Canada is extending work permits to family members of temporary foreign workers, according to Sean Fraser, the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship and Randy Boissonnault, the minister of tourism and associate minister of finance.

Starting in January 2023, through a temporary two-year measure, Canada will expand the eligibility to work in Canada to spouses and working-age children for workers at all skill levels.

“Everywhere I go, employers across the country continue to identify a lack of workers as their biggest obstacle,” Fraser said. “Today’s announcement will help employers find the workers they need to fill their labor gaps by expanding work permits to family members at all skill levels, resulting in family members of over 200,000 foreign workers being able to work in Canada.”

The measure will launch in three phases, beginning with the high-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program. The second phase aims to expand the measure to the family members of workers from the low-wage stream of the TFWP, following consultations. The final phase will include consultation with agricultural partners and stakeholders to assess operational feasibility for expanding the measure to family members of agricultural workers.

According to the ministers, expanding the eligibility for work permits to family members accompanying the principal applicant to Canada is expected to help address labor shortages by assisting employers in finding the workers they need.

Before this announcement, spouses were only eligible for a work permit if the principal applicant worked in a high-skill occupation. The temporary measure aims to improve workers’ emotional well-being, physical health and financial stability by keeping families together.

Canada has issued over 645,000 work permits this year between January and October 2022 — nearly four times more than the 163,000 issued over the same period in 2021.