Consequences of Recent Changes to Live-in Caregiver Program

The following article appeared in the January edition of The Canadian Immigrant.  At the end of the article I have reproduced two Access to Information Act which confirm the great reduction in the program.

Canada’s live-in caregiver program (LCP) has arguably been one of the country’s best-known immigration programs, albeit not without its criticisms.

Under the LCP, foreign caregivers were required to live with the families that they assisted. After two years, the caregivers were free to move out of their employers’ dwellings, and were eligible to apply for permanent residence. The LCP became so popular that it currently has a backlog of 60,000 applications, almost 90 per cent of which were submitted by Filipino women.

Since assuming office in 2006, the Conservative federal government has reformed almost every Canadian immigration program, so it wasn’t surprising when in October 2014, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced that it was replacing the LCP with the caring for children class and the caring for people with high medical needs class. Both new programs, which began accepting applications on Nov. 30, 2014, will have minimum education and language requirements.

Live-in caregivers currently in Canada

Live-in caregivers who are currently in Canada and might not meet the requirements of either the two new classes should not panic. Once they have completed their two-year live-in employment requirement, they will still be eligible to apply for permanent residency under the rules of the LCP. Indeed, CIC has committed to increasing the number of LCP cases processed in the next two years from 17,000 per year to 30,000.

However, those whose prospective employers applied to Service Canada for permission to hire a live-in caregiver after Nov. 30, 2014, will not be able to apply for permanent residency under the LCP.

Caring for children

Individuals will be eligible to apply for permanent residence under the caring for children class if they have acquired, within four years of applying for permanent residence, at least two years of full-time work experience as a home childcare provider in Canada. There is no live-in requirement, but should a home childcare provider choose to live with the employer, then the employer is prohibited from charging room and board.

Prospective applicants to this class must complete a language exam to demonstrate a level of English or French language proficiency equal to Canadian Language Benchmark 5, also known as “initial intermediate ability.” Finally, they must also have obtained either a Canadian educational credential of at least one year of post-secondary studies, or a foreign equivalent.

Caring for people with high medical needs

Individuals will be eligible to apply for permanent residence under the caring for people with high medical needs class if they have acquired within the four years of applying for permanent residence, at least two years of full-time experience in Canada as a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse, a nurse aide or a home support worker.

As with the caring for children class, prospective applicants must complete a language exam to demonstrate a level of English or French language proficiency of either Canadian Language Benchmark 5 or 7 (“adequate intermediate ability”) depending on their occupation. Also, as with the caring for children class, they must have obtained either a Canadian educational credential of at least one year of post-secondary studies, or a foreign equivalent.

Reducing the number of participants in the program

The reforms to the LCP are interesting in that the Government of Canada appears to now be targeting occupations that live-in caregivers traditionally performed after they had applied for permanent residency and no longer had to live with their employers.

One of the main criticisms of the LCP has always been that the program required that caregivers work for two years in positions for which they were overqualified in exchange for Canadian permanent resident visas. That the caregivers were underemployed was repeatedly demonstrated by many who quickly obtained employment in higher skilled positions as soon as they met the requirements of the LCP, including those occupations now eligible for immigration under the caring for people with high medical needs class.

However, it is unfortunately difficult to see how the changes will not result in the permanent residence pathway closing to the Filipino female demographic that traditionally comprised the bulk of LCP participants. The reason is not because of the new language and education requirements, which many prospective caregivers will meet; rather, it is difficult to see how prospective caregivers will find initial employment in Canada as temporary foreign workers.

During the past several years, participation in the LCP was already declining due to the program becoming more time-consuming and expensive for Canadian employers hiring foreign caregivers. It will only become more so.

Most importantly, the duration of labour market impact assessments for caregivers will now only be one year unless employers are willing to pay their caregivers the median hourly wage for all occupations in their respective provinces. If employers are unable to pay this amount (which, for example, is $21.79 per hour in British Columbia and $20 per hour in Ontario) then they will need to reapply to the Government of Canada for permission to hire a caregiver after one year, creating tremendous uncertainty (and expense) for both employers and prospective caregivers.

Unintended consequences

The LCP previously addressed a very real need by Canada’s middle-class that continues to exist. Many families unable to rely on one income to raise their children, as well as many elderly individuals, benefited greatly. It is unclear whether they will be able to afford the increase in costs that the changes will cause. It will be difficult for politicians to simply tell cash-strapped Canadian families to simply pay more. Indeed, one of the unintended consequences for the Conservative Party of Canada might be that the changes increase pressure on the Government of Canada to introduce some form of universal childcare and/or increased spending on elder care.

A second unintended consequence is that the caring for children class may actually encourage underemployment by international graduates who wish to immigrate to Canada. Graduates of post-secondary institutions who seek employment in their prospective fields now face increased uncertainty under the complicated and fluctuating ranking system of Express Entry. However, graduates who instead delay their careers for two years and serve as caregivers will seemingly have a much more secure pathway to permanent residency than those who embark on the careers that they were trained for.

On a final note, it is important to note that the Conservative Government of Canada has not been shy about terminating the permanent residency applications of entire streams of applicants. In 2012, it terminated the federal skilled worker program backlog, and in 2014 it terminated the immigrant investor program backlog. Many, including myself, were worried that it would do the same to the LCP backlog, which would have devastated the tens-of-thousands of applicants who had worked as live-in caregivers in order to forge an immigration pathway for their families.

Although the future of Canada’s caregiver program, and all of its possible unintended consequences, remain to be seen, we can at least take some comfort in knowing that a great potential injustice did not occur.

Reduction Confirmed

The two PDFs below obtained through Access to Information Act confirms the dramatic reduction in LMIAs being issued under the Caregiver Program.


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