Foreign Workers - Employer Registration Fact Sheet

If you are an employer who intends to:

  • recruit a foreign worker
  • hire a foreign worker, or
  • extend the employment of a foreign worker

to work in Nova Scotia, the Labour Standards Code requires you to obtain an employer registration certificate from the Director of Labour Standards. It is an offence for an employer to recruit or hire a foreign worker without a valid employer registration. There are some exemptions from the requirement to become registered.

An employer registration certificate is an official document issued by the Director of Labour Standards providing proof that an employer has registered under the Nova Scotia Foreign Worker Program to hire one or more foreign workers. Registration certificates are valid for one year.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who is a foreign worker under the Labour Standards Code?

    A foreign worker:

    • is not a Canadian citizen, or a permanent resident within the meaning of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), and
    • is recruited to become employed in Nova Scotia, regardless of whether or not the person does become employed.
  • Are there any foreign workers who are exempt from the foreign worker rules of the Labour Standards Code?

    There are three categories of foreign workers who are exempt from the foreign worker rules:

    1. International Students - Students whose main reason for being in Nova Scotia is to study.
    2. Specialized Service Providers - Individuals brought into the province for short periods to provide specialized services.
    3. Independent Contractors - Individuals who are recruited from other countries to perform work in Nova Scotia as independent contractors.

    If you have any questions about who is covered by the foreign worker rules, please go to exemptions or contact Labour Standards.

    Note:  International students are covered by the rest of the Labour Standards Code.

  • Why do I need an employer registration certificate?

    The Labour Standards Code requires that employers who intend to recruit and hire foreign workers to work in Nova Scotia obtain an employer registration certificate from the Director of Labour Standards. In addition, Service Canada requires an employer to have an employer registration certificate from Labour Standards in order to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment.

  • When do I need to register?

    You must first obtain an employer registration certificate from Labour Standards before initiating the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process with Service Canada. Some exemptions may apply.

    A registration certificate is valid for one year and can be used for multiple LMIA applications during that year.

  • What information should I have to apply for an employer registration certificate?

    You will need to provide Labour Standards with some basic information, such as:

    • the number of positions for which you are seeking to hire foreign workers
    • a description of the type of work that will be done by the foreign worker(s)
    • the name and contact information of any third party that will be assisting you to recruit any foreign worker(s)
    • the name of the country(ies) from which foreign workers are being sought.
    • an active registration with the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stocks Companies is required by businesses operating in Nova Scotia except for; New Brunswick corporations and NB partnerships/business names registered in New Brunswick, individuals or partners using only their personal names without a descriptive element or attachment such as 'and Associates', partnerships whose sole purpose is farming or fishing, You can verify your registration with Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stock Companies at registry-joint-stock-companies
  • How do I apply for an employer registration certificate?

    You can submit an online application form for an employer registration certificate using the Nova Scotia’s online service website, Nova Scotia's new online service for business. Detailed instructions for using Nova Scotia’s online service or the fillable pdf can be found here.

    Or, you can complete a fillable PDF application form available on Labour Standards’ website. Please note, the fillable PDF on the Labour Standards' website cannot be submitted online. The application form on our website can be completed using your computer but it must then be printed and forwarded to Labour Standards by mail, fax or electronically by scanning and attaching it to an email sent to .

    To complete your application, you will be required to provide information about your company and the types of positions for which you are recruiting. You will also need to provide information about any third-party agencies and individuals that will be involved in the recruitment process.

  • How much does employer registration cost?

    There is no fee for an employer to apply for an employer registration certificate using either Nova Scotia’s online service or Labour Standards' pdf form.

  • What factors will Labour Standards consider in approving an application?

    Labour Standards will consider factors that will help us assess whether you will behave lawfully while recruiting and employing foreign workers. We will, for example, make inquiries to determine if you have violated Labour Standards legislation or Occupational Health and Safety. We will consider the nature of any such violations in making our decision.

  • What if I don't register before recruiting internationally?

    If you submit a Labour Market Opinion application to the federal government without an employer registration certificate, you will be referred back to Labour Standards for registration.  Further, employers who recruit foreign workers without registering may be prosecuted and subject to fines of up to $5,000 or $25,000.

  • Does employer registration with the province mean I am allowed to hire a foreign worker?

    Registration with the province is just one step in the process for recruiting and hiring a foreign worker. For more information about recruiting foreign workers, please visit the Government of Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program website at or the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration's website at

  • When can I begin recruiting foreign workers?

    You may recruit foreign workers only after you receive an employer registration certificate from Labour Standards.

  • As an employer, do I need a recruiter licence to recruit a foreign worker?

    You do not need a recruiter licence to recruit a foreign worker if you are:

    • an employer who is recruiting a foreign worker to work for your business; or
    • a person who is recruiting a foreign worker to work in your home or the home of your dependant.

    Others that do not need a recruiter licence to recruit foreign workers include:

    • an employee who finds foreign workers to work for their employer;
    • a person who is helping to find employment for a member of their family who is a foreign worker, and they are not getting a fee for this help; or
    • a department or an agency of the government or a municipality.

    Note: It is illegal to charge a worker a fee for giving the worker a job or helping the worker to find a job.

  • Can I use a third party to recruit foreign workers?

    Yes.  Employers using a third party recruiter to help them recruit foreign workers must use the services of a licensed recruiter unless the third party falls under an exemption listed in the previous question “Do I need a recruiter licence to recruit a foreign worker?”

    An employer who uses an unlicensed third party recruiter may be prosecuted and subject to fines up to $5,000 or $25,000. Further, an employer who uses an unlicensed recruiter may be held liable for any fees unlawfully charged by the recruiter to the foreign worker.

  • Is F.A.R.M.S. (Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services) considered to be a third party recruiter when involved in the hiring of foreign workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP)?

    No.  Using the assistance of F.A.R.M.S. when hiring foreign workers in Nova Scotia under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) is not considered to be using the services of a third party recruiter.  F.A.R.M.S. is authorized by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada to perform an administrative role in the Caribbean and Mexican Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.

  • If I hire a foreign worker, do I need to give Labour Standards information about the worker?

    Employers who hire foreign workers are required to provide the following information to Labour Standards, if requested:

    • the foreign worker's name, address and telephone number
    • the foreign worker's job title
    • the location where the foreign worker performs the majority of their job duties

    Employers may also be required to provide additional information if requested by the Director.

  • Is the information provided to Labour Standards kept confidential?

    Any personal information collected as part of the application process or reporting process will be held in confidence and only disclosed in keeping with the provisions of the Labour Standards Code (s.14A) and the Nova Scotia Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

    If you have any questions regarding the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information, you can contact our departmental Information Access and Privacy Manager at or by phone 902.424.8472. (Please note, if you have questions about foreign worker recruitment and employer registration, you should contact Labour Standards.)

  • How do I know if a recruiter is licensed?

    Labour Standards has a list of licensed recruiters on our website. You should check the site before engaging the services of a recruiter as the only licensed recruiters in Nova Scotia are those listed.

  • Can I charge recruitment fees/costs to a worker?

    No. It is against the law. No one is allowed to charge a fee to, or collect a fee (directly or indirectly) from, a foreign worker for helping the worker find work or for giving the worker a job. For example, if you pay a recruiter to assist you with hiring a worker, including a foreign worker, you cannot make deductions from the wages of the worker to recover the cost of fees paid to the recruiter.

    Also, you cannot ask or require a worker:

    • to give you money, either before being hired or after being hired, to pay for recruitment costs or for obtaining a job, or
    • to give a recruiter money to pay for recruitment costs
  • How are workers protected from being charged recruitment fees/costs?

    Labour Standards will conduct inspections and investigations to ensure recruitment fees/costs are not being charged to workers. A recruiter or employer who breaks the law will be ordered to repay the fees. In the case of a recruiter, the recruiter will lose their licence and may be prosecuted and subject to fines up to $5,000 or $25,000.

    If the case of an employer, the employer's registration will be cancelled and the employer will be prohibited from registering with Labour Standards to hire foreign workers. Employers can also be prosecuted for breaking the law and can be subject to fines up to $5,000 or $25,000.

  • What if a foreign worker needs immigration assistance, who pays for those costs?

    Foreign workers coming to Nova Scotia are given all necessary application forms and help directly by either Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or the Nova Scotia Provincial Nominee Program.

    If further immigration assistance is required, the worker is responsible for choosing and paying for the services.

  • Is it true that employers are not allowed to reduce or eliminate wages and benefits promised to the foreign worker?

    Foreign workers have the same rights as all other workers in Nova Scotia. Foreign workers are further protected by the conditions upon which they were allowed to work in Nova Scotia. This means employers cannot reduce the terms and conditions of the employment contract or Labour Market Impact Assessment, even if the worker agrees. Labour Standards will enforce the negotiated rate of pay and benefits as the minimum standards.

    Some limited exceptions apply which may allow an employer to change terms and conditions of employment of a foreign worker under specific circumstances but these are very narrowly interpreted.  For more information on this please contact Labour Standards.

  • If I hire a foreign worker and need to lay them off, what happens?

    If you need to lay off a foreign worker, you should contact Labour Standards to discuss what steps should be taken to inform and support the worker. Also, you must notify Service Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) of the lay-off.

  • What if I have no job for the foreign worker when the foreign worker arrives?

    You are responsible for paying any benefits promised to the worker during the recruitment process such as transportation costs to and from Nova Scotia. If there is no job for the foreign worker, you must notify Labour Standards, Service Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) of this.

  • What records must I keep as an employer recruiting a foreign worker?

    You must keep complete and accurate records of the following for at least three (3) years:

    • the worker’s name, address and telephone number, job title and the location where they do most of their work
    • expenses incurred (directly or indirectly) by you, as an employer, or your employee on your behalf, during a recruiting process
    • a copy of the Labour Market Impact Assessment and all contract/agreements entered into with foreign workers
    • a copy of all contracts/agreements entered into with a recruiter

    You must also keep all employment related records, such as payroll records, for each employee for at least three (3) years after the work has been completed. See our fact sheet on Records for more information.

  • How do I protect myself from unscrupulous recruiters when recruiting foreign workers?

    • If you are contacted by someone offering to find foreign workers for your business or if you are considering hiring a recruiter, check Labour Standards’ list of licensed recruiters.
    • If you are contacted by a foreign worker seeking a job, ensure there is not an unlicensed recruiter involved.
    • Be aware that it is illegal for a worker to be charged a fee for assistance in finding the worker a job.
    • If you are solicited by an unlicensed recruiter, report it to Labour Standards.
  • What if Labour Standards denies my application or cancels my employer registration certificate?

    If Labour Standards decides to deny or cancel your employer registration certificate you will have a fair opportunity to have the decision reviewed, which can include an appeal to the Labour Board.

  • For more information, contact Labour Standards

    Phone: 902-424-4311; or toll free in Nova Scotia 1-888-315-0110
    Fax: 902-424-0648

    (for general Labour Standards questions)
    (for questions about LS rules for foreign workers)



    See also:

    Foreign Workers - General Fact Sheet
    Foreign Workers - Recruiter Licence Fact Sheet

Go back to the main Foreign Worker page