Foreign caregivers no longer have to live with employer

posted on November 1, 2014

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

The federal immigration department dropped the live-in requirement from its caregiver program Friday, a change many will greet with “elation,” said the head of a Vancouver-based advocacy group for domestic workers.

“It is a huge and positive change,” said Ai Li Lim, executive director and staff lawyer for the West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association. “For 30 years we’ve been asking the government to eliminate the live-in requirement because it … opened up the possibility of extreme exploitation and abuse. The fact that they’re ending it is significant progress.”

The federal government has also divided the program, which offers permanent residence to caregivers after working two years in Canada, into two streams: child care and a new health care provider category. It has also, for the first time, imposed a cap on the program of 5,500 per year, divided evenly between the two streams. The government typically receives about 4,500 applications per year through the program, according to a Citizenship and Immigration Canada news release.

The cap will allow the government to process new permanent resident applications from live-in caregivers within six months, instead of the current three years. This will reduce the time the mostly female caregivers are separated from their own families to about two and a half years, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said in a tweet on Friday. Caregivers must work for two years before they can apply for permanent resident status.

Under the current rules “we are talking five years of family separation, which is brutal,” Lim said.

She questioned, however, why the government chose not to make live-in caregivers permanent residents upon arrival, eliminating family separation entirely.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said it is possible for live-in caregivers to arrive as permanent residents, but only if they apply through the Express Entry program for skilled workers, which will be introduced in January.

“I was never happy (about) the separation of children from parents during this (live-in caregiver) program,” Kurland said.

It is significant that the government committed to processing the backlog of live-in caregiver applications, rather than legislating it away, nullifying the applications of those waiting in line and returning fees, which has happened with both the investor immigrant and federal skilled worker programs, Kurland said.

“You dramatically reduce intake and it’s (like a) chicken in a python. You digest the existing inventory with dramatic, large targets, take huge chunks out of that inventory every year. So the good news is that the future entries under the new categories get in lickety-split, apparently six months or so. So the family reunification, if it exists at all, is minimal. And the price for not throwing the inventory out is a family reunification issue for the backlogged people.”

The government also announced Friday an immigration target of between 260,000 and 285,000 for 2015, an increase of 19,000 over 2014. Economic immigrants — such as skilled workers, investors and entrepreneurs — will constitute 65 per cent of overall admissions, with the remaining 35 per cent divided between family class and refugees.

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