from a visa-exempt country, an electronic travel authorization (eTA).  


While a TRV or eTA is required for any temporary resident to enter Canada, a temporary foreign worker also needs a valid work permit. It is illegal for a foreign national to work in Canada without a work permit, with a few specific exceptions.  


Temporary foreign workers are also a type of economic migrant, coming to Canada for economic reasons: to earn money, to improve their economic status and prospects, or to relocate somewhere with more opportunities for them and their families. Often, however, Canada represents safety in addition to financial stability. TFWs and Canadian employers have a mutually beneficial relationship; people worldwide need paying jobs, and we have vacancies that need to be filled.  


While there are some shared elements in the process of becoming or hiring a temporary foreign worker, it is a many-layered and complicated process that can look very different depending on the context and the people involved. Canada has dozens of streams and categories for temporary residents and economic migrants, each program with its unique features and requirements. 


TFWs are individuals. They have diverse backgrounds, skills and experiences; come to work, study or visit; they can include labourers and professionals. As individuals, there are countless different motivations, reasons and goals for why someone may come to Canada as a temporary foreign worker.  


Some people move to Canada as temporary workers as a first step to becoming permanent residents, then Canadian citizens. Others may plan to bring their families and loved ones to Canada once they’re settled. There are also temporary workers who only intend to work in Canada for short periods to earn and save money before returning to their home country, with no intention of staying in Canada permanently or long-term. 


There are several ways that a foreign national can get a work permit as a temporary foreign worker, such as using a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) through Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), or they can get an LMIA-exempt work permit if they are eligible for permanent residency (PR).    


If you think your business may benefit from hiring temporary foreign workers but don’t know where to start, please see the immigration programs section of our website for more information, or reach out to book a free consultation! 

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