Last Updated on May 10, 2011 by Steven Meurrens

You’ve been working in Whistler on a one-year working holiday visa and you want to stay and work for another season.  Or maybe you’re a former post-secondary student in Toronto who has six months remaining on your post-graduate work permit and you want to keep working for your company.  Perhaps you’re a foreign worker who just wants to renew your work permit.

You start talking to friends and colleagues, and you hear horror stories about what they call a Labour Market Opinion, or LMO.  You learn about the process that companies go through to hire foreign workers, and begin to wonder if your employer will even bother.  You start wondering if your future in Canada is as certain as you thought.

Do You Need a LMO?

To understand how to approach the application for a Labour Market Opinion it is important to understand the theory behind it, and to determine whether you actually need one.

The purpose of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program is to allow Canadian employers to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis.  In order to protect the Canadian Labour Market, the government has determined that Canadian employers must show that it was necessary to fill a position with a temporary foreign worker instead of with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

As is evident, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is designed for people that will only work in Canada temporarily.  If you want to work in Canada on a permanent basis, then you should consider other options such as, for example, your respective province’s Provincial Nomination Program (“PNP”).  For whatever reason, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website does not make it easy to find these programs.  But they are out there, and all provinces offer excellent programs.  If you Google “British Columbia PNP”, for example, you will find an immigration program for British Columbian companies seeking to hire skilled foreign nationals on a permanent basis.  No LMO required.

If you do intend to only get a work permit, then you should also consider if you are LMO exempt by virtue of a free trade agreement which gives you the right to enter the Canadian Labour Market.  All foreign workers from the United States, Mexico, Chile, and Peru should analyze their respective country’s free trade agreement to see if they are LMO exempt.  We recently did a consultation for a frustrated American engineer whose employer had been denied two LMOs.  It took us five minutes to tell him that he did not even need one, and to chalk up his experience as a lesson in preparatory research.

Other foreign workers that are LMO exempt include those that will provide a significant benefit to the Canadian economy, including entrepreneurs and intra-company transferees.  Spouses of skilled foreign workers or foreign students are also exempt.  Finally, destitute students do not need a LMO, but that really shouldn’t be Plan A.

If You Need a LMO

So you’ve looked at your province’s PNP and the LMO exemptions and determined that you have no choice.   You need to apply for a LMO.   Don’t panic.  Contrary to what appears to be popular myth LMOs are frequently approved, even in these difficult economic times.  There are certain steps and principles that your employer can follow that will allow yours to also be approved, which are discussed elsewhere in this blog.