Thursday, April 14, 2011

Nannies’ new conundrum

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.

Orwellian doublespeak

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.
In the words of Minister Kenney: “We saw a need for clear regulations to better protect workers from poor treatment and to ensure that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program continued to address short-term labour and skills shortages.”

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.

What’s next?

Filipino caregivers hold rally in Toronto.
This year, there are over 150,000 people waiting for 11,200 visas. That would take about 14 years to process. Sponsorship of parents would be next if the Conservative Party wins a majority of Parliament’s seats this coming May 2nd federal election. They have already made known that they prefer to bring in younger family members who can work and therefore pay taxes, rather than older parents who would only sap the country’s pension or social assistance programs.

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. 


  1. Interesting blog. It is also worth mentioning the fact that less Cdn families are willing to hire foreign live in caregivers based on the requirements implemented last April 2010.
    If you are interested in the stats, email us at
    The live in caregiver program needs further amendments to ensure fairness for caregivers AND employers otherwise it will fade out in the coming years.

  2. The Conservative Government record:
    1. Welcomed a record number of newcomers to Canada (281,000 in 2010, 50,000 of whom are Filipinos)and reversed years of Liberal neglect of the immigration system. In contrast, the Liberal majority government of Chretien in 1990's but family immigration by 38% in the first five years of office.
    2. Liberal imposed a $975 right of landing fee on newcomers. Conservatice cut it in half...saving $300 million to newcomers...
    3. Liberal majority froze funding for immigrant settlement services for 13 years...Conservatives tripled funding from $1000 per immigration to $3000...
    4. Liberals slashed family immigration by 38%, creatinf a backlog of 160,000 family class sponsorship applications, including 108,000 for the parent/grandparent categgory...
    5. Liberal did nothing to help foreign trained professionals for their credentials to be recognized...
    6. Liberal failed to take action against crooked immigration consultants...Conservatives brought in the Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act...
    7. Liberal failed to address Canada's broken asylum system...Conservatives is introducing sweeping reforms through the Balanced Refugee Reform Act while cracking down on human smuggling...

    That is the Conservative Record...on immigration!

    As for the LCP program and the exemption on the four-year limit...check the CIC website!

  3. I bet " Anonymous " is writing straight from Jason Kenney's office or it wouldn't be surprising if Jason Kenney wrote it himself.
    It is quite obvious that him and the Conservative Party are getting very worried that years of ethnic Filipino pandering is not going to work after all come election day on May 2,2011.
    Except for a few impressionable groups in the GTA area, most of the Filipino community is well aware that Jason Kenney DOESN'T DO MUCH GOOD for our community. His party is reducing family reunification, sending temporary foreign workers back home after 4 years and there seems to be a number of
    issues with the live in caregiver program like 4 year limit, medical etc.
    I also heard that removal orders of live in caregivers are going up.
    It is also not the first time I heard that the number of employers able to hire is going down as well as the requirements are too strict.
    So I agree with this blogger : Stop cuddling up with Jason Kenney and look at the facts before casting your vote for the Conservative party.

  4. Interesting post. In as much as the Conservatives had done some improvement in the immigration system, there were also loopholes. By the new bill and these changes, we are made to understand that Harper's government means business and is focused on the growth of Canadian economy. They forget however to take note and action into the concerns of the affected individuals.

    I could venture to say that the Conservatives are too keen on Canada's economy and wealth (which could be a good thing) but are deliberately forgetting or setting aside values, commitment and family ties. It's like a wealthy Canada without a heart.

  5. Regarding your commentary in "Nannies' new conundrum", I would think it would be a positive measure that a new application process would be necessary after a caregiver from overseas has fulfilled the four years' work in Canada. In light of the poverty in the Philippines, wouldn't this be more humane in that someone else needing the wages could then get a chance to apply and make money?