There are now more than 60,000 people waiting for permanent residency under a program that employs foreign caregivers and nannies in Canada, according to reports.
About half of these people waiting for permanent residency are the children and spouses of the foreign caregivers already living in Canada.
The federal government is currently processing 17,500 of these applications for permanent residency, according to Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
Foreign caregivers can apply for permanent residency in Canada after two years of working here, although the processing of these applications can take more than three years. Once they acquire residency, they are eligible to apply for residency of their spouses and children.
“The bloated inventory with prolonged processing times is causing harm to children who are being separated from their parents working in Canada as a live-in caregiver,” says a noted immigration policy analyst.
The analyst also believes that there is another reason a reform is urgently needed. “An overwhelming majority of these cases are family members who are giving live-in caregiver jobs to other family members.”
Several reports from immigration officials have demonstrated that family members already in Canada are in turn hiring their relatives abroad as caregivers to bring them to Canada. The majority of such applications are for caregivers from the Philippines.
These reports suggest that the program is not serving Canadians who need live-in caregivers in the same way as it was planned, although it is beneficial for the Filipino families in Canada. According to Employment Minister Jason Kenney, the caregiver program had turned into “a family reunification program”.
However Kenney’s claim is disputed by Teresa Agustin, the chair of Migrante Canada, a national organization which represents Filipino immigrants. Agustin mentions that a national study published earlier this year showed that out of the 631 former and current live-in caregivers studied in the research, the vast majority were recruited to Canada through employment agencies.
In addition, only one in ten caregivers in Canada have been hired by relatives, according to the GATES survey, supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
In countries like Holland and the US, there are agencies who are responsible for matching caregivers with families. Manuela Gruber Hersch, president of the Association of Caregiver and Nanny Agencies Canada, believes that Canada should follow a similar system. “There are no private matches allowed and all placements go through regulated agencies who become semi-responsible for each match, including educating families and ensuring that caregivers are safe and treated fairly. The agencies must do an annual audit,” she says.
Certain internal emails have shown that way back in 2006-07, the government had to hire temporary staff to clear a large backlog of 9,000 applications or more in an initiative termed “the Clearinghouse project”.
Experts believe that the government could have avoided another backlog by putting a cap on the number of work permits issued every year to live-in caregivers.
Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is considering moving the caregiver program to Express Entry, which is a new immigration program aimed at skilled immigrants who are looking to work in Canada permanently.
The new Express Entry program will make available a limited number of jobs under any given occupation and permanent residency will be offered only to the “highest-ranking” applicants.
However on the down side, Express Entry is anything but transparent. There does not appear any indication the government will be able to effectively monitor or provide active oversight.
There are also reports that Alexander is considering the idea of making it optional for caregivers to live with their employers.
In April 2013, when Kenney was the immigration minister, the backlog of foreign caregivers stood at 45,000 with a five-year wait time. This did not include those caregivers who are in Canada but haven’t yet completed their compulsory two years before qualifying for permanent residency. Their numbers stood at 35,000.
The current backlog of 60,000 applications does not include those foreign caregivers in Canada who haven’t yet qualified to apply for permanent residency.
Source: CBC News