The federal government has extended the Agri-Food Pilot until May 14, 2025 and is making a few changes to the program, a May 8 news release said. The pilot was initially launched in May 2020 and helps facilitate the transition of experienced workers in agricultural and food industries to permanent residence in Canada.
“Our farmers and food processors depend on the steady arrival of foreign workers so that planting, harvesting and food processing activities can take place throughout the year, and they need our continued support to attract and retain these talented workers,” Sean Fraser, Canadian minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, said in the release.
The release noted that to support employers and candidate, annual occupational caps, or the limits for how many candidates can apply for a specific occupation will be removed under the pilot. By the end of the year Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada intends to introduce the following new changes to the pilot in stages:
- Expanding open work permit access to family members of all participants in the Agri-Food Pilot — regardless of the participant’s job skill level
- Allowing unions to attest to a candidate’s work experience, as an alternative to employer reference letters
- Giving applicants residing in Canada the option to either meet the job offer requirement, including the median wage requirement for the job offer, or the education requirement, including educational credential assessment verification
- Accepting work experience gained under an open work permit for vulnerable workers, giving more workers an opportunity to qualify
These changes are a significant step in meeting the longstanding labour market needs of employers in the meat processing, mushroom, greenhouse crop production and livestock-raising industries by helping fill ongoing labour needs with full-time, year-round employees, the release said. They also provide wider support to applicants and their family members, reduce barriers and vulnerability for candidates, and expand the pathway to permanent residence for experienced workers in these industries.
“One of the most significant challenges facing the agriculture sector in Canada is labour and skills shortages. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is happy to see the Agri-Food Pilot extended to 2025. We need programs that support the long-term needs of the agrifood sector,” Keith Currie, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said in the release.
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