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Immigration Compliance Best Practices for Employers

Blog posted on by Evelyn Ackah in Compliance and HR Audits and Compliance Audit Services

Immigration Compliance Best Practices for Employers

Business immigration laws, regulations and programs change rapidly and can be confusing.

A global workforce requires dedicated management needs and time to make sure the company and the employees are protected. Your company may hire foreign nationals, or you may have Canadian employees who are working abroad. Canada has many programs and policies in place to assist employers with workplace shortages and to hire skilled foreign workers to fill key roles or bring new skills to their workforce. Corporate Human Resources Departments with global talent needs are challenged to stay current and in compliance with federal, territorial and provincial immigration policies and programs.

The Canadian government has an aggressive immigration law compliance regime and enforcement regulations that can include reviews and inspections at your place of work, extensive documentation requirements or interviews with foreign-born employees. Compliance reviews focus on the attestations and declarations made on the LMIA forms under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program as well as Offer of Employments made under the International Mobility Program (IMP).

Employer Compliance Inspections

Employers who hire skilled foreign workers must comply with Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act Regulations (IRPA) including:

Record Keeping

  • Adherence to all conditions and documents submitted under the LMIA or IMP
  • Maintain 6 years of records

Random or Scheduled Inspections

IRCC employer regulations provide that "employers who submitted an offer of employment for which a work permit was issued to a foreign national on or after December 31, 2013, may, under section R209.5, be inspected for compliance with the conditions set out in the IRPR."

  • Known past non-compliance
    An employer who has previously been found non-compliant with IMP or TFWP conditions.
  • Reason to suspect
    Verification of employer compliance based on a random selection model.
  • Reason to suspect
    Receipt of information relating to an employer using the IMP and giving an officer reason to suspect non-compliance with 1 or more of the conditions set out under IRCC section R209.2.

    Penalties for corporate immigration compliance violations can range from warnings to public announcements to monetary fines to jail time, and deportation for the foreign employee.

    5 Human Resources Immigration Compliance Best Practices

    A written immigration policy that documents your foreign workers hiring practices and procedures, identifies key Human Resources staff who recruit, process and manage foreign nationals, identify timelines for the preparation of various immigration applications, renewals petitions, and ensure consistencies within the company.

    1. Stay Current on Immigration Laws, Policies and Programs

    Appoint a staff member or legal counsel to ensure you have and understand the most current immigration law regulations, documentation requirements and programs that apply to your business. Provide your HR team with regular immigration law training and resources so they can proactively protect the business and your workforce.

    Changes happen frequently on both a federal and local basis, and a lack of knowledge or misunderstanding of immigration laws will not protect an employer from compliance violations and penalties.

    2. Written Inspection Guidelines

    Create a written plan for how your company will handle a random or scheduled immigration inspection so that everyone knows how to proceed. Your inspection procedures should:

    • identify the key contact person who will work directly with the inspector
    • specify the location of key immigration compliance and worker documents
    • state who should be notified in the event of a random or scheduled inspection
    • include under what circumstances legal counsel should be consulted

    Your immigration legal counsel can assist in creating your inspection policy and should review your procedures to make sure your plan complies with all immigration laws. Your Immigration Inspection Procedures should be reviewed annually for accuracy and key HR team members should be trained annually on updates.

    3. Documentation

    Paperwork for Temporary Foreign Workers by law must be maintained for 6 years. Documentation that should be ready for an immigration compliance audit includes:

    • LMIA
    • Employment Offer
    • Work Permits
    • Passport
    • Payroll Records
    • Employment Records
      • Wages
      • Benefits
      • Job Description and Responsibilities
    1. A specific Human Resources employee should be designated to maintain and manage all immigration records. This HR point person should part of the Immigration Inspection Procedures team.
    2. Create an accessible master file and checklist for each foreign national employee that lists and includes the specific documentation requirements for each employee's immigration application.

    4. Self-Audits

    Conduct an annual internal audit of your compliance policy and documentation to make sure that your HR team and procedures are effective and in compliance with the most current immigration laws and programs.

    5. Foreign National Employee Training

    1. All foreign employees should be made aware that the company complies with all federal, territorial and provincial immigration laws, regulations and policies.
    2. All employees (foreign and local hires) should be of the company's zero-toleration policy for immigration fraud.
    3. Foreign employees should be advised that in the event of an immigration inspection, they may be required to speak to the inspector.

    Skilled, educated and trained international employees are a tremendous asset to Canadian business and Canada's economy. Managing the processes and documentation to ensure that recruiting, hiring and onboarding global talent meets all immigration laws and regulations is a key responsibility of corporate Human Resources Departments. It is vital that employers implement immigration compliance best practices, workflows and policies that comply with immigration laws and meet the needs of the company.


    Evelyn Ackah

    Founder/Managing Lawyer

    Ms. Ackah is passionate about immigration law because it focuses on people and relationships, which are at the core of her personal values. Starting her legal career as a corporate/commercial ...

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