Working Abroad - LawNow Magazine

Working Abroad

Online law columnIt’s a familiar rite of passage. Get a diploma, get a backpack (Canadian flag optional), get a plane ticket and head off to explore the world.

Ready to go? Here’s some information to help you get on your way.

International Experience Canada (IEC), a program managed by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (FATDC), provides young Canadians with the opportunity to spend up to a year travelling and working in different countries around the world. Canada currently has bilateral youth mobility arrangements or agreements in place with 32 countries, on 5 continents. A chart outlining travel and work destinations available through IEC is available online.

As youth mobility arrangements are continually being negotiated with other countries, the list of destinations is subject to change, and if a country of choice does not appear on the list, it is worth checking back to see if there have been updates. The age range for most participating countries is from 18-35 but some do set lower age limits and it is important to check application requirements for each country. Many countries set a specified limit for entry via youth mobility programs and may post annual deadlines for applications.

Working holidays can be a great way to fund an extended trip abroad. Typically, the amount of money earned is enough to supplement savings in order to help with travel expenses or to finance additional excursions or cultural experiences. Working holidays are an option in 30 countries. This program is primarily intended for people on an extended holiday and who may look for work on a casual or temporary basis in order to help fund their stay. Depending on the country, there may be specific restrictions placed on where you can work (for example, in Japan working in bars, cabarets, nightclubs etc. is off limits to working holiday participants) and for how long (in Australia working holiday participants can only work up to six months with each employer). Application times, fees and approvals vary from country to country and there may be specific financial or insurance requirements. Check the websites of each participating country for full details as to their individual requirements.

Participation in the Young Professionals stream affords an opportunity for eligible individuals to gain valuable experience within their area of expertise.  The option is available in 22 countries and is for those who are seeking international work experience, training and career development.  As with working holidays, different countries have different rules and it is important to review the relevant governmental websites. One frequently seen requirement is the need for a pre-arranged contract of employment at the time of applying for a visa (France, the Netherlands and Spain are just three examples where this requirement applies). There can be other rules and limitations, so it is important to check and see which work/travel program best matches your own situation.

Students interested in an international co-op (internship) placement can choose from a list of 21 destination countries.  As with the young professionals program, having prior employment arrangements is generally required. The International Youth Internship Program (IYIP) also provides internships for Canadian graduates (ages 19 to 30 inclusive) via the Career Focus stream of the Government of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy (YES).

There are a number of IEC-recognized private and non-profit enterprises that also facilitate arrangements for travelling and working abroad, including some countries with which Canada does not currently have youth mobility arrangements in place, such as South Africa, China and the USA (see SWAP Working Holidays for example).

Organizations such as International Rural Exchange Canada focus on placements within a specific sector, in this case, farming and horticulture. Those interested in teaching English in Japan, Korea or Taiwan can find information at, the Government of Canada’s website for Canadians travelling or living abroad.

Would-be travelers who don’t meet the requirements of International Experience Canada or who may be interested in a country not on IEC’s list of destinations may still be able to live and work abroad. To learn more, start by contacting the embassy or consulate of the destination country. The federal government’s Office of Protocol provides up-to-date information on foreign representatives in Canada, including addresses and contact details.  Note that permission to work must be obtained before entry and that a work permit will be required in almost all cases.

Other alternatives may exist if you are entitled to another citizenship through birth, marriage, ancestry or naturalization. Be aware that holding dual citizenship does not guarantee the right to work in the other country and that there may be additional obligations that come from maintaining more than one nationality. Dual Citizenship: What You Need to Know, an FATDC publication, outlines some of the things to think about with regard to dual citizenship.  Commonwealth citizens with U.K. ancestry may be able to apply for permission to live and work in the United Kingdom if they meet all of the requirements, including providing evidence to show that at least one grandparent was born in the U.K.

Not from Canada but interested in checking out all that this country has to offer? If you are 18-35 and you are from a country that has a youth mobility arrangement with Canada, then you may be eligible to access a work permit under the International Experience Canada. See the IEC website For Non-Canadians – Travel and Work in Canada.

Over 35? Working in Canada may still be an option under one of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s programs. Visit CIC’s Work in Canada for information on working in Canada as a foreign worker.

Bon voyage!


Margo Till-Rogers
Margo Till-Rogers is a librarian and the Associate Director of the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta (CPLEA) in Edmonton, Alberta.

A Publication of CPLEA

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