Employing Foreign Workers: The Change in BC’s Labour Markets

What is the Forecast for British Columbia’s Labour Market to 2020 ?

Between 2010 and 2020 demand for workers in BC is expected to grow by an annual average rate of 1.4 percent; with over 1 million job openings expected in that period.  Due to this growth rate it is expected that by 2016 the number of workers needed, will exceed the number available province wide.  In fact, by 2020, it is projected that supply will outgrow demand by 61,500 workers.

And this trend is likely to be experienced even sooner in some regions. The Northeast region is expected to have the highest growth in demand for workers at 1.7 percent annually, followed by Mainland/ Southwest (1.6 percent) and North Coast and Nechako (1.3 percent).

Nearly two-thirds of these projected job openings (676,400) will be due to replacement demand, such as workers retiring and deaths. The remaining third will be new jobs (351,000) that result from the region’s economic growth.

In BC, the number of new labour market entrants (those who leave the education system and enter the labour market for the first time) is expected to decline steadily throughout the period of 2010 to 2020. This reflects a broader demographic shift to an older population.  As a result, the B.C. labour market will rely increasingly on migrants for new labour supply. In fact it is forecasted that new migrants to B.C. are projected to fill one-third of job openings to 2020.

Thinking of Employing a Foreign Worker?

Finding the right staff for your small business can often be a challenge, especially if you operate in an industry which is experiencing a skills shortage, such as tourism or construction.

The BC Provincial Nominee Program (“BC PNP”) operates under an agreement between the federal and provincial governments and was designed to help address these shortages.

The program has two streams:

  • Strategic Occupations: Helps employers in BC recruit or retain qualified foreign workers to meet current and projected labour market needs.
  • Business: Targets entrepreneurs who plan to invest in and actively manage a business within BC that will provide economic benefits to the province.

Foreign nationals who are selected by the program become eligible to make an application for permanent residence to the federal government in a special immigration category that will be processed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada on a priority basis.

How the BC PNP has Contributed to the Jobs Market

From 2005 to the end of 2011, the BC PNP has assisted more than 15,000 workers, from over 6,200 companies, in obtaining their permanent residence status.  Employers who have participated in the program cover a broad range of industry sectors; with the tourism and hospitality sector accounting for the largest share of both businesses and nominees.

According to the 2011 Evaluation Report conducted by Grant Thornton LLP on behalf of the Ministry; 87% of nominees surveyed were still working in the same occupation as the one they were nominated for, and 77% were employed in the same position with their original employer. The report also found that 84% of the nominees had met or exceeded their employer’s performance expectations demonstrating that the program benefits both the employer and employee.

Is my Business Eligible to Apply for BC PNP?

To be eligible to apply to the PNP your business must meet some basic requirements:

  • Be an incorporated company or extra-provincially registered in BC
  • Have a permanent business location in BC
  • Employ at least five permanent, full-time employees if the business is located within Metro Vancouver.  If the business is outside Metro Vancouver at least three permanent, full-time employees are required.  The BC PNP may consider applications that do not meet these minimum requirements if an employer has substantial business operations outside of BC or can present a compelling business case
  • Offer a competitive wage to the candidate
  • Be operating for at least one year (two years for the Entry Level and Semi-Skilled category)
  • Be financially sound and have a history of good workplace and business practices, including compliance with all applicable employment, labour, immigration, health, and safety laws and regulations
  • Not involved in the production, distribution, or sale of pornographic or sexually-explicit products, or in the provision of sexually-oriented entertainment or services
  • Not an employment agency or similar placement firm

How to Apply for BC PNP

So if you know that you are eligible and you are looking to hire a foreign worker, retain a temporary foreign worker you already have on staff, or hire a foreign student who has recently graduated a Canadian institution, there are a number of steps you will need to take:

  1. Identify the Candidate.  If you have not already, identify a qualified candidate who is eligible for your vacancy and agree to support their application for permanent residency.
    Note: If the nominee candidate has an ownership stake in the applying company, that share must be less than 10%. Individuals who own 10% or more are not eligible under the Strategic Occupations component of the BC PNP.
  2. Submit an Application. Both you and your candidate must submit a joint application to the PNP, which includes the job offer and information about the company and candidate.
  3. Nominate for Permanent Residency.  If the application is approved, the candidate will then be asked to submit an application for a permanent resident visa.  If the candidate does not have a work permit, the PNP will provide a support letter so that they can start working in BC as soon as possible.  This also means that you will not need to apply to Service Canada for a Labour Market Opinion.
  4. Finalize Application.  The permanent resident visa application will be accelerated through CIC’s application process and will normally be finalised in 10 to 15 months.

The PNP currently accepts applications for managers, professionals, technicians and skilled trades.  Applications for select entry level or semi-skilled occupations in tourism, hospitality, long-haul truck driving and food processing are also accepted.

Find out More

To find out how the PNP could help your company meet its staffing needs, visit or contact them at 604 775 2227 or 

Note: All figures in this article were taken from the 2011 BC Provincial Nominee Program Evaluation Report written by Grant Thornton LLP on behalf of the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.