The other side of Italian Emigration: storming the Working Holiday Program in Canada

Every year the Citizenship and Immigration department of the Canadian Government (CIC) offers the opportunity to many Italians, as well as citizens of other partner countries, to work in Canada for a temporary period and explore the country. Italy has sent thousands of citizens and many are trying to enter the contest every year.

What many Italians do not know, is the real purpose of this project, called IEC (International Experience Canada). As its name says, it is simply an opportunity to spend 6 months working in a foreign country and 6 more months are given to explore the country after having worked. It is an experience, not a way to migrate there. However, many Italians think that since the crisis does not seem to end, they might try this type of “easy way” to get into Canada and be able to get a sponsor and be granted Permanent Residence.

But the Canadian Government makes it quite clear. The IEC program is available to citizens aged 18-35, and if someone has already participated, they no longer have the right to participate again. Why? Because we are not in the 1920s anymore, when Italians were leaving Italy in spring and coming back to their “patria” in the winter, the North American economies cannot afford to grant seasonal visas every single year to foreign workers while they face unemployment among their own citizens. Yes, unemployment is present in Canada and the US too, even if many people think that countries like Canada are the new Paradise on earth.
To prevent unemployment, the Canadian Government states that any foreign worker who wishes to work in Canada must possess a positive LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) in order to be hired by an employer. Yet many people ignore the existence or the right meaning of this rule.

In almost a month, the new IEC contest will open for Italians, and many groups are starting on Facebook, with the purpose to give information to new prospective participants and share experience of those who had the luck to work in Canada in the past years thanks to this opportunity.

The real problem is made by the low skilled masses who believe they can get into another country by simply getting help from a relative or a potential employer, and stay in Canada after their work permit expired. Most of these people are looking for jobs which do not require particular skills, like jobs in the catering field. Hundreds of Italians want to start their new life in another country by working for other Italians, in restaurants, pizzerias or other companies, because it is easier for them to integrate, they do not need to learn English or French and they may find a job easily because they do not require language and/or specific skills. Many tell the Embassy officers, as well as the Border Agents that they have family in Canada and therefore eligible to stay because their relatives will grant sponsorship and help finding a job. It may work in a country like Italy, but it definitely does not work in a country like Canada. If found overstaying or ineligible for entry, a person may risk a removal order as well as prohibition to enter Canada for one, two years or even your entire life, depending on the severity of the case. Many even hire Immigration Lawyers who cost a lot of money to get assistance from, but they are not able to make miracles, no matter how much you pay them.

What is really shameful of these people is that they influence others’ people opinions towards Italians negatively and it will generate discrimination against honest people, who are participating to the IEC program just to add an international experience on their résumé, just like Erasmus students do all around Europe.

But why are many Italians thinking that Canada is the place to be? Why do many Italians think that immigrating to Canada is easier than immigrating to another country, such as the USA? The answer is simple. A very few people know something about the Canadian Immigration law, as well as the US Immigration law. A very few people do not use Google Translate to be able to read government websites, and this is because a great amount of Italian citizens lack in basic English knowledge, and this is disgraceful. The Italian education system is to blame for this, as well as many English teachers working in Italy and not being able to teach how to speak correctly and understand the language. Yet students are to blame too, because the mentality towards learning other languages is very closed, even when they feel they are in need to leave their country in order to have a future.

This article is based on personal research on different forums and Facebook groups, and it does take into consideration only the percentage of low skilled citizens, therefore no reference is given to the high skilled immigrants here. 

Sources: CIC Citizen & Immigration Canada Website: and personal research among social media.


9 thoughts on “The other side of Italian Emigration: storming the Working Holiday Program in Canada

  1. Sorry Giulia but I think you are generalizing a bit too much…
    Probably you should have mention that there is a 1000 quota for Italians every year, I doubt that this have a big impact on Canada unemployment rate.
    I totally agree that migrating Italians have no clue of immigrations law and The Italians knowledge of English is embarrassing….

    I reckon that working holiday visa is the first step for immigrants ( not just Italians ) to get in touch with a new country and a new culture and it could be the first step of a long journey.

    As Australian next year I will come to Canada to work and travel in this beautiful country…just to let you Australians have 15000 quota every year and we are able to work for up 2 years with the same employer and at the end of the first IEC we can even renew it for 2 more years… please leave the pour Italians alone, they have already too many problems to deal with 😉
    And I am sure that just a little tiny part of them will actually make it to migrate permanently to Canada….and that little tiny part probably will deserve that….

    Thanks for your article, it was an interesting reading and I truthfully respect your opinions.



    • Giacomo,
      first of all, thank you for your comment. I always love to hear other people’s opinions.
      As an Italian citizen living in Italy, I see many desperate people in my daily life, people who think they can migrate to another country without knowing the laws of the country they are going to, the language spoken in that country, and claim to find a job easily because “abroad is easier than in Italy”. I think you are Italian too, by seeing your name, and if you are a migrant or come from a family of immigrants you can relate to this.
      The problem is, and that was what I mainly wanted to share with my article, that everyone thinks that things are easier outside their country (not only Italians!) and well, according to the Canadian Government immigrating to Canada is definitely not an easy step.
      I know other countries have more quotas, and ours might change this year when the IEC2015 will be published, but again, many people don’t understand that it’s an “Experience”, not a “immigrating class” (like FSW, CEC and PNP, in Canada), so it’s not considered for immigration. Italians cannot renew their permit, but many overstay the 12 months and risk penalties that they will find out once they are deported.
      What I want to say with all this is that if you really want to move to another country, there are several ways to do so. I have seen in my life that Italians like the easy way everywhere, not only in this matter (and I can make hundreds of examples!), and that they should probably invest more in knowledge and getting information, starting with a basic course of the English language (I am talking about many Italians who think they can move abroad and sign an employment contract in English without even knowing what it means).
      Last but not least, this article was not meant to the big amount of skilled workers, people who have expertise and knowledge, but to those (let me say this) ignorant people who think they can do everything because of a relative living abroad or by just going there with a bunch of money.
      Before writing this I heard both Canadian citizens and Italian ones to make a comparison and see both points of view, well, this is what came out!

      Thanks for writing and giving your interesting opinion!
      Regards, — and happy new year!


      • Thanks for your kind reply Giulia,

        I am lucky enough to be an Australian and Italian citizen.
        As Italian I must say that I agree pretty much on everything you wrote in your last comment, but as Australian I would find your main article a bit misleading because in a couple of passages it sounds likes “Italians are invading Canada and they’re stealing our jobs”…..I know really well that a lot of Italians think that overseas they can find an easy life with no sacrifices ( I really hate that) but thank god they are gonna be the first one to be sent home!
        I still believe in the tight immigration laws of Australia and I hope and believe Canada do the same.

        Thanks for your time.

        Wish you a happy new year!

        Giacomo Polvara

  2. As an applicant of IEC 2014 from the UK I share your sentiments but it is not just an Italian problem. I got my application in after 11 minutes and there were already 2000 people in front of me! I waited 9 months on the waiting list and then had 15 days to submit some of the most confusing paperwork I had seen! I would consider myself tenancious and intelligent with a degree in english literature yet even I found the whole process extremely testing. I have often wondered how these lazy people actually do it! I am also a travel agent and have had people in store comment that they have their working holiday visa but aren’t sure whether to use it. Having seen what ut takes to get one, I am always surprised by this nonchalence.
    But then I started to think that maybe these people weren’t lazy albeit looking for an easy way out.
    I think you are perhaps a bit hard on Italy when this problem is evidently present in countries all over the world. Not so much a national problem but an international one! I always cringe when I see Brits abroad not even attempting to speak the local lingo, instead they stay in English bars and restaurants, english hotels and mix with english holiday makers. The thought of enjoying Spanish culture for example us alien to them.
    I think we can all agree that this ignorance can be very frustrating! By the way, have you applied for IEC?

    • Thank you for your comment. I know the “problem” is not only Italian, but with my article I wanted to share what I see every day as an Italian citizen living in Italy. Many other countries participate in this IEC project and I am pretty sure every country has its own problems. I totally understand you when it comes to the bureaucracy that everyone has to go through to be able to participate. As an Italian, I must even translate everything into English and I have met the most ignorant translators ever, and sadly, even if I am bilingual, I can’t translate documents myself. But even if I have a degree in International and Diplomatic Studies, know English at a native level, speak French fluently and have some work experience, I still may not get the opportunity for the reason I stated on this article.
      I am tired to see ignorant and lazy people trying to get the easy way out Italy, I know it is a very bad country to live lately, and I am really looking forward to start a better future for myself and my family, but I’d rather get more information and act in a responsible way instead of risking a deportation or any other penalty.
      I believe that we have a bigger problem though, Brits don’t need to learn another language to go to Canada, for example, Italians do. And what REALLY gets into my nerves is that many Italians think they can simply move abroad without even knowing what they read (whether it’s about Immigration Laws or even their job contract!), and there’s no other country except Switzerland where Italian is spoken abroad!

      Thank you for your comment, this ignorance is really frustrating but there are many people like this and we can’t do much!
      I haven’t applied for IEC yet, I tried to send my application in January for 2014 but I sent it later because I was still working on my degree and was not sure if I could be able to participate if I was selected. So I will look forward to January of the new year to try the 2015 IEC and hopefully I’ll be able to register before all the available places will run out! 😀

  3. Reading of a fellow Italian despising in such a way her fellow and “lower skilled” Italians makes me kinda sick. Everybody should be granted an opportunity equally.

    • I am afraid you misunderstood the purpose of this article. I am not despising “my fellow Italians”, I am despising ignorance towards immigration and local rules, because I have seen with my own eyes what many (but not all!) Italians think to do when they are abroad. I do not agree with giving the opportunity to those who want to deliberately break the law “just because they know someone” – like I wrote on the article, it may work in Italy, but it does not (or at least it should not) work in other countries, including Canada. Of course I know mafia and corruption is everywhere, but why shall we be recognized everywhere for being Italian and related to those two?
      The same applies to language knowledge. If you only speak Italian you don’t go anywhere, you will most likely get exploited by other Italians who take advantage of your lack of knowledge, and you’ll never be able to move on your own in the rest of the world, because let’s be honest, apart from Italy, Holy See, and part of Switzerland, where else in the world do they speak Italian as an official language?

  4. Let me tell you that there are a lot of business opportunities if you speak Italian. And please acknowledge the fact that if we are being labelled as “Mafiosi” or whatever is only because of the last century so called ‘mob movies’, media representations and such. Plus, it is not necessary to speak multiple languages to be successful. And explain, how can one “take advantage of someone else’s lack of knowledge”? Last but not least, I think it is very difficult to have a good knowledge of immigration and local rules, especially for this government’s new laws, it is almost impossible, unless you consult an immigration lawyer. And I am not talking only about Italians here. Almost every new comer does it. Good luck if you ever come to Canada. You will really need it if you bring this state of mind with you.

    • I am aware there are opportunities for Italian speakers, but let me specify that I was talking about people who ONLY speak Italian – meaning not knowing any single word or a very poor English – therefore the situation is definitely different.
      What you seem to not understand is how the reality is in Italy. I suppose you are Italian, just by how you feel offended by anything I say (I realize this by the way you comment on here – we seem to have different views, and I respect that). You probably have not face corruption in your own life, and hey, let me tell you you are quite lucky if you haven’t. Maybe you’ve never lived in Italy either.
      When I speak of “taking advantage of someone else’s lack of knowledge”, I am referring to a specific example: many Italians are “victims” of either landlords or employers who take advantage of their poor or non-existent English (that’s knowledge too, isn’t it?) by writing a translation of the contract into Italian which does not really match with the original one. Or they make them sign a contract entirely in English when it is clear they haven’t understood a word. This, to me, is taking advantage of the lack of knowledge (in a certain language, in this case) of people.
      As for the immigration rules, not every new comer is able to afford an immigration lawyer, because I doubt they offer their services for a small fee, let alone offering them for free! Immigration lawyers are not the solution to all problems though. I don’t want to brag, but I do not think the CIC website is really THAT impossible to understand! I’d rather follow the official source and get as many information as I can get, instead of playing the lazy one like many people like to do!
      I don’t think it is a matter of luck, as I said before, we have totally different views, maybe you arrived to Canada with luck, but I don’t believe in things falling from the sky, rather in working my butt off to accomplish my goals 🙂

      PS. I am not only speaking about Italians here, it can apply to simply anyone.

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