SWAP Working Holidays is Canada’s largest international work exchange program for students. Founded in 1975 as the Student Work Abroad Program, SWAP Working Holidays began as a small, single-country exchange with New Zealand. SWAP now assists approximately 1,300 Canadians traveling to eleven countries and receives close to 1,200 foreign participants annually from more than 30 countries. SWAP provides Canadian students and youth with the opportunity to learn about a different culture by either becoming a part of the local workforce, taking language courses, or volunteering, all while taking part in various cultural activities. Since its establishment, over 50,000 Canadians have participated in SWAP.
SWAP currently maintains outbound programs to the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK), Ireland, Austria, South Africa, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Australia, and New Zealand, although the vast majority of participants travel to the USA, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
In 2015, approximately 1,100 students participated in outbound programs, a 20 percent decrease compared to 2014. The decrease relates primarily to changes to United States of America visa regulations and sponsor requirements, and changes to United Kingdom visa regulations.
Despite a decrease in 2015, an increase in registrants is expected in the coming year due to changes at International Experience Canada (IEC). IEC is the division within Citizenship and Immigration Canada responsible for youth travel programs. IEC is in the process of launching an awareness campaign promoting travel and work abroad opportunities for young people.
SWAP currently provides hosting services to youth from 30 different countries. This year, SWAP Hosting Centres in Toronto and Vancouver have been renovated to provide a more welcoming space for inbound participants.
There are two categories for inbound countries: countries with which there is a bilateral agreement with the Government of Canada; and countries with which there is not.
When a bilateral agreement is in place, the Government of Canada does not allocate visas to specific groups or organisations. Instead, it sets the total number of visas for a particular category (in this case working holidays), and anyone applying from a country with a bilateral agreement has access to the overall pool of visas. Recently, SWAP re-established relationships with a former partner program in Britain, which is expected to result in between 400 and 500 new inbound participants each year.
Delays of three months in the sale of visas worldwide by IEC have pushed inbound programs from April, May and June into July, which will impact current year sales. IEC has indicated the timelines will remain the same for 2016, which will result in a readjustment of sales timelines moving forward.
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