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Immigration

Immigration program for migrant caregivers under review

The planned suspension of a pilot program that gives migrant caregivers a chance at permanent residence status in Canada came as a shock to the community, says Toronto immigration lawyer Andrew Carvajal.

The announcement, made on a federal government website in early February 2018, says the Caring for Children Program will expire on Nov. 29, 2019, and that it’s under review “to determine how caregivers will apply for permanent residence” after the program ends. It also says caregivers must have two years of full-time work experience before that date in order to apply.

Immigration Canada says the results of the review will be announced before the expiry date, but caregivers and those who represent them are anxious about the government’s move, the Toronto Star reports.

Carvajal, a partner with Desloges Law Group, says the five-year pilot program began in 2014 after it was introduced by the former Conservative government to replace the Live-In Caregiver Program, “and we just expected it to be renewed next year.” Instead, he says, no official announcement was made by the current Liberal government and there was no warning, other than the brief notice on the website.

“We have some caregivers who just recently came to Canada. I had one who started in January and she won’t be able to accumulate two years by November 2019,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“At the time she applied to start the process, we had no way of telling her that she won’t be able to become a permanent resident, unless, of course, the government introduces a new program.”

The government also announced on its website that a second pilot program, launched in 2014 and designed to provide care for people with high medical needs, is also under review and faces the same expiry date.

Carvajal says the situation isn’t as dire for caregivers under the second program because as professional workers, they’re eligible to apply for permanent residence through other avenues.

“But children's caregivers are considered non-professional, so the only way for these people to remain in Canada is if there are programs like this one," he says.

The need in Canada for caregivers is great, but because not enough people are interested in doing the job, foreign workers are brought over to fill the void, he says. Many caregivers, often from the Philippines, Africa and Southeast Asia, are already working outside of their home countries in such places as Dubai, Pakistan or Lebanon, he adds.

“They leave those jobs to come to Canada because they had an option to eventually become permanent residents. So that’s the concern. Will it be harder to attract those people if they know they’ll only be coming on a work permit and then they will have to go back home?” Carvajal wonders.

Another concern, he says, is that caregivers who are already here and unable to become permanent residents because of the program’s suspension may overstay the time they’re allowed in the country.

Carvajal says while he thinks the government mishandled the announcement, a review could lead to some positive changes for caregivers. The program introduced by the Conservatives “made it much more challenging for caregivers to become permanent residents,” he says, because new requirements on language and post-secondary education were added.

“I don’t have much of an issue with the language requirement because they need to be able to respond to emergencies and things like that,” he says. “But the post-secondary requirement has been controversial. Why wouldn’t high school be enough for a non-professional occupation?”

For many caregivers, finding the time to study while working at a demanding full-time job “is almost impossible,” Carvajal says, adding that they’re required to pay high international tuition fees.

He says he became concerned about the federal strategy for caregivers when the government released its immigration targets in November 2017. The goal for 2018 is 17,000, but the number drops to 14,000 next year and just 5,000 in 2020.

“Given the figures for 2020, we anticipated that the program was probably going to be shut down. If they only plan to accept 4,000-7,000 applications from caregivers that year, then that is likely just the backlog from the applications submitted in 2019,” he says.

If Ottawa doesn’t show signs of introducing a new program that allows caregivers to receive permanent residence status, it’s possible the provinces will step up to the plate, Carvajal says, noting that many have their own immigration programs. Ontario, for example, has a semi-skilled program for construction and agricultural workers.

“I think if the provinces find that caregivers don’t have a transition to permanent residence from the federal government, they might include them in their own programs for semi-skilled workers,” he says.

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