Working Holiday Visas for Gap Years in Canada
To work legally in Canada on a temporary basis you must get a work permit or visa. The simplest kind of visa to get (and realistically the only kind available if you want to combine working and travelling) is the Student General Working Holiday Programme (SGWHP).
You can apply for this yourself, but as you have to sort out a job before you apply it is very hard to do. It is much easier for BUNAC to process SGWHP applications for you. BUNAC charge a fee for doing this, but it means you can then arrive in Canada without having a job lined up in advance.
If you are from Australia & New Zealand you can apply for a working holiday visa in Canada, which is more straightforward.
The Student General Working Holiday Programme (SGWHP)
UK & Irish Citizens
The Canadian government has devised two main “programmes” in which young travellers from the UK and Ireland can work legally on a temporary basis in Canada.
To be eligible for Programme A, you have to
1) Be citizens of and resident in the United Kingdom
2) Be aged between 18 and 35 (inclusive)
3) Be full-time students at a UK university
4) Have a written job offer from a Canadian employer
If you are any of the above, and want to organize your own job, you then have to get a Canadian employer to “sponsor” your application before you apply for a place on the programme. They must offer you a full time job, and then they have to prove that there is not a Canadian suitable to fill that particular job. As you can guess, this is no easy task, and most Canadian employers won’t be prepared to deal with the bureaucracy associated with sponsorship. The terms of the programme allow you to stay for a year in Canada, but you can only work legally for the employer who has sponsored your application.
If someone offers you unpaid work experience, you have to prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself before you will be given a place on the SGWHP.
As in Programme A, to be eligible for Programme B, you have to be
- Either a student at the moment:
- Or have finished your A’Levels and have an unconditional offer of a place at uni.
- Or have graduated from university in the last twelve months.
The difference with Programme B is that BUNAC process the visa application for you, and crucially, you do not need to have a job offer
(employer sponsorship) before you get your place on the programme. BUNAC require you to have evidence of funds to support yourself when you arrive in Canada and start looking for work.
BUNAC offers Work Canada, designed for students aged 18-29 with departures between February and December, and Gap Canada, which is especially for people finishing their A levels and taking a year out before university. Gap Canada has departures between October and December.
Note: Foreign students in Canadian Universities are not required to have a work permit for employment they do on campus, and students in certain provinces can also work off-campus.
For more info on work permits for British and Irish students contact your relevant embassy.
What Kind Of Work Can I Do And For How Long?
If you have got a permit via the SGWHP, programme A, then your visa is valid for a year, and you can work for whoever has offered you the job, or sponsored your application, for as long as they need you within that year. If you have got a permit to work via the SGWHP programme B, then you are free to arrive in Canada and start looking for any kind of employment for any amount of time up to a year. Most people on the BUNAC programme find seasonal work in the Canadian ski resorts, or in the hospitality and catering industries in the cities. This kind of work has a high turnover of staff, and its seasonal, temporary nature suits travellers.