Hiring a Domestic Worker & Related Accreditation Program

This policy, which superseded the Department's Circular Note XDC-2494 of December 29, 2009, is NOW REPEALED.

1. Accreditation Program Description

The Domestic Worker Accreditation Program allows certain foreign representatives to employ a domestic worker who will live and work in their private household during the posting period, and subsequently seek accreditation via the head of the diplomatic mission, international organization or special representative office (hereinafter referred to as “head of mission”). Employers must meet all legal, policy and program requirements, which includes the preparation of an employment contract that must be signed by both the employer and the employee.

As accredited domestic workers have the same labour rights, human rights and social protections as all Canadians and temporary foreign workers in Canada, it would not be appropriate for prospective employers to sign a contract when they are financially unable to pay the wages specified in the employment contract and otherwise meet all conditions of employment set in the contract. In this regard, the Department considers that it is the joint responsibility of the head of mission and individual employers to ensure compliance with the provisions of the accreditation program and the minimum provincial labour standards applicable to the domestic workers’ working conditions.

The exploitation of a domestic worker may violate Canadian law and human rights. The Government of Canada condemns all acts of labour exploitation, including human trafficking. Human trafficking is the most extreme form of exploitation, and a serious crime.

2. Who is Eligible to Hire a Domestic Worker and Limits

In order to hire a domestic worker, the foreign representative must be posted to Canada as:

  • an ambassador, high commissioner or head of an international organization or special representative office (a maximum of 2 domestic workers per household); or
  • a diplomatic agent or a person with a status equivalent to that which is afforded to diplomatic agent (a maximum of 1 domestic worker per household);
  • a career consular officer (a maximum of 1 domestic worker per household).

Accredited foreign representatives who hold a "J" Acceptance do not qualify.

3. Requirements — Employers

Prospective employers are strongly encouraged to make a reasonable effort to first fill the position with a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident or a live-in caregiver already in Canada.

In addition, prospective employers must:

  • have sufficient income to pay the domestic worker in accordance with the prevailing wage set in the province of residence and the method of payroll payment set by the Office of Protocol, and further agree to ensure complete, accurate and timely payroll;
  • ensure that the potential employee is at least 21 years old, has successfully completed the equivalent of Canadian high school education, has received at least six (6) months of training, and has worked as a domestic worker or caregiver or in a related occupation for at least 2 years during the past 4 years;
  • ensure that that potential employee has the ability to speak, read and understand English or French so that they can function on their own in an unsupervised setting;
  • pay up-front the transportation costs from the employee’s country of current residence to Canada;
  • pay the transportation costs from Canada at the end of the posting or upon termination of the employment, whichever comes first;
  • submit, through the head of mission, a written contract (called a Household Domestic Worker Employment Agreementor HDWEA) signed by the employer and employee, which includes a description of:
    1. wages, including overtime
    2. hours of work
    3. job duties
    4. suitable accommodation arrangements and workplace safety
    5. holiday and leave entitlements
    6. health insurance coverage
    7. termination, resignation, and repatriation terms.

The Department requests that all payments to the employee be done by either cheque or bank transfer. Cash payments are not permitted. In addition, the employee should receive a payroll statement. The Department may, at any time, request a copy of such statement as proof of payment from the employer.

Potential employers are encouraged to use the employment contract model developed by the Office of Protocol. If an employer chooses to develop his/her own contract, such contract does not have to look exactly like the Canadian model, but it must contain fair terms and conditions of employment, and information and clauses to ensure that domestic workers receive all the protections owed to them under Canadian laws and regulations, which include provincial labour standards. The use of an alternative contract format may delay processing as the Office of Protocol will be required to determine if the contract complies with statutory labour standards. The use of an alternative contract does not exempt the employer from the requirement to pay the employee by either cheque or bank transfer, as stated in the above paragraph.

The employer must not confiscate the passport, identity card, employment contract or other personal property from the domestic worker. A domestic worker has the right to keep his or her passport, identity card, employment contract and personal property in a safe and accessible place at all times.

A foreign representative who fails to respect the terms and conditions of the employment contract, including those relating to the method of payroll, will be prohibited to employ domestic workers in the future. Other restrictions may be imposed on the mission.

An employer may, however, substitute the domestic worker during the course of a normal posting if the previous domestic worker has completed his/her contract, transferred to a new employer or has effectively left Canada.

The Office of Protocol may request that certain countries demonstrate that they have developed and implemented an outreach and education program, or code of conduct, for their employees posted to Canada regarding the labour protections owed to domestic workers in Canada.

4. Requirements — Employees

The domestic worker cannot be a blood relative of the employer or the employer’s spouse. A blood relationship means a first degree relationship with the employer and/or the employer’s spouse (this includes grandparents, parents, brothers or sisters, nephews or nieces, sons or daughters or grandchildren).

Pre-arrival in Canada

Assuming that the Office of Protocol has accepted in principle the employment of the potential domestic worker in the household of the foreign representative and approves the related employment contract, he/she:

  • is strongly encouraged to obtain detailed information about labour protections and rights enjoyed by domestic workers in Canada;
  • must apply for and obtain a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), even if his/her country is visa-exempt;
  • undergo a medical examination, as well as an interview with a Citizenship and Immigration Canada officer;
  • cannot be accompanied by dependents;
  • should keep a signed copy of his/her employment contract in a safe and accessible place.

A visa will not be issued to a domestic worker who is inadmissible to Canada for medical reasons.

Post-arrival in Canada

The domestic worker:

  • should not agree to sign another employment contract with terms and conditions that are less favourable without the express consent of the Office of Protocol.
  • cannot work for more than one employer at a time or care for individuals not forming part of the accredited employer’s household;
  • cannot transfer employer without the express consent of the Office of Protocol;
  • is required to leave Canada upon termination of the employment contract, at the end of the employer's posting or after seven years, whichever is earliest (a domestic worker who has been in Canada for the maximum period of seven years and who wishes to find a new employer and return to work in Canada under an official acceptance will be allowed to do so only after a stay abroad of at least six months and if the domestic worker has respected the terms and conditions of the HDWEA with the previous employer(s).

A domestic worker who violates the terms and conditions of the contract and of Canadian rules and policy will not be allowed to change employers.

A domestic worker should also take steps to improve his/her English and French skills before or after arrival in Canada. Even if a domestic worker can speak English or French, he/she may have difficulty understanding people and making himself/herself understood in Canada because of the different accents, the fast rate of speech, expressions used and communication conventions in Canadian society and workplaces.

5. How to apply and Checklist

When a potential employer wishes to hire a domestic worker, the head of mission must submit on his/her behalf an official request to the Office of Protocol of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development with the following documents:

  1. A note verbale or letter signed by the head of mission, which contains a statement that the potential employer has the financial ability to pay the wages and the ability to otherwise meet the working conditions required in the province of employment.
  2. The HDWEA (PDF Version, 140 KB)* or employment contract signed by both the employer and employee.
  3. Details regarding the awareness training or outreach program undergone by the employer regarding the labour protections owed to domestic workers in Canada, if specifically required by the Office of Protocol.

6. Next Steps

The Office of Protocol will assess the employment application submitted by the head of mission and related documentation to ensure that the employer and employee meet the program requirements.

Once the assessment is complete, the Office of Protocol will notify the head of mission of the final decision and further relay such decision to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

If the assessment is positive, the potential employee must submit a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) application through the Canadian mission abroad. The mission responsible for the issuance of the Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) will subsequently:

  • Interview the potential employee, namely to evaluate the applicant's expertise and/or a possible blood relationship with the employer, and to ensure that he/she has been properly informed about workplace rights in Canada and understands the terms and conditions of the employment contract;
  • Ensure that a medical examination is done.

The Canadian mission will inform the Office of Protocol of the results. If there is no adverse information, the Office of Protocol will provide a no objection to the Canadian mission for the issuance of the appropriate Temporary Resident Visa (TRV).

7. Arrival in Canada of a Domestic Worker

Upon arrival in Canada, the domestic worker will be granted admission as a temporary resident. The mission should quickly seek the domestic worker’s accreditation following the same procedures as those applicable to all foreign representatives. The Office of Protocol will then issue the official acceptance and matching identity card to the domestic worker as a reliable proof of status in Canada.

8. Employment Standards by Province

The employer must agree to review and adjust the domestic worker’s prevailing wage to ensure it meets or exceeds, at all times, the requirements as outlined on the following table: Live-in Caregiver Program Wages, Working Conditions and Occupation.

9. Privacy Protection

See the Department's Circular Note XDC-0406 of April 2, 2004.


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