The province released its plan Friday to help protect foreign workers from abuse.

A new government licensing requirement will guide recruiters who help find the workers various sectors rely on to fill labour shortages. Recruiters must be licensed in B.C. even if they're located outside the province.

Information about those recruiters will be posted online in a searchable registry so that employers and employees will know who has a licence.

"Every day we see cases of foreign workers experiencing exploitation or abuse, such as recruiters taking possession of passports or charging illegal fees," Migrant Workers Canada executive director Natalie Drolet said in a statement. "Registering recruiters is important to stopping these practices."

Those caught operating without a licence, which will be issued by individual, not by company, can be fined as much as $50,000. They could also be sentenced to a year in jail.

The same penalties apply to those found to be in contravention of the Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act in other ways.

The Ministry of Labour estimates more than 500 recruiters will apply for the licence.

Recruiter licensing is Phase 1 of a two-part plan. The second phase is expected to be launched later in the year and involves a registration system for employers who hire temporary foreign workers.

The most recent data provided suggested 47,620 work permits were issued to foreign nationals planning to work in B.C. Nearly 17,000 of those were under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Statistics Canada estimates there were 101,945 unfilled positions in the province in the first quarter of 2019, an increase of about 10 per cent from the same period in 2018.