Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program


Congratulations on your decision to work in Canada. In order to work in Canada, a work permit is required. It is important to know that a work permit allows the applicant to work in Canada and is not a visa for arrival. To enter Canada, a visa is also required. There are two types of work permits: Open work permit, and Employer-specific work permit. While an open work permit does not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), an employer-specific work permit does. This is due to the fact that an open work permit is not restricted to a specific job like the employer-specific work permit. In other words, the Canada open work permit is not job-specific and allows the individual to work in other fields as well. In contrast, the employer-specific work permit is limited to the individual’s field and requires an LMIA in most cases along with a job offer. In many cases, the employers need an LMIA to be allowed to hire foreign temporary workers. The LMIA is required on top of the work permit. This means that although not all work permits require an LMIA, an LMIA alone is not enough to be able to work in Canada. There are different streams of LMIA depending on the type of work and employment needed.


But what is the point of an LMIA? The assessment informs that there is a need for a temporary foreign worker at a job when no Canadians or permanent residents are available. When this is confirmed, a positive LMIA confirmation letter is issued, showing that there is a need for a foreign worker to fill the job. This needs to be obtained before applying for a work permit. The estimated processing fee for some LMIA applications is 10 days but it could take longer. However, more updated and accurate estimates can be obtained from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). In order to change employers, a new work permit must be obtained. Not every applicant is the same and with that in mind, LMIA applications are processed through different pathways. One of the paths/streams is the Seasonal Agricultural Worker LMIA stream (SAWP). This is done under the Temporary Foreign Worker program (TFW) when the job in demand cannot be filled by a citizen or permanent resident of Canada. As the name suggests, this path is for individuals being hired for primary agriculture and allows the employer to hire foreign workforce for a maximum of 8 months, offering a minimum of 240 hours within 6 weeks or less. Certain criteria must be met to qualify for the status. The work must be done on a farm, nursery, or greenhouse. Furthermore, it must also involve either an operation of agricultural machinery, handling of animals, or planting and plant related tasks. The production under this stream must be in specific commodity sectors:

  • apiary products
  • fruits, vegetables (including canning/processing of these products if grown on the farm)
  • mushrooms
  • flowers
  • nursery-grown trees including Christmas trees, greenhouses/nurseries
  • pedigreed canola seed
  • seed corn
  • grains
  • oil seeds
  • maple syrup
  • sod
  • tobacco
  • bovine
  • dairy
  • duck
  • horse
  • mink
  • poultry
  • sheep
  • swine

ESDC will assess the LMIA application and issue a positive or negative LMIA. A positive LMIA is valid for 6 months. The IRCC will then assess the work permit application and issue one if deemed eligible.


The LMIA application is completed by the employer/business owner. Therefore, the requirements rely on the business owner looking to hire temporary foreign workers. Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) assesses businesses approved for LMIA to make sure that local workforce is indeed not available to carry out this occupation. The employer must also provide housing for the temporary workers in accordance with standards defined by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation as well as day-to-day transportation. Employers applying to the TFWP must also present documents to demonstrate the legitimacy of the business and job offer. Employers must first attempt to hire Canadian (or PR) workforce before offering foreign workers. The employer must have advertised the job for a minimum of 14 days during the 3 month period before the LMIA application. A proof of this advertisement is required along with the application. Those hired must be at least 18 years old, experienced in farming, a citizen of one of the participating countries, and able to satisfy the Canadian immigration laws and laws of the worker’s home country. The seasonal agricultural worker program applies to citizens of:

  • Mexico
  • Caribbean countries of:
    • Anguilla
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Barbados
    • Dominica
    • Grenada
    • Jamaica
    • Montserrat
    • St. Kitts-Nevis
    • St. Lucia
    • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
    • Trinidad and Tobago

Processing time

The estimated processing fee for most LMIA applications is 10 days but it could take longer. However, more updated and accurate estimates can be obtained from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The agriculture stream has an average processing time of 17 business days.

Fees and Expenses

While most LMIA applications cost $1000, the agriculture LMIA stream does not have a processing fee.


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