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1. EMPLOYEE (CAREGIVER)

Are you interested in working as a live-in caregiver?

The Live-in Caregiver Program allows professional caregivers to work in Canada. Caregivers are individuals who are qualified to work without supervision in a private household providing care for children, elderly persons or people who have disabilities. The live-in caregiver must live in the employer's home.

There are four main requirements you must meet to qualify under the Live-in Caregiver Program:

  • You must have successfully completed the equivalent of a Canadian high school education. This requirement will help to ensure that if you apply for permanent residence after two years as a live-in caregiver, you will be able to succeed in the general labour market. Studies indicate that the majority of new jobs in Canada require at least a high school education.
     
  • You must have six months of full-time training in a classroom setting or twelve months of full-time paid employment, including at least six months of continuous employment with one employer in a field or occupation related to the job you are seeking as a live-in caregiver. You may have gained your training or experience in areas such as early childhood education, geriatric care, pediatric nursing or first aid. You may also have completed your training as part of your formal education. This experience must have been obtained within the three years immediately prior to the day on which you submit an application for a work permit.
     
  • You must be able to speak, read and understand either English or French at a level that allows you to function independently in a home setting. For example, you must be able to contact emergency services if required and to understand labels on medication. You will be unsupervised for most of the day and may be required to communicate with someone outside the home. A good knowledge of English or French will also enable you to read and understand your rights and obligations.
     
  • You must have a written employment contract between you and your future employer. The contract defines your job duties, hours of work, salary and benefits. The contract also reinforces your employer's legal responsibilities to you. This requirement helps provide a fair working arrangement between the caregiver and the employer and provides both parties with a clear understanding of what is expected of them.

Live-in criteria

An important requirement of the program is that employees must live in the employer's home. The Live-in Caregiver Program exists only because there is a shortage of Canadians or permanent residents to fill the need for live-in care work. There is no shortage of Canadians or permanent residents available for caregiving positions where there is no live-in requirement.

The application procedure

Your prospective employer will submit a request to hire you to a Human Resources Centre Canada (HRCC). The HRCC will ensure that no Canadian, permanent resident or other temporary worker already in Canada is qualified and available to take the employer's offer of employment. Once the HRCC has confirmed the job offer, it will send the prospective employer a confirmation letter. This letter will instruct your prospective employer to send a copy of the confirmation letter to you. You and your prospective employer should check the visa office Web site for specific information about the next step: applying for a work permit. It is up to you and/or your employer to download the appropriate application forms from the Web site, complete them and send them with the application fee and supporting documents to the visa office.

You will be asked for your diplomas, school certificates or transcripts listing the courses you have taken. You could be disqualified from the program if you are not honest about your education, training and experience. You must provide information about your marital status and the number of children you have. This information will not affect the outcome of your application. You may be asked to attend an interview with a visa officer. If your application form is incomplete, or you have not submitted all the required documents, your application will be refused.

If the visa office approves your application, you will be given instructions for medical tests. When CIC officials receive proof that your medical results are satisfactory and that you have met all other requirements, you will be issued a work permit. A work permit is not a travel document. You must also get a passport and a Canadian temporary resident visa (TRV), if required. The requirement for a passport and temporary resident visa will depend on your country of citizenship (see "Passports and visas").

Because of an agreement between the Government of Canada and the Province of Quebec, there are differences in the way the program operates for caregivers who will be working in Quebec. For more information, visit the Web site of the ministère des Relations avec les citoyens et de l'Immigration (Quebec Immigration) at www.mrci.gouv.qc.ca.

The work permit

A work permit from a Canadian visa office will allow you to work in Canada as a live-in caregiver. The work permit is valid for one year, and you must renew it before it expires. You can get an application guide to renew your work permit by contacting a CIC Call Centre at one of the numbers listed at the end of this publication or by visiting the CIC Web site. You will need a letter from your employer stating that your job as a live-in caregiver is being offered for another year and a signed contract between you and your employer. Include this letter and a copy of the contract in your application to renew your work permit. You are authorized to work only for the employer named on your permit. However, this does not mean you cannot change employers for personal or other reasons. Both you and your employer should be aware that you are free to change employers while in Canada. Citizenship and Immigration Canada will not deport you for looking for another place to work. You must have received a new work permit before you begin working for a new employer.

Involvement in any illegal activity could result in the cancellation of your permission to work in Canada. For example, you cannot work for any employer except the one named on your work permit. You cannot accept employment for any type of work except as a live-in caregiver. You cannot work for a new employer, even for a trial period, until you have a new work permit naming the new employer.

The contract

A signed employment contract between you and your employer is a legal requirement of the Live-in Caregiver Program. Your employer must give you a copy of the contract. It is part of the documentation that you must send to the visa office when making your application to work as a live-in caregiver. You will also require a copy of the contract if you need to request a new work permit. Both you and your employer must clearly understand the conditions of your employment before signing the contract. The relationship between employer and live-in employee is like any professional relationship. It is important to clearly set out what each person expects of the other to avoid any misunderstandings about the conditions of the working relationship.

The objective of setting out the relationship in a contract is to get the fairest working arrangement possible for both you and your employer. A contract can help to avoid future problems by protecting your rights and providing a clear statement of your obligations. A contract is a written, detailed job description that also describes the conditions of employment, including the maximum number of hours of work per week, and the wage rate for those hours of work. Nothing in the contract should violate provincial or territorial labour laws, which establish minimum employment standards such as the minimum wage and overtime payment for additional hours worked.

To ensure that the contract is effective, think carefully about what it is for and how you will use it. Later in this booklet, we have provided an example of a contract to assist you. How closely you and your employer follow it in setting up your own contract is up to the both of you. Remember: your contract will indicate what job duties your employer expects of you and will help ensure that your employer fulfills his or her legal responsibilities to you.

You are protected

As a live-in caregiver, you have legal rights respecting fair working conditions and fair treatment under employment standards legislation in most provinces and territories. Nothing in your contract must violate these rights. Employment standards legislation may cover rights in areas such as:

  • days off each week;
  • vacation time with pay;
  • paid public holidays;
  • overtime pay;
  • minimum wage;
  • other protection, including equal pay, equal benefits and notice of employment termination;
  • maximum charges for room and board.

Public holidays are days during the year when most workers, including live-in caregivers, can have the day off with pay or receive a premium if they work. In Canada, some common holidays are New Year's Day (January 1), Good Friday (Easter), Victoria Day (late May), Canada Day (July 1), Labour Day (early September), Thanksgiving (mid-October) and Christmas Day (December 25). Some provinces or territories have one or two additional public holidays.

Working conditions, such as minimum hourly wages, vary widely in Canada according to provincial or territorial law. It is your responsibility to find out what employment protection is offered by law in the province or territory where you are working. A list of ministries responsible for labour standards is included at the end of this booklet.

Other working conditions

You have the right to your privacy in your employer's home. For example, you should ask for a lock on the door of your room as well as a key to the employer's house. Off-duty time is yours to spend as you wish. Your employer cannot insist that you spend your own time in his or her house. You also have the right to refuse to do work that is not covered by your contract with your employer.

Your legal documents, such as your passport and work permit, are your private property. Do not give them to your employer.

If you need help

If your employer treats you unfairly, you can call or write to the nearest provincial or territorial labour standards office. These offices are listed at the end of this booklet. Your employer cannot penalize you for complaining to these agencies. The agency may ask if you have tried first to resolve the problem by talking to your employer. Your employer may not realize that there is a problem, and you may be able to solve it by letting your employer know how you feel.

In every province and territory, there are private and public agencies ready to offer encouragement, advice and help if you experience other difficulties such as stress, anxiety or any other problem. These agencies are usually listed in the telephone directory. In some locations, there are also professional support networks for live-in domestics or caregivers. A list of these support networks appears at the end of this booklet. There is usually no charge for these services. In some cities, there are telephone services that provide recorded information on legal matters free of charge.

Human Resources Centres Canada offer employment services. To find out which HRCC serves your area, consult the government section of your telephone directory or visit the Human Resources Development Canada Web site.

What is abuse?

Abuse can take many forms. It can include criminal acts such as assault, sexual assault or negligence; it can be human rights violations such as harassment, verbal taunting or behaviour towards you that is degrading or humiliating. It can be a threat or a false accusation by your employer meant to frighten you into not complaining.

The best protection against abuse is information. Be sure that you know your rights and what steps to take if something goes wrong. Depending on the nature of the incident, abuse may be an offence under the Criminal Code or a violation under provincial or federal human rights legislation.

Do not confront your abuser. Inform the police or the responsible provincial or territorial authorities and let them take care of the investigation. A domestic worker advocacy group may also be able to provide you with counselling and support in a situation of abuse. A list of these groups is provided at the end of the booklet.

Thinking about quitting?

You will improve your chances of getting another job if you have worked in one job for a considerable period of time. Before quitting your job (unless there are problems of abuse) you should try to solve your work problems by talking about them with your employer. It is reasonable for you and your employer to revise your contract periodically to be sure that it is suitable to both of you. Talk with your employer before taking any action to quit your job. If you decide to quit, give your employer enough notice so that arrangements can be made for your replacement. Check your contract to find out how much notice you have agreed to give your employer. However, you are encouraged to leave a physically abusive situation right away.

Breaking the contract

If you leave your job, your employer must provide you with a record of employment (ROE). Only your employer can get and complete this document. The ROE shows how many weeks you have worked and how much you have earned. You will need this record to apply for EI benefits. If you are not applying for EI benefits, keep your ROE in a safe place. It is your work record and can serve as proof that you have worked the necessary length of time to apply for permanent residence as set out in the Live-In Caregiver Program regulations. Your employer cannot refuse to give you a record of employment. If you are having difficulty getting your ROE, contact your local HRCC and ask officials to follow up with your employer.

Remember that if you change jobs, you must have another contract with your new employer.

Any live-in caregiver who decides to live out, or who accepts any other type of employment, can be disqualified from the program.

Applying for permanent residence in Canada

You must complete at least two years of employment as a live-in caregiver to apply for permanent residence in Canada. You must have completed these two years of employment within three years of your arrival in Canada. The two-year requirement does not include any extended time away from Canada. For example, if you go away on vacation for three months, that time will not be included as part of the two years of employment. In some countries, you may need to reapply for a temporary visitor visa before you return to Canada. If you leave Canada for more than one year or if your work permit has expired, you will have to reapply to the overseas visa office to return to Canada under the Live-in Caregiver Program. You are free to leave the program and return permanently to your home country at any time. However, you should give adequate notice to your employer.

If you apply to stay in Canada, you must complete an application for permanent resident status. You can obtain an application guide by contacting a CIC Call Centre or by visiting the CIC Web site. You must prove that you have worked as a full-time live-in caregiver for two years. As proof of your employment, you can use a statement of earnings or T4 slips and any other documentation that would help to prove your work record. If you have changed jobs since your arrival in Canada, you should have a record of employment from each of your former employers. You will not have an ROE for your present job. If you have used your ROEs to apply for Employment Insurance, HRCC staff can provide you with copies.

Your application for permanent residence in Canada will not be assessed on the basis of your financial situation, skills upgrading in Canada, volunteer work, marital status or the number of family members you have in your country of origin. However, you could be found ineligible for permanent residence if you, your spouse or common-law partner, or any of your family members have a criminal record or a serious medical problem.

Your application for permanent residence could be cancelled if you misrepresented your education, training or experience to the visa officer when you first applied under the program.

If you are a live-in caregiver working in Quebec, you will also be assessed by provincial authorities on additional criteria, including your knowledge of French. For further information, visit the Web site of the ministère des Relations avec les citoyens et de l'Immigration (Quebec Immigration) at www.mrci.gouv.qc.ca.

Family members

You can include your family members in your application for permanent residence. You and your family members can then obtain your permanent resident status at the same time. Your family members abroad will be processed for permanent residence at the visa office in their country of residence. They will not be issued their immigrant visas until you have received yours, provided that the entire family passes medical and criminal screening and all other requirements are met. All your family members must pass medical and background checks, whether they are accompanying you or not. You cannot be granted permanent resident status until all your family members have passed their medical and background checks.

You can obtain information about sponsorship and other immigration-related issues by contacting a CIC Call Centre or by visiting the CIC Web site.

2. EMPLOYER

Before you look abroad

If you want to hire a caregiver from abroad, we recommend that you contact your local Human Resources Centre Canada (HRCC). Be sure that you are familiar with the conditions of the Live-in Caregiver Program before spending time or money recruiting employees from abroad, and that the program is the best means of meeting your needs. Is it necessary that your employee live in? In Canada, there is no shortage of caregivers who do not live in. It may be possible to fill your position with a Canadian or a permanent resident if there is no live-in requirement. Your local HRCC could help you locate such an employee. The HRCC may ask you to show that you have made reasonable efforts to hire a Canadian or a foreign worker already in Canada as a live-in caregiver. You must have sufficient income to pay a live-in caregiver and you must provide acceptable accommodation in your home. Your job offer must contain caregiving duties for a child, or an elderly or disabled person. A job offer for a housecleaner, for example, is not acceptable under the program.

If the Live-in Caregiver Program best meets your needs, remember that there are four main requirements your caregiver will have to satisfy to qualify under the program. These requirements are listed in the Employee (Caregiver) section of this booklet.

How to hire a foreign live-in caregiver

Employers are responsible for finding foreign live-in caregivers through advertisements, personal contacts or hiring agencies. When you have found an individual you wish to employ, contact your local HRCC, which will assess your offer of employment. You will be asked to declare that you can provide the wages, benefits and working conditions required by provincial or territorial labour laws. The HRCC will provide information on acceptable wage standards, taxation, health insurance, workers' compensation and other relevant matters. Remember that the minimum wage in your province or territory may be below the market wage in your community. You should be prepared to pay a wage rate and provide benefits comparable to those provided to other caregivers in your community if you want to keep your employee.

When the HRCC has confirmed your offer of employment, you will be given a letter of confirmation. The letter contains important information about immigration for live-in caregivers, including the work permit application process. It will also advise you of the documents which you must send to your prospective employee as part of the caregiver's application process.

If your potential employee is considered eligible for the Live-in Caregiver Program and meets all other requirements, the caregiver will be issued a work permit. This process may take several months, so plan ahead. Even if the HRCC approves your offer of employment, your caregiver cannot work in Canada until he or she receives the work permit naming you as the employer. We suggest that you maintain contact with your prospective employee to determine when he or she will be able to begin working for you.

If you live in the province of Quebec, and if Quebec will be your employee's province of employment, your HRCC will be able to inform you of any differences that apply to the process of hiring a foreign live-in caregiver. For further information, visit the Web site of the ministère des Relations avec les citoyens et de l'Immigration (Quebec Immigration) at www.mrci.gouv.qc.ca.

Live-in caregivers have the right to change jobs without their employer's permission as long as they remain live-in caregivers. They are also eligible to apply for an open work permit after working for two years as live-in caregivers in Canada.

Employer's responsibility to a live-in employee

You must provide acceptable working conditions, reasonable duties and fair market wages. You must also provide accommodation that ensures privacy, such as a private room with a lock on the door. Your caregiver pays rent for a room in your home and is entitled to privacy. You should not enter the caregiver's room without permission. You should provide your employee with a key to the house to ensure freedom of access. Your house is your employee's home as well as his or her place of work. You should respect the caregiver's cultural or religious practices and discuss his or her needs.

A live-in caregiver is protected by employment standards legislation in most provinces and territories. Live-in employees are entitled to days off each week, statutory holidays, extra pay for overtime work and a salary that meets at least the minimum wage. It is your responsibility to find out what these standards are and to respect the laws of your province or territory. A list of ministries responsible for labour standards is provided at the end of this booklet.

Hiring a caregiver who is already in Canada

You may wish to hire a live-in caregiver who is already in Canada as a temporary worker under the program but is unemployed. Your offer of employment must first be confirmed by an HRCC. Give a copy of the letter from the HRCC which confirms your job offer to the caregiver you wish to hire. The caregiver needs this letter to apply for a new work permit naming you as the employer. The caregiver must have received the new work permit before starting work in your home. It is illegal for the caregiver to work without a valid work permit naming you as the employer. Trial employment is not allowed. It is illegal to employ a caregiver on a trial basis to determine if the caregiver is suitable for a one-year contract. You could be charged with a criminal offence for employing a worker who is not authorized to work by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

Employer's legal responsibilities

Anyone who employs a full-time live-in caregiver under the program is required by federal law to register as an employer with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA). You must make the proper deductions for income tax, Employment Insurance and Canada Pension Plan and remit these amounts to the proper federal authority. When you register as an employer, the CCRA will provide you with an information guide which contains the necessary forms and instructions. You must comply with the law and provide your employee with a record of employment (ROE) when the employee's work term with you has ended. You will not be able to get the ROE unless you have previously registered as an employer.

Like all other small business employers in Canada, you must keep written records of your caregiver's employment. Employment standards laws require that records of an employee's earnings be kept and that employees be provided with a statement of earnings with each pay cheque. The statement should indicate your employee's gross and net pay, specific deductions, the purpose of these deductions, and the total hours worked (including overtime) during that pay period.

You are also required by law to give your employee a T4 slip for the previous year's employment by the end of February each year. The T4 slip will show your employee's total gross earnings and total deductions for income tax purposes. Your employee will require the T4 to file an annual income tax return. The CCRA will give you an information guide on tax requirements when you register as an employer.

Room and board

Charges for meals not eaten by your employee in your home cannot be deducted from his or her pay. Room charges are calculated on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on the conditions of the employment contract. Whether you may deduct room and board directly from your employee's pay cheque may also be governed by provincial or territorial employment standards legislation.

Your employee is entitled to leave your home on days off.

Ending a contract with an employee

If your employee is unwilling or unable, without just cause, to perform the job duties as stated in the contract, and you no longer wish to employ the caregiver, you can terminate the contract. However, you may have agreed in the contract to give a notice of termination. When you cannot give the caregiver appropriate notice, you can pay the employee for the period the notice would have covered. Regardless of whether your contract requires you to give notice or pay in lieu of notice, you may be liable for it under provincial or territorial laws.

You are required to notify the nearest HRCC if you no longer need the services of your caregiver.

If you abuse the terms of the contract, you will have difficulty hiring another live-in caregiver under the program. If you need to find a replacement for your employee, you must repeat the Live-in Caregiver Program's application procedure.

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