Canada doubles immigration program for out-of-status construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area

January 20, 2023—Mississauga, Ontario—The Government of Canada continues to deliver innovative immigration measures, such as creating pathways for out-of-status migrants, to help Canadian employers address critical labour shortages.

In 2019, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), in partnership with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), launched a permanent residence pilot program for 500 out-of-status workers in the construction industry in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Building on the success of this initiative, Peter Fonseca, Member of Parliament for Mississauga East-Cooksville and Julie Dzerowicz, Member of Parliament for Davenport, on behalf of the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced today that IRCC is extending and expanding the pilot program, doubling its scope to 1,000 out-of-status construction workers in the GTA.

This program acknowledges the critical role that construction workers play in building and growing our cities, and offers them and their families a path to permanent residency so that they can stay long-term. This program is one of a number of new measures implemented to address labour shortages in Canada by ensuring that we bring and retain the workers we need to grow the economy and build our communities.

The program promotes greater stability in the construction industry and ensures that skilled workers in Canada continue to address critical housing development needs. Just as important, this initiative will help bring a larger number of workers out of the underground economy, which benefits Canada’s world-renowned programs and services (like the Canada Child Benefit, Old Age Security and Employment Insurance).

Eligible individuals have until January 2, 2024, to apply for permanent residence and can include their spouses, partners and dependent children in their application. Potential applicants will continue to submit their names to the CLC, who will determine their eligibility before referring them to IRCC.

The Government of Canada will take into account the advice from consultations with academics, non-governmental organizations, provinces and territories as we explore new and innovative ways to regularize the status of undocumented workers in Canada.


“This pilot program is a significant step forward in addressing critical labour shortages for the Greater Toronto Area by supporting stability in the construction industry and bringing workers out of the underground economy. By providing regular pathways for out-of-status migrants, we are not only protecting workers and their families, but also safeguarding Canada’s labour market and ensuring that we can retain the skilled workers we need to grow our economy and build our communities. This initiative is a testament to our government’s commitment to finding innovative solutions to support Canada’s workforce and strengthen our economy.”

– The Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

“The extension and expansion of the initiative to regularize the status of construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area will help address labour shortages in this key industry, while providing opportunities for workers who have been contributing to our economy to find a permanent home in Canada. By taking away the fear of removal, this program truly improves the lives and communities of those who have fallen out-of-status.”

– Peter Fonseca, Member of Parliament for Mississauga East-Cooksville
“The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) is pleased to continue assisting another 500 out-of-status construction workers and their immediate families in finding a pathway to permanent residence that will end the insecure nature of their employment and immigration status in 2023. The out-of-status construction workers contribute greatly to the economy and society, and continue to fill labour shortages. Without status, the workers live and work in fear of detection, detainment and deportation. Out-of-status workers are vulnerable to employer exploitation and abuse, and they and their families live with limited access to education, health and social programs. The extension of the out-of-status construction workers in the GTA initiative for 2023 will help more vulnerable workers and their families during these uncertain times. The CLC is very proud to contribute to building the momentum and work towards a broad regularization program for undocumented people in Canada with the out-of-status construction workers in the GTA initiative.”
– Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress
  • Immigration accounts for almost 100% of Canada’s labour force growth. Roughly 75% of Canada’s population growth comes from immigration, mostly in the economic category. By 2036, immigrants will represent up to 30% of Canada’s population, compared to 20.7% in 2011.
  • Canada’s aging population means that the worker-to-retiree ratio is expected to be 2 to 1 by 2035 while, 50 years ago, it was 7 to 1.
  • Canada has issued over 645,000 work permits between January and October 2022—nearly 4 times more than the 163,000 issued over the same period in 2021.
  • Immigrants account for 36% of physicians and 33% of business owners with paid staff and 41% of engineers. 
  • In the Fall Economic Statement, the government committed an additional $50 million in 2022–2023 for IRCC to address ongoing application backlogs, speed up processing and allow skilled newcomers to fill critical labour gaps faster.
  • Since the launch of the out-of-status construction workers in the GTA pilot in July 2019, 452 individuals have been accepted as permanent residents (190 principal applicants and 262 dependants).
  • As a national organization that represents numerous construction unions, the CLC has been a critical partner in the pilot, helping to identify eligible applicants.
  • Under the pilot, applicants who have significant work experience in construction occupations in the GTA, family members in Canada, a referral letter from the CLC and no reason for being inadmissible other than overstaying their visa and working without authorization may be able to apply for permanent residence in Canada.
  • IRCC is exploring broader regularization pathways for undocumented migrants and their families. Pathways to permanent residence will offer more opportunities for individuals to enter or stay in the job market and fill labour shortages. 

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