Working holiday visas and what they mean for HR

One advocate says these young adventurers are an asset to any team – but are they just a ticking time bomb? HRM investigates.

Working holiday visas and what they mean for HR
Every year, thousands of international explorers enter the country looking for adventure and employment – but their potentially flaky nature puts many managers off. One advocate told HRM that they’re worth the risk.

The immigrant mentality is far from flaky, insists Irish-born Ruairi Spillane; ““Immigrants understand they need to work harder and often feel they have a point to prove.”

The International Experience Canada program (IEC) offers a restricted number of foreign youths the chance to live and work in our country for up to two years – providing they meet the requirements.

Although some do use the program simply to support themselves while travelling, Spillane says many candidates are “committed to developing their career and being successful in Canada.”

Spillane launched in 2012, with the aim of connecting Canadian employers to international newcomers in the construction and engineering sectors – he says HR managers have more to gain from foreign recruits than they even realize.
  • A fresh approach
“Similar tasks can be handled very differently across different countries,” acknowledges Spillane, so companies bringing in young, intelligent and internationally experienced employees often adopt alternative ideas and systems.
  • A desire to succeed
Not everyone with a working holiday visa sees their temporary stay as a vacation – according to Spillane, many have a “strong desire to succeed” professionally and will work hard to prove themselves in the short time they are employed.
  • Possible long term prospects?
The IEC program grants international youth from 32 countries the ability to enter Canada and work for up to two years – but Spillane told HRM that many candidates use the system “as a gateway to becoming a permanent resident in Canada.

This is great news for employers because their eligibility lies heavily with you; “The employer has a strong influence on whether the worker will remain in Canada,” explains Spillane, so if they’ve settled and want to stay, it’s likely they’ll be the ideal employee.

However, immigration lawyer Jack Kim took a different stance – he told HRM that extending an employee’s working holiday visa isn’t exactly a walk in the park and urged employers to be cautious.

“The working holiday visa isn’t designed for people to stay in Canada for the long term, “he said. “Even if someone looks great on paper and have all the experience, down the line when you’re trying to extend their work permit, it may be incredibly difficult. A lot of employers don’t understand that.”

The Fragomen lawyer agreed international employees could be an asset to HR managers but said they were likely more suited to shorter term positions.

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