More than 6,300 Canadian work visas for under-35s were snapped up over the space of four days at the opening of the 2013 International Experience Canada last week.
The visas went in record time, marking unprecedented interest in the scheme, thanks to aggressive marketing by Canadian employers at recent job fairs in Ireland, and Canadian government reform of immigration rules to make it easier for Irish people to access visas.
For those who missed out, IEC is now operating a waiting list system, and is taking a small number of “supplementary applications” so that if there are any rejected applications or if people drop out, those on the list will get offers.
The rush to get a place in the first-come, first-served process began in earnest last Tuesday and, by Wednesday evening, of 6,350 visa allocations there were just under 2,900 left. The figure continued to decrease rapidly, with none left by the end of Friday.
Cathy Murphy, executive director of the Irish Canadian Immigration Centre, based in Toronto said: “We expected a great demand when the IEC programme opened but in truth, the numbers are staggering.”
Ms Murphy said that, despite the demand, she did not anticipate any additional visas being released this year.
Ruari Spillane, founder of Moving2Canada.com, said he was surprised by the volume of the uptake.
“Last year, the IEC visas didn’t sell out until May, which was a record then,” he said. In 2011, the visas were available until late summer.
Mr Spillane said reasons for such strong a uptake probably included the abolition of the habitual residency rule, which means that Irish people living around the world can now apply to go to Canada, where previously they were ineligible if they had not spent 18 of the previous 36 months living in Ireland. “In addition, the majority of people that arrived in Canada last year are extending their visa to give them an additional two years in Canada,” he said.
This is the first year of the revamped IEC and the application process is now carried out completely online.
Another new feature is that, this year, participants must pay a €120 fee up- front, as opposed to previous years where it was only paid at the final stages. However, those who are unsuccessful will be refunded the fee.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada increased the number of spaces available for Irish people by 1,000 to 6,350 in 2013, and will almost double the quota to 10,000 in 2014.
Currently, Irish citizens can participate twice in the IEC for a maximum of 12 months each time. Beginning in 2013, Irish people will be eligible to participate in the IEC only once but for a period of up to two years. The change means people already living and working in Canada will not have to disrupt their employment and leave the country in order to apply again.
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