THE LIVE-IN CAREGIVER PROGRAM (LCP) – Applicable to caregivers admitted before November 30th, 2014
Established in 1992, the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) was a federal government initiative. It brought in workers from other countries in order to address a shortage of live-in domestic workers in Canada. It represented the only way for a caregiver to obtain permanent residency. In order to participate in the program, caregivers were required to have completed an education equal to that of a Canadian secondary school diploma, have relevant training of at least six months, and a good knowledge of English or French.
Program requirements and issues related to permanent residency:
- The caregiver had to live in the employer’s residence;
- The work permit was issued for a specific employer, which precluded the possibility of changing employers freely. In order to change employers, caregivers had to obtain a new work permit, which could sometimes take 6 to 8 months. Caregivers who lost their job, or had to quit, were unable to legally work in Canada. To make matters worse, they now had to find a new place to live, since their workplace was also their home.
- Caregivers had to complete 24 months of work in a Canadian private home within a 48-month period in order to be eligible for permanent residency. Complications, such as sickness or job loss, could easily jeopardize a caregiver’s eligibility for permanent residency.
These requirements put caregivers in situations where they felt they had no alternative but to accept difficult, and sometimes even abusive, working conditions.
In November 2014, the federal government closed admissions for the Live-in Caregiver Program, putting an end to the possibility of accessing permanent residency for caregivers who do not hold a post-secondary diploma.
THE CAREGIVER PROGRAM – Applicable to caregivers admitted after November 30th, 2014
On November 30th, 2014, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration fundamentally reformed the Live-in Caregiver Program. This included the elimination of the “live-in” requirement, as well as promised reductions in the waiting times associated with the permanent residency application process. These reforms also drastically changed the permanent residency requirements for caregivers and instituted a cap on the number of permanent residency applications that would be accepted each year, effectively ending universal access to permanent residency for caregivers.
The new program, just like the former program, allows Canadian to hire foreign workers to fill temporary labor and skill shortages. However, it has a considerably different structure than the LCP, including the division of the program into two separate pathways to permanent residency:
- A pathway for child care providers
- A pathway for those caring for people with high medical needs
Applicants must have a good knowledge of French or English, a high school diploma equivalent in Canada and relevant post-secondary education of at least a year.
NEW REQUIREMENTS TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR PERMANENT RESIDENCY
- Workers are required to accumulate work experience of at least 24 months of work but in only one of the two access channels only. So, either by providing care to children for 24 months or by providing care to people with high medical needs for 24 months. There is no possibility of combining work time of the two pathways. If the caregiver wishes to change from one pathway to the other, the counting of his or her 24 months will start all over.
- Caregivers will have to subscribe to certain language requirements when applying for permanent residency. For either of the two pathways, they will need to have initial intermediate-level language proficiency (level 5). The only exception is workers who are applying as a registered nurse or psychiatric nurse, in which case they must have minimum intermediate language skills (level 7). These level certifications have an official nature and can only be achieved in language centers accredited by the Ministry. The tests approved for English are CELPIP or IELTS and the test approved for French is TEF.
- Another aim of the program is to accelerate the permanent residency application process. The application processing time, for either pathway, will now be 6 months.
- There is now an annual cap on the number of application that CIC will process for caregivers. CIC will process 2,750 applications each year for both the Caring for Children and the Caring for People with High Medical Needs pathways, for a total of 5,500. This cap may change.
- Future applicants and family members included in the application will undergo a medical examination. Excessive and/or costly medical conditions can prove to be a barrier to obtaining permanent residency.
- Finally, an unchanged aspect is the attachment of the work permit to the employer. It will continue to be a laborious and complex process for caregivers to change employers since obtaining a new permit can take several months.
Problems and Issues with the New Program
The government’s decision to maintain employer-specific work permits will undoubtedly mean that caregivers will continue to struggle to have their right to decent work conditions and fair wages respected.
The requirement that all work experience be completed in only one of the occupations listed in either pathway means that the job mobility of caregivers will be further restrained. They will have a much narrower selection of work they can accept if they do not want to jeopardize their eligibility for permanent residency.
Employment-based access to permanent residency means caregivers will still be discouraged from leaving exploitative and abusive situations.
The significant power imbalances between employers and caregivers, caused by the employer-specific work permit and permanent residency requirements, means that employers can still force caregivers to live-in, even if that condition was not part of the original agreement.
Notwithstanding the government’s commitment to reducing the backlog and speeding up the process for permanent residency applications, there are currently 29,000 caregivers caught up in permanent residency backlog – with an average wait of 53 months to process applications. These unreasonable delays prolong the length of separation that these workers and their families must endure.
Finally, despite the government’s acknowledgment that the live-in requirement increased the risk of abuse and exploitation, caregivers who wanted to safeguard their eligibility for permanent residency under the LCP were not allowed to work on a live-out basis. Even though a change of employer was permitted by the regulations, in practice it was very difficult for an employer offering a live-in condition to be approved by the government.
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