What are my options if I want to work abroad this summer?

Ask the Experts: Missed the J-1 deadline? It’s not too late to apply for Canada


Q: Niamh, Limerick

Myself and my two friends would like to spend this summer abroad after our college exams finish. A lot of other people we know are going to America on the J-1 but we have missed the deadline for applying. We would like to do something different anyway, and are considering Canada. Have we left it too late to apply? What is the visa process? We know it is very last-minute - we had other plans but they have fallen through.

A: Edwina Shanahan, VisaFirst.com

In short - no it’s not too late!

You can still apply for the International Experience Canada (IEC) working-holiday programme, but you should hurry. It can take anywhere from four to six weeks between the time you get the application, complete it, submit it, and then the authorities accept and process it, and issue the visa. So if you want to go this summer, act now.

Even if it does take six weeks, however, you could have the visa by the end of July, which could give you at least six weeks to work and travel in Canada before you begin college again, depending on the start date.

The following is a general timeline of the process, providing you have completed the application forms correctly and submitted all the necessary documentation…

- Invitations to apply come in 5-10 working days after lodging

- You have 10 days to accept the invitation

- You then have 20 days to submit documentation for a permit

- A month later you get your permit and visa finalised

Personally I think Canada is a great choice; it pretty much has “the best of both worlds” for Irish travellers. On the one hand, its people and way of life are not a million miles away from that of the Emerald Isle, but its seasonal weather and the huge variety of things to see and do there make it a wise destination for those seeking a big adventure.

IEC visas are valid for one or two years - generally Irish applicants are granted two years on entry and that visa validity carries on whether the applicant is in the country or not. Canadian Immigration only grants people one IEC visa, so keep this in mind if you think you might like to live and work in Canada for longer after graduating. If you are given a two-year IEC visa and you are going into your final year of college in September, you will be able to travel back to Canada on it and work for another 12-14 months, but if you have more than one year of study left, you might want to wait.

How to apply

There are 7,500 places available to Irish people on this year’s IEC work visa programme to Canada. The IEC program allows people from many countries up to the age of 35 from Ireland to live and work in Canada for a period of up to 12 or 24 months. The applicant should hold an Irish passport which must be valid for the duration of their stay, sufficient funds to support their stay (C$2500), have health insurance and a clean criminal record.

The application process is separated into three stages. Initially, you create a profile with the Canadian government, at cic.gc.ca. If successful, you will be issued an invitation letter from them to apply, and then apply for work permit where then thirdly you can start the process directly, either yourself or with an agent like VisaFirst.

So far this year, 8,877 letters of invitation have been issued to Irish passport-holders. No fee is handed over by the applicant at this stage. A fee does not have to be paid to immigration until the second stage of the application process.

Currently there are 2,749 places available on this year’s IEC working holidayprogramme.

Finding a job

Canadian employers are very much in favour of candidates from the Irish workforce - the Irish have a good reputation in Canada, and are seen to have a strong skill-set and a great work ethos.

Lots of our clients wouldn’t have work lined up before they go - there are lots of employment opportunities available that people can secure when they arrive in Canada. But seeing as you are going for a short period of time, you should do some research in advance.

Feedback from clients has been that work-of-mouth is the best source of work - friends and family members who have either travelled to Canada previously or who still reside there. This is particularly true for people looking to work in construction in Canada.

People have also been successful at securing employment by looking up websites like indeed.com and/or conducting some online research of employers you would like to work for and contacting them directly. If they have applied for the visa through us, we would often send supporting letter to these employers to confirm that the applicant has been granted the relevant work permit.

Edwina Shanahan is managing director of VisaFirst.com.

Have a query for our panel of experts about emigrating, life abroad or moving home? Email them to abroad@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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