New reforms aim to facilitate permanent residency
In November, Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander unveiled the government’s anticipated series of reforms to the Live-In Caregiver Program. The new reforms focus on easing the process for caregivers to attain permanent residency in Canada, while reinforcing their rights as workers. The changes took effect on November 30.
Providing caregivers with a choice
Live-in caregivers are trained professionals qualified to care for elderly persons, children, or people with disabilities. Many of these workers come to Canada from abroad, often leaving behind families of their own. They work unsupervised in the private home of their employers, where they have also been required to live up until now.
This requirement concerns the biggest reform to the Live-In Caregiver Program, which affects its name. It is now only optional for caregivers to live with their employer. Motivating this drastic change is the government’s acknowledgement that the live-in requirement has occasionally led to workers being exploited. In some cases, live-in caregivers have alleged that their employers made them work overtime without extra pay.
Complaints of this nature have been relatively rare, however, and the new regulations do not forbid caregivers from living in their employer’s private home if they wish. However, the few reported cases of exploitation have been serious. Minister Alexander refers to reports of caregivers whose live-in conditions were tantamount to “modern-day slavery.”
Further protecting workers’ rights, employers are now unable to subtract expenses for room and board from a caregiver’s pay. Previously, caregivers’ living expenses, including food, utilities, and accommodation, were taken out of their compensation.
Says Alexander, “They told me they felt they couldn’t complain and that they weren’t paid overtime. Imagine being forced to sleep where you work and having your wages garnished for room and board. We’re putting an end to that. We’re providing caregivers with a choice.”
Other new provisions
The second major reform establishes two new categories for caregivers employed in Canada on temporary work permits, but who desire permanent residence:
1) Childcare providers
2) Caregivers for the elderly or persons with chronic medical needs
Before becoming eligible to apply under these two new categories, caregivers must work full-time for two years. Canadian caregiver advocates had lobbied to reduce this two-year requirement, or to allow permanent resident status for caregivers on their arrival to Canada, but the government has declined to change this requirement for the present time.
Expedited application process
However, applications to the new categories will be processed in an estimated six-month period, in keeping with the government’s forthcoming Express Entry immigration selection system, scheduled to launch at the start of 2015.
Previously, processing times for permanent residency applications could last for over three years, during which time many caregivers have been separated from their families overseas. Since caregivers must attain permanent resident status before they can apply to bring family members to the country, the accelerated processing times should facilitate speedier reunions between caregivers and their families.
As before, Canadian employers who seek to hire caregivers or nannies under the new categories must still complete a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to prove they could not find a Canadian worker to fill the job.
New cap for permanent resident applicants
A recent report indicates a backlog of over 60,000 caregivers waiting for permanent resident status. Consequently, the federal government of Canada has capped the number of new applications eligible for assessment under the two new categories. Each category is capped at 2,750, with a total of 5,500 per year, excluding the spouses and dependent children of caregiver applicants. According to Minister Alexander, Canadian Immigration will reduce the backlog by 17,500 applications by the end of the year, and will process an additional 30,000 applications throughout 2015.
The caregiver program is also included in the federal government’s recently announced 2015 immigration plan, which will increase the number of economic immigrants accepted.