They thought the program offers them a pathway to permanent residence after completing their work contract. But the new rules for temporary foreign workers which took effect last April 1, 2011 say otherwise. It’s not with certainty. The devil is in the details, as the idiom goes.
Effective April 1, Canada will now subject temporary foreign workers to a four-year cumulative duration limit. This means that temporary foreign workers in Canada, including live-in caregivers, may only work for a maximum of four years. After reaching this limit, temporary foreign workers must go back to their home countries, wait for another four years to lapse before re-entering Canada again as temporary workers.
|Canada's Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney. |
Photo courtesy of dmix06.
This must be a big blow to Filipino live-in caregivers and their advocates who have embraced Canada’s Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney as their hero. Mr. Kenney, who has been riding high on his status as a folk hero to many Filipino women workers in Canada, is guilty of Orwellian doublespeak. He has promised before that nannies will not be covered by the new regulations, but the details clearly say that that would be subject to certain preconditions. Just like the time when Mr. Kenney said there would be no more need for caregivers to undergo a second medical examination when applying for permanent residence, yet the rules still state that medical officers overseas retain the right to examine for excessive demand. This includes, for example, those who may have illnesses or other inadmissibility issues which may impact on the ability of the government to provide health and social services.
Of course, there are exceptions to the new rules but not enough to guarantee that live-caregivers will not be subjected to the Conservative government’s policy of treating immigrants as mere economic units that they can dispose at will. This government seems bent on simply exploiting temporary foreign workers every four years based on supply and demand instead of opening up opportunities for skilled workers to migrate permanently to Canada which the country really needs to replenish its greying population.
|Migrant workers in Picton, Ontario. Photo courtesy of mariza.gaspar.|
Seasonal agricultural workers who come to Canada to work during harvest time are exempt from the four-year limit. Live-in caregivers who have applied for permanent residence after completing their contract are not covered by the rules if they have received an approval in principle letter. And so with other temporary foreign workers such as those in managerial or professional occupations, those employed under an international agreement, and those exempt from the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) process.
How will the new rules negatively affect Filipino caregivers in Canada?
Under the new rules, visa officers will issue initial work permits to live-in caregivers that will be valid for four years plus three months. A live-in caregiver must complete the employment requirement in her contract within four years in Canada, while the additional three months allow for a transition period to apply for permanent residence.
Most live-in caregivers can easily complete their contract of employment in less than three years, allowing them enough time to apply for permanent residence and continue working as caregivers while waiting for the approval of their applications for permanent residence (PR). But herein lies the problem: when is that approval-in- principle letter going to be in the mail?
No reprieve for varying situations
Not all caregivers are in similar situations and would expect smooth processing of their PR applications. Some would have problems with family members such as their spouses or children who are supposed to be examined before a live-in caregiver’s PR application is approved. A live-in caregiver’s spouse in the Philippines, for example, could be stubbornly uncooperative and would not bring him and the children to a medical examination. Or he would not simply fill out the required documentation. He would rather simply receive money remittances every end of the month from his wife who works like a slave in Canada to support the family. There are hundreds of husbands who prefer this type of arrangement so they could carry on with their new-found lifestyle of freedom and the luxury that Canadian dollars bring. An obstinate and uncooperative husband could delay the PR application process for an inordinate time, while the hapless nanny continues to wait for the approval in principle letter of her application.
Or, the marriage between the nanny and her husband has broken down due to the strains of a difficult and long separation or perhaps, either one of them is now in a relationship with another person. The wife then decides to apply for divorce which she needs to show to Canada Immigration as proof of the marriage breakdown. This again will delay the processing of the PR application. Let’s also mention that if there are minor children involved, the longer the process will take especially if the husband refuses to allow the children to travel to Canada in order to join their mother.
As in some cases, one of the children would have medical inadmissibility issues such as a child having Down syndrome or has a heart problem which the visa officer deems as imposing a heavy burden on Canada’s health and social services. So, the PR application will be denied. Under the rules, all family members of the live-in caregiver, whether accompanying the principal applicant or not, are required to be examined. Live-in caregivers cannot become permanent residents if any of their eligible family members are inadmissible.
I have encountered a number of cases where the PR applications of live-in caregivers have been unnecessarily delayed. Some of them have been here in Canada as temporary workers for over five years because their PR applications were either delayed due to bureaucratic red tape or disallowed because of medical inadmissibility issues. The new rules will not protect them as Mr. Kenney has promised. Many of these caregivers have already received removal orders.
It is not important for immigration officers to know whether live-in caregivers will seek permanent residence after completing their work contract. The question is whether an immigration officer is satisfied that the person would not stay in Canada illegally. This is what their Operations Manual directs them to find out. Advocates of Filipino caregivers in Canada should wake up and face this grim reality, and stop cuddling Mr. Kenney and the Conservative Party.
The present Conservative government under Stephen Harper has not done much for the benefit of immigrants. Mr. Harper tried to overhaul Canada’s system of accepting refugees and skilled workers. He cut the right of landing fee to half of the old fee of $975, and many ethnic minorities shifted their support to the Conservative Party. The Conservative government has imposed stricter conditions for refugees to enter Canada and cut funding for group sponsorships for refugees from countries ravaged by civil strife. Temporary foreign workers will now have a four-year limit on the length of time they may work in Canada.
|Filipino caregivers hold rally in Toronto.|
Canadians, especially the blocks of new Canadian voters who may likely make or break a government, need to hear solutions to our immigration dilemma. We’re tired of hearing the same pledges every time there is an election from both the Liberals and Conservatives. There are gaping holes in their credibility fences. We will need a giant grain of salt if we would only listen to their promises.