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An Aussie’s Guide to Working in Canada


It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that draws so many young Australian travellers to Canada every year. Canada is undeniably a country of great beauty, cultural diversity and endless adventure; however I think it’s the similarities between the two countries that is the underlying appeal. For an Aussie, Canada is an easy country to live in. The language is the same, the lifestyles are very similar, both counties share incredible natural heritage and above all both Aussie’s and Canadians share the same laidback, easy-going personalities. These things considered Canada is truly the perfect place for Australian’s to venture to for an extended holiday of work and travel, and thankfully for us there is a reciprocal working holiday agreement between the two countries allowing this to happen.

The Government of Canada has established a Working Holiday Program (WHP) for Australian passport holders under the age of thirty to enable extended holiday and work time for up to 24 months. Until recently the WHP was offered as a once in a lifetime opportunity, meaning that previous participants in the WHP were not allowed to reapply for the program once their initial visa had expired. As of January 2008 participants can now apply as many times as they want, provided they still meet the eligibility criteria.

So who is allowed to participate in the WHP? To be eligible you must:

- Hold an Australian passport that is valid for the entire length of your stay in Canada.
- Be between 18-30 years of age.
- Be criminally and medically admissible.

It is important to note that the WHP does not assist with helping you find employment; this program purely allows you to legally work in Canada for any period of time up to 24 months for an employer of your choice. Unlike many other working holiday agreements, the WHP Canada has no deadline to the amount of time you can spend working for one employer.

If granted a working holiday visa under the WHP you will be issued with a Letter of Introduction which must be presented at the Port of Entry when you arrive in Canada. Upon entry you may need to provide proof that you have access to funds of a minimum of AU$4,000.00. Evidence can be in the form of bank or credit card statements, cash or travellers cheques. It is now that you will be issued your 24 month working permit.

It doesn’t stop there. Do not think that as soon as you receive your work permit from the Port of Entry that you can walk up to the first store with a Help Wanted sign and apply for the job. To be legally allowed to work in Canada all workers must have a Social Insurance Number (SIN) which is the equivalent to a Tax File Number in Australia. This is essential; you can not work without a SIN. There are offices all over Canada where you can apply for your SIN card and its best to do this ASAP as the application process can take up to a couple of weeks.

Upon application for your SIN card you will need to provide a permanent Canadian address as this is the place your card will be mailed to. If you are unsure of where you’ll be heading over the next week or so, I strongly suggest you either stay put and have the card sent to wherever you are staying at the time, or set up a post office box where you know important documents like this will be safe and secure.

Once issued with your SIN card you are free to roam the country looking for work as you please. Local newspapers, job agencies and internet job seeker sites are good starting points. For backpackers it’s always best to keep an ear open for jobs going by word of mouth, as hostel staff and fellow travellers can be full of helpful job hints if you play your cards right. Many potential employees also advertise jobs direct to hostels if the position they are looking to fill is suited to the backpackers lifestyle.

If you venture out of the main cities you will be surprised at how many stores, motels and restaurants have Help Wanted signs in the windows. Mountain areas like Whistler and Banff are constantly hiring employees around the ski lodges and hotels, with positions ranging from cleaners to snowboarding instructors.

In city locations telemarketers hire in abundance and although this can seem like an easy solution when looking for easy work be warned that these jobs are usually pretty dreadful and not the most exciting way to spend what should be a great eye-opening adventure. Beware of inbound call centre jobs, which are more often than not based around some scheme where the employer will want you to try and cold sell products to unsuspecting customers.

Temp agencies can be very helpful if the kind of work you are looking for is sporadic and on a contract basis, which many backpackers find perfect to incorporate with their future travel plans.

The best starting point is to ask yourself what is it exactly that you want to gain from this experience; do you crave the hustle and bustle of city living or do you want to get more in touch with nature? And if you can’t make up your mind then no rush, you have 24 months to change your mind and this gives you plenty of time to try a variety of occupations.

For further details about the Canadian Working Holiday Program for Australian’s go to www.whpcanada.org.au/

And don't forget to submit your tax return application and see if you are entitled to a refund on any taxes paid

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