The Foreign Exchange Programs: Two Broad Categories.

The category of foreign exchange program you can apply under depends on where you are applying from. The International Experience Class (IEC) lists countries Canada has bilateral exchange agreements with.  For citizens of certain non-IEC countries, you may still apply through a Recognized Organization.

For Citizens of IEC Countries

Citizens of IEC countries (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic,Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania,Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia,Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom) can apply under three categories.

These categories are

  • Working Holiday: an open work permit to allow you to travel and subsidize your stay
  • Young Professionals: an employer-specific permit to gain professional experience
  • International Co-op: employer-specific permit for students gaining experience in their field of study

Not all of these are available for all IEC countries, and different requirements apply for each country. Some countries even have unique variations on these categories.

Non-IEC Countries May Be Eligible for a Foreign Exchange with Canada

Aspiring foreign exchange students to Canada who are not citizens of the above countries which are IEC agreement holders may nevertheless be eligible for an exchange program through a Recognized Organization, some of which can facilitate a foreign exchange to Canada for citizens of Brazil, China, Ecuador, Iceland, India, Pakistan, and Singapore.

Age of Candidate

There is an age restriction that must be met which is generally between the ages of 18 to 35.  A few countries have a restriction of between 18 to 30 such as Japan as well as Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.  Mexico is unique in having an age restriction of 18 to 29.

For non-IEC countries the age restriction depends on the particular recognized Organization, but general falls within the same range as IEC countries.

Open or Closed Work Permit

For IEC based foreign exchanges, there are certain categories that dictate whether you have an open work permit or a closed one.  Specifically, a person who came under the Working Holiday category is given an open work permit which allows this person to change employers during the duration of that Working Holiday.  However, an IEC work permit holder who came under the Young Professionals and International Co-op (Internship) category would be restricted to the employer listed on their work permit.

The employer-specific permit holder would only be able to change their employer under specific situations, such as the employer on the work permit no longer being in business, a failure of the employer to follow through with a promise regarding wages or working conditions, or the employer no longer wanting the permit holder to work at that place of employment.

Duration of Foreign Exchange

The duration of these exchange program work permits can be between six to 24 months depending on the country you are from (i.e. The country of your citizenship).

Potential Pathway to Canadian Permanent Resident Status

Foreign exchange programs  can be a foundation for permanent resident status in Canada if one year of skilled work experience is acquired under such an exchange program.  There are other factors that are counted when determining the likelihood of obtaining permanent resident status in Canada such as education, age, and language ability.

Next Step: Professional Assessment of Potential Foreign Exchange Candidate

If you’re thinking about participating in an exchange program to work in Canada for a Canadian business, contact us.


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