In British Columbia, foreign workers are protected from unfair employment practices under the Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act (the “Act”). Since the Act was enacted in 2018, the BC government has taken additional measures to extend protections to foreign workers. This includes the creation of two separate registries: one for employers that hire foreign workers in British Columbia, and one for foreigner worker recruiters. Employers who hire temporary foreign workers under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) in British Columbia are required by the Act to register with the provincial government before December 15, 2020.
The BC government is now retaining a public registry of employers (the “Employer Registry”) that are registered to hire foreign workers. The Employer Registry lists each employer's name, the date they were registered as an employer, and the date their registration expires. The active Employer Registry is located here.
This registry applies to employers who hire foreign workers on the basis of a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
Individuals hiring a domestic worker are also required to register the worker with the BC Employment Standards Branch within 30 days of their hiring.
An employer does not need to register if they are an excluded employer, or:
- if they currently employ foreign workers and don’t intend to hire additional workers; or
- if they only hire foreign workers under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) or the International Mobility Program (i.e. LMIA-exempt work permits).
Employers in BC need a certificate of registration before they can hire temporary foreign workers. In order to register to hire foreign workers, an employer must meet the federal requirements to hire foreign workers. There is no fee for registration, and the process takes about 20 minutes.
To apply for registration, the employer must provide:
- the legal name, address, email and phone number of their business;
- the name, email and phone number for each business owner, director or partner;
- the name, email and phone number for at least one contact person (this can be one of the above people);
- the address of each work location;
- the business's industry type and the services it performs;
- the number of foreign workers they intend to employ within the next 12 months;
- the location they intend to recruit foreign workers from;
- information on whether they plan to provide accommodation to foreign workers hired; and
- their WorkSafeBC registration number, along with a clearance letter (if applicable).
Applications for registration can be reviewed and refused. Applications are reviewed based on factors such as past conduct, and compliance with the Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act and the Employment Standards Act. Similarly, an application for registration can be refused if an applicant provides incomplete, false, misleading or inaccurate information, has not complied with provincial or federal laws, and doesn’t conduct business legally, honestly, with integrity, or in the interest of the public. If an application is refused, the employer has 30 days from the date the decision was issued to submit a request for reconsideration. The original decision remains in effect while being reconsidered.
If approved, employers are issued a certificate of registration valid for up to three years.
Employers of foreign workers in BC have the following responsibilities:
- to conform with employment standards;
- to meet WorkSafeBC requirements; and
- to inform each foreign worker about their rights under the Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act.
Employers must have a written contract with each temporary foreign worker. If a recruiter was used to hire the worker, a copy of the recruiter's contract should also be kept. Records must be kept in BC for at least four years, and they must be made available for inspection upon request. For instance, employers must keep all the following records related to recruiting and hiring temporary foreign workers:
- signed contracts;
- fees and expenses related to recruitment and hiring;
- the name, address and work location of each worker;
- approval from the federal government to recruit and hire temporary foreign workers; and
- all payroll records.
A certificate of registration may be issued for up to three years. The Director of Employment Standards has discretion over the period of time a certificate of registration remains valid. An employer must apply through this same process to renew its certificate before it expires. If additional temporary foreign workers are hired after the certificate expires, the certificate may not be renewed. It is against the law to hire a foreign worker with an expired certificate of registration.
Registration for Foreign Worker Recruiter’s License
Recruiters must be licensed in BC even if their business or main operations are located outside the province. A recruiter is a person who, for a fee or compensation, received directly or indirectly, provides recruitment services to foreign workers or employers.
Only the individual recruiter is licensed, not the businesses or organizations that offer recruitment services. Recruiters who operate without a license can be fined up to $10,000. If an employer in BC is using a recruiter to hire foreign workers under the TFWP, the recruiter must be licensed. If employers use recruiters who are not licensed in BC, the employer can be fined and/or have their registration to hire temporary foreign workers cancelled.
A recruiter does not require a license if they:
- find foreign workers to work at their own business or with their employer;
- provide recruitment services to a member of their own family;
- act on behalf of a college, institution or university as defined in the College and Institute Act; or
- act on behalf of a government (local, federal, provincial, First Nation, or outside of Canada).
The application for a license takes about 15 minutes and requires the following information:
- the recruiter’s email address;
- the recruiter’s name and contact information;
- information about the business, including address and contact information;
- a list of partners, agents or affiliates that the recruiter works with, including any outside of BC or Canada;
- information about the recruiter’s membership with a law society or the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) (if applicable);
- information about the recruiter’s licenses in other provinces (if any); and
- information about whether the recruiter, or the business the recruiter operates under, has been licensed as an employment agency in BC.
There is no fee to apply, but a $20,000 financial security bond is required for each recruiter and may be used to reimburse foreign workers who incur fees or costs in violation of the Act, or to cover fines imposed on the recruiter if they are found to be in violation of the Act. The security bond is retained for up to 36 months after the recruiter's license expires. The bond may be returned prior to 36 months if: there are no outstanding complaints against the recruiter and no complaints are received against the recruiter within the statutory complaint period of 24 months after their license expires.
Once licensed, recruiters are added to the public registry of licensed recruiters in BC. The recruiter registry can be found here. The license is valid for up to three years, and recruiters must also renew their license before it expires.
After receiving a license, recruiters must uphold their obligations required by the law, and ensure their partners, affiliates and agents do the same. Otherwise, recruiters can be fined, lose their license, or have restrictions placed on their license.