A Calgary immigration lawyer says changes to the temporary foreign workers program could affect everyday Albertans as early as this week.
"You might find that your service is diminished. You go to a Tim Hortons and all of sudden your lineup doubles," said Peter Wong of Caron & Partners LLP.
Wong has dozens of clients who — come Wednesday — could be forced to get on a plane and go home.
"They're scared; they can't sleep at night," said Wong.
April 1 is the day that permits expire for temporary foreign workers who have been in Canada for more than four years.
In 2011, the federal government changed the rules — giving TFWs in low-skilled jobs the option to either become permanent residents or leave the country.
"When the workers started here, they had no idea that this was going to happen in the way that it unfolded," said Wong.
While many of Wong's clients have applied to stay in the province through the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program, he says it could take up to two years to process those requests.
That will be too late for Michele Quiyan, who works at a fast-food restaurant in Calgary and sends almost her entire paycheque home to her family in Manila every month.
"My son and husband were deeply dreaming about living here, in Canada," a tearful Quiyan told CBC Calgary.
Her colleague, Alvin Sacluti has been working in the city for nearly eight years and also faces deportation in the next few weeks.
"We are still praying. We are still hopeful," said Sacluti.
Wong says there are very few options for TFWs like Quiyan and Sacluti, except to apply for another four-year permit and wait to be formally rejected from Ottawa.
He says legally, they do not have to leave the country until they receive that letter.