The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced the extension of the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot program and lifted the cap on the number of applications for certain occupations. The program aims to attract and retain experienced, non-seasonal workers in the agri-food sector to Canada. The program was launched in 2020 and was set to expire on May 14, 2023, but it has now been extended until May 14, 2025. The program was to admit 2,750 principal applicants each year until 2023. However, recent job data showed that the Agriculture, Hunting, Fishing and Forestry sector had over 14,000 vacant jobs. This necessitated the extension of the program. The lifting of the cap applies to the following three occupations: meat processing workers, industrial butchers, and food processing laborers.
To provide greater access and flexibility for applicants of the pilot program, it is announced that new changes will be introduced in phases. This includes:
- Expanding open work permits for family members regardless of their job qualifications.
- Granting unions, the authority to confirm a candidate’s work background as a substitute for employer reference letters.
- Those who are living in Canada can choose either to satisfy job offer criteria, which entails median wage needs or alternatively meet education requirements.
- A noteworthy expansion of this program is that it will begin accepting vulnerable workers’ work experience that was acquired under an open work permit.
This extension and lifting of the cap will provide more opportunities for foreign workers to come and work in Canada’s agri-food sector and help address the labor shortages in the industry. It will also benefit Canadian employers who are struggling to find enough workers to fill job vacancies.
Occupations Eligible for the Program
To be eligible for the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot program, applicants must have a job offer from a Canadian employer in one of the following eligible occupations:
- Farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
- General farm workers
- Nursery and greenhouse workers
- Harvesting laborers
- Other agricultural service workers