The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship recently announced that Canada and Italy have signed a new bilateral youth mobility agreement (the Agreement). Once ratified, the Agreement will expand the youth mobility offerings currently available to Italian citizens under the reciprocal International Experience Canada (IEC) Program.
Background on the IEC
The IEC Program allows foreign nationals to work in Canada when Canadians benefit from reciprocal opportunities abroad. At this time, the IEC Program administers reciprocal exchanges via international treaties or Memoranda of Understanding with 35 countries and territories.
Generally, foreign nationals between the ages of 18 and 35 (certain reciprocal agreements limit the maximum age to 29 or 30) have access to one or more of the following IEC categories:
- Working Holiday – This category provides foreign nationals with the opportunity to travel and discover Canada, while allowing them to work for any employer in order to cover their expenses. This category grants an open work permit (not restricted to a particular employer).
- International Co-op (Internship) – This category is for foreign nationals currently registered at a post-secondary educational institution in their home country. This category grants a closed work permit (restricted to a particular employer) that enables the foreign national to complete a pre-arranged work placement as part of their foreign academic curriculum.
- Young Professionals – This category provides foreign nationals with the opportunity to gain Canadian work experience in a skilled or semi-skilled occupation under a pre-arranged employment agreement. This category grants a closed work permit (restricted to a particular employer).
Citizens of countries that have not entered into a reciprocal agreement with Canada may also be eligible to participate in the above categories via a recognized third-party Canadian organization that implements a program recognized by the IEC Program.
Expansion of the IEC for Italian citizens
Currently, Italian citizens are eligible under the IEC Program but may only participate once. Their eligibility is also limited to the Working Holiday category for a maximum period of six months.
Once ratified, the Agreement will enable Italian citizens to participate in the IEC Program for a period of 12 months; candidates will also be permitted to participate twice, for a total of twenty-four months. In addition, the Agreement will expand the eligibility of Italian citizens to include the International Co-op and Young Professionals categories.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Canada to implement travel restrictions, which remain in effect. At this time, only youth with current and valid job offers may travel to Canada under the IEC Program. Despite this temporary measure, the Agreement will offer Italian citizens expanded opportunities for work and travel in Canada, once the travel restrictions have been lifted.