It is estimated that there are 30–40 million undocumented workers worldwide. Although undocumented migration has become an issue of high international relevance, it has been strikingly understudied in Canada, especially with respect to its impact on health. The purpose of this study is to explore the concept of undocumentedness in Canada through a scoping review of peer-reviewed and grey literature written in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish between 2002 and 2008. The specific aims are to: (i) summarize and disseminate current academic and community-based findings on the health, service access and working conditions of undocumented migrants in Canada; (ii) examine the sources and use of evidence; (iii) identify significant gaps in existing knowledge; (iv) set recommendations for policy and research, including considerations on transnationalism, ethics, interdisciplinary approaches, gender differences, resilience, and impact on the children of non-status parents.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Papademetriou DG. The global struggle with illegal migration: no end in sight. 1 Sept 2005. Retrieved on Nov 18, 2008, from http://www.migrationinformation.org/feature/display.cfm?ID=336.
Soave Strategy Group (SSG). The impact of undocumented workers on the residential construction industry in the GTA. Toronto: SSG, Prepared for: Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA); 2006.
Through the Back Door. Canada and the world backgrounder. Dec 2006;72(3):7–21.
Boyd M. Gender aspects of international migration to Canada and the United States. In International symposium on international migration and development. Turin, Italy: Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations; 2006.
Jimenez M. 200,000 illegal immigrants toiling in Canada’s underground economy. The globe and Mail. 15 Nov 2003. p. A1.
Wright C. Moments of emergence: organizing by and with undocumented and non-citizen people in Canada after September 11. Refuge. 2003;21(3):5–15.
Khandor E, et al. The regularization of non-status immigrants in Canada 1960–2004: past policies, current perspectives, active campaigns. 2004.
Messias DK. Concept development: exploring undocumentedness. Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice: An International Journal. 1996;10(3):235–52.
Calavita K. Gender, migration, and law: crossing borders and bridging disciplines. International Migration Review. 2006;40(1):104–32.
Goldring L, Berinstein C, Bernhard J. Institutionalizing precarious immigration status in Canada. San Diego: The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, University of California; 2007.
Oxman-Martinez J, et al. Intersection of Canadian policy parameters affecting women with precarious immigration status: a baseline for understanding barriers to health. Journal of Immigrant Health. 2005;7(4):247–58.
Santos O. Undocumented workers-an issue of particular relevance to Canadian residents of Portuguese origin. Portuguese Canadian National Congress. 2005.
Omidvar R, Richmond T. Immigrant settlement and social inclusion in Canada. Working Papers Series. Toronto: Laidlaw Foundation; 2003.
World Health Organization (WHO). International migration, health, and human rights. Health and human rights publication series, no. 4, 2003. Retrieved on Dec 17, 2008, from http://www.who.int/hhr/activities/en/FINAL-Migrants-English-June04.pdf.
Arksey H, O’Malley L. Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology. 2005;8(1):19–32.
Berger AA. Media analysis techniques. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 2004.
Popay J, et al. Guidance on the conduct of narrative synthesis in systematic reviews: a product from the ESRC methods programme. Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Methods Programme. 2006.
Bernhard JK, et al. Living with precarious legal status in Canada: implications for the well-being of children and families. Refuge. 2007;24(2):101–14.
Rousseau C, et al. Health care access for refugees and immigrants with precarious status: public health and human right challenges. Canadian Journal of Public Health. 2008;99(4):290–2.
Simich L, Wu F, Nerad S. Status and health security: an exploratory study of irregular immigrants in Toronto. Canadian Journal of Public Health. 2007;98(5):369–73.
Caulford P, Vali Y. Providing health care to medically uninsured immigrants and refugees. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2006;174(9):1253–4.
Lowry M, Nyers P. “No one is illegal”: the fight for refugee and migrant rights in Canada. Refuge. 2003;21(3):66–72.
Berinstein C, et al. Access not fear: non-status immigrants & city services. 2006.
Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment (CAAT). Transformation through collective action: best practices in migration, HIV and mental health. Toronto: CAAT; 2008.
Community Social Planning Council of Toronto (CSPC-T). The right to learn: access to public education for non-status immigrants. Toronto: CSPC-T; 2008.
Paradis E, et al. Better off in a shelter? a year of homelessness & housing among status immigrant, non-status migrant, & Canadian-born families. Toronto: Centre for Urban and Community Studies Cities Centre, University of Toronto; 2008.
Oxman-Martinez J, Hanley J. Research on diversity: contributions to better health policy and practice, in our diverse cities. In: Andrew C, editor. The Metropolis Project. 2004.
Access Alliance, Racialised Groups and Health Status. A literature review exploring poverty, housing, race-based discrimination and access to health care as determinants of health for racialised groups. Toronto: Access Alliance Multicultural Community Health Centre (AAMCHC); 2005.
Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment (CAAT). Status, access & health disparities: a literature review report on relevant policies and programs affecting people living with HIV/AIDS who are immigrants, refugees or without status in Canada. Toronto: CAAT; 2006.
Community Social Planning Council of Toronto (CSPC-T), Davenport Perth Neighbourhood Centre. Access to services without fear immigration campaign: Toronto community services resource guide. Toronto: CSPC-T and Davenport Perth Neighbourhood Centre; 2007.
Parkdale Community Legal Services (PCLS). Guide to social membership entitlements. Toronto: PCLS; 2005.
Rights of Non-Status Women Network (RNSWN). Non-status women in Canada: fact sheet. 2006. Retrieved on Dec 21, 2009, from http://atwork.settlement.org/sys/atwork_offsite_frame.asp?link=http://www.womanabuse.ca/.
Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO). Every child’s legal right to education. Toronto: CLEO; 2006.
Tilson D. Temporary foreign workers and nonstatus workers May 2009. Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
Cavazos-Regh P, Zayas L, Spitznagel E. Legal status, emotional well-being and subjective health status of Latino immigrants. Journal of the National Medical Association. 2007;99(10):1126–31.
Alcoba N. Where the uninsured go for health care. National Post. 13 Jan 2007. p. A12.
Keung N. Illegals afraid to see a doctor; appointments cancelled out of deportation fears Health workers want Ottawa to issue moratorium. Toronto Star. 23 May 2006. p. A04.
Henderson H. Child shut out of help he’s entitled to; parents’ uncertain status a barrier. Toronto Star. 3 Sept 2005. p. L04.
Hart M. Women, migration, and the body-less spirit of capitalist patriarchy. Journal of International Women’s Studies. 2005;7(2):1–16.
Raghuram P, Kofman E. Out of Asia: skilling, re-skilling and de-skilling of female migrants. Women’s Studies International Forum. 2004;27:95–100.
Slade B. Gender, race, and the social construction of skill in Canadian engineering: the deskilling of immigrant women engineers. 2003. Retrieved on 27 Dec 2008 from http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/CASAE/cnf2003/2003_papers/bonniesladeCAS03.pdf.
Panter-Brick C. Homelessness, poverty, and risks to health: beyond at risk categorization of street children. Children’s Geographies. 2004;2(1):83–94.
Campbell WS. Lessons in resilience. Affilia. 2008;23(3):231–41.
Perez W, et al. Academic resilience among undocumented Latino students. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences. 2009;31(2):141–89.
Schatz EJ. Reframing vulnerability: Mozambican refugees’ access to state-funded pensions in rural South Africa. J Cross-Cult Gerontol. 2009. [Online].
This research was supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR grant #85038). The authors thank Amaia Sáenz de Ormijana and Melisa Dickie for their assistance during the first phase of this study.
About this article
Cite this article
Magalhaes, L., Carrasco, C. & Gastaldo, D. Undocumented Migrants in Canada: A Scope Literature Review on Health, Access to Services, and Working Conditions. J Immigrant Minority Health 12, 132 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-009-9280-5
- Undocumented workers
- Social justice