Changes to the Live-in Caregiver Program reaction:
Live-in caregivers in Canada now have an opportunity to get open work permits about 18 months sooner. On Dec. 15, 2011, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced the change, but reaction from the caregiver community has been mixed.
The open visa will allow caregivers to live out of their employer’s home, find another job in a different field and allow them to have more than one job or employer. Caregivers can use their skills in a field in which they may have education and experience from their home country. A benefit of the change is they can potentially increase their income by working part-time for other employers.
“They can also negotiate for better wages other than minimum wage because they are not tied (by contract) to one employer,” says Lorina Serafico, secretary treasurer of the Vancouver Committee for Domestic Workers’ and Caregivers’ Rights (CDWCR). “For some married women who need more funds to finance the processing of their family’s immigration papers and settlement to Canada, this ability to earn more is especially helpful and may even allow them to reunite with their family faster.”
The Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) gives Canadian families the opportunity to hire workers from overseas to provide care to a child, an elderly person or an adult with disabilities when there is a confirmed shortage of Canadians available to work in those positions. Caregivers are required to work for two years, or 3,900 hours, and then they are eligible to apply for permanent residence in Canada.
Before this new change, live-in caregivers would be forced to wait for an initial approval on their application for permanent residence before being eligible for an open work permit. This meant they had little choice in their employment situations. An open work permit allows the caregiver to move out of their employer’s home and look for jobs with another employer.
Despite the promise of increased earnings, there are some concerns about the new announcement. “My worry is that CIC may take longer to process permanent resident applications now that caregivers will obtain open work permits more quickly,” says Ai Li Lim executive director for the West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association. “While it is a definite improvement, the ultimate end goal [for many caregivers] is to obtain PR status, which an open work permit does not provide.”
While the live-in caregiver program is a temporary program, if the participants fulfill the requirements of their contracts adequately, they are eligible to apply for permanent residence, and then sponsor their own families to Canada.
Serafico is a pioneer member of CDWCR, which first formed in 1992. “Prior to this announcement, our organization has sent letters to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to encourage these types of changes, so this is a good start.”
“We look at the program on a continual basis,” says Rick Dykstra, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. “This change happened as an evolution of the program.”
Some of the other improvements the Government of Canada has made to the program in recent years include: allowing live-in caregivers to apply for permanent residence after 3,900 work hours, rather than two years of work, to ensure overtime is appropriately recognized; the elimination of the need for a second medical examination when the caregiver applies for permanent residence; and defining the costs the employer is obliged to pay, including the caregiver’s travel expenses in coming to Canada, medical insurance, workplace safety insurance and third-party representative fees.
Program improves, numbers decline
While the program has been improving, the number of caregivers entering the program has been on a decline since 2007.
“Based on our experience, the decline results from changes to regulations and policies that discourage employers to hire them, usually the length of time to process and the costs associated with it, especially if coming from Manila or New Delhi,” says Serafico.
The increasing requirements to qualify under the program could also be a reason for the decline in numbers. The recent change in 2008 by the Philippine government requiring an “addendum” to the contract between Canadian employers and Filipino caregivers could be one of the factors.
The terms of this contract with employers in Canada and caregivers coming from the Philippines require that the employer be responsible for the cost of transportation to and from Canada, health coverage for the employee (before the provincial health insurance applies), termination of employment only for just cause and more.
Regardless of the dwindling participation in the program, the changes could have significant potential for future caregivers according to Serafico, “The Live-in Caregiver Program is an important one and it is an opportunity for women to come to Canada. Now with the new open visa, caregivers will be able to work more and contribute added money to their families back home or maybe be reunited with their families in Canada sooner.”
Still a concern for Lim is the application process for permanent residency. “We have been advocating for landed status immediately for caregivers. This new development may slow down the PR application process. We will have to wait and see how that plays out.”
By Sacha Devoretz
If you would like to hire a nanny or caregiver please contact International Nanny and Homecare Ltd in Canada.