More foreign live-in caregivers and nannies currently working for Canadian families will see their permanent residency applications approved next year, says Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.
Alexander announced on Tuesday new measures to address the growing backlog of live-in caregivers currently working in Canada while waiting for permanent resident status.
Canada will approve 17,500 live-in caregivers as permanent residents through the program in 2014, almost double the number this year, Alexander said in a written news release on Tuesday.
In April, a Commons committee was told by former immigration minister Jason Kenney that the federal government was "sitting on a backlog of 45,000 people with their permanent residency applications in the queue."
Kenney said that represented a five-year wait time, which he deemed "unacceptable."
Alexander 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."
NDP citizenship and immigration critic Lysanne Blanchette-Lamothe welcomed the announcement, saying she was happy to see the minister taking the issue "seriously," but also blamed the Conservatives for allowing the backlogs "to grow to unacceptable levels" in the first place.
"It’s our job to make sure that caregivers who come to Canada have a path to citizenship, can reunite with their families without unfair delays, and have full protection from exploitation and abuse," the NDP MP said.
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 one of three ways immigrants can achieve permanent resident status in Canada.
Live-in caregivers can apply for permanent residence after working two years during their first four years after entry into Canada.
Parents and grandparents
Alexander also announced that the federal government is on track to admit 50,000 parents and grandparents by the end of 2013 under the Conservative's family reunification plan, as part of its efforts to reduce a backlog of applications under the parent and grandparent program.
The immigration minister pledged to reunite more families in 2014 by welcoming in an additional 20,000 parents and grandparents.
The federal government froze applications to sponsor parents and grandparents in 2011, citing a backlog of more than 80,000 applications.
The government announced earlier this year it will start accepting applications again in January under the parent and grandparent program, with new eligibility criteria for sponsors and a cap of 5,000 applications per year to help avoid future backlogs.
In the meantime, it introduced a 10-year "super visa" that allows parents and grandparents to visit family here provided they take care of their own health-care insurance. To date, nearly 26,000 super visas have been issued with an 84 per cent approval rate.
"The modernized PGP program will mean faster processing times and shorter waits," Alexander said in his statement. "It will also ensure that families have the financial means to support those they sponsor, while also protecting the interests of taxpayers."
More information, new application forms and instruction guides for the redesigned parent and grandparent program will be made available in the coming weeks.
Alexander announced on Monday, in an annual immigration report tabled in Parliament, that Canada will approve 240,000 to 265,000 new permanent residents in 2014 — approximately the same number it has approved every year for the last eight years.