Government processing record number of caregivers, parents and grandparents PR applications

Community News & Features Nov 8, 2013 at 6:46 pm
Citizen and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.  (PHOTO: CIC website)

Citizen and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander. (PHOTO: CIC website)

By Dyan Ruiz

In the wake of huge backlogs of applicants and long wait times, the Canadian government has announced that they have admitted a record number of applications for permanent residence (PR) of parent and grandparent sponsorships and will be admitting a record number of caregivers.

In a press conference on Oct. 29, 2013, Citizen and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced that the federal government will admit 17,500 permanent residents through the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) in 2014. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will have also admitted 50,000 parents and grandparents this year and last year, and intend to process another 20,000 applications next year.

Filipinos in Canada often immigrate through these two categories, reuniting with families and coming to work as caregivers. In 2012, the Philippines was the second largest source country for immigration to Canada, just 200 people shy of China.
Alexander told reporters that for the LCP this is “the largest number of admissions in the program since the program began in 1993.” Similarly this is “the highest level of parent and grandparent admissions in nearly two decades,” he said.

Huge backlogs and long processing times

Both announcements come in the wake of huge backlogs of applicants and years-long processing times for both immigration streams. “The wait times for [the LCP], as with parents and grandparents, had grown to levels that were unacceptable,” Alexander said.

The current wait time is three years and two months for the processing of caregivers and their families’ applications for permanent residence.

There is also a huge and rapidly growing backlog of applicants applying for permanent residence under the LCP. “As of end of July, the backlog was 30,000 cases, 54,000 persons. So the intake that we’re planning for 2014 would deal with about a third of the backlog,” Alexander said.

He told reporters that the government is now turning their attention to the backlogs in the caregiver program after dealing with backlogs in the parent and grandparent sponsorship program and Canadian Experience Class.

In order to deal with the backlog for the sponsorship of parents and grandparents, the government temporarily stopped receiving new applications in Sept. 2011 and will resume receiving new applications on Jan. 2, 2014.

Impact on families

The long wait times for the processing of these programs are causing a lot of stress, frustration and angst in the Filipino-Canadian community.

“The new immigration minister should really deal with all these backlogs because this is people, this is people’s lives,” said the Executive Director of the Kababayan Community Centre, Flor Dandal. “It’s not only one person that’s affected, it’s the whole family that is affected. There are social costs,” she continued.

Caregivers face at least five years of separation from their families while they complete their two-year work requirement performing live-in duties as nannies for Canadian families’ or a personal support worker for the elderly and disabled. The two years of full-time work qualifies them to apply for permanent residence, then they must wait the over three years for the application to be completed.

Caregivers cannot bring their family to Canada, so while taking care of Canadian families’ loved ones, they must leave behind their own. This often causes marriage problems and emotional issues with the parents and children.

“The longer they are separated, they have more problems– emotional, psychological problems– in dealing with family relationships,” Dandal said, “that’s the product of long separation.”

The Philippine Reporter wrote about the skyrocketing backlog in the article, “Growing frustration over family separation: Caregivers’ long wait for permanent residence” in June 2013. When interviewed for this article, Imelda Fernandez Domingo talked about the stress she’s experienced because of the long wait. She came to Canada under the LCP in 2008, after working in other countries, and completed her work requirement in 2010.

be reunited with her husband and 17-year-old son. “I hope that when I get my permanent residence, and my son and my husband can come here and we can be together because it’s been like a decade when I was there taking care of my son. Sometimes he asks why– like his graduation in elementary and high school– I don’t go there because of the work?” she said amidst tears.
Dominigo is currently still waiting for her and her family’s permanent residence applications to be approved, and is living and working at her elderly employer’s house.

At the press conference, the Immigration Minister said, “Live-in caregivers participating in the program came here with the promise of permanent residency after meeting work obligations in looking after the children, elderly or disabled people in their care. We need to honour our commitment to them.”

Likewise, Alexander said the record admittance of parents and grandparents reflects “a clear expression of our commitment to family reunification as a key part of our immigration plan.”

How much less time waiting?

When asked about whether the CIC has a goal for the reduction of processing times for LCP applicants, Alexander did not offer a definitive goal. “We want to make it lower,” he responded, by dealing with the backlog through the course of next year. “So by the end of next year, we could say the processing time should be a quarter or one third less. That will be a significant improvement, basically taking it from three years down to two years.”

Wait times also depend on how quickly the embassies around the world can process the necessary documents. The Community Engagement Coordinator for Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, Esel Palanqui, brought up questions in an interview with The Philippine Reporter about how this announcement will impact the efficiency of the Canadian embassy in Manila. She also said, “we want to make sure that those who will be applying won’t experience the long wait as others did.”

Alexander said this “unacceptable outcome” was the result of having “the number of caregivers completing their work obligations and becoming eligible to be permanent residents,” routinely outpacing “the planned levels of admissions from the program,” he said. “You can’t have ever larger numbers of applications and restricted numbers of admissions without the processing time growing and growing,” he continued.

As for the backlog in the parents and grandparents sponsorship program, the Minister said that by end of this year, the backlog is expected to be below 80,000 and wait times for processing applications will have “gone down from seven or eight years to four or five years.” But, again, this depends on the efficiency of local centres around the world.

Changing the eligibility for parent and grandparent sponsorships

When new applications for parent and grandparent sponsorships are accepted again on Jan. 2, 2014, the CIC will be accepting a limit of 5,000 applications. Alexander said the CIC is going to take applications as soon as it opens and take them until the 5,000 applicants come in, on a first come, first served basis, from all countries.

When this happens, there will be new eligibility requirements, as was announced by Alexander’s predecessor. These include:

• Lengthening sponsorship time from 10 years to 20 years;

• Increasing the minimum necessary income by 30 percent; and

• Proof of income being required for the past three years, rather than one year. This can only be proven by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) documents.

The changes mean that new immigrants will generally not be eligible to apply to sponsor their parents or grandparents because they need documentation about their income from the CRA from the past three years.

On the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website, it says a household of six (such as a husband, wife, and two kids who are sponsoring the husband’s parents) will need to earn $71,992 under the new regulations in order to qualify.

Politicians from the NDP and the Liberal Party, academics and community members spoke out against the new much higher bar for parent and grandparent sponsorship, with many saying that it is now unattainable for most people.

“We are simply making sure that the families that are sponsoring their parents and grandparents can afford to look after them,” Alexander said. “We’re trying to avoid the parents and grandparents who come under this program becoming exposed to new forms of vulnerability,” he said.

At the time, the former Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, said the changes were implemented so that the new immigrants wouldn’t “become a burden to taxpayers, they don’t go on to welfare, they don’t go on to low income housing.”

Under the changes to the parent and grandparent sponsorship program, the Super Visa became a permanent program, as an alternative to permanent residence of these relatives. It allows for relatives to visit using a 10-year multiple-entry visa. Visa holders can remain in Canada up to two years at a time if they fulfill requirements such as purchasing private health insurance for the visa holder.