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Erlinda Maravillas, who took placement fees from several Filipinos wanting to bring their family members to Canada, says she no longer does that

Unrefunded fees at centre of immigration dispute

Filipinos in GTA say they paid a recruiter to help bring families to Canada.

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Erlinda Maravillas, who took placement fees from several Filipinos wanting to bring their family members to Canada, says she no longer does that. Charging foreign workers placement fees to find them jobs in Ontario has been illegal since Placement fees have been illegal since 2009.

DALE BRAZAO / TORONTO STAR Order this photo

Erlinda Maravillas, who took placement fees from several Filipinos wanting to bring their family members to Canada, says she no longer does that. Charging foreign workers placement fees to find them jobs in Ontario has been illegal since Placement fees have been illegal since 2009.

By:  Staff Reporter, Published on Sun Aug 02 2015

Bebiang Merry Tobes claims that she is owed thousands of dollars by a woman who she says illegally collected fees from her to find work for her relatives as live-in caregivers.

In March 2013, Tobes says, she gave Erlinda Maravillas $8,000 to produce labour market impact assessments and employment contracts for her two nieces and a nephew through the temporary foreign worker program, but the documents never materialized.

She is one of many in the Filipino-Canadian community in Toronto who believe they were duped by Maravillas and want their money back.

Approached outside her North York apartment building while entering her recently purchased 2006 BMW X3, Maravillas admitted to collecting recruitment fees, which employers are required by law to cover, from applicants’ families until 2013.

Charging caregivers, instead of employers, for placement has been illegal since 2009 with a penalty of a fine of up to $50,000 and up to a year in jail.

“I used to do it,” said Maravillas, who ran Lynn’s Local and International Placement Agency from 1999 to 2014. “But no more.”

Maravillas said she’s lost count of how many people she’s helped bring their relatives into the country, as live-in caregivers, from such countries as the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

She has not collected any recruitment fees from would-be caregivers or their families in the past two years, she says.

“These employers who I always help, they call me because I don’t charge,” Maravillas said. “I don’t charge the employer. I didn’t charge them even 5 cents.”

“The thing is, the employer will not pay,” said Maravillas, explaining why she didn’t charge employers the recruitment fees instead, as the law stipulates.

To hire a foreign caregiver, prospective employers need a positive labour market impact assessment, which demonstrates the need to hire a worker from abroad instead of from within Canada.

In December, the cost of an LMIA application increased to $1,000 from $275. Employers are also required to advertise the position on websites like Monster and Workopolis to prove there’s a shortage of Canadians to fill it.

A year-and-a-half after she handed Maravillas $8,000 in cash, Tobes said, there was no evidence that any progress had been made on the application.

Maravillas said, however, that Tobes didn’t wait long enough before cancelling her application, which takes many months to process.

When Tobes asked that her money be returned, Maravillas made incremental payments until October, bringing the balance down to $6,650, and then started ignoring her calls, Tobes said.

“I keep calling her and texting her, sometimes bad words because I’m upset,” said Tobes, who is also a caregiver. “She doesn’t respond.”

“I’m stressed for a long time,” she said. “It’s big money for me. I work hard.”

Maravillas said she doesn’t answer the phone sometimes because she has reception issues, but denied staying out of touch on purpose. Since speaking with the Star, she has reached out to Tobes and promised to return her money.

Maravillas, who now makes her living as a cleaner and babysitter, said reimbursement has always been her intention, but thus far she’s been unable to save up enough to repay Tobes in full.

In another case, Luisa Bucauyu said she gave Maravillas $2,500 to bring her nephew to Canada from the Philippines in 2012.

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