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Canada visa fiasco: Thousands of UK citizens turned away

by David Stitt

Why is it so hard to get a working holiday visa to go to Canada?

The Canadian Government is missing a trick and getting bad publicity over the absurd way they have issued the 2013 Canadian working holiday visas in the UK. Or is it that Canada simply does not really want working holiday Brits?

First of all they announced that there is a new online system which will make the process of applying easier (wrong!) and that there will be only a limited number of working holiday visas issued to qualifying UK applicants.

Then they said visas would be released before 1st February, but they were not. Then the only information appearing after February 1st was a rather lame “stay tuned” notice. When they did finally announce the dates when the visas were to be issued, there were three different dates! Er..why…what’s the point of this?

For the first date, February 14th, they announced that 1000 visas were available to be issued on a first-come, first-served basis on the day. So all the applicants checked the Canadian website, International Experience Canada, every few minutes on that day, eagerly anticipating seeing the application form. Eventually at 5pm, the application form became available. Is this because the site is based in Vancouver, where it was 9am, and the IEC had just opened?

Is the IEC so witless that they don’t realise that it would have been better to have the site available at 9am in the UK, not Canada? Or maybe they are not aware that we are 8 hours ahead of them! Worse… the site crashed as it could not cope with the demand. Pretty pathetic.

On the second (25th February) and third (7th March) dates, more visas (2000 and 2350 respectively) were made available, again starting in the late afternoon UK time. Again more problems with the site, and many frustrated candidates, who are now getting a rather poor view of Canadian efficiency. The lack of full instructions on what to do to register didn’t help matters either.

Eventually all the visas were issued, a miserly total of 5350, leaving thousands of disappointed Brits who wanted to go and work a ski season or summer in Canada.

Canada clearly doesn’t want them, so where will those Brits go?

Well, many will head to Australia or New Zealand, where enlightened governments allow an unlimited number of Brits age 18 – 30 to enter their country for a year (Australia) or 23 months (NZ). The process for getting the Australia working holiday visa is especially simple and can be done online, with the result of the application known within a few days (sometimes a few hours!).

Those young people who have been disappointed by Canada will love Australia and New Zealand and will spend the monies earned there in the local economy. They will probably go back several times in their lifetime, again contributing to the economy. Once home in the UK, they will be ambassadors for the destination, encouraging friends and families to go for a holiday.

The Australians invented the working holiday visa and they operate their  administration brilliantly. For the past couple of decades this has become an important  contributor to the Australian economy.

Why can’t the Canadians do the same thing? Over the past two decades Canada has handled the working holiday issue extremely conservatively. As a free democracy with people of all races welcome, why don’t they get the fact that an open working holiday visa policy can only be a huge bonus in many ways.

It really is a shame, because Canada is a brilliant destination, but the policy makers and administrators of the IEC don’t appear to want to share this with many people!

David Stitt is MD of Gap 360 Ltd, a UK based gap year provider. David wrote this article after Gap 360’s experience with the Canadian 2013 Holiday Visa scheme

From → North America

One Comment
  1. Craig permalink

    I agree that its not a perfect system but the IEC are trying to improve.

    Also, could it be that not many Canadians want to go to England for working holiday (can’t say I’d be surprised there)? So therefore they have to limit the numbers of emigrants from the UK to Canada in aid of balance of workers? I can’t remember the last time I met a Canadian in the UK.

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