Changes to the Caregiver Program
Unlike any other Canadian immigration program, caregiver programs offer clear paths to permanent residence.
As a popular immigration destination, Canada has numerous permanent residence programs to recruit people from all over the world. But Canada also hosts temporary residents who come to work, study, or visit for an authorized period. The boundary between permanent and temporary residence is distinct: people seeking the former are to settle in Canada, while the latter must leave Canada by the end of their authorized stay.
Caregiver programs, unlike any other Canadian immigration program, are unique in that foreign nationals come as workers with a distinct, foreseeable path toward permanent residence. From the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) to Caregiver Pathways, to the two current Caregiver Pilots and the Interim Pathway for Caregivers, the program requirements have changed substantially. This article presents an overview of the programs and the changes they have undergone.
The Live-in Caregiver Program
The LCP requires applicants to have 24 months or 3,900 hours within a minimum of 22 months of live-in work experience, i.e. that the caregiver has resided in their Canadian employer’s home. The work experience needs to be acquired on a valid work permit based on a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) issued by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). In addition, the employment must be within four years of the caregiver’s arrival date.
The program also has language and training criteria. As the LCP is a hybrid program allowing the transition of caregivers from temporary workers to permanent residents, these requirements are set for work permit applications when a foreign national seeks entry to Canada as a caregiver. As of December 1, 2014, the LCP is closed to new applicants.
Two five-year pathways — Caring for Children and Caring for People with High Medical Needs — came into effect on December 1, 2014, when the LCP shut its doors to new applicants.
Applicants to these pathways must: (1) have two years of full-time work experience in an eligible occupation within the past four years; (2) reach minimum language skills set for their occupation; (3) meet the employment requirements described in the National Occupational Classification (NOC) for the occupation; and (4) possess a certain level of education.
The NOC for Caring for Children Program is 4411, while the NOCs for Caring for People with High Medical Needs are 3012, 3233, 3413, and 4412. Both NOC 3012 (registered nurse or registered psychiatric nurse) and 3233 (licensed practical nurse) are regulated professions in Canada and thus require applicants in these occupations to be licensed. The language level for all of these is CLB 5, excluding NOC 3012 (which is CLB 7). The minimum education level is a one-year, post-secondary credential. Caregivers’ work experience, like LCP, should be gained on a valid work permit attached to an LMIA.
Both pathways were in operation until June 18, 2019, when they were replaced by the two pilots.
The Pilot Programs
The Home Child Care Provider Pilot and Home Support Pilot are two five-year pilot programs for caregivers in NOC 4411 and NOC 4412 respectively.
Foreign nationals or caregivers in Canada who meet the following criteria are eligible to apply:
- Has obtained a valid genuine job offer for the position in NOC 4411 or 4412 from a Canadian employer;
- Demonstrates through their past experience or training that they are able to perform the job;
- Possesses either French or English skills at CLB 5; and
- Has completed at least one year of post-secondary education.
When caregivers have obtained 24 months of Canadian work experience in their occupation, they may be granted permanent residence. Those who have already acquired enough required work experience within the last 36 months may apply to the pilots for permanent residence right away.
The Interim Pathway for Caregivers
This three-month pathway was first introduced in March 2019 to facilitate those working as caregivers on an LMIA-based work permit but who are ineligible to apply to either the LCP or the two pathways. It closed in June, but has re-opened for another three months from July 8, 2019, to October 8, 2019.
The eligibility criteria are as follows:
- One year of work experience as a home child care provider (NOC 4411) or home support worker (NOC 4412), or a mix of the two NOCs since November 30, 2014;
- CLB 5 in English or French; and
- High school education.
Summary of Changes
The LCP was controversial and had been criticized over the years for two main reasons: the mandatory live-in requirement put caregivers at risk of abuse and their separation from their families, whom they were not allowed to bring to Canada, caused much suffering. When the pathways replaced the LCP, the live-in requirement was duly eliminated as a mandatory requirement, though it remains optional. It can still be considered when both the employer and caregiver agree that a live-in arrangement is beneficial for the performance of the latter’s job duties. Moreover, the employer must comply with certain conditions, which include free room and board. Regarding the protection of vulnerable caregivers, this is welcome progress.
The family separation issue, finally, was resolved with the implementation of the two pilots, under which caregivers’ family members can accompany them to Canada and apply for an open work permit or study permit. Other notable changes include the removal of the LMIA requirement, which switches caregiver work permits from employer-specific to occupation-specific, as well as the simultaneous application process. LMIA exemption benefits both Canadian employers and caregivers, rendering caregivers more accessible for households in need and allowing caregivers to change employers easily. This mechanism might also eliminate loopholes exploited by fraudsters who prey on LMIAs.
Unlike all previous caregiver programs, which separated work permit and permanent residence applications, the pilots request foreign nationals seeking work in Canada in either of the two occupations with a job offer from a Canadian employer to submit their two applications to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) at the same time. Once they have obtained required work experience, they must submit evidence of this to IRCC to get their permanent residence finalized. Caregivers, who are already working in Canada but do not have enough work experience, are provided with two options for permanent residence: they may apply to one of the pilots to complete the required work experience or they can keep working on their current work permit to accumulate enough work experience.
Though it has a time limit, the Interim Pathway for Caregivers still affords caregivers a path to permanent residence, which reflects well on Canada’s humanitarian tradition.
This article was a general explanation of the changes to the caregiver programs and is neither a guide nor a legal opinion. Readers who are interested in the programs may visit the IRCC website for details. Remember that immigration policies change from time to time without notice, so applicants are advised to consult the IRCC website for up-to-date information or consult with an authorized representative before proceeding with their application.