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Canada Bolsters Agri-Food Sector with Extended Immigration Pilot and Enhanced Labor Policies

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Canadian farmers

The Canadian Government acknowledges the crucial role of strengthening the labor market needs of the agri-food sector to secure the nation’s food supply system. A robust and skilled workforce is essential for the prosperity of Canadian farmers and food processors.

Today, The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced the extension of the Agri-Food Pilot until May 14, 2025. Initiated in May 2020, this program has been instrumental in helping skilled workers in agricultural and food industries transition to becoming permanent Canadian residents.

To further assist employers and potential candidates, the Minister revealed the removal of the annual occupational caps, thereby eliminating limits on the number of candidates applying for specific occupations under the pilot. This change opens up opportunities for a larger pool of eligible candidates to apply. By the close of this year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) plans to incrementally introduce new modifications to the pilot, including:

  1. Broadening the accessibility of open work permits to family members of all Agri-Food Pilot participants—irrespective of the participant’s skill level.
  2. Allowing unions to validate a candidate’s work experience, providing an alternative to employer reference letters.
  3. Offering applicants residing in Canada the option to meet either the job offer requirement, including the median wage requirement for the job offer, or the education requirement, including educational credential assessment verification.
  4. Accepting work experience gained under an open work permit for vulnerable workers, increasing the number of workers who can qualify.

These adjustments mark a significant stride towards addressing the enduring labor market needs of employers in the meat processing, mushroom, greenhouse crop production, and livestock-raising industries. They help to ensure the continuous supply of full-time, year-round employees, support applicants and their family members more comprehensively, reduce barriers for candidates, and expand the pathway to permanent residence for experienced workers in these industries.

The Agri-Food Pilot supplements Canada’s existing economic immigration programs, including the Atlantic Immigration Program, the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the caregivers pilots, the Global Skills Strategy, Express Entry, and the Provincial Nominee Program. It continues to highlight the skills and labor required in the agriculture and agri-food sector while offering these workers an opportunity to settle in Canada and contribute to our economy.

Quick facts:

  • The agriculture and agri-food industry is a vital contributor to Canada’s economic growth and vitality. In 2021, Canada exported nearly $82.2 billion in agriculture and food products, including raw agricultural materials, fish and seafood, and processed foods.
  • Canada is the fifth-largest exporter of agri-food and seafood in the world, exporting to over 200 countries in 2021. In the same year, the agri-food system provided one in nine jobs in Canada and employed 2.1 million people.
  • This five-year pilot tests an industry-specific approach by working with agri-food employers and providing a pathway to permanent residence for temporary foreign workers who have worked in the agri-food sector in Canada.
  • A total of 2,750 principal applicants can be processed under the pilot annually.

The occupations and industries eligible under the pilot include:

  1. Meat product manufacturing
  2. Retail butchers
  3. Industrial butchers
  4. Farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
  5. Food processing labourers
  6. Greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture production, including mushroom production
  7. Farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
  8. General farm workers
  9. Harvesting labourers
  10. Animal production, excluding aquaculture
  11. Farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
  12. General farm workers

Since Quebec establishes its own economic immigration selection under the Canada-Quebec Accord, eligible applicants under the Agri-Food Pilot must intend to live and work outside of Quebec after obtaining permanent residence.

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