Caregiver fees, refusals frustrate families
Families trying to hire overseas caregivers are frustrated at having to pay $1,000, wait months and then have the application rejected by visa officers who don’t believe the person will leave Canada at the end of the work term.
Willingness to leave Canada never used to be an issue with the live-in caregiver program, which allowed caregivers to apply for permanent residence after working for two years. It was assumed caregivers would stay. But changes to the program brought in by the Conservative government in 2014 imposed a quota on the number of permanent resident applications Canada would accept from caregivers each year.
Now that permanent residence is no longer a sure thing, consular officials overseas are denying caregiver visas if they are unconvinced the person will leave Canada should their permanent residence bid be unsuccessful.
That’s left people like Surrey resident Eleanor Tarun, whose maternity leave ends in August, out of pocket close to $2,000 and still without child care.
“It’s so much pain, it’s so much (stress) … when I received the refusal. I’m so devastated,” said Tarun, who has three children aged seven, three and six months.
Tarun said she followed all the rules, hiring a nanny agency for almost $800 to help her advertise the job locally and guide her through the process. Under the temporary foreign worker program — which now includes caregivers — employers must advertise positions locally before looking overseas.
She did not find anyone local who fit the bill, so she successfully applied for a labour market impact assessment, which is a check the federal government performs to see if hiring a foreigner would negatively impact Canadian job seekers. Under the 2014 changes, Ottawa upped the fee for this assessment to $1,000 from $250.
Tarun wanted to hire her brother in the Philippines, who she said is a fully trained caregiver and already works in the field. Hiring a relative is allowed under the program — though former immigration minister Jason Kenney voiced concerns about the practice — so long as the person meets the education and skills requirements. The application was rejected.
“You have not satisfied me that you would leave Canada by the end of the period authorized for your stay,” the letter said.
The same thing happened to Coquitlam resident Marivic Segundo, who tried to hire her sister-in-law, a professional caregiver working in Hong Kong, to take care of her six-year-old daughter. They paid the $1,000 fee and applied in late November. The application came back rejected last week for the same reason, with the visa officer citing “family ties in Canada and in country of residence” and “employment prospects in country of residence” among the reasons they were unconvinced she would go back.
A group of four families in the same boat wrote to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada about the caregiver visa refusals. In a response letter obtained by The Sun, senior director Donald Cochrane wrote that the refusals stem from the 2014 changes placing caregivers under the temporary foreign worker program.
“An essential requirement of this category is that the applicant must satisfy an officer that they will leave Canada after the period for which they are authorized to stay,” he wrote. “A person may have a dual or eventual intent to become a permanent resident, but in order to qualify for temporary residence, they must demonstrate that they have the capacity and willingness to leave Canada at the end of the authorized temporary period if permanent residence is not obtained.”
Manuela Gruber Hersh of the Association of Caregiver and Nanny Agencies Canada said the caregiver program fills a demonstrated need and should not be governed by the same rules as businesses seeking employees.
“The temporary foreign worker program is for businesses … who benefit from their workers. Their main objective is to make profit. This is a mom and dad running a household.”
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesman Felix Corriveau suggested changes are coming to make regulated companies, rather than families, the legal employers of caregivers. This would save families the hassle of a complicated and expensive application process, and provide oversight of the employment relationship.
“It is our intention to modify the temporary foreign workers program to eliminate the $1,000 labour market impact assessment fee to hire caregivers and work with provinces and territories to develop a system of regulated companies to hire caregivers on behalf of families,” Corriveau wrote in an email.
He did not say whether the changes will come in time to help people like Tarun, who must now pay another $1,000 to start the process again, with no guarantee she will have reliable child care at the end of it.