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Like many countries around the world, Ireland is in economic crisis. Irish workers are packing their bags and leaving the country in search of better employment opportunities abroad. Many are heading to Canada and Toronto in particular. Others are seeking an opportunity to travel and experience a different culture. Canada offers certain foreign individuals an easy way to work and travel in Canada temporarily through the International Experience Canada initiative.

What is the IEC initiative?

The International Experience Canada (IEC) initiative is a program that allows applicants to travel, work, and live temporarily in Canada. Through this program, applicants between the ages of 18 and 35 can easily obtain a temporary work permit to gain professional experience in Canada or to work in Canada to finance their travels. More than 35,000 participants from around the world use this program to travel and work in Canada each year.

Which countries participate in this program?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has negotiated agreements with several countries to allow their citizens to participate in the IEC initiative. Some counties that are part of the initiative include Australia, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. Each of the participating countries is allotted a certain number of places available to their citizens. For example, 4,200 German citizens are allowed to participate in the program this year, 6,500 from Japan, and 450 from Spain.

Who is eligible for this program?

There are three major categories in the IEC initiative: Working Holiday, Young Professionals, and International Co-op. Not all participating countries offer all three programs and many countries only offer the Working Holiday category.

The Working Holiday category offers the opportunity for applicants to temporarily gain Canadian work experience and travel around Canada. Work permits that are issued under the IEC initiative are valid for any type of job and applicants can work for as many employers as they like for the duration of their permit (which is valid for a maximum of one year). Applicants are not required to have a job offer prior to arriving in Canada, but are required to meet certain financial requirements. It is important to note that work permits issued under the IEC initiative cannot be renewed or extended and applicants who wish to remain in Canada to work must apply for a valid work permit.

The Young Professionals category is designed for individuals, particularly graduates of a post-secondary educational institution, who wish to further their careers by gaining work experience under a pre-arranged contract of employment in Canada. Contrary to the Working Holiday category, applicants under the Young Professionals category are required to have a job offer before arriving in Canada. The work permit will only be valid for one employer and will be valid for a maximum period of one year.

The International Co-op (Internship) category is designed for individuals who are registered students at a post-secondary education institution outside Canada and who intend to complete a work placement or internship in Canada to fulfill part of their academic curriculum. The work permit granted in this category is valid for a maximum period of one year. Applicants are required to have an internship or work placement offer with a Canadian employer before arriving in Canada.

Some countries offer other categories for the IEC initiative in addition to the three major categories listed above. Spain, for example, offers a Student Summer Job category which is designed for post-secondary students who plan to travel to Canada during their academic vacations and who wish to work on a casual basis for a maximum of three months. If you would like to know if you qualify for this program, please visit Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

Additional Benefits of IEC

Gaining Canadian work experience can be especially valuable for individuals who wish to immigrate permanently to Canada. Foreign individuals who have at least two years of Canadian work experience in a skilled position are eligible to apply for the Canadian Experience Class and gain Canadian Permanent Residency. Foreign individuals who have at least one year of skilled work experience in Quebec can apply for Permanent Residency through the Quebec Experience Class (PEQ). And foreign individuals with Canadian work experience may also qualify for Permanent Residency through the various Provincial Nominee Programs.

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