After Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney failed to announce any changes to the Live-in Caregiver Program alongside the sweeping reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker program, some immigration critics are expecting reforms to the program in the near future.
The Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) is a component of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program run by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The LCP allows families in Canada to hire foreign workers as caregivers or nannies in private residences for children, seniors, or individuals with disabilities when no Canadian workers are available for the job. In 2013, there were 16,927 live-in caregivers present in Canada, and this number has been steadily decreasing annually from its peak in 2010 with 36,364 live-in caregivers in Canada.
The program is particularly popular because unlike the rest of the TFW program, live-in caregivers who have worked and lived in Canada for 24 months are eligible to apply for Canadian permanent residency for themselves and their dependents. The program tends to attract foreign workers in the highest numbers from the Philippines.
Although a number of changes were announced to the TFW program at a June 20th press conference, no reforms specific to the LCP were announced. In fact, the LCP is exempt from a number of the changes that affect the TFW program as a whole. While the announcements about stricter penalties for program abuse and stronger enforcement will apply to the LCP, most of the more specific changes, including the new limits imposed on the length of time a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is valid, the reduced length of time a foreign worker can remain in Canada, and the new cap on the number of employees that can be hired through the TFW program do not apply.
The failure to address the LCP during this press conference and the lack of change to the program came as a surprise to many immigration critics, as the program has been criticized from a number of angles in recent years. The LCP is fraught with allegations of fraud and other concerns about the program that come from within the Canadian government. As early as 2007, the Canadian Embassy in Manila, Philippines, reported systematic fraudulent use of the program. Civil servants in Ottawa also recognized misuse of the LCP, with a 2011 report from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) suggesting that the program was being used as a family reunification program, with large numbers of live-in caregivers being brought into Canada to work for their own family members who had already immigrated.
While there are number of safeguards in place to ensure that the foreign workers in the LCP are protected, including mandatory clauses in employment contracts and expedited LMIA processing in the case of abuse or exploitation, there do not seem to be any measures in place to protect the program from exploitation by foreign workers.
With the concerns about fraud and misuse of the program, the fact that no program reforms were introduced alongside the changes to the rest of the TFW reform left some critics questioning the reasoning behind that decision. Some are speculating that the government will introduce reforms to the program in the near future. Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland is expecting an announcement this fall that the program is being phased out.
On the topic of reforms to the LCP, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said the government is “not reforming it today, but we will continue to look at reform in this area. […] Expect plans in that respect to come forward when they’re ready. I can’t say exactly when, but it will be an area of focus for us down the road.”
This statement from Alexander about the future of the program has left members of the community and employers making use of the LCP concerned about potential reforms to the program. The President of the Association of Caregiver and Nanny Agencies Canada, a body that represents the employers of caregivers, voiced concerns on behalf of the association about the lack of consultation taking place. If the government does move forward with reforms to the program without consultation, backlash from employers is likely.
Foreign workers and employers who are interested in becoming or hiring a live-in caregiver should consider expediting their applications and applying now while the Live-in Caregiver Program is still in its current form. For details about the program and for an assessment of your eligibility, contact FWCanada.
FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.