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Green and Spiegel - An Immigration Law Firm
Jul 15, 2019

IRCC announces a long-awaited immigration program targeting the agri-food sector

Immigration Pilot to attract experienced workers to the Canadian agri-food sector. The three-year pilot hopes to address the significant labour shortages in the agri-food sector while also providing workers a pathway to permanent residence.

The agri-food sector in Canada is an important driver of economic growth and provides 1 in 8 jobs across the country. However, the sector has been facing massive, long term labour shortages and has had difficulty retaining employees and foreign workers. In 2014, approximately 26,400 jobs were left unfilled in the agriculture industry.[1] In the meat production sector alone, there are currently 1,700 vacancies.[2]

The pilot is expected to address some of the issues faced by specific areas in the agri-food sector. The pilot focuses on attracting retail butchers, industrial butchers, food processing labourers, harvesting labourers, general farm workers, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers.

To be eligible for the pilot, workers must have a year of non-seasonal Canadian work experience in the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in processing meat products, raising livestock or growing mushrooms or greenhouse crops. Candidates must also have obtained Canadian Language Benchmark level 4 in English or French, have at least high school education, and have an indeterminate full-time job offer in Canada outside Quebec.

“The success of our Canadian farmers and food processors depends on their ability to recruit and retain the workforce they need to capture opportunities at home and abroad. This pilot will help to ensure that employers in the agriculture and agri-food sector have the people they need to get the job done, to help drive our economy and to feed the world.” – The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

IRCC has said that the pilot will help non-seasonal agri-food workers who are brought to Canada as temporary foreign workers to obtain permanent residence instead of repeatedly renewing their work permits. A pathway to permanent residence in a non-seasonal program will also provide stability for both workers and employers. Further, the pilot could help address worker exploitation in the industry, as work permits are currently tied to specific employers, making workers vulnerable to underpay or overtime for fear of being removed from Canada if they leave their job.

Additionally, a pathway to permanent residence will allow participants in the pilot to have access to social programs, such as Employment Insurance and the Canadian Pension Plan. The pilot ultimately provides a way for workers in the agri-food sector to have the same opportunities as other workers in Canada, including employment stability, a safe work environment, and a path to permanent residence and citizenship.

A maximum of 2,750 applicants and their family members will be accepted each year of the three-year pilot, representing 16,500 new permanent residence. IRCC will be providing further details on exactly how candidates can apply when the program opens for applications in early 2020. An IRCC backgrounder on the pilot can be found here (


[1] CBC News, “Agrifood sector welcomes budget’s immigration pilot for foreign workers.”

[2] Ibid.

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