Foreign caregivers will not be eligible for permanent residence if they have not accrued two years of employment by November 29, 2019, according to Canada’s Immigration Department.
In a report by The Star, two programs for foreign caregivers — one for those caring for children and another for those caring for adults with medical needs — is currently under review by the federal government. As of press time, it is uncertain whether the programs will be scrapped, renewed or replaced with other programs.
“Both programs were launched as five-year pilots, including a date that they expire. With a launch date of November 29, 2014, this means they will expire on November 29, 2019,” said Immigration Canada spokesperson Faith St. John.
The announcement posted online in February caught caregivers and their advocates off-guard, prompting fears that this could mark the end of the special pathway to permanent residency accorded to foreign caregivers.
“Many caregivers are confused and frustrated because of the turnaround from the government,” said University of Toronto social work professor Rupaleem Bhuyan, who leads the Migrant Mothers Project, a community-university research initiative to study the effect of immigration policies.
The news also created buzz among the caregiver community in Canada and abroad.
“A lot of people, even those in the Philippines, are talking about it. There is so much anxiety out there,” said Marilyn Battad, who came to Canada from the Philippines in June 2016 as a caregiver.
“We leave our family to come and work in Canada with the hope that we could bring our family here and have a better life. Some have lost hope now.”
The 2019 cut-off not only affect recently-arrived caregivers, but also those who have failed to meet the two-year employment requirement by the November 2019 deadline for reasons beyond their control.
Bhuyan said it typically takes caregivers at least eight months to secure a new job and obtain a new work permit. Such long wait is significant especially to those whose employers have release them, prompting to look for a new sponsor.
Canada’s unique program is believed to be the only one in the world that provides access to permanent status for foreign caregivers after two years of full-time employment as a caregiver. The access to permanent residency is an incentive to make up for the job’s relative low pay and sometimes unpleasant work conditions.
“This is another underhanded way for the government to quietly take away the pathway for permanent residency for caregivers. This is not OK,” said Anna Malla of the Caregivers Action Centre in Toronto.
“The need for caregivers for child care and home care is permanent and we need permanent solutions. Caregivers need stable immigration status to do the job well. They provide a very important service to make it possible for Canadians to go to work.”
Manuela Gruber Hersch, president of the Association of Caregiver & Nanny Agencies Canada, said she believes foreign caregivers will continue to come and work in Canada even without the bait of permanent residency.
“Ideally, they would like to become permanent residents, but the wage is much higher in Canada (and) they are not going to stop coming,” said Gruber Hersch.