The Canadian government is to invite 70 per cent more Irish people to work in the country under a new agreement signed with their Dublin counterparts.
The new deal means 10,700 International Experience Canada working holiday visas will be available to Irish workers under the age of 35.
The visas allow Irish workers and their children to live and work in the country for up to two years. The new total is up dramatically from 6,350 last year reports the Irish Times.
The IEC visa program started as a cultural exchange between the two countries but has become increasingly work-focused in recent years according to the paper.
The report adds that Canada is looking to Ireland’s highly-skilled but underemployed workforce to fill acute labour shortages in its economy.
The first deal signed between the Irish and Canadian governments in 2003 allowed just 100 young people to travel in each direction.
In 2009 just half the quota of 2,500 IEC visas was filled but the 2013 allocation was snapped up in just 48 hours last January.
The new agreement allows for a total of 2,500 visas for young professionals who have already secured a contract of employment with 500 places set aside for an ‘international co-op’ category for full-time students to take part in internship program.
Another 7,700 visas will be available for working-holiday makers.
Cathy Murphy of the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre in Toronto has advised applicants to have all their documentation ready to go in advance of the opening next week as the visas will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis.
She said: “Anyone who has decided since early 2013 to move to Canada under the IEC has had to wait until now to apply, so demand is extremely high again this year.
“Canada is now very much on the map as a choice destination for the Irish. The IEC is a working holiday program on paper, but in practice it has morphed into an opportunity for emigration, a first step for people who want to come here and gain permanent residency.”
The report says a delay in the announcement has forced a small group of Irish people already employed in Canada to stop working and move to visitor status.
Murphy added: “We’ve had several people contact us who have been moved off the payroll and have been living off savings for the last few weeks. Some have been let go from their jobs entirely. It has been a difficult time for them.”
Canada’s Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander told the Irish Times that Canada has a long history of Irish immigration. He said the new IEC agreement will strengthen already existing ties between the two countries.
Alexander said: “We are impressed by the performance of Ireland and the Irish. They do well in Canada.”
The Minister added that Canada currently offers strong employment opportunities in IT, tourism, the service industry, advanced manufacturing, healthcare and natural resources.
He said Vancouver and Toronto have significant vacancies while the western provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia are experiencing the highest labour shortages.
Alexander added: “Anyone who wants a totally new experience is welcome to go up to the high Arctic where there are major mining projects underway and great opportunities for young people to take on greater responsibilities earlier, while discovering an absolutely new way of life.”
Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has welcomed the announcement.
He said: “The reciprocal program offers Irish and Canadian young people the valuable opportunity to experience living and working abroad.
“Today’s changes mean that the program is more focused on the needs of participants and prospective employers.
“The decision to work overseas should always be a matter of choice and the Government is striving to create an economic climate which allows young people to put the skills and experience gained abroad to use in quality jobs in Ireland.”