When you run a farm in Canada’s rural areas, it can be challenging to find enough employees to help with harvesting and processing. If that sounds familiar, the government’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program can help. With this program, your business can bring in temporary workers from other countries — without worrying about long-term residency.
SAWP Program Basics
With SAWP, your company can bring in temporary foreign workers for up to eight months each year. That way, you can handle seasonality and staff your business even when there are no available workers locally. The workers can be in Canada between January 1 and December 15 each year, giving you plenty of time to cover the growing and harvesting season. To qualify for this program, you need to be able to offer workers at least 240 hours of work for every six weeks. In addition, you must meet a few more requirements:
- Offer jobs related to on-farm primary agriculture
- Prove that you have advertised to find Canadian workers for at least 14 days
- Produce a product that’s on the national commodity list
- Choose workers from Mexico or one of 11 participating Caribbean countries
What Are Your Responsibilities as an Employer?
When you participate in SAWP, the Canadian government lays out your responsibilities. First, you must arrange and pay for approved housing, transportation to your farm if necessary and round-trip transportation from the worker’s home country. You also need to register the employees for health insurance and make sure that your business meets your province’s safety standards. Do you use pesticides on your farm? If so, plan to provide training, protective equipment, and supervision as the law requires. When it comes to wages, SAWP rules state that your foreign workers must get the same pay and benefits as Canadian workers in the same job.
What Do You Need to Apply for SAWP?
Before you can bring in foreign workers legally under SAWP, you must apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment. This process helps the government make sure that you’re above board and that you qualify for SAWP. In addition to the LMIA application form itself, you need to submit proof that you advertised your jobs to Canadians and proof that your job is legitimate. Another thing the application requires is an employment contract for your open jobs. If you’re planning to house workers outside of your farm, you also need to submit a signed housing agreement with a landlord or real estate company. No matter what living situation you choose, plan to get a housing inspection report for your application.
When you assemble these materials, you can send them to your local Service Canada Centre. The government looks over your application and lets you know in writing if you have received a positive LMIA.
How Do You Bring In Workers?
Once you get a positive LMIA, you can send it to the Ministry of Labour in the country from which you want to recruit. Under SAWP, the foreign government is responsible for finding workers. Once you have workers ready to go, they must apply for a work permit in Canada. When that process is complete, you can book travel for the worker to your farm in Canada. It’s a good idea to check the person’s permit dates when they arrive to make sure they work with your contract.
When you have trouble finding seasonal workers for your farm, the SAWP can be a useful resource. Whether you complete the process on your own or through a third-party service, it’s a great way to staff your business and keep production going strong.