Comparing high-wage and low-wage LMIA

About one-third of temporary foreign workers need an LMIA before applying. Of course, LMIA is a letter by Service Canada and stands for Labour Market Impact Assessment. They issue a positive or neutral LMIA letter when hiring a foreign national does not negatively affect Canada’s labour market. There are many LMIA types. However, the most popular ones are high-wage and low-wage programs. By comparing high-wage and low-wage LMIA options, you may decide how to move forward. Of course, you will also find out if it is worth it to go through the process.

The main difference between high-wage and low-wage LMIAs

The designation between high-wage and low-wage LMIAs is in the following table. If you offer a salary at or above this table’s values, the position is high-wage. Otherwise, it is a low wage. Of course, you must refer to the provincial or territorial figures relevant to the job.

 Province/Territory Defining hourly wage before April 30, 2022 Defining hourly wage on or after April 30, 2022
 Alberta  $27.28 $28.85
 British Columbia  $25.00 $26.44
 Manitoba  $21.60 $23.00
 New Brunswick  $20.12 $21.79
 Newfoundland and Labrador  $23.00 $24.29
 Northwest Territories  $34.36 $37.30
 Nova Scotia  $20.00 $22.00
 Nunavut  $32.00 $36.00
 Ontario  $24.04 $26.06
 Prince Edward Island  $20.00 $21.63
 Quebec  $23.08 $25.00
 Saskatchewan  $24.55 $25.96
 Yukon  $30.00 $32.00

You must always consider hourly wages. Therefore, avoid offering weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or annual wages to foreign nationals to prevent mistakes or confusion. The figures on this table are in effect since May 11, 2020.

Some useful examples

Imagine you are offering $29 per hour to a foreign national. This position is high-wage in all provinces of Canada. However, the job for Canadian territories is low-wage (i.e.  Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon).

For example, let’s say you are hiring a person to work in Red Deer, Alberta. If you want to apply under the high-wage option, you must offer that person $27.28 or more per hour. Of course, a lower salary could qualify for the low-wage LMIA only.

Working in two provinces simultaneously is not typical for foreign nationals. However, if you have an employee who needs to work in Ontario and Manitoba, consider the highest wage as the minimum requirement. In other words, you must offer at least $24.04 per hour to qualify for a high-wage position.

Comparing the application process for high-wage and low-wage LMIAs

Generally speaking, the application process for a high-wage LMIA is more straightforward. Moreover, we expect higher approval rates for this group. The following tables show the main differences between the two programs. Consequently, you can review the tables to decide for yourself.

The basic criteria

The following table compares the basic expectations for both options.

The Criterion High-wage LMIA Low-wage LMIA
Salary The prevailing regional wage! However, they are equal to or higher than the “defining” provincial hourly wages. The prevailing regional wage! However, they are lower than the “defining” provincial hourly wages.
Processing fee $1000 (exceptions apply) Same as high-wage
Business legitimacy Submit at least two documents to show the business is active and capable of covering the foreign national’s salary. Of course, you must include convincing official documents. Same as high-wage
Cap on the number of employees Not applicable! However, you must meet the business legitimacy requirements. If you have hired a foreign national before June 20, 2014, your cap is 20%. Otherwise, the cap is 10% for temporary foreign workers. Of course, the rest must be high-wage workers. Regardless, some exemptions apply.
Transition plan You must provide a transition plan to show you will try to reduce your reliance on foreign nationals. Nonetheless, some exemptions apply. No need for a transition plan!

The recruitment efforts

In this table, you can see how recruitment efforts differ for high-wage and low-wage options. Of course, I have not discussed the details or exceptional situations.

The Criterion High-wage LMIA Low-wage LMIA
Recruitment efforts You must post the job on at least three sources for at least four weeks. However, one of the references must be Job Bank, and at least one of the ads must run until the officer finalizes their decision. It is the same as high-wage. However, see the next two rows.
Job Match service on Job Bank You must invite anyone with four stars or more to apply for the job. You must invite anyone with two stars or more to apply for the job.
Targetting underrepresented groups in the recruitment efforts Not mandatory! You must target at least two of the following groups in your recruitment efforts: (1) Indigenous persons; (2) Vulnerable youth; (3) Persons with disabilities; and (4) Newcomers. Of course, you could go beyond the minimum.

Other issues that differ between high-wage and low-wage LMIAs

The following table shows those requirements for low-wage LMIA that are not mandatory for the high-wage option. Of course, I highly recommend discussing the matters with a professional for more information.

The Criterion High-wage LMIA Low-wage LMIA
Transportation It does not apply to high-wage LMIA. The employer must pay for the round trip costs of the applicant. Of course, you cannot later recover this cost from the foreign worker.
Housing Not applicable! You must make sure affordable housing is available to foreign workers. However, you do not need to pay the rent.
Healthcare Not mandatory! The employer must purchase coverage for the employee. However, the obligation extends until the provincial programs apply to the foreign worker.
Employment contract You may sign a contract with the foreign worker. However, you do not need to present it to Service Canada. A contract is mandatory for low-wage positions. Moreover, you may use the sample contract by the government of Canada.

I just included the main issues. Of course, some common obvious criteria include the following:

  • Not using the hiring for affecting the current or future labour disputes
  • Providing a safe work environment to foreign workers

NOTE: Read the following article for a comparison between the PR LMIA and high-wage/low-wage options:

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    Al Parsai

    Al Parsai is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (class L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) in Toronto, Canada. He is an adjunct professor at Queen's University Law School and Ashton College. Al, who holds a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University, is a member of CICC and CAPIC organizations. Al, the CEO of Parsai Immigration Services, has represented thousands of applicants from more than 50 countries to the immigration authorities since January 2011.

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