Canada is one of the most popular destinations for rookie instructors looking for their first ski instructor position - or experienced instructors with a love of Canada and the quality of life that the country has to offer.
Because Canada’s such a popular place to visit and work, many instructors try to plan ahead but don’t quite work out how to properly apply for a visa. So lots of instructors end up disappointed because they left it too late, didn’t tick the right boxes etc.
So here I am to hopefully shed some light on the matter.
Note: As we are a UK company, I will refer to the UK process more than others but most of the information here is relevant to other countries too – apart from the United States, which does not have any working holiday agreement with Canada at the time of blogging.
And If you want to see how our latest students did in Canada - see our 2017 infographic here.
What ‘visa’ do ski instructors need?
The IEC work permit (International Experience Canada) is a Canadian work permit that allows foreign travellers, from partnership countries, to work in Canada for up to two years as part of a working holiday, providing the criteria are met.
When we say ‘visa’ in this post, this is what we’re referring to.
Why do you need a Canadian work visa?
First and most fundamental point to remember: you will not be able to work as a ski or snowboard instructor in Canada without one (well, not legally anyway) but moving quickly away from that subject…
You need a working holiday visa if you wish to work in Canada, end of story!
How many visas are available each year?
When it comes to Canadian work visas, for the most part they are in limited supply to each country (unless you are Australian, then they are unlimited and you have it easy).For the whole of the UK, there are only 5,000 visas up for grabs each year. That is not a lot when you consider that there are over 25,000 schools in the UK where students will be planning gap years before going to University or onto employment. And then there are also people looking for a career break or change and those stuck in a midlife crisis.
With all that competition you need to get in as early as possible before the limit is reached.
Is there an age restriction?
Yes, only persons within a certain age range, typically 18 to 30 can apply for a Canadian working holiday visa. The age range differs slightly by country…
You can only have a visa once. Once you have used up your visa you will be in a difficult position, wondering how you will get to work back in Canada?
The options for you are then:
Residency: Apply for permanent residency / citizenship
Sponsorship: Gain experience to open up the option for ski resorts to sponsor you. This basically means that you can work for a longer period in Canada if you’re a skilled worker and an employer wants to employ you. For the most part you will only get sponsored when you have experience or have a specific skill. An employer is unlikely to back you when you have no experience so get a winter or two under your belt and sponsorship options may open up.
Are there any other restrictions?
Yes! You must also meet the following criteria:
- Have the equivalent of CAN$2,500 to help cover your expenses in Canada,
- Be able to take out health insurance for the duration of your stay—you may have to present evidence of this insurance when you enter Canada.
- Have, prior to departure, a round-trip ticket or demonstrate that you will have the financial resources to purchase a departure ticket at the end of your authorized stay in Canada,
- Not be accompanied by dependents.
I am under 30. When can I apply?
You can apply at any point in the year, theoretically speaking, but if you are applying after April for the following ski season then your chances will start decreasing rapidly, as the limited number of visas may have already been issued.If you wait until this time in the year (July), then you will see something like this:
As of 19/07/2016 the above notice was live on the IEC website for UK citizens looking to get a visa. 4/5 months before the winter starts and you are unlikely to get a visa!
This is because at this point there were 2,841 in the current pools awaiting a Canadian work visa and only 703 left. So for most people, you will have to plan ahead; a year ahead!
The door opens in November so get in as early as possible and don’t delay.
Is the process straightforward?
Yes, and no. Everything on the IEC (International Experience Canada) website is clear enough, and it’s all in English, but the visas are limited - and depending on your nationality the visa process can vary slightly.
The majority of applicants will have to create a profile (which can be done at any point, so start now) and then you follow the steps to submit, followed by supporting documents and fees.
Once your profile is submitted and accepted you can then be invited / placed in a pool but your application still may or may not get any further - the next step is waiting and hoping to receive an invitation to apply for a visa.
If you are lucky to get an invitation to apply, you’ll then have to:
- Show proof of the information you gave in your profile
- Provide additional information on your education, work history and background
- Provide other supporting documents and information, as requested
- Submit the information within 1-year.
Then you will have to wait, sometimes months before knowing if you will actually get a visa; it is not automatically given.
But if you can supply everything that’s requested, in the given time – and there are no hiccups, mistakes or errors – then you can heave a sigh of relief: you have probably made it and can start planning your career as a ski instructor in Canada.
Summing up, these are my tips for ski instructors applying for a Canadian work visa.
- Apply as soon as possible – ideally as far ahead as the start of the previous winter
- Research all of the documents that you will need to provide along the process and make sure you have copies to provide in advance
- Be quick to respond and send everything that’s requested as soon as you can.
Do I need a visa for SnowSkool’s ski instructor courses in Canada?
You don’t need a work visa for the SnowSkool 11-week Big White or 13-week Banff course - you can do these after entering Canada on a simple tourist visa, which will be valid for the duration of the course.
A few details on this: Canada now uses a similar system to America. Travellers pay about CAD $7 for a 2 year ETA (electronic travel authorization) which allows travel in and out of Canada as a tourist for two years.
But, as of March this year you must organize this before you leave the UK otherwise you will get fined, or charged more for one once you arrive. It used to be that you could just get on the plane for a specific trip, but not anymore. Click here to apply for a 2-year tourist visa or to see if your country is exempt from needing a visa at all (like the U.S).
And if you want to work afterwards then you’ll need to go through the process described in this post.