Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Irish Canadian Immigration Centre offers assistance to thousands in first year

It is only 12 months since the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre opened its doors to assist the thousands of Irish emigrants flocking to the country. Cathy Murphy, Director of the Toronto based Centre, tells Gráinne Burns about the vital role of the outreach service in the country.

Cathy Murphy with Ontario minister of immigration Charles Sousa, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Candian immigration minister Jason Kenney and Eamonn O’Loghlin at the opening of the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre.

Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 13:55


Gráinne Burns

From man-flu to visa form filling, Cathy Murphy, director of the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre, has had to deal with every sort of query since the country-wide outreach service launched only 12 months ago.

While primarily dealing with immigration issues (visas, work permits, permanent residency etc.), the centre also runs the website and organises regular workshops on employment and taxation.

However, the Toronto based centre has become more than just a service provider – for many emigrants, it is a source of comfort and reassurance.

“There is so much misinformation online regarding work permits and other visa issues that people naturally become stressed and concerned so they come here for face to face meetings or just to talk things over on the phone,” explains Murphy, a Canadian native with deep Irish roots.

“Emigrating is a difficult process and it does not work out for everyone. Finding employment in particular fields, for example, can be hard, so through the workshops, we explain the importance of networking and simple things like changing resumes.”

The ongoing attraction to Canada was highlighted in recent weeks when the International Experience Canada (IEC) visa system opened. In less than four days, the Irish quota of 6,350 was filled for 2013 - it’s clearly the ‘modern day golden ticket’ for many in the 18-35 age category.

In recent years, this new wave of emigrants relied on the traditional Irish organisations for advice and assistance before and during their move abroad. It was for this reason that four such organizations – The Ireland Fund of Canada, Ireland Canada Chamber of Commerce, Toronto Irish Benevolent Society and GAA in Canada – collectively decided to establish an outreach service to assist the new generation of emigrants.

Murphy also highlights the support of inaugural chairman, Eamonn O’Loghlin who recently passed away, as well as Ray Bassett, Ireland’s Ambassador to Canada for spearheading the centre’s opening and development.

The centre is partly funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs with private sponsorship by commercial businesses such as Scotiabank.

The centre, which officially opened on January 9th, 2012, is located in the offices of the Ireland Fund of Canada in Downtown Toronto. With emigrants now scattered across the vast country, much of Murphy’s communication work is now done via email and social media, while she also hosts a number of employment webinars.

Its Facebook page attracts up to 10,000 visits per week with its website recording similar traffic figures.

The recent changes to the visa system – an increase from 5,500 to 10,000 visas in 2014 and the extension of work permits from 12 to 24 months – has naturally led to a spike in Murphy’s workload.

“There has been a definite increase in the numbers seeking information on permanent residency. Thankfully the Irish workforce here are viewed very positively in terms of worth ethic, training and education so Canadian employers are eager to maintain and support if possible.”

With the abolition of the 18 month habitual residency rule, this has increased demand for the 6,350 IEC visas, explains Murphy. Three thousand federal skilled trade visas are also currently being processed.

Obtaining permanent residency can be a long process with many different avenues open to individuals and families. But once settled, many choose to secure permanent residency through initial employer sponsorship.

“It is easier to get residency in such areas as Saskatchewan and with good employment for trades people, they are seeking a lot of younger families to settle there. We are also seeing a demand for accountants in Newfoundland. We see more people looking outside of Toronto and Vancouver with Calgary, Alberta and Edmonton all growing in popularity.”

Murphy has also noticed a change in the profile of people seeking to relocate. “For the first six months that we were operating, a majority of our inquiries were from those under 35 but we have seen a huge rise in families, and in particular younger families, looking for advice on moving.”

Many Irish emigrants initially find Canada a very expensive place to live, and Murphy advises all interested emigrants to save a “good amount” to help with set up costs.

With Canada’s economy continuing to thrive, the country’s magnetic effect is expected to continue for some time, as will the demand for services offered by the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre.

“As long as the demand is there for our services, we will continue to assist in any way possible. It is sad to see so many people leaving Ireland but we are trying to create a home away from home for all.”