Young visa workers reshaping Vancouver’s hospitality sector

September 28, 2017

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

If you think you’re hearing a lot of French, Irish, Korean and German accents when you buy coffee and restaurant food these days in Metro Vancouver, it’s because you are.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of young foreign nationals obtaining working-holiday jobs in the Canadian hospitality industry under the federal government’s “international experience” visa program.

The number of young workers coming to Canada on temporary visas from France, Chile, South Korea, Spain, Italy, Taiwan and several other countries has jumped more than 10-fold since the early 2000s.

The popular visas, especially the holiday-worker visas, brought 52,000 new young workers to Canada in 2016 alone, mostly to major cities.

“I’m one of the lucky people who got an experience visa. Many of my Japanese colleagues want to become permanent residents of Canada,” said Mire Takeda, 23, who works at Kitsilano’s Beyond Bread.

The international experience program was designed to be a “reciprocal” work-exchange program for Canadians and others between the ages of 18 and 35.

Young Canadians were expected to travel to holiday and work in equal numbers in the 33 exchange countries, almost all of which are in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But a Canadian Immigration Department official acknowledged to Postmedia that for every three foreign nationals who arrive in Canada under the program, only one Canadian gets a job in a foreign country.

That’s mostly because unemployment is high in most of the exchange countries, says Vancouver immigration lawyer Sam Hyman.

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