Thousands of OFWs still waiting for PR in Caregiver backlog

caregiver backlog
OFWs have been bringing their concerns about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to the attention of the Government of Canada for years. Photo by @FilipinosInCanada

Caregiver dependents continue to wait for approval from Government of Canada

Thousands of Filipinos affected by Caregiver backlog

Caregiver advocates in Canada continue to clamour for the Government of Canada to address the continued backlog of Permanent Residency applications for the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP).

Thousands of OFWs all across Canada under the now-defunct LCP are experiencing delays in their application for Permanent Residency due to a backlog.

The LCP was a sub-category (or stream) of the Government of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

The LCP ended in 2014, after years of allegations of abuse by foreign workers against their Canadian employers and recruitment agencies.

Advocates have been consistent in their efforts at lobbying the Government of Canada to address the existing PR backlog.

caregiver backlog
Caregivers applying for their Overseas Employment Certificates (OECs) at the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) in Toronto, Ontario. Photo by @FilipinosInCanada

IRCC resources stretched thin

The Government of Canada’s immigration agency, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) manages over 60 different immigration programs that allow foreign nationals to enter Canada, including the TWFP.

The LCP has been in the headlines for a number of years, with the Toronto Star bringing stories of employer abuse and broken families as a result of the LCP.

After the Toronto Star reported that PR applications under the Caregiver Program would no longer be accepted after 2019, IRCC Minister Ahmed Hussen had to issue a statement saying that the Trudeau government was committed to decreasing the backlog by 80%.

No further public announcements were made since.

caregiver backlog
Caregivers in Toronto attend a post-arrival seminar hosted by federally-funded settlement organizations. Photo by @FilipinosInCanada

Caregivers aren’t the only ones applying for Permanent Residency

There are two types of OFWs in Canada: those who get to apply for Permanent Residency, and those who don’t.

OFWs under the LCP can apply for Permanent Residency, provided they meet the minimum requirements of the program.

The backlog was a result, in part, because of cuts made to funding to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)’s budget during the previous Harper government.

The large number of refugees from Syria and Iraq, as served to prolong wait times for processing PR applications from other programs, including the LCP.

caregiver backlog
Caregivers pose with their Canadian family’s daughter in Thornhill, Ontario. Photo by @FilipinosInCanada

How an entire underclass of Filipinos was created by the LCP

OFWs came in large numbers through the LCP, from such countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.

The LCP was the only program in the world that would allow OFWs to finally unite Filipino families after years of separation due to working abroad.

A large number of OFWs still haven’t met the minimum requirements of the LCP.

Reports state that over 85% of OFWs who came under the LCP did so after having to pay illegally collected recruitment fees (including paying for their own airfare).

According to LCP rules, Canadian employers are supposed to pay for all costs related to the recruitment of foreign workers, including airfare.

OFWs pay an average of $5,000 to their recruitment agencies, always under-the-table using wire-transfer services. They were also made to pay for their own airfare.

Making matters worse was when OFWs arrived in Canada, only to find that their Canadian employers were fraudulent, resulting in being “Released-Upon-Arrival” (RUA).

Being Released-Upon-Arrival left OFWs without a valid employer, forcing them to work illegally until they were able to find a new Canadian employer who was authorized by the Government of Canada to hire them, often years after their first entry into Canada.

Already thousands of dollars in debt, OFWs had no choice but to work illegally.

OFWs in Canada can only work for Canadian employers indicated on their Work Permits.

OFWs who were Released-Upon-Arrival are forced to work illegally to pay off their existing debts, often being paid below minimum wage and under difficult conditions.

Caregiver backlog
Caregivers can renew their Open Work Permits while waiting for their Permanent Residency Applications to be processed. Photo by @FilipinosInCanada

OFWs being given every consideration by Government of Canada

Canadian employers must also go through a lengthy process before hiring foreign nationals, which is why it is a challenge for most OFWs to find a new Canadian employer after having been Released-Upon-Arrival.

The Government of Canada has been very understanding with OFWs who chose to stay in Canada, despite not having existing employers.

Unlike the United States, which has been actively been seeking foreign nationals who continue to live without proper documentation, OFWs in Canada are not subjected to the same treatment as those south of the border.

OFWs under the LCP must meet the minimum requirements of the program in order to apply for Permanent Residency.

This includes medical and criminal background checks for the OFW and all of their qualified dependents.

If any member of an OFW’s family is flagged for whatever reason, it will cause delays (or denial) of an OFW’s application for Permanent Residency.

Sources from IRCC, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said that another reason for the backlogs were because of incomplete PR applications.

PR applications with incomplete documents were common in the LCP, with each delay prolonging the process even further.

IRCC stated that there are currently 19,000 OFWs included in the PR application backlog.

Most of these OFWs are now holding Open Work Permits, allowing them to work for any Canadian employer that would take them.

The damage, however, has already been done. Thousands of OFWs find themselves working multiple low-paying jobs at the same time just to pay off interest for their original debt, which has still not been paid for in full.

IRCC recommends that OFWs who are still waiting for their PR applications to be processed to always check the status of their applications online, and to seek help if they run into any complications whatsoever.

IRCC assess each PR application strictly on an individual basis, based on all the information submitted at the time of the application.

IRCC has seen many PR applications being returned because OFWs failed to submit the proper documents. Another reason for delay was for incomplete information being provided.

caregiver backlog
Consul General Rosalita Prospero speaks to the Filipino community during an event in Mississauga. Photo by @FilipinosInCanada

Need help? Don’t forget you’re still a Filipino National

Many OFWs who are unfamiliar with the PR application process, often turn to advocates who take their cases to the mainstream media to force IRCC to act on their applications faster.

Sources from IRCC, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said that this isn’t the best way to go (neither is bringing their applications to the attention of Members of Parliament).

According to IRCC, endorsements made by MPs are given the same amount of due diligence that all other applications are given. If an application is complete, a request will be made by IRCC for the OFW to provide additional details if necessary.

IRCC announced changes to its medical inadmissibility rules, allowing previously denied applications to be reevaluated.

A very small number of OFW PR applications were denied because family members failed to meed the criteria for medical inadmissibility due to conditions including Down Syndrome.

The Government of Canada is also addressing backlogs for refugee applications, which is part of the country’s international obligations.

With the US Government cracking down on foreign nationals in their their country, the Government of Canada has struggled to stem the flow of foreign nationals crossing the border illegally.

IRCC, working with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), is also responsible for processing asylum seekers.

IRCC sources encourage OFWs to submit complete applications from the very start, and address any requests for further information in a timely manner to avoid further delays in processing their PR applications.

Before you call your MP (after all, if you’re an OFW with a problem, you’re not exactly a priority because you’re not a constituent), you may want to contact IRCC first. Get your Unique Client Identification (UCI) number ready and call IRCC.

IRCC contact centre (888) 242-2100

Is your situation a little bit more complicated? Remember, until you become a Canadian citizen, you’re still very much a Filipino national.

Don’t hesitate to ask the Philippine government for help (that’s what they’re there for). Call the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) which has jurisdiction over your province of employment. They’ll be more than happy to help.

POLO Toronto (416) 975-8252
POLO Vancouver (604) 641-1234

www.FilipinosInCanada.com