08/15/2013 05:47 EDT | Updated 10/15/2013 05:12 EDT

Foreign Live-In Caregiver Fee To Cost Families $275 Each


Canadian families looking to hire nannies and caregivers from abroad will be financially stung by recent changes made to temporary foreign worker program, say opposition and industry critics alike.

There is now a $275 processing fee for each temporary foreign worker position that an employer requests through a labour market opinion, which is usually required to prove the need to hire a temporary foreign worker over a Canadian one.

The new fee also applies to employers looking to hire a live-in caregiver, but an industry association that connects Canadian employers with foreign workers through the live-in caregiver program said individuals should not be required to pay the same fee as businesses.

Manuela Gruber Hersch, president of the Association of Caregiver & Nanny Agencies Canada, told CBC News "we find it unfair that families are required to pay the same amount."

Opposition New Democrats said the program is already flawed and this new processing fee will only put "an extra burden" on hard-working families.

"I think many people have not realized that it applies to the live-in caregiver program," said Jinny Sims, the NDP critic for employment and social development, in an interview with CBC News.

"We're not talking about businesses here, we're talking about families that are struggling to find a live-in caregiver," Sims said.

New language, recruitment and advertising rules announced under the temporary foreign worker program also apply to employers seeking live-in caregivers.

English and French are now the only languages that can be identified as a job requirement both in labour market opinion applications and in job advertisements by employers. Exceptions can be made if employers are able to demonstrate that another language is essential for the job.

Employers are now also required to redouble their recruitment efforts to hire Canadians and permanent residents before hiring workers from abroad. There are cases where the employer can be exempt from the recruitment and advertising requirement.

Reforms 'badly needed'

The live-in caregiver program was designed to allow families in Canada to hire foreign live-in caregivers to care for their children, the elderly, and the disabled when Canadian citizens and permanent residents are not available.

The program is also one of three ways immigrants can achieve permanent resident status in Canada.

ACNA Canada is calling on Chris Alexander, the new minister of citizenship and immigration, to make the program "a priority."

The association, in a post on Twitter, urged Alexander to take action saying, "reforms are badly needed."

Alexander took over the portfolio from Jason Kenney after Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet shuffle on July 15. Kenney is now the minister of employment and social development.

Kenney was largely responsible for overhauling the immigration system, but the live-in caregiver program has yet to be reformed.

On April 25, during testimony before the Commons committee on citizenship and immigration, Kenney said "one program on which we have not taken any action yet is the live-in caregiver program."

Kenney said he was concerned with the "unmanageable" backlog of applications stemming from the program.

The current wait time for processing an application through the caregiver program is 38 months — that is from the moment the application is received to the moment where a decision is made.

But the picture Kenney painted before a committee of MP's in April is even grimmer.

"We are now sitting on a backlog of 45,000 people with their permanent residency applications in the queue. There's a five-year wait time, which to me, is unacceptable," Kenney said.

"In fact, that doesn't really disclose the whole truth, because there are also the caregivers who are currently here on a temporary status and have not yet qualified for permanent residency. If we count those two inventories together, we are looking at upwards of 80,000 people and about a 10-year inventory."

Family reunification

Kenney said the government was looking for solutions, but that one of the challenges is that "the program constantly cycles through people, so as soon as people get permanent residency they leave live-in caregiver work."

One of the challenges for people applying to work in Canada as a live-in caregiver is that they cannot immediately bring their children or spouses with them.

Given the current backlog of applications, that means live-in caregivers are separated from their own families for several years.

Sims said she would like to see family reunification for live-in caregivers made a priority.

"They are here because they are desperate for work and they are doing a good job of taking care of either our seniors or our young," Sims said.

Canadian families who employ foreign workers "feel terrible about that," Sims said.

Live-in caregivers have up to four years, from the day they arrive in Canada, to complete the job requirements needed to apply for permanent residency.

Within that time, live-in caregivers must work full-time for 24 months or 3,900 hours within a 22-month period.

So far, "there have been no changes made, nothing to address the backlog," Sims said.

CBC News made repeated attempts to obtain an interview with Alexander this week, but his office said the minister was not available.

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