Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for re-inviting us to discuss with you today some of the new immigration pathways for caregivers.
As you mentioned, I'm David Cashaback, director of federal economic policies and programs at IRCC, joined today by my colleague, Martin Barry, director of immigration program guidance.
I'm going to speak to a presentation that was distributed to you. Let's start on slide 2.
The brief outlines the purpose of the presentation. We are giving this presentation in response to the motion adopted by the committee on March 18, following the interest shown by its members in immigration pathways for caregivers.
The purpose of this brief is to present the objectives and parameters of new caregiver programming, the interim pathway for caregivers and the new permanent residence pilot programs, which will be announced later this spring.
To provide background information to committee members, I will also present the key findings we have drawn from our experience with the pilot programs currently in place, namely, the caring for children class and the caring for people with high medical needs class.
Let's continue to slide three, which shows the chronology of the live-in caregiver program and provides information on the evolution of caregiver programming.
As you know, Canada has a long tradition of permanent residence programs for caregivers.
The live-in caregiver program was a relatively guaranteed pathway from temporary residence to permanent residence. It made it easier for live-in caregivers who had accumulated two years of work experience in Canada to obtain permanent residence.
In 2014, the live-in caregiver program stopped accepting new applications. However, fairly generous grandfathering provisions have been put in place and, in the meantime, two new classes have been introduced, the caring for children and caring for people with high medical needs classes. These new family caregiver categories were piloted in 2014 and established for five years. They will expire at the end of November 2019.
In February 2018, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship committed to putting in place an improved pathway to permanent residence for caregivers before the existing pilot programs expire. The recently announced immigration pathways for caregivers are a follow-up to this commitment.
I will turn now to slide 4, speaking a bit about the 2014 program changes, the programs that are expiring and we're replacing.
Under the former live-in caregiver program, caregivers were assessed at the temporary resident stage. Before they came to work in Canada, we assessed them against education and language requirements, which provided them with a fairly clear pathway to permanent residency once they obtained two years of work experience in Canada.
The requirement that we had at the time for caregivers to live-in with their employers while they were here as temporary workers also put them in a vulnerable position. There was unlimited intake also at the temporary resident stage. Combined with limited admission space for caregivers as permanent residents in the annual immigration plan, that led to backlogs, which led, from the applicant's perspective, to fairly long processing times.
Looking to replace the live-in caregiver program, the 2014 pilots were introduced with a view to aligning caregiver programs with other permanent economic immigration programs, modelled after the Canadian experience class and responding to issues such as the mandatory live-in requirement and the significant backlog and long processing times we witnessed under the live-in caregiver program.
The 2014 programs also targeted a wider range of caregiving occupations at different skill levels, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nurse aides, etc., in addition to home care providers and home support workers.
The 2014 pilots fundamentally changed the way that caregivers applied for permanent residence in Canada. Unlike the old live-in caregiver program, caregivers have now started to come to Canada like any other temporary foreign worker and are not assessed against any of the permanent resident criteria before they have their two years of work experience. This is after they arrive in Canada.
They can apply for permanent residence through the pilots that are in place after they've completed their two years of work experience, if they meet all the eligibility requirements of the pilot, including the requirement that they demonstrate a language level at the Canadian language benchmark 5 and have a one-year post-secondary credential.
The pilots feature criteria that are fairly standard across our economic immigration programs. They are meant to ensure that caregivers are able to establish themselves and their families in Canada in the long term.
The change in 2014 effectively removed what had been a fairly assured pathway under the live-in caregiver program to PR, permanent residence.
I'll now turn to slide 5 and the key findings in these five years that we've had pilots in place.
Uptake has been fairly low since the pilots were introduced five years ago. If we look at the number of applications received in 2018, they hit just around 25%, one quarter of the overall cap of this program, which is set at 5,500 applications.
We saw that higher-skilled caregivers, such as registered nurses and nurse aides, applied to the pilots in much smaller numbers. They continue to apply through other immigration programs, like the provincial nominee program or other federal skilled-immigration programs. Most caregivers who have arrived in Canada since 2014 are in occupations related to home child care and home support.
A year ago, in the spring of 2018, departmental officials conducted consultations with a range of stakeholders on these pilots, with a view to identifying improvements that could be made in future programs. In-person and teleconference consultations were attended by over 125 stakeholders, and 45 written submissions were received. We have published a summary report on the department's website.
In consultations, we heard that the changes made to the caregiver pathways in 2014 were not well understood. Caregivers continued to come to Canada, believing they would qualify for permanent residence after they had acquired the necessary work experience, only to find out after those two years that they didn't meet the eligibility requirements for the 2014 pilots, such as the education or official language requirements.
Stakeholders raised concerns about the challenges of caregiving work, such as the isolated nature of the occupation and the fact that they're dependent on a single employer for their permanent residence. Concerns were also raised around communications. Stakeholders and caregivers told us that it was very difficult to find information on the department's website and that information on the program changes was unclear.
Turning to slide 6, it became clear, coming out of those consultations, that there were two issues to be addressed. The first was to address the confusion around the pathway to permanent residence for workers who continued to enter the labour market but did not qualify under any of the permanent residence criteria. That's one reason the interim pathway for caregivers that was announced in February was introduced as a one-time, short-term measure to address those caregivers who were in that situation prior to the launch of two new pilot programs later this year.
So there were two issues that we wanted to address, one being the confusion, and the second the need to replace the existing pilots that expire in five years. Moving to slide 7, I'll now describe both of these initiatives.
The interim pathway for caregivers is an exceptional one-time dedicated pathway for some caregivers who came to Canada expecting to obtain permanent residence but did not meet the requirements under other programs. The criteria under this pathway are slightly lower than those of the 2014 pilots. The requirements are set to ensure that caregivers are able to establish themselves economically in Canada and to become successful as permanent residents. To this end, the language level of Canadian language benchmark 5 is maintained. However, as for the education and work experience factors, some requirements have been lowered in exceptional cases, based on input and building on what we heard in the consultations.
The interim pathway is open to applications. It was opened on March 4, and it runs until June 4, 2019. This three-month application period is an interim response to exceptional and temporary circumstances, namely, the difficulties and challenges that caregivers can have in gathering the required documents in a short period of time. We've built in some flexibility to make it easier for them to get their applications in and to provide supporting documents at a later date.
This measure has no cap. We will accept as many applications as we receive by the end date.
During the three-month period of the new pathway, applications under the existing pilots, the 2014 pilots, continue to be accepted. If somebody has completed the requirements, we strongly encourage them to apply under the existing pilots, where processing times are six months. Caregivers who are here on live-in caregiver programs—the grandfathered live-in caregiver program applicants—need to continue to apply through that program. They are not eligible for the interim pathway.
I believe we've shared with the committee an annex, a comparative table, to try to help guide caregivers and applicants to which program may be the most appropriate.
Turning to slide 8, we're looking now at the new pilots that will be introduced later this year. As I mentioned, with the expiry of the caring for children and caring for people with high medical needs pilot programs, which expire in November 2019, the government has announced its intention to continue to offer a pathway for permanent residence for all caregivers. Two new five-year pilots will be launched in June 2019. These will replace these existing pilot programs.
As the experience with our 2014 pilots has shown, it's important to test these programs before we make them permanent fixtures of the immigration system. The new pilots will test a new selection approach to provide a clearer improved pathway for caregivers, while also supporting their economic establishment as permanent residents, and to continue to provide Canadian families with a range of caregiving options.
Really, it's a big response to what we learned from our experiences with the pilots, and what we heard from caregivers themselves through our consultations, in looking to make sure that, first, program requirements are clear up front; that it's easier for caregivers to change jobs when they need to; that family separation is minimized; and lastly, that this pilot sets up caregivers for long-term success in Canada.
To go on to slide 9 in looking at the two new pilots, one pilot will be dedicated to home child care providers, while the other will be dedicated to home support workers. We will look to reintroduce some of the features that we had under the old live-in caregiver program, including especially that pre-assessment of some criteria against permanent residence requirements at the stage when they're still overseas. Before they even start working in Canada, we will have assessed some of their skills and their abilities, to make their transition from temporary to permanent residence more clear for the applicant.
The two new pilots have been limited to in-home caregiving occupations, because the overwhelming majority of temporary foreign caregivers who are here are concentrated in those two occupations. Under these two new pilots, the caregivers' pathway to permanent residence will be, we hope, clearer than under the existing pilots. They will only have to meet the two years of work experience in order to finish the process and then gain their permanent residence. Caregivers who are already in Canada will be eligible to apply for these new programs if they meet the various eligibility criteria.
How will it work? Caregivers will submit an application for permanent residence up front, and they will be assessed overseas for education and language criteria. The whole family will be assessed and screened for admissibility—medical issues, police certificates and those kinds of things—at that point as well to avoid any downstream impacts and surprises in terms of inadmissible family members, which may delay or scuttle the process. After the caregiver has worked for two years in an eligible job, they provide us proof that they've done that, the application is finalized and they become permanent residents.
As well, the two new pilots will remove some of the barriers that we see caregivers have faced in bringing their families with them to Canada, by providing open work permits for their spouses and common-law partners and study permits to their dependant children. The pilots will also provide a degree of flexibility to caregivers when they need to find a new job by providing them with occupation-specific work permits, moving away from tying a work permit to an employer.
The eligibility criteria for the new pilots will be similar to those of other economic immigration programs—for example, the education requirements, official language requirements, work requirements—and similar to those that we have in place under the 2014 pilots. This is to ensure that caregivers have the ability to, as I said, economically establish over the long term. The full list of criteria will be made available closer to the date of their launch later in 2019.
I'll turn to slide 10.
This is about awareness-raising activities.
Following the minister's announcement on February 23, we have worked closely with stakeholders to ensure that they are aware of the new interim pathway for caregivers and that they are able to share the information with applicants who would like to participate in these programs.
We have issued a number of news releases. We are also running a social media campaign, and we have seen significant engagement. I would say that the news releases on caregivers that we have issued have generated four times as much interest as the standard announcements.
This was followed by technical briefings with organizations and stakeholders. In response to questions raised during these sessions, the minister developed an eligibility tool to help applicants determine whether they meet the interim pathway criteria.
We also prepared a frequently asked questions document, which was then shared with the department's network of over 500 service provider organizations. The main thing was really to ensure that the caregivers concerned would have all the information they needed at their disposal.
I will end with slide 11. As for next steps, the department will continue to work on implementing the new pilot programs in June 2019. I hope you find the information useful.
We will be pleased to answer any questions you may have. Thank you very much.