Hiring Seasonal Agricultural Workers

The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) allows employers to hire temporary foreign workers (TFW) when Canadian citizens and permanent residents are not available.

Description

These employers can hire TFWs from participating countries for a maximum duration of 8 months, between January 1 and December 15, provided they are able to offer the workers a minimum of 240 hours of work within a period of 6 weeks or less.

To qualify for the SAWP, employers must meet 3 criteria:

  1. the TFWs hired must be citizens from Mexico or participating Caribbean countries
  2. production must be in specific commodity sectors
  3. the TFWs must work on the farm in primary agriculture

Countries

The SAWP applies only to TFWs who are citizens from:

  • Mexico
  • Caribbean countries of:
    • Anguilla
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Barbados
    • Dominica
    • Grenada
    • Jamaica
    • Montserrat
    • St. Kitts-Nevis
    • St. Lucia
    • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
    • Trinidad and Tobago

Role of Participating Foreign Governments

The SAWP operates according to bilateral agreements between Canada and the participating countries. The agreements outline the role of these foreign governments, which is to:

  • recruit and select the TFWs;
  • make sure workers have the necessary documents;
  • maintain a pool of qualified workers; and
  • appoint representatives to assist workers in Canada.

These governments also ensure that the men and women selected to work temporarily in Canada meet all the requirements of the SAWP. These requirements include being:

  • experienced in farming;
  • at least 18 years of age;
  • a citizen of one of the participating countries; and
  • able to satisfy the:
    • Canadian immigration laws; and
    • laws of the worker’s home country.

National Commodity List

  • apiary products
  • fruits, vegetables, flowers, Christmas trees (including on-farm canning/processing, greenhouses/nurseries)
  • sod
  • tobacco
  • bovine
  • dairy
  • duck
  • horse
  • mink
  • poultry
  • sheep
  • swine

Primary Agriculture

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulation, section 315.2, primary agriculture is defined as work that is performed within the boundaries of a farm, nursery or greenhouse and involves:

  • the operation of agricultural machinery;
  • the boarding, care, breeding, sanitation or other handling of animals, other than fish, for the purpose of obtaining animal products for market, or activities relating to the collection, handling and assessment of those products; or
  • the planting, care, harvesting or preparation of crops, trees, sod or other plants for market.

Excluded activities include:

  • the activities of agronomists or agricultural economists;
  • landscape architecture;
  • the preparation of vegetable fibres for textile use;
  • activities related to commercial hunting and trapping; or
  • veterinary activities.

Requirements

Transportation

Employers must always arrange and pay for the round-trip transportation (e.g. plane, train, boat, car, bus) of the temporary foreign worker (TFW) to the location of work in Canada, and back to the TFW's country of residence. A portion of these costs can be recovered through payroll deductions in all provinces, except in British Columbia. The maximum amount that can be deducted is specified in the employment contract entitled Agreement for the employment in Canada for SAWP.

Employers must keep records of all transportation costs (e.g. invoices, receipts, copies of flight itineraries, tickets, boarding passes) they paid, for a minimum of 6 years, as stipulated in provincial/territorial and federal legislation, such as the Income Tax Act.


Housing

Employers must provide TFWs with free suitable housing (except in British Columbia where a portion of these costs can be recovered through payroll deductions) either on-farm (e.g. bunkhouse) or off-site (e.g. commercial establishment). A copy of the signed contract between the employer and the facility is required for off-site housing (except in cases where the employer is the owner of the dwelling).

Housing Inspection

Employers must provide proof that the on-farm or off-site housing has been inspected by the appropriate provincial/territorial/municipal body or by an authorized private inspector with appropriate certifications from the relevant level of government. As proof, employers can submit a copy of the housing inspection report from the previous year, with an expected date for the current year.

Employers are responsible for any costs that may be associated to having the housing inspected. Under no circumstances can employers recover these costs from the TFW.


Health and Workplace Safety

Health insurance

Employers must ensure that all TFWs are registered for provincial/territorial health insurance as soon as they become eligible. The waiting period to be eligible for the provincial/territorial health insurance is available on the Ministry of Health Web sites for each province/territory.

Note:

Employers hiring TFWs from:

  • Mexico must submit payments to Great West Life Assurance Company. Employers can recover these costs through payroll deductions.
  • participating Caribbean countries must submit payments of 25% of the TFWs' wages to the foreign government for: medical insurance, administration fees and personal savings. Employers can recover these costs through payroll deductions.

The liaison officer for the foreign government will provide instructions and assistance to employers regarding these deductions.

Workplace safety

Employers must arrange and pay for workplace safety insurance coverage from either:

  • the provincial/territorial workplace safety insurance provider (e.g. Workers Compensation Board, or equivalent); or
  • a private insurance provider

The private insurance coverage must be similar to that provided under the provincial/territorial workplace safety insurance plan. The coverage obtained by the employer must correspond to the TFW's arrival date in Canada.

Employers may be asked to provide proof of insurance coverage (e.g. a provincial/territorial workers' compensation clearance letter or a copy of the private insurance policy).

Note:

Under no circumstances, can an employer recover the workplace safety insurance costs from the TFW.

Pesticides

Employers using pesticides must follow provincial/territorial rules. They must notify workers of pesticide and chemical use and provide workers with:

  • free protective equipment;
  • appropriate formal and informal training; and
  • supervision where required by law.

Employment Contract

Employers must complete and sign the employment contract entitled Agreement for the employment in Canada for SAWP and send it with the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) application to Service Canada. The employment contract also requires the signature of the liaison officer for the foreign government and the TFW identified on the LMIA application. In situations where the names of the TFWs have not been identified prior to their arrival in Canada, employers must ensure a copy of the employment contract is provided to them (in French or English and Spanish) for signature on the first day of employment.

The purpose of the employment contract is to specify each party's rights and obligations, as well as to ensure that all parties understand and agree to the working conditions and their respective responsibilities. In the event that differences arise between the employer and the TFW, the contract will guide the resolution of disputes. In cases of demonstrable breaches of the employment contract, and where no resolution, including possible compensation, has been made, the TFW, the liaison officer or the employer can contact the Ministry of Labour in the province/territory where the work is being performed.


Work Permit Fees

Employers must pay the fees for the TFW's work permit ($155), required by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). However, employers hiring TFWs from:

  • Mexico can recover these fees through payroll deductions as outlined in the employment contract entitled Agreement for the employment in Canada for SAWP;
  • participating Caribbean countries will be reimbursed by the foreign government 30 days after the TFW's date of arrival in Canada, provided the employer submits copies of payroll stubs to the liaison officer for the foreign government.

Transfer of seasonal agricultural workers

Employers can transfer a worker from one farm to another, provided the employer has:

  • the worker's consent;
  • prior written approval from the foreign government representative in Canada; and
  • prior written approval from ESDC/Service Canada.

For workers from:

  • Mexico – this provision is included in the Mexican contract; and
  • Caribbean – the employer and TFW must sign a transfer contract.

Note:

There are no work permit fees when transferring TFWs between employers, as the fees have already been paid prior to the workers' arrival in Canada.

Illegal transfer of workers

Employers cannot informally transfer TFWs from one employer to another or share them between employers. Transferring or sharing TFWs informally contravenes sections 124(1)(c) and 125 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and imprisonment.


Third-party Representatives

Employers do not need to use the services of a third-party representative to apply for a TFW. However, employers who choose to use the services of one of these individuals or organizations must pay for all of the fees associated with the service and meet all of the requirements.

Representatives assist employers by providing services including, such as:

  • explaining and providing advice on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP);
  • completing and submitting the application form and all required documents;
  • communicating with ESDC/Service Canada on the employer's behalf; and
  • representing the employer during the application process.

Employers who wish to use the services of a representative, paid or unpaid, must complete and submit Schedule A - Appointment of a Third-party Representative. Employers must identify their representative and not simply the firm/organization employing this person.

Paid representatives

Individuals representing or assisting employers in exchange for compensation (e.g. money, goods or services) must be authorized under section 91 of the IRPA, which means they have to be a member in good standing with:

  • a Canadian provincial/territorial law society, or a student-at-law under its supervision;
  • the Chambre des notaires du Québec;
  • the Province of Ontario's law society as a paralegal; or
  • the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC).

Employers should visit CIC to verify that a specific representative is authorized to represent them or to provide immigration advice.

Unpaid representatives

Individuals representing employers for free (e.g. do not collect fees or other forms of compensation) are not subject to any restrictions under the IRPA. These individuals are usually family members, non-profit or religious organizations that assist employers who may not be able to complete the application process on their own.

If a paid representative is not authorized under the IRPA, ESDC/Service Canada will continue to process the application, but will communicate with the employer directly. However, a copy of a signed letter stating that the employer is no longer using the services of the original representative will be required before the employer can:

  • hire another paid authorized representative; or
  • work with an unpaid representative.

Employers who wish to appoint another representative must also submit a new Schedule A - Appointment of a Third-party Representative.

Note:

ESDC/Service Canada:

  • reserves the right to contact employers directly when further information or documentation is required.
  • will not mediate a dispute between an employer and a third-party representative nor communicate complaints to a regulatory body on an employer's behalf. Employers who wish to file a formal complaint against their representative should contact the appropriate regulatory body (e.g. the provincial law society, the Chambre des notaires du Québec or the ICCR. For additional information on how to file a complaint, visit CIC.

Wages, Working Conditions and Occupations

Employers must provide TFW with the same wages and benefits as those provided to their Canadian citizen and permanent resident employees working in the same occupation. In addition, TFWs working in a unionized environment must be paid the wage rate as established under the collective bargaining agreement.

Employers must also agree to review and adjust the wage of the TFW to ensure it meets or exceeds, at all times, the requirements as outlined in the following wage tables for the harvesting and the production of:

Note:

Employers hiring TFWs in the province of Quebec must consult the wage table provided by the ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l'Inclusion.

Recruitment and Advertisement

Employers are required to conduct recruitment efforts to hire Canadian citizens and permanent residents, before offering a job to TFWs.

Recruitment

Recruitment is the process of finding and selecting qualified employees. All employers are encouraged to conduct ongoing recruitment efforts, including advertising the job or contacting the underrepresented groups that face barriers to employment.

Employers do not need to use the services of a third-party representative in order to hire a TFW; however if they choose to do so, they must pay for all the fees associated with this service. Employers cannot deduct or recover these fees from the wage of the worker.

In addition, under the SAWP, the recruitment of TFWs is the responsibility of the government of the participating countries. As a result, employers cannot use the services of a private recruiter to select workers.


Advertisement

A job posting is an announcement of a vacancy in a public medium such as newspapers, job posting Internet site, bulletin boards, etc. It provides a broad exposure of the vacancy to Canadian citizens and permanent residents in Canada who would be potential candidates for the position.

To meet the minimum advertising requirements, employers must advertise on the national Job Bank or its provincial/territorial counterpart in British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Northwest Territories, Quebec or Saskatchewan. The advertisement must be posted:

  • for a minimum of 14 calendar days starting from the first day the ad appears and is accessible to the general public;
  • during the 3 month period prior to the employer applying for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA);

Employers must also conduct recruitment activities consistent with the normal practice for the occupation for a minimum of 14 calendar days. To meet this requirement, employers must choose one or more of the following methods to advertise:

  • on recognized Internet employment sites such as Monster, Workopolis;
  • in local and regional newspapers, newsletters;
  • in ethnic newspapers and Internet sites;
  • in local stores, places of worship, community resource centres; or
  • in local and regional employment centres.

The advertisement must include the:

  • Company operating name;
  • Business address;
  • Title of position;
  • Job duties (for each position, if advertising more than one vacancy);
  • Terms of employment;
  • Wage (refer to Wages, Working Conditions and Occupations tab to determine the established rate for the specific commodity);
  • Benefits package being offered (if applicable);
  • Location of work (local area, city or town);
  • Contact information: telephone number, cell phone number, email address, fax number, or mailing address; and 
  • Skills requirements:
    • Education
    • Work experience

Additional Advertisement Efforts

Employers may be required to conduct alternative or additional advertisement efforts such as, increased duration (length of time) or broader advertisement (whether local, regional or national). These additional efforts would be required if Employement and Skills Development Canada (ESDC)/Service Canada determines that it would likely yield qualified Canadian citizens and permanent residents who are available to work in the occupation and region.


Note:

Advertisement criteria vary slightly in the province of Quebec. For further information, consult Hiring Temporary Foreign Workers in Quebec.

How to Apply

Employers who want to hire a TFW under the SAWP must submit the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) application along with all the required supporting documentation to Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC)/Service Canada.

In essence, employers are applying for an opinion on the impact that hiring a TFW would have on Canada’s job market. As a result, it is important that employers follow all the necessary steps and submit all of the required documentation.

Provincial variations to the application process

If the job is located in the province of:


Step-by-step – Checklist

Employers can use this step-by-step checklist to ensure that all the documents required are submitted, otherwise there will be delays in processing the application.

To Apply

Under this Stream employers can choose between 2 options to submit an LMIA application:

  1. Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Web Service (online); or
  2. paper application form (by mail or fax).

1. Temporary Foreign Worker Web Service

The TFW Web Service reduces the paper burden and speeds the processing of LMIA applications. In addition, employers using the Web Service will have the opportunity to:

  • have an online account where they can update their profile information;
  • complete and submit online LMIA applications;
  • create and assign secondary representatives, as needed, to assist with completing the applications;
  • attach files instead of mailing the required documentation;
  • receive electronic messages from Service Canada regarding their application (e.g. missing documentation)
  • monitor the status of their LMIA applications.
  • Employers and authorized third-party representatives can consult the Registration Guide and Form to complete the one-time only registration form, to set up their online account. Once the registration is approved, they can proceed to LOGIN to apply for their LMIA.
  • LOGIN – TFW Web Service.

2. Paper Application Form

Complete, sign (where applicable) and submit the following documents:

  1. LMIA Application Form (EMP5389)
  2. Schedule A – Appointment of a Third-party Representative (EMP5575), (if applicable).
  3. Employment Contract – Agreement for the employment in Canada for SAWP

    Workers from Mexico

    2014 employment contract for workers from Mexico (excluding those in British Columbia)
    (Web text version)  (PDF version (53 KB)agreement for the employment in Canada of Mexican Agricultural Workers)
    Español (Web text version)  (PDF version (53 KB)Spanish agreement for the employment in Canada of Mexican Agricultural Workers)

    2014 employment contract for workers from Mexico in British Columbia
    (Web text version)   (PDF version (41 KB)agreement for the employment in Canada of Mexican Agricultural Workers in British Columbia)
    (Español Web text version)   (PDF version (44 KB)Spanish agreement for the employment in Canada of Mexican Agricultural Workers in British Columbia)

    Workers from participating Caribbean countries

    2014 employment contract for workers from participating Caribbean Countries (excluding those in British Columbia)
    (Web text version)   (PDF version (50 KB)agreement for the employment in Canada of Commonwealth Caribbean Agricultural Workers)

    2014 employment contract for workers from participating Caribbean countries in British Columbia
    (Web text version)   (PDF version (45 KB)Agreement for the Employment in Canada of Commonwealth Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Workers in British Columbia - 2014)

  4. Copy of signed off-site housing contract, if applicable.
  5. Documentation that provides proof that the on-farm or off-site housing has been inspected:
    • copy of the inspection report for the current year done by the appropriate provincial/territorial or municipal authorities or an authorized private inspector, or
    • copy of the inspection report from the previous year, with an expected date of the inspection for the current year.
  6. Work permit fees
    • Can be paid by contacting the Centre of Specialization for the SAWP by:
      • phone – using a credit card; or
      • mail – sending a certified cheque payable to the “Receiver General for Canada”

    Provincial Variation

    • Quebec - Employers in Quebec can apply directly to the regional Service Canada Centre and pay for the work permit fees by:
      • phone – using a credit card; or
      • mail – sending a certified cheque payable to the “Receiver General for Canada”

    Note:
    As indicated in the Requirements section, these fees can be recovered through payroll deductions.

  7. Transfer contract for TFWs under the SAWP, if applicable

    Workers from Mexico

    this provision is included in the Mexican employment contract

    Workers from participating Caribbean countries

    2014 employment contract for workers from participating Caribbean countries who accept a transfer to a new employer (excluding those in British Columbia)

    (Web text version)   (PDF version (47 KB)Transfer contract for the employment in Canada of Commonwealth Caribbean Agricultural Workers)

    2014 employment contract for workers from participating Caribbean countries in British Columbia who accept a transfer to a new employer
    (Web text version )   (PDF version (42 KB)Transfer contract for the employment in Canada of Commonwealth Caribbean Agricultural Workers in British Columbia)

    Note:
    Employers cannot informally transfer TFWs from one employer to another or share them between employers. Transferring or sharing TFWs informally contravenes sections 124(1)(c) and 125 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and imprisonment.

Send all documents to

All provinces/territories (except Quebec)

Mailing address only
Service Canada
Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program - Centre of Specialization
5 Queensway East
Simcoe, ON N3Y 5K2

By fax
519-426-0362
1-855-221-1601 (Toll-free)
For assistance - Phone
1-866-431-7297 (Toll-free)

Quebec

Mailing address only
Service Canada
Temporary Foreign Worker Program
1001 De Maisonneuve Boulevard East, 4th Floor
Montreal, QC H2L 5A1

By fax
514-877-3680
For assistance - Phone
438-892-0299 (outside Canada)
1-866-840-0222 (Toll-free)

Note:

A complete application means that employers have:

  • filled out all of the fields in all of the necessary forms;
  • included all of the required documentation; and
  • signed the forms where required.

If an application is submitted and it is not complete, Service Canada staff will inform the employer that the application will not be processed. Incomplete applications and supporting documents submitted with the application will not be retained or returned to the employer. As a result, employers are advised to submit copies, not original documents. Incomplete applications will be returned to the employer.

Next Steps

Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC)/Service Canada will assess the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) application submitted by the employer to determine what impact hiring a temporary foreign worker (TFW) would have on Canada's job market. Based on the application and the documents received, the Department will issue a positive or negative LMIA.


Labour Market Impact Assessment Assessment Process

All LMIA applications go through a systematic assessment process to:

  1. Verify if the employer is:
    1. eligible to participate in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The list of ineligible employers appears on Citizenship and Immigration Canada's (CIC) Web site; and
    2. using an authorized third-party representative, if applicable.
  2. Verify the consistency of the job offer with federal-provincial-territorial agreements.
  3. Assess the genuineness of the job offer. The assessment is based on whether the:
    • employer is actively engaged in the business related to the job offer;
    • job offered to the TFW is consistent with the employment needs of the employer;
    • employer can fulfil the terms and conditions of the job offer;
    • employer and the third-party representative is compliant with the relevant federal-provincial-territorial employment and recruitment legislation;
  4. Assess:
    • the impact of hiring a TFW on the labour market including:
      1. wages and working conditions offered;
      2. occupation in which the TFW will be employed;
      3. employer's recruitment and advertisement efforts;
      4. benefits to the labour market;
      5. consultations, if any, with the appropriate union; and the
      6. effect on the settlement of a labour dispute.
    • previous job offers that the employer has made to a TFW within the 2 years preceding the date of the new LMIA application. This is to determine whether the employer has provided substantially the same (STS) wages, working conditions and occupations as outlined on the previous positive LMIA letter and annex or employment contract.

In addition, as part of the assessment process, ESDC/Service Canada will ensure that the employer has met all the Program Requirements.

Once the assessment process is complete, ESDC/Service Canada will notify the employer in writing of the final decision.


Positive LMIA

The employer will receive a letter confirming the approval of the LMIA application. This positive LMIA is valid for 6 months from the date of issue. For privacy reasons, the letter will not include the names of the TFWs. However, it provides specific details about the job offer, such as the wages, working conditions and occupations as well as a system file number. The names of the workers will appear in Annex B which is intended for the employer's records only, and is NOT to be shared with the TFW as it is not required for the purposes of applying for a work permit.

Once the positive LMIA letter is received, it is the employer's responsibility to send a copy of this letter and the employment contract, signed by the employer, to the foreign governments' Ministry of Labour.

Note:

Liaison officers from Mexico and the Caribbean countries are responsible to recruit agricultural foreign workers and to help them apply for the necessary work permit and visa, if applicable, from CIC.

Work Permit

CIC will then assess the TFW's work permit application. If the assessment is positive, the TFW will receive a work permit to be able to work for a SAWP employer, under established working conditions. A work permit can be valid from January 1 to December 15, however, it cannot exceed a maximum duration of employment of 8 months.

Note:

Some countries may require that their citizens meet certain conditions if they want to work in Canada. Employers should:

  • ask the TFW to verify if additional conditions apply,
  • contact the consulate of the foreign worker's country in Canada; or
  • visit the consulate's Web site.

Once the TFW arrives in Canada, the employer must:

  • ensure that the worker is authorized to work and check the duration of the work permit;
  • verify that the TFW's work permit indicates that it is for a job under the SAWP; and
  • keep records of the number of regular and overtime hours the TFW has worked on a weekly/monthly basis.

Note:

Employers are not allowed to take away the TFW's identification documents such as  passport, work permit or other identification.


Revocation of an LMIA

The revocation of an LMIA means overturning the decision based on new information, which changes the opinion from positive to negative.

An LMIA may be revoked if it has not yet expired, work permits have not been issued by CIC, and if one or more of the following circumstances apply:

  • The employer has provided materially false or misleading information.
  • New facts or information are brought forward after a positive LMIA has been issued, that would have changed the assessment of the application, resulting in a negative LMIA.
  • The opinion was based on an unintentional error as to some material fact.

The revocation of an LMIA is based on reliable and documented evidence that confirms that the new information or altered circumstances would have had an impact on the assessment of the factors listed under section 203 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR).


Negative LMIA

ESDC/Service Canada issues a negative LMIA letter if the employer does not meet all the Program Requirements. In these situations, the Department will also provide the employers with the necessary information to recover any work permit fees that were paid.


Employer Compliance

ESDC/Service Canada takes the integrity of the TFWP very seriously. Employers hiring TFWs are expected to be compliant with the TFWP, by upholding the terms and conditions of employment as stated in the original job offer and set out in the positive LMIA letter and annexes.

Employers must also follow all federal/provincial/territorial employment regulations and laws, as all workers in Canada, including TFWs, have the same labour and human rights and social protections as all Canadians.

In accordance with amendments to the IRPR, (s. 203(1)(e)), all returning employers that have hired a TFW within the past 2 years and are submitting a new LMIA application may be subject to an employer compliance review.

This review, often known as an STS assessment, requires employers to demonstrate that the TFWs were provided with substantially the same:

  • wages;
  • working conditions; and
  • occupation, as set out on the positive LMIA letter and annexes.

More information is available in the Employer Compliance brochure.