Recruiting Foreign Workers to Work in British Columbia

April 2006

The process of recruiting foreign tradespeople to work in British Columbia is one which should be well planned and carefully executed, in order to maximize the prospects of a successful outcome. This article outlines what employers need to both know, and do, in order to make the process as efficient and painless as possible.

  1. Service Canada Labour Market Opinion:
    Step one is to obtain a Labour Market Opinion Confirmation from Service Canada (formerly HRSDC) that your employment of foreign workers will not negatively affect the Canadian Labour Market. In order to make this determination, Service Canada will consider a number of things, including:

    1. Whether the work is likely to result in direct job creation or job retention for Canadians
    2. Whether the work is likely to result in the creation or transfer of skills and knowledge to Canadians
    3. Whether the work is likely to fill a labour shortage
    4. Whether the wages and working conditions being offered are sufficient to attract Canadians to do the job
    5. Whether the employer has made, or has agreed to make, reasonable efforts to hire or train Canadians, and
    6. If there is a labour dispute in progress at the time, whether your employment of the worker is likely to adversely affect either the settlement of the dispute, or the employment of any person involved in the dispute

    While companies may make applications directly to Service Canada on their own, many employers find it very helpful to retain an experienced Immigration law firm to assist them with obtaining Labour Market Opinions. Find out why.

  2. Finding foreign workers:
    Once you have the Labour Market Opinion, you can proceed to find foreign workers who have the skills that you require. Employers may work with local and foreign recruitment firms, immigration lawyers and others who have access to a pool of skilled workers. Here are the most common ways to find foreign workers.

  3. Screening the foreign workers:
    All viable applicants will need to be screened. This requires a twofold process - you need to ensure that they have the skills and experience that you require, and also that they will meet any applicable requirements of the relevant trade certifying authorities, such as the Industry Training Authority (ITA) and the BC Safety Authority.

    This screening will include:

    1. Resumes: You will need to obtain detailed resumes of the workers’ training and experience
    2. Training check: You will require background information about their trade credentials and any other training that they may have undergone
    3. Reference checks: You will need to contact previous employers to verify workers’ credentials. A review of payroll stubs and income tax receipts, where these are available, may also prove helpful
    4. Video Interviews: An employer may gain a useful introduction to candidates by way of short video clips, in which applicants provide a brief overview of their training and experience. Depending on resources available in the foreign country, this may be fairly easy to arrange

  4. Assess Trade Licencing Requirements:
    The next step is to ensure that the candidate will meet any required trade examinations. While as at April 2006, there are few “compulsory trades” which require apprenticeship certification to work in British Columbia, it is anticipated that the ITA will have requirements for this in place in the future. You should check with legal counsel at the time that you wish to recruit foreign tradesmen.

  5. Selecting and Interviewing Foreign Workers:
    After you have selected qualified candidates, there are at least 3 interview options open to you. You may choose to interview the candidates overseas; or via telephone; or through video conference facilities. You have less control with the last two, and some candidates have been known to have other people represent them at the “interview”!

  6. Job Offer:
    Once you have interviewed the candidates and made the hiring decision, you would make a written job offer to the worker.  It is important that the wording of the job offer satisfies the immigration authorities, and, if necessary, you should obtain professional assistance in this regard.

  7. Work Permit Application:
    The next step in the process is to submit the application for the candidate’s Work Permit to an overseas Canadian immigration office. This application can be lodged either in the country where the candidate is lawfully residing, or in the country of his nationality.

  8. Arrival in Canada:
    Once the foreign worker arrives in Canada, he may be permitted to work, subject to the discretion of his employer, and to applicable labour laws.

  9. Training for Exam Preparation:
    Once the foreign worker is in Canada, he may need to prepare for a trade qualification exam. The courses that are required will vary from trade to trade, and there are a number of institutions providing this training. British Columbia Institute of Technology and other apprenticeship colleges are among those offering preparatory courses.

  10. Completion of Safety Certification:
    Certain trades, such as Boilermakers, Electricians and Gasfitters, require certification from the BC Safety Authority before they may practice their trade in BC. Individuals requiring such certification may take courses at trade schools to prepare for the examination.