Program opens door for undocumented GTA construction workers

By Staff

Everyone wins under a new program designed to regularize undocumented construction workers in Canada, says Toronto immigration lawyer Robin Seligman.

The Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) pilot program, in collaboration with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), will temporarily open a pathway to permanent residence for up to 500 out-of-status workers and their family members in the Greater Toronto Area.

“It makes sense for everyone because it allows vulnerable applicants to find employment legally and exercise their rights without fear, while also helping meet the huge demand we have for workers in this city’s construction sector,” Seligman, principal of immigration law boutique Seligman Professional Corporation, tells

Build Force Canada estimates that Ontario will need to find an additional 104,000 construction workers in the next decade, to cover both projected retirements and increased demand. However, the industry group anticipates only 78,000 of those vacancies will be filled by people from the local population, forecasting a 26,000-worker shortfall that it says will need to come from outside the province.

According to a statement on the pilot program, CLC will refer qualified candidates on a first come, first served basis to IRCC after performing its own round of pre-screening. To be eligible, candidates must:

  • Have legally entered Canada as a temporary resident
  • Provide proof of filing Canadian income tax returns
  • Show proof of residence in Canada for at least five years
  • Be currently working without authorization in the construction industry in the GTA, with at least three years of full-time work experience in the past five years
  • Provide evidence of language ability at Canadian Language Benchmark speaking 4, listening 4, reading 4 and writing 4
  • Have family living in Canada who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or a non-Canadian spouse, common-law partner or child living in Canada
  • Not be inadmissible to Canada for any other reasons than overstaying their temporary resident status and working without authorization

Eligible occupation categories include trades and skilled transport and equipment operators, maintenance and equipment operation trades, residential and commercial installers and servicers, heavy equipment operators (except crane), as well as construction trades helpers and labourers.

In its own statement on the pilot program, the CLC said temporary workers lose their status for various reasons but are still able to find employment.

“Without status, these workers have continued to fill labour shortages, while contributing greatly to our society and economy. However, fear of detection, detainment, and deportation drives these workers and their families ‘underground,’ often limiting their access to social programs, and making them vulnerable to employer exploitation and abuse,” it reads. “The CLC will be engaging at the highest level of due diligence to ensure the safety and security of any applicants who come forward to take part in this initiative.”

Applications open on Sept. 3, and the federal government will begin conferring permanent residency on applicants starting in January 2020. The pilot will run until it hits its cap of 500 successful candidates, or until January 2022, whichever arrives earlier.


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