The federal government is expanding a pilot program which has provided hundreds of undocumented construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area with a path to permanent residency.

In 2019, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) launched the program for 500 out-of-status construction workers.

Since then, 452 individuals have been accepted as permanent residents–190 principal applicants and 262 dependants.

The pilot program will now give 1,000 out-of-status construction workers the opportunity to apply for permanent residency, the federal government announced on Friday.

“The extension and expansion of the initiative to regularize the status of construction workers in the Greater Toronto Area will help address labour shortages in this key industry, while providing opportunities for workers who have been contributing to our economy to find a permanent home in Canada,” Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser said in a press release. “By taking away the fear of removal, this program truly improves the lives and communities of those who have fallen out-of-status.”

Canada has issued over 645,000 work permits between January and October 2022–close to four times more than the 163,000 issued over the same period in 2021.

Individuals who are eligible for the program have until January 2, 2024 to apply for permanent residence and can include their spouses, partners, and dependent children in their application.