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GOC extends program supporting permanent residency for skilled ag workers

May 10, 2023  By Fruit & Vegetable

On May 8, Sean Fraser, federal minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, announced the extension of the Agri-Food Pilot, which will now run until May 14, 2025. Launched in May 2020, the pilot helps facilitate the transition of experienced workers in agricultural and food industries to permanent residence in Canada.

“Our farmers and food processors depend on the steady arrival of foreign workers so that planting, harvesting and food processing activities can take place throughout the year, and they need our continued support to attract and retain these talented workers,” said Fraser in a press release. “Extending the Agri-Food Pilot helps these sectors find the employees they need, so we can be confident that our food security, economy and living standards for Canadians across the country will continue to improve and grow.”

To support employers and candidates, Fraser also announced the removal of the annual occupational caps, or the limits for how many candidates can apply for a specific occupation under the pilot. Removing these limits will provide an opportunity for more eligible candidates to apply. By the end of the year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) intends to introduce new changes to the pilot in stages, including:

  • Expanding open work permit access to family members of all participants in the Agri-Food Pilot, regardless of the participant’s job skill level;
  • Allowing unions to attest to a candidate’s work experience as an alternative to employer reference letters;
  • Giving applicants residing in Canada the option to either meet the job offer requirement, including the median wage requirement for the job offer, or the education requirement, including educational credential assessment verification; and
  • Accepting work experience gained under an open work permit for vulnerable workers, giving more workers an opportunity to qualify.

Together, these changes are a significant step in meeting the longstanding labour market needs of employers in the mushroom, greenhouse crop production, meat processing and livestock-raising industries by helping fill ongoing labour needs with full-time, year-round employees. They also provide wider support to applicants and their family members, reduce barriers and vulnerability for candidates, and expand the pathway to permanent residence for experienced workers in these industries.

“One of the most significant challenges facing the agriculture sector in Canada is labour and skills shortages,” said Keith Currie, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. “We need programs that support the long-term needs of the agri­-food sector. We are pleased to see some greater flexibility in the program and look forward to working with the government to ensure farm workers have clear and accessible pathways to permanent residence.”

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