Parents who say they’re tearing their hair out trying to apply for a foreign nanny accuse the federal government of stringing them along — for political reasons. They believe the government has effectively killed the live-in caregiver program, without coming out and saying so.
“We’re pawns in a game that’s supposed to look like families are getting helped, but they’re not,” said Michael Shandro, the Edmonton father of two preschoolers.
“Frustration is the biggest thing, because we don’t have a clear handle on the future for our kids,” said his wife, Haley. “We’re just in limbo.”
The Shandros are among hundreds of parents whose applications to bring in foreign nannies have been rejected since Ottawa tightened rules in the temporary foreign worker program.
According to government statistics, 97 per cent of the applications from 751 parents needing child care were not approved between the start of December till the end of March.
Nanny agencies confirm that virtually all their clients’ applications for foreign caregivers have been rejected. Families are finding that Canadians are not available for hire, either.
Minister of Employment and Social Development Pierre Poilievre claims to be proud of how fast his department is processing applications. He pointed out that parents who are rejected because they applied for a live-in-nanny will be refunded the $1,000 fee.
When told him parents who have met the government criteria have also been rejected, he didn’t budge.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently answered questions about this by making it clear he doesn’t like this type of employment arrangement.
Families and agencies affected feel that the government should simply end the live-in-caregiver program and all the frustration it’s causing.
Colin Singer Commentary:
This is yet another example of how the Harper government continues to promote misleading information in the face of restrictive immigration policies.
Canada has approved less than 10% of applications to employ foreign caregivers following the revision to the caregiver program last December.
The new rules require an employer to obtain a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment in order to hire a caregiver from abroad. The LMIA is needed to prove that hiring of a foreign worker is necessary due to a shortage of locally available caregivers.
Figures show that Employment and Social Development Canada granted just 92 positive LMIAs between December and March of this year, mostly for families requiring childcare or those with major medical needs. Prior to the changes, the government had approved an average of 700 to 1,000 applications per month.
The government claims that the drop in numbers is due mainly to a decline of new applications under the program. In the four months since the start of the new program, Employment and Social Development Canada has received just 971 LMIA applications for foreign caregivers.
“There was a noticeable decrease in the number of new applications compared to previous months. A higher proportion of applications were being returned as incomplete as employers adjusted to the new requirements, and in some cases, employers had to re-advertise their positions,” said a spokesperson from the ministry.
“We are starting to see the number of applications and processing levels smooth out as employers better understand the requirements under the new Caregiver Program.”
Supporters and advocates of the foreign caregiver program believe that the government is secretly trying to kill the program by hindering the employment of foreign caregivers, and claim that the low acceptance rate coupled with delays in granting permanent residency has contributed greatly to the failure of the program, causing anguish among many Canadian families who depend on foreign caregivers.
Supporters of the program believe that foreign caregivers play a vital role in Canada by providing consistent and stable services in elder care and childcare. Canada has had a foreign caregiver program for decades, and suddenly the government feels that we no longer need them. What has changed? “Are unemployed Canadian nannies complaining that they being passed over by overseas nannies?” says Manuela Gruber Hersch, president of the Association of Caregiver and Nanny Agencies Canada.
Industry insiders believe that the increased LMIA application costs – up from $275 to $1,000 – may have also contributed to the declining numbers of LMIA applications. In addition, employers are also required to advertise for caregiver jobs on national recruitment websites, which may cost anywhere up to $500 a month.
Additionally, there is a large backlog in the processing of the permanent residency applications of many live-in caregivers. It can take up to four years for qualified caregivers to obtain permanent residency in Canada after they have fulfilled the requirement of 24 months of authorized full-time employment. The government does not appear to have interest in allocating resources to address this backlog.
Canadians looking to hire foreign workers as nannies are having to face unexplained delays due to changes introduced to the caregiver program. The problems are exacerbated by poor communication from federal agencies, with some recruitment agencies reporting that no applications have been processed in the past four months.
Canada’s Live-in Caregiver program was a part of the Temporary Foreign Worker program, and was widely used by Canadians to hire nannies and other caregivers. It would usually take up to 6-8 months to hire a caregiver, but the recent changes to the program have lead to further delays and confusion.
Under the new rules, foreign care workers are no longer required to live in the homes of their employers. Other changes to the application process were also introduced in a bid to encourage more Canadian applicants for these jobs, following claims that the program had “mutated” into a family-reunification scheme. Now any family that is interested in hiring a foreign caregiver is required to show that there were no Canadian applicants available for the said job by applying for a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
Once the family gets an approval on the LMIA, they can then apply for a work permit to hire a foreign caregiver for the job.
According to one family applying, he spent four weeks trying to find a Canadian nanny, but didn’t get a single application for the job. He then applied for an LMIA – twice, after the first application was lost by the government agency responsible.
When queried about the delays, Employment and Social Development Canada claims that in February, 80 percent of all LMIA applications received were processed within 30 days. However they were unable to provide LMIA processing times for just the caregiver program.
Some believe the latest changes to the caregiver program were an ill-conceived knee-jerk reaction to problems with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Attorney Colin Singer Commentary
The previous Caregiver program has a long history of controversy including exorbitant placement fees charged to both caregiver and family, excessive delays in processing, abuse of caregivers and an inflexible system. In 2014 new rules took effect which created two separate streams of permanent residence (Caring for children and Caring for People with High Medical Needs) and placed annual quotas on the numbers of caregivers who can apply for permanent residence under each stream at 2750 for a total of 5500.