The Canadian federal government relies heavily on caregiver programs to help address some of the most significant and growing challenges facing Canadians: an aging population and the lack of national child care. Historically and currently, foreign caregivers have made sacrifices to provide essential services for families in Canada and to support Canada’s economy. However, recent changes to the caregiver immigration scheme appear to fall short of addressing the hurdles, delays and bureaucracy that has plagued this scheme.
Currently, two pilot programs allow Canadian citizens and permanent residents outside of Quebec to hire foreign caregivers to work in their homes: Home Child Care Provider Pilot and Home Support Worker. These pilots opened for applications on June 18, 2019, and run for five years until June 17, 2024. The Home Child Care Provider Pilot is aimed at those who work with young children under 18, while the Home Support Worker Pilot is aimed at those who work with seniors, persons with disabilities and recovering patients. The main difference between the pilots is the type of qualifying work experience required to obtain permanent residence.
Both pilots include a ‘Gaining Experience Category’, allowing foreign caregivers with a Canadian offer of employment to simultaneously apply for a work permit and permanent residence. If applicants meet all eligibility criteria and have no inadmissibility concerns, IRCC will issue an occupation-restricted open work permit (OROWP) for three years to allow the applicant to complete their 24 months of cumulative work experience before their permanent residence application can be finalized.
Applicants with some, but not the entire, 24 months of qualifying Canadian work experience can apply for the Home Child Care Provider or Home Support Worker pilot from inside or outside Canada. The occupation-specific work permits are beneficial because caregivers are no longer tied to a single employer and can switch employers. The pilots also allow caregivers to bring their dependents with them to Canada and provide open work or study permits for their immediate family members.
For both pilot programs, the instruction guide 0104 A2 details the steps to apply for permanent residence and an occupation-restricted open work permit from inside Canada. Additionally, the instruction guide 0104 A1 details the steps to apply for permanent residence and an occupation-restricted work permit from outside Canada. Guide 0104 A2 makes available the Application for Study Permit Made Outside of Canada (IMM 1294) and the Application for Work Permit Made Outside of Canada (IMM 1295).
Alternatively, applicants who already possess 24 months of cumulative work experience, and who meet all eligibility criteria and have no inadmissibility concerns, can apply through the ‘Direct to Permanent Residence Category’ under either pilot.
Applications for the Home Support Worker Pilot and Home Child Care Provider Pilot reopened on January 1, 2023. The programs remain open with the exception of online applications for the Gaining Experience Category under the Home Child Care Provider Pilot, as the cap has already been met. Caregivers can also apply for permanent residence through the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) if they have at least two years of work experience in the program and are working in Canada with an LCP work permit or were previously approved for an LCP work permit based on an LMIA.
Despite the promising changes to the caregiver scheme, there are numerous areas for improvement in these caregiver programs.
The first concern is the low cap for child care providers. Last year, the Home Child Care Provider Pilot portal opened on January 1, 2022, but the cap was met on January 17, 2022, indicating the high demand for qualified caregivers. Similarly, the online application cap for the Gaining Experience Category was reached this year in just four hours. The cap is 2,750 applications a year for each pilot, for a total of 5,500 care and support workers.
Backlogs are another significant problem, The backlogs of applications for permanent residence remain at concerning levels across all IRCC programs. However, the current all-time high for permanent residence backlogs for foreign caregivers stretches into years, and does not include those who came under the old caregiver programs and are still waiting. Due to the immense processing backlogs, qualified foreign caregivers remain overseas while Canadian families scramble to find interim solutions. Caregivers within Canada must continuously renew their work permits until their permanent residence applications are finalized. The renewal process takes considerable time and effort, as often language test results and medical and police clearances have to be redone if applications are not processed in time. It is a costly process and places a financial burden on caregivers.
Language and educational requirements for caregivers have also been criticized as being unrealistically high, which is also challenging for caregivers due to the costs and time-consuming nature of these assessments.
The federal government has stated that it prioritizes the caregiver community and realizes their important role in helping to improve economic growth, societal well-being, and the quality of life for the families that need them. In light of the above chronic concerns with the programs, IRCC should immediately prioritize issuing work permits to caregivers, significantly reducing processing times to ensure caregivers are getting their work permits in a timely fashion. Given the historical and current labour market demand for this important work, no other solution will be effective in addressing the goals of the program.
For more information on these pilot programs, feel free to contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a consultation with one of our experienced immigration lawyers.