Personal Support Workers

Immigration pathways for caregivers


aregivers are among the few types of occupation where opportunity has increased during the otherwise challenging and tragic COVID-19 period. Many individuals in this vital field are foreign nationals currently working in Canada, or looking to come to Canada to help meet the strong demand for skilled and experienced people. Read the following scenarios if they apply to you. Remember, just as this door to entry in Canada is now open wider than it was before, it can also close on short notice, or no notice. If you aspire to come to Canada, now is the time to seek good advice and take action.

International students

If you are an international student, and you have completed your studies at a recognized, designated learning institution, you must apply for, and be granted, a post-graduation work permit (PGWP) to work in Canada. If you had been working the minimum 20 hours allowed per week while you were still a full-time student, then at the end of your final semester, you can start to work full time, provided your study permit is still in force. If you apply for your PGWP while your study permit is still valid, then you can continue to work seamlessly, beyond the limit of your study permit.

  • Full-time is regarded as 30 hours and more per week;
  • From the time school ends for you, you can start looking for a PSW or caregiver job which is classified under the National Occupation Classification (NOC) matrix as a skill level ‘B’ NOC code 4412;
  • The earlier you find such a job, the better for you if your objective is to eventually apply for permanent residence and make Canada your home;
  • Your route to immigration success is through the Express Entry management system, which uses an algorithm for awarding points to the candidate, based on a series of human capital factors, including their Canadian education and Canadian work experience. The higher your post secondary level of studies, and the more years of experience in your field, the greater your points.

Eligibility criteria for the Canadian Experience Class stream of Express Entry is unambiguous. The minimum experience you must have completed under your NOC code 4412 is 1,560 hours within 12 months. You may also have 1,560 hours over a period of 24 months, working part-time 15 hours per week. You can work at one or more workplace, providing it is the same type of work as described under your specific occupation code.

Because PSW and caregiver programs are about a year (two semesters) long, most international students will qualify for only a one-year open work permit. It means that unless students strategically place themselves into the work force, they will not have sufficient time to gain the requisite work experience to be eligible to apply for permanent residence through the Canadian experience class of Express Entry.

Pandemic-related temporary public policies

Extension of Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)

Since March of 2020, the Government of Canada has responded to pandemic situations by developing and implementing temporary public policies to override immigration regulations, and to resolve issues. Canada now has a new temporary public policy aimed at helping international students whose post graduation work permit either expired or will expire in the coming months, to apply for an 18-month open work permit. The rationale for allowing international students to apply for an additional open work permit, regardless of the length of their initial permit, is to allow those who may not have found work, or those whose jobs abruptly ended because of pandemic measures in place to control the spread of COVID-19, to legally obtain employment.

For PSW students whose post-graduation work permits average between one and two years, this is especially helpful. It lengthens the duration that students can legally accumulate Canadian work experience toward the Canadian Experience Class pathway to permanent residence.

Applying for a work permit under this temporary public policy requires that an applicant have legal status in Canada at the time their application is submitted. Students whose PGWP have expired but are still in Canada under another public policy that has allowed them to stay without legal repercussions have two choices:

  1. They must apply to obtain a visitor record if they still qualify to do so;
  2. They must apply to restore their visitor status within a specific time period, as the situation warrants.

If an applicant’s legal status must be addressed, two separate applications and two separate sets of fees must be paid in order to be eligible for the work permit.

Interim work approval

Granting an interim approval to work while a work permit application is in process

If an applicant who is still in temporary resident status has applied for a work permit to work for the same employer within 12 months of the expiration of the applicant’s expired work permit, then a request for consideration to begin working while the application is in process can be submitted to IRCC.

Evidence of having submitted an application can be either:

  1. Provision of the application number (on-line submissions); or
  2. Postage or courier tracking number (paper submissions).

Temporary residents within Canada

For temporary residents in Canada (visitors) still here under the temporary public policies enabling them to remain in Canada during the pandemic, and wishing to work as PSWs or caregivers, there is a two-step process to follow:

  1. Identify an employer (such as a private household) who is ready to offer you a job as a home support worker, caregiver, or a personal support worker. Obtain assistance from Upper Canada Immigration Consultants to apply on the employer’s behalf to Employment and Skills Development Canada (ESDC) for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). PSWs are in demand in Ontario. A submitted application for a LMIA to hire a foreign national as a caregiver will, under current special ministerial instructions, be processed within 10 days;
  2. Once an LMIA-positive letter is received, the identified foreign national can then apply for an employer-specific work permit. Again, it is advisable for the foreign national to seek our assistance to apply for this work permit, and to provide guidance on working under an employer-specific permit.

Open work permit for Hong Kong residents

As of February 8, 2021, the Canadian government has issued a public policy to grant open work permits for up to three years to Hong Kong residents who are recent graduates. The eligibility criteria are geared toward those who have graduated within the immediate past five years from when their application is submitted, and hold either a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) passport or a British National Overseas (BNO) passport.

Graduates can be either from a designated Canadian learning institution or a foreign institution and must hold either a university degree or a post secondary two-year diploma. For holders of an education credential from a non-Canadian institution, an Education Credential Assessment Report from a designated institution is also required.

Eligible family members may also apply for work permits along with the principal applicant.


In-home Caregiver Pilot Program

You are in Canada as a temporary resident

Someone who succeeds in obtaining a LMIA- based work permit as described above, after working for 24 months at a minimum of 30 hours per week, may be eligible to apply for permanent residence for him or herself and their immediate family. There are conditions to meet with respect to English language competency and post secondary education. There is also an annual quota for this initiative.

You are living outside Canada

Under this pilot program, foreign nationals who are not in Canada, and are trained and experienced PSWs, caregivers or nurses working anywhere in the world, can access this pilot program if they are offered a job by a Canadian employer.

The key factor here is to identify an employer who in turn formally “offers” a job to the foreign national. There must be perfect understanding between the employer and the identified foreign national for this arrangement to succeed. There are important rules to follow in the pilot process. Compliance with all federal and provincial legislation regarding employment of PSWs and caregivers is required. For this reason, individuals wanting to come to Canada through this program need to seek professional assistance to prepare the multitude of application forms and documents required for a submission.

We need to work with you to prepare both a work permit and an application for permanent residence at the same time. The two are submitted to a processing centre in Canada.

  • Once the assessment deems the applicant admissible to Canada, then the work permit is processed;
  • All government processing fees for both applications are paid at the time of submission. For example, if a principal applicant has a spouse and two children, work permit application fees for two adults ($255 x 2) plus permanent resident fees for a family of two adults and two children ($1,050 x 2, plus $300) plus biometric registration fees for two adults ($85 x 2) must be paid at the time of submission. Total government fees in this example case would be $3,080.

The Caregiver Pilot program has been designed to lessen hardship on the employer who no longer has to worry about obtaining an LMIA and paying a processing fee. From the perspective of the foreign national, this is a smoother pathway to permanent residency, since the work permit is processed only after a successful assessment of the permanent residence application has been completed, and the applicant has been deemed admissible to Canada.

This very application will be revisited 24 months later when the foreign national submits evidence of having completed the requisite work hours to be qualified to receive permanent residence status in Canada.