When do employees on work permits become illegal? - Metro US

When do employees on work permits become illegal?

“When these (foreign) employees lost their jobs, were they still ‘legal’ in Canada? ”

Getting fired is never easy. But, for foreign workers in Canada, there are always additional anxieties to contend with.

In the early part of last year, a Burnaby, B.C. company laid off about 125 employees, many of whom were foreign workers on work permits.

I think it would be fair to say that there has always been some confusion as to the exact nature of the legal status of workers in Canada who have valid work permits … but no work.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that some of these workers had spouses who had been issued open work permits allowing them to work for any employer during the validity of their spouses’ authorized stay in Canada. Also, some had children who were authorized to study here during the authorized stay of their parents.

When these employees lost their jobs, were they still “legal” in Canada? Could their spouses continue to work? Could their children continue to study?

When confronted by some of these employees, an immigration officer sought guidance from her superiors.

The written response dated Feb. 21, 2006 from Don MacKay, Regional Program Officer for the Canada Border Services Agency in Vancouver was obtained through an Access to Information application made by my friend and colleague Richard Kurland.

While this memo does not carry the authority of law, it does summarize quite nicely what I believe to be the law in this situation.

Mr. MacKay explains as follows:

“When a person in Canada on a valid work permit ceases to be employed … the person does not cease to have status in Canada.

“The person still has Temporary Resident status for the duration for which they were granted that status.

“A work permit does not oblige the person to work for the employer named on the document, rather it permits them to do so … As long as they are not otherwise violating the conditions of the work permit, they remain temporary residents.

“Open permits given to spouses based on their partner receiving a work or student permit also do not cease upon the change in their spouses circumstances (their open work permit will remain valid).

“All these are based on people being in Canada. When they seek entry at the (port-of entry) their entry may be reviewed and renewed or changed within immigration legislation and policies.”

Hopefully, this clarification will bring some comfort to those who find themselves in a similar situation.

Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann & Associates and is certified by the Ontario Law Society as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at metro@migrationlaw.com

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