Canada Hiring Seasonal Mexican Agricultural Workers 

Every year, Canada receives Mexican workers through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. The program is coordinated by the Mexican Ministry of Labor and Social Security (STPS). In 2015, it is expected that more than 20,000 Mexican workers will be employed across Canada.

The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) allows employers to hire temporary foreign workers (TFW) when Canadians and permanent residents are not available.

These employers can hire TFWs from participating countries for a maximum period of 8 months, between January 1 and December 15, provided they are able to offer the workers a minimum of 240 hours of work within a period of 6 weeks or less.

To qualify for the SAWP, employers must meet 3 criteria:

  1. The TFWs hired must be citizens from Mexico or participating Caribbean countries.
  2. Production must be in specific commodity sectors.
  3. The activity must be related to on farm primary agriculture.
Canada is attracting an increasing number of migrant workers, like this Mexican national harvesting tomatoes (Photo:


The SAWP applies only to TFWs who are citizens from:

  • 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

Role of participating foreign governments

The SAWP operates according to bilateral agreements between Canada and the participating countries. The agreements outline the role of these foreign governments, which is to:

  • Recruit and select the TFWs;
  • Make sure workers have the necessary documents;
  • Maintain a pool of qualified workers; and
  • Appoint representatives to assist workers in Canada.

These governments also ensure that the men and women selected to work temporarily in Canada meet all the requirements of the SAWP. These requirements include being:

  • Experienced in farming;
  • At least 18 years of age;
  • A citizen of one of the participating countries; and
  • Able to satisfy the:
    • Canadian immigration laws; and
    • Laws of the worker’s home country.

Seasonal migrant workers in Canada (Photo: Google)

National commodity list

  • 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
  • Sod
  • Tobacco
  • Bovine
  • Dairy
  • Duck
  • Horse
  • Mink
  • Poultry
  • Sheep
  • Swine

Primary agriculture

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulation, section 315.2, primary agriculture is defined as work that is performed within the boundaries of a farm, nursery or greenhouse and involves:

  • The operation of agricultural machinery;
  • The boarding, care, breeding, sanitation or other handling of animals, other than fish, for the purpose of obtaining animal products for market, or activities relating to the collection, handling and assessment of those products; or
  • The planting, care, harvesting or preparation of crops, trees, sod or other plants for market.


Excluded activities include:

  • The activities of agronomists or agricultural economists;
  • Landscape architecture;
  • The preparation of vegetable fibres for textile use;
  • Activities related to commercial hunting and trapping; or
  • Veterinary activities.


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