International Experience Canada Program Under Attack


The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development’s International Experience Canada Program has been a focus of the Canadian news recently as a result newly published statistics about the number of program participants in 2014, leading to new criticism  against the program.

The International Experience Canada (IEC), which has been operational since 1967, is a reciprocal immigration program that allows foreign nationals between the ages of 18 and 35 to live and work in Canada while also allowing Canadians in this same age bracket to live and work abroad.  Currently, 32 countries from all corners of the world have a bilateral reciprocal youth mobility arrangement or agreement with Canada.  

Participation in the International Experience Canada program will allow approximately 20,000 foreign nationals to enter Canada in 2014 to work.  The majority of these workers are citizens of Ireland, as the number of Irish visas processed as part of the program rose to 10,750 this year from approximately 4,000 in 2010.  Of the 32 countries that can participate in the program, other top worker contributors are the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.

The increasing numbers of foreign nationals working in Canada through the International Experience Canada program are representative of Canada’s continued commitment to immigration.  For prospective immigrants, International Experience Canada is one of the more flexible programs for temporary work in Canada, as it allows for employers interested in hiring foreign workers to bypass the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) process, which is a government tool for the assessment of the need for a foreign worker.  This characteristic of the program, along with the lack of skills assessments for incoming workers, also comprises the majority of criticism about the IEC, as some expressed concern that the lack of government oversight makes the program more vulnerable to being taken advantage of.  Similarly, concern has been raised that the number of Canadians working abroad is not proportional to the number of foreign workers coming to Canada, with the number of foreign workers utilizing the IEC program standing at almost three times the number of Canadians in the program.

The criticisms about the effects of the program on job-seeking Canadian youth are being recognized by the government, and this year’s budget promised a review of federal youth employment strategy in order to ensure government priorities are in line with the nation’s needs.  International Experience Canada is currently under review, along with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, providing an opportunity for improvements and reforms to the immigration system.

However, representatives of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration were quick to defend the program. In a recent statement, Alexis Pavlich, spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, stated that “the International Experience Canada Program is a long standing and popular program that enables limited numbers of young Canadians and foreign nationals to participate in a travel, live and work abroad cultural and economic exchange program.”  Mr. Alexander also defended the IEC, portraying the interest of foreign workers in Canada as a point of pride, recognizing that it is the strong Canadian economy that makes Canada a desirable location for temporary workers and prospective immigrants.


As a result of recent concerns about the International Experience Canada program and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, prospective immigrants considering these programs should seek out advice from a legal professional to ensure that their chance of success in the Canadian immigration system is maximized.

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.


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