Canada doubles quota of Irish working holiday visas


THE NUMBER of Canadian working holiday visas available to young Irish people is to be doubled and the length of stay extended from one year to two, under a new agreement between the Irish and Canadian governments.

A total of 6,350 visas will be available in 2013, up from 5,350 this year. This will rise to 10,700 in 2014.

The agreement was signed by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and the Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney in Dublin yesterday.

Mr Kenney is in Ireland to attend the Working Abroad Expo, which takes place in the RDS today and tomorrow. He is supporting four Canadian delegations of government officials, recruiters and companies which are here to hire Irish workers.

He is the first Canadian minister to travel abroad to recruit foreign workers in over 40 years.

“Employers are coming here because they see highly educated, mobile, English-speaking young people, many of whom are underemployed, who could walk straight into jobs in Canada with no gap in terms of their education and training,” he said.

The quota of International Experience Canada (IEC) visas, which allow Irish passport holders aged 18 to 35 to work legally in the country for up to 12 months, was filled by 30th May this year, three months earlier than the quota of 5,000 was filled in 2011.

The number of IEC visas allocated to Irish people has increased dramatically in the last two years, up from 4,229 in 2010 and 2,500 in 2009.

Mr Kenney said the IEC programme had started out as a cultural exchange between the two countries, but had become increasingly work focused in recent years as the Irish recession worsened and Canadian employers looked to Ireland to fill labour shortages.

“The most acute labour shortages are in skilled trades, particularly construction trades like carpenters, welders, boiler makers and equipment operators,” he said.

There are also significant vacancies in mining, healthcare, the service industry and IT, with a shortage of more than 2,000 IT professionals in Ontario alone, he added.

The western provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia offer the most employment opportunities for Irish people, according to the minister.

The majority of the 70 exhibitors at the Working Abroad Expo this weekend are Canadian. They are looking to fill more than 1,000 vacancies, he said.

The extension of the work permit period to two years would enable Irish people to find better jobs that suited their skill levels, by reassuring employers that workers would be in the country for a longer period of time.

The two-year period will also make it easier for Irish people to apply for permanent residency in Canada, by giving them a longer amount of time to work in skilled employment, which is necessary in order to apply.

Speaking at the announcement yesterday, Mr Gilmore said it was the Government’s “primary priority” to create jobs and an economic climate in Ireland that would allow emigrants to return, but that the visa programme was “not just about short-term emigration”.

“Canada is one of the biggest investors in Ireland, and Irish companies now employ 60,000 people in Canada,” he said.