Canada is a country that values its agriculture and agri-food sector, which contributes to the economy, food security, and environmental sustainability.
However, the sector needs help finding and retaining enough workers, especially those willing to work year-round and not just seasonally.
That’s why the government of Canada has launched the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot program, which offers a pathway to permanent residence for experienced workers in specific industries and occupations within the agri-food sector. The program is managed by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). It aims to attract immigrant workers with the skills and training to help the Canadian agri-food sector grow and innovate.
The program was initially set to run from 2020 to 2023, with a limit of 2,750 principal applicants per year. However, due to the high demand for workers in the sector, the program has been extended until 2025, and the cap has been lifted for three occupations: meat processing workers, industrial butchers, and food processing laborers. These occupations are among the most in-demand in the sector, as the recent job data revealed over 14,000 vacant jobs in the Agriculture, Hunting, Fishing, and Forestry sectors.
The program has also introduced some changes to make it more accessible and flexible for applicants. Some of these changes include:
- Allowing family members of applicants to get open work permits regardless of their qualifications
- Accepting union confirmation letters as a substitute for employer reference letters
- Giving applicants who are already in Canada the option to either meet the median wage requirements or the education requirements
- Recognizing work experience gained under an open work permit by vulnerable workers.
- Expanding the list of eligible occupations
These changes will benefit foreign workers and Canadian employers looking for skilled and reliable workers to fill job vacancies in the agri-food sector.
Who Can Apply for the Program?
To be eligible for the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot program, applicants must meet several criteria. These include:
- Having at least 12 months of full-time, non-seasonal Canadian work experience in one of the eligible occupations through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program
- Having a high school diploma or higher education level equivalent
- Having a language proficiency level of at least Canadian Language Benchmark 4 in English or French
- Having a full-time, non-seasonal job offer from a Canadian employer in one of the eligible industries and occupations (outside of Quebec) that pays at or above the prevailing wage rate
- Having enough funds to settle in Canada (if applicable)
- Maintaining temporary resident status (if already in Canada)
What are the Eligible Industries and Occupations?
The Agri-Food Immigration Pilot program covers five primary industries: agriculture, meat processing, horticulture, aquaculture, and food processing. Within these industries, there are 27 eligible occupations that applicants can choose from. These are:
- Farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers
- General farm workers
- Nursery and greenhouse workers
- Harvesting laborers
- Other agricultural service workers
Meat processing occupations:
- Industrial butchers
- Meat cutters
- Poultry preparers
- Slaughterhouse laborers
- Food processing laborers
- Horticulture and nursery supervisors
- Landscape and horticulture technicians and specialists
- Landscape architects
- Aquaculture technicians and specialists
- Supervisors, aquaculture
- Industrial food and beverage processors
- Laborers in food, beverage, and associated products processing
It is important to note that the job offer must be for a full-time, non-seasonal position in Canada and must meet the prevailing wage rate for the occupation and region.
How to Apply for Permanent Residence?
To apply for permanent residence under the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot program, applicants need to follow these steps:
- Fill out the digital forms online for your family members 18 or older.
- Fill out the PDF forms if they apply to you or your family members.
- Get your employer to fill out and sign the Offer of Employment form.
- Read and sign the declaration at the bottom of the Offer of Employment form.
- Upload all the forms and documents to your online application portal account.
- Pay the application fees online.
If you need help with your application or have questions about the program, contact IRCC or an immigration representative.
The Agri-Food Immigration Pilot program is an excellent opportunity for foreign workers who want to work and live in Canada in the agri-food sector permanently. It is also a win-win situation for Canadian employers who need more workers to support their businesses and the economy. If you want to apply for this program, don’t miss this chance, and start your application today!