Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program

University of Western Ontario Jamaica Canada Revenue Agency

The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) is a Government of Canada program that was introduced by the Pearson government in 1966 between Canada and Jamaica but has since expanded to include Mexico and numerous other Caribbean countries.[1] It is intended to allow Canadian farm employers to hire workers from Mexico and the Caribbean on temporary visas during the planting and harvesting seasons when employers are unable to hire local workers to fulfill their labour demands.

The program, administered jointly by Employment and Social Development Canada with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, is available to those who are at least 18 years of age, from one of the participating countries, qualify under the immigration laws and the sending country and agree to the employment contract. Those workers are eligible for the Canada Pension Plan [2] and certain Employment Insurance benefits (excluding "special benefits" such as maternal, parental and compassionate care benefits). Workers are also subject to income tax laws.


The issue of a lack of workers was first recognized in the mid-1960s when there were not enough workers to fill the needs of farms that needed their crop picked as well as planted at the beginning of the season. The government saw a need to form a program to help fill the gap of labor and farms in need of workers. By 1966 the Seasonal Agriculture Workers Program was formed and utilized by Ontario. It began as a partnership between Canada and the Caribbean country of Jamaica and has since grown to many other Caribbean countries and Mexico. As of 2005 there were 18,000 migrant workers coming into the country annually, mainly working in Ontario.[3]


  1. ^ "History of Canada's Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program". University of Western Ontario. Retrieved 2012-02-08.
  2. ^ "Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program" (PDF). Canada Revenue Agency. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  3. ^ "Canada and Mexico's deeply flawed Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program turns 40 - UFCW Canada - Canada's Private Sector Union". UFCW Canada - Canada’s Private Sector Union. Retrieved 2016-12-01.