Ottawa gives Microsoft TFW exemption for Vancouver training centre

The federal government has given Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) an exemption under the controversial Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) program, allowing the software giant to bring non-Canadian staff into its expanded training centre in Vancouver.

Ottawa will issue 24-month work permits for training positions at Microsoft's yet-to-open Centre of Excellence based on selections made by the province, according to a post on Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website.

“Even though Microsoft’s rotational program is generally 18 months in duration, a 24-month work permit will be issued so that the employee may continue to perform rotational program job duties until they are transitioned by Microsoft into a new position elsewhere,” the post read.

The exemption means Microsoft would be able to bring non-Canadians to train at the centre by allowing the B.C. government to waive a labour market impact assessment, provided the province submits a written request.

One of the key provisions of the TFW program is that it can only be used when qualified Canadian labour is not available.

“The Labour Market Impact Assessment exemption only applies to the international trainees at the facility, who do not enter the Canadian labour market, and it was implemented on August 19, 2014, at the request of British Columbia, through the Canada-British Columbia Immigration Agreement’s annex on temporary foreign workers,” CIC spokesman Remi Lariviere said in an email.

“Any other foreign nationals working at the facility would be subject to all regular rules of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or International Mobility Program, depending on their specific situation.”

The TFW program was suspended for the food services industry in May following concerns restaurants were hiring foreign workers when Canadians were available. The suspension has since been lifted.

Microsoft announced in April it would double its local workforce from 400 to 800 at a 150,000-square-foot office inside Vancouver’s Pacific Centre.

Most of the local staff are employed with Microsoft gaming studios Big Park and Black Tusk but the new centre, slated to open in 2015, would focus on training as well as research and development for Microsoft cloud-based services.

Microsoft Canada did not respond to Business In Vancouver as of press time.