What is a LMIA and How Do I Get One?

LMIA stands for a Labour Market Impact Assessment and it is a document that is issued by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) confirming that a Canadian citizen or permanent resident cannot be located to successfully carryout an identified employment position in Canada. This document can then be presented by the foreign national identified in the original application to apply for a work permit or to obtain points for a permanent residence application. Points are granted for possession of a valid LMIA both under the Federal Skilled Worker program and for the Express Entry selection score.

An LMIA based work permit is the default work permit type in Canada. All other types of work permits are considered LMIA exemptions, and unless an applicant fits under a specific exemption an LMIA must be obtained.

LMIAs are divided into three different types: 1) high skilled positions (NOC O, A or B); 2) low skilled positions (NOC C or D); and 3) in support of permanent residence. Each of these categories have different criteria for consideration and differing supporting documents associated with the applications, but the general process is the same.

The first step is to post the position in a minimum of three locations for a continuous period of 28 days (four weeks) in order to sufficiently test the Canadian labour market. One of the postings must be on ESDC’s job bank. There are specific criteria for where and how the positions can be posted as well as for the contents of the posting. Not meeting the specific posting criteria can cause the application to be refused based on a technicality, and then the whole process will need to restarted.

Once the postings are complete, the resumes received from those postings must be vetted and each candidate must be evaluated on the criteria listed in the job description. If candidate meets the listed criteria they must be interviewed for the position. In addition, the job bank will track all applications made through its platform. If a candidate meets the required star rating on the job bank that candidate must also be interviewed. All this information needs to be carefully tracked as the application form will ask for the specific number of applicants, interviewees, etc…,

Once the recruiting process has been completed without a local candidate being identified as suitable for the position, only then the LMIA application can be prepared and filed.

There is an expectation that even if a foreign national is granted the LMIA to hold the position, the position will eventually be filled by a local candidate. There are two ways to do this. Either the foreign national will truly be a temporary worker and recruitment efforts will continue to find a local candidate or a local candidate will be trained to fill the position by the end of the work permit term, or the foreign national will transition into being a Canadian permanent resident.

This process is the same for all applicants and can create significant challenges for industries where there are either known labour shortages, particularly for companies who provide unique services within Canada. It also can become quite challenging for companies hiring foreign senior level executives where posting the position publicly can affect stock prices and competitive advantages in hiring.

The other issue is timing. LMIA processing is becoming increasingly lengthy. In addition to the detailed nature of the applications ESDC introduced a new software used to process these applications earlier this year and the full implementation and use of the software is taking longer than expected. This issue         seems to be affecting ESDC offices across the country.

LMIA applications are highly detail oriented and take a lot of care and planning to successfully execute. The process is a highly protectionist one, which often does not make sense in the wake of Canada’s current low unemployment rate and reports that Canada must increase its immigration numbers to maintain and continue to develop our economy.

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