Canada’s Foreign Caregiver Program is up in the air after Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced some unexpected news on February 5, 2018.
Canada currently has two streams for you to hire a Foreign Caregiver: “Caring for Children Program” and “Caring for People with High Medical Needs”. Under each of these programs, the foreign workers have a possible path to permanent residence if they were able to work in Canada for at least two years and meet other language and educational criteria.
On February 5th, IRCC announced that these two pathways to permanent residence will stop accepting applications on November 29, 2019, and that anyone who does not have at least two years of work experience by that date will not be able to apply for permanent residence.
The latest version of the foreign caregiver programs was introduced in 2014 as a five year pilot program. As a result the previous Live-in Caregiver Program, and its requirement for the caregiver to live in the home of his or her employer, was abolished.
In the 2014 changes IRCC created two streams to differentiate between the needs of those requiring care: children and those with high medical needs. The hiring process became much more difficult and time consuming and anyone wanting to hire a foreign caregiver must apply for and obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) before applying for the caregiver’s work permit.
As part of this application you have to demonstrate that you have sufficient income to support the foreign caregiver and must also provide proof of the existence of those requiring care: birth certificates, medical documents, etc.
The 2014 changes also meant that in order for these caregivers to apply for permanent residence they now had to have at least a one-year post-secondary degree and official language test results. As a result of these changes the number of caregivers applying for permanent residence had declined significantly from an average of over 10,000 a year in years 2006 to 2014 to just under 2,000 in the three years after the changes were made in 2014.
The tradition of allowing caregivers to come to Canada, particularly for the care of children, dates back more than a century when nursemaids and governesses were brought over from Europe to help care for children. And over the past several decades Canada has had different variations on the foreign caregiver program to allow families to have the assistance they need.
There is still a great need in Canada for caregivers, particularly in suburban areas where other daycare options are limited or for families where both parents work or have unusual working hours.
Finding caregivers, particularly those willing to work flexible or unusual hours needed by Canadian families is difficult. There are in-Canada options for caregivers but often times they are unable or unwilling to work the hours required by Canadian families.
In addition, given Canada’s ageing population, demand for caregivers for high medical needs seniors will continue to rise. This is all the more reason that the latest news from IRCC has caused considerable panic for families that rely on these caregivers as well as for caregivers.
Given how difficult the process is and how long it takes, families are worried that they will not be able to find caregivers to assist them. And many questions remain: what will the program look like in the future? Will Canada continue to allow foreign caregivers to come to assist in looking after our children and elderly? Will those foreign workers have a path to permanent residence?
All these questions led to one quick response from the Minister of Immigration. Minister Hussen took to Twitter to state: “Let us be clear. Our government is committed to family reunification. There are & will always be a pathway to PR for caregivers under our govt. These two 5 year pilot programs are undergoing an assessment to determine improvements to allow better access to PR for caregivers.”
We will have to wait and see how IRCC will reshape the program and deal with the shortcomings of past programs.
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Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court.