By Stephanie Ford.

What is an LMIA? 

Canadian employers looking to hire foreign workers will need to ensure the foreign worker is permitted to work legally in Canada before they start working. The best pathway for the worker to receive a permit or permanent residency will vary depending on their unique circumstances. But, generally, a worker will either receive a temporary work permit or permanent residency. 

Since the pathway to permanent residency for workers outside of Canada can be lengthy, Canadian employers usually hire temporary foreign workers. Obtaining an LMIA is one method available that allows employers to support foreign workers to receive a temporary work permit in Canada.  

A Labour Market Impact Assessment (or LMIA) is a document that Canadian employers may need to apply for and receive before they can hire a temporary foreign worker. The purpose of the LMIA is twofold, it confirms:  

  • There is a need for a temporary foreign worker; and  
  • That no Canadian citizens or permanent residents are available to do the job.  

Note that the information provided is for Canadian employers outside of Quebec. The process for hiring temporary foreign workers is different for Quebecois employers.  

Do Canadian Employers need an LMIA to Hire a Foreign Worker? 

Most Canadian employers will require an LMIA to hire a temporary foreign worker. But there are exceptions.  

The exceptions to the LMIA requirement are limited, but include:  

  • Eligible workers applying for positions that are LMIA-exempt due to the International Mobility Program (IMP). 
  • Positions exempted under international agreements or arrangements, such as certain airline personnel.   

The LMIA-exempt professions do change from time to time, so we haven’t listed them here. It’s usually best to speak with an immigration consultant or to review the current IMP list and other available immigration streams if you wish to determine whether you need an LMIA to hire a temporary foreign worker.  

How to apply for an LMIA 

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) is responsible for assessing LMIA applications.  

To apply for an LMIA, employers will need to supply (at a minimum):  

✔ The LMIA application form  

✔ Proof of business legitimacy 

✔ Proof of their efforts to recruit a Canadian citizen or permanent resident for the position 

✔ The application fee 

The exact requirements for an employer to obtain an LMIA vary depending on whether the worker is a high-wage or low-wage worker or if they’re applying for particular stream, such as the:  

  • Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program 
  • Agricultural Stream 
  • Global Talent Stream 
  • Permanent Residence Stream 
  • In-home Caregivers Stream. 

High Wage or Low Wage Worker Streams 

One of the first steps towards getting an LMIA for your worker is to work out which stream to apply for. If your business isn’t in the agriculture industry or eligible for the other streams, you will need to determine whether you’re hiring a high-wage worker or a low-wage worker.  

The amount the worker must earn to be considered a high-wage worker or a low-wage worker varies from province to province (and territory). It is based on the provincial or territorial median hourly wage, which ranges from $20 - $35.  

In BC:  

💸 High-wage workers earn $25 per hour, or more 

💸 Low-wage workers earn less than $25 per hour. 

But this isn’t the only wage consideration for temporary workers applying under the high-wage or low-wage worker streams.  

To be successful in obtaining an LMIA, an employer must offer the temporary worker a wage that is similar to the wages paid to Canadian and permanent resident employees working in the same or similar position.  

To work out the wage requirement for the temporary foreign worker program, the hourly wage must equal (at least) the higher of the median wage on Job Bank or the wage the employer is paying current employees working in that position.  

For high-wage workers, this hourly rate might be higher than the average median wage.  

For low-wage workers, this hourly rate might be lower than the average median wage.  

Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program 

Canadian agriculture relies heavily on seasonal temporary workers. As a result, a separate program has been created – the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP).  

To apply for an LMIA under the SAWP, employers need to supply:  

✔ The LMIA application form (EMP5389) 

✔ Proof of business legitimacy 

✔ Proof of advertisement, to show their efforts to recruit a Canadian citizen or permanent resident for the position 

✔ A copy of a signed off-site housing contract, if applicable. 

✔ A housing inspection report 

Employers are also required to provide a standard form contract to all seasonal agricultural workers. This contract outlines the workers' rights and obligations. This contract is available in English, French and Spanish.  

There is no LMIA processing fee for employers hiring for occupations related to primary agriculture. However, employers must arrange and pay for the round-trip transportation of the temporary foreign workers. 

Global Talent Stream 

The Global Talent Stream enables employers to obtain temporary work permits for highly skilled, very high-wage earners who work in unique and specialized positions. There are two categories in the Global Talent Stream:  

Category A: 

This stream allows ‘designated referral partners’ - which are all innovative Canadian companies or organizations – to hire foreign workers to fill ‘a unique and specialized position’. This requires the employer to offer a base salary of at least $80,000 annually. Additionally, the worker must have advanced knowledge of the industry and an advanced degree and/or 5 years of specialized experience.  

Category B: 

This stream allows any company in Canada to hire highly skilled foreign workers to fill positions found on the ESDC’s Global Talent Occupations List. This list is based on in-demand skills for which there are not enough skilled Canadians to fill the positions.  

To hire a worker under this category, an employer must be willing to pay (at least) the prevailing wage for that position. The wage rates for these positions often exceed $37.50 per hour.  

Employers must also:  

✔Demonstrate business legitimacy.  

✔ Develop a Labour Market Benefits Plan. 

LMIA Processing Time 

Processing times vary depending on the volume of applications being submitted and other factors, but the average LMIA processing times in June 2022 were: 


Average Processing Time 

Global Talent Stream 

10 business days 

Agricultural stream 

13 business days 

Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program 

5 business days 

Permanent residence stream 

18 business days 

In-home caregivers 

38 business days 

High-wage stream 

40 business days 

Low-wage stream 

58 business days