New Web site helps boost foreign tech talent supply

Tech industry associations and politicians are looking to temporary foreign workers to bridge a tech talent gap which some studies place at around 106,000.

Bureaucratic red tape, however, has slowed down to a trickle the entry of workers from abroad. But Service Canada says a new Web service it recently launched will speed up the process.

The government agency’s Temporary Foreign Workers Program (TFWP) last month officially activated Web Service, an Internet service that enables employers and their third party representatives to open a self-managed online account. The online account will be used to facilitate Canada-based employers’ requests for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) that covers the employers’ request to hire a worker from abroad. Click here for LMO basic and other information.

Definition: LMOA Labour Market Opinion is an opinion provided by Service Canada –TFWP on what the likely impact on the local labour market would be if a foreign national being hired by a Canadian business were to enter the Canadian labour market. In most cases employers who wish to hire temporary workers must apply for an LMO. Border Services Canada officers refer to the LMO when deciding to approve entry into Canada of a foreign worker.

Don’t use the fax ma’am

Current LMO processing wait times are around 20 days, according to Service Canada. However, some human resources experts said the process can take 11 weeks or longer.

The process can be significantly shortened by eliminating the “ping-pong” of hard copy documents, said Bill Shena, a business expert with Service Canada’s TFWP. Shena spoke about Web Service during a seminar Monday on the foreign worker hiring process organized by the Ontario government and the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC).

“We all know the delays associated with applying via mail. If you forget to include something, we need to contact you again and everything is set back until you get the documents to us,” Shena said.

Service Canada accepts documents via fax machine, but Shena cautions employers against using the technology. “Sure you can use the fax, but be prepared for a long wait.”

“Take the Service Canada office in Ontario. We receive anywhere from 7,000 to 10,000 faxed documents a day and we only have one person monitoring the fax machine,” said Shena.

“The person we have is good at his job and he’s indispensible, but it’s still one person against 7,000 documents. We don’t want to mention the word backlog,” he added.

Web Service benefits

Since its activation in April, Web Service has been used by about 300 employers, according to Shena. The reviews from users have been very positive, he said.

Among the benefits of the online service are:

  • Faster online submission and tracking of LMO applications
  • Monitoring of third party activity
  • Reduced paper burden
  • Electronic signature
  • User-managed profile allows for speedier updates to information


Being able to track the process and submit additional documents online is a huge advantage for many employers, according to Shena. “Users and Service Canada agents don’t need to play phone tag and we can receive documents immediately. This cuts processing time significantly.”

Apart from the online service, Service Canada now also offers an Accelerated Labour Market Opinion (ALMO) process.

The ALMO cuts down the 15 – 20 days of the regular LMO process to within 10 days, said Shena.

However, the ALMO is only available to applications that fall under the following National Occupation Code categories:

  • Skill level O – management occupations
  • Skill level A – professional occupations
  • Skill level B – skilled trades occupations

“These new initiatives will be welcome developments for employers,” said Paul Brace, a lawyer specializing in labour matters for Markham, Ont.-based law firm Miller Thomson LLP.

Brace regularly works with numerous tech companies in Markham that are hiring tech talent from outside Canada.

“There are a growing number of tech companies that need to hire tech workers because they are ramping up operations. The problem is, they can’t always find the talent in Canada,” he said.

Brace said some companies have had to wait for up to 90 days for LMO requests to be processed. “It’s fine if you are hiring from countries such as the United Kingdom or France. But if you’re hiring from China, India or other countries where the backlog of applicants is huge, then you’re in for a long wait.”

A large number of the hiring needs are based on time sensitive projects, Brace said. “If the business can’t bring in the worker within a certain time, the project can be delayed and money or the contract could be lost.”


Nestor ArellanoNestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at E-mail him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter, connect on , read his blog, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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