Foreign workers face backlog in Alberta

Temporary foreign workers are waiting longer to get the paperwork they need to fill Alberta's labour shortage, with the office in charge hoping to double its own staff to keep up with demand.

Temporary foreign workersare waiting longer togetthe paperwork they need tofill Alberta's labour shortage, with the office in charge hoping to double its own staff to keep up with demand.

Mark Zeliger, a manager with Service Canada's foreign worker's program in Alberta, says the department is being inundated with an unprecedented number of applications.

Last year, the department processed 40,000 applications for Alberta, twice the number from the year before.

"I recall a time where employers could simply apply and get the answers they were looking for in three weeks, sometimes four. And quite frankly we're not happy that today it's three times that," said Zeliger.

Service Canada is hoping to shorten Alberta's wait times by doubling its staff within three months andlaunching a new online application service in the next few weeks, said Zeliger.

The long wait is causing huge headaches for people ready, willing and able to work in Alberta, where "now hiring" signs are everywhere.

Lisa Hall came from New Zealand and started a job in the field of records management in Calgary just over a year ago.

Before she can reapply for her work visa, her employer has to obtain something called a "labour market opinion," which proves there is a need for foreign workers in that profession.

Hall says that application was sent off in December. She called Service Canada a few days ago and was told the department is just now opening mail postmarked on Dec. 8.

"Here I am willing to work. I'm an educated person and my first language is English. It's just so difficult. It's been three months just waiting for the paperwork to be processed so I can work again for the person I've been working for the past year."