Careers and Workforce

Canada, U.S. Mull Easier Immigration for Food Labor

By Pan Demetrakakes, Senior Editor

Jul 16, 2019

Canada is testing a measure making it easier for immigrants to stay and work in food industry jobs, and a similar measure is under consideration by the U.S. Congress.

Canada’s minister for immigration, refugees and citizenship is implementing a three-year pilot program that will shorten the path to permanent residency for immigrant workers in meat processing and other food sectors. The program, announced at the headquarters of Maple Leaf Foods in Mississauga, Ontario, will allow up to 2,750 foreign workers in those sectors to apply for permanent residency after one year of employment in Canada. Currently, permits for such workers last two years, after which they must leave the country.

The Canadian program applies only to full-time employees, not seasonal agricultural workers. By contrast, legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) would apply to farm workers by altering the H2-C guest worker program.

The bill would transfer responsibility for overseeing ag workers to USDA from the Department of Labor. It would update the visa process to increase access to farmworkers, requiring them to return to their country of origin for one month after every 10 in the U.S. It also would allow farmers to pay them “market-based wages” instead of the usually higher Adverse Effect Wage Rate determined by the Department of Labor.