British Columbia

Australian visa changes could have big impacts in Whistler

An immigration advisor says a labour shortage in the resort community could get worse if Australians aren't able to easily come to Canada and work.

Changes to working holiday visa agreement could make existing worker shortage worse, adviser says

Many jobs in Whistler are filled by Australians staying in Canada on working holiday visas. (Canadian Press)

Changes to visa rules for Australians working in Canada could impact thousands of people working in Whistler — as well as the businesses who hire them, an immigration adviser says.

Until two years ago, Australians aged 18 to 30 could apply for a two-year visa through Canada's working holiday visa agreement with Australia as many times as they wanted, as long as they were still eligible.

But starting with visas issued in 2015, Australians can now only participate in the two-year working holiday program once — and now, an expert says, in 2017, many of those visas are starting to come due.

"Anyone who's travelled to Whistler knows that [Australians] make up a large proportion of the Whistler workforce," Whistler Immigration director Brooke Finlay told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

"So, it's certainly going to have an impact, as they're unable to renew visas."

Finlay says hundreds, and potentially thousands, of Australians in Whistler alone could be impacted by the changes.

Ongoing labour problems

Finlay says the visa program brought in many workers who were important to the Whistler economy.

Alongside the Australians, foreign workers from places like Japan and the U.K. are also relied upon, as are Canadians who often come from Quebec.

"There's been an ongoing labour shortage that isn't just solely the result of the changes to the Australian working holiday visa," she said. "That's something employers have been dealing with for years now in Whistler. This just adds to the severity of the labour shortage."

She says Australians impacted by the changes can apply for different visas, like the labour market impact assessment or the temporary foreign worker program, to keep working.

Citizenship and Immmigration Canada says those who were on a two-year working holiday before 2015 can apply for a final two-year visa, and any Australians who have been on a working holiday visa can apply in the International Co-op category for an up-to-12-month visa.

She also says an increasing number of Australians already in Whistler are applying for permanent residency.

Listen to the full interview:

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast


  • This story has been updated to reflect an exception to the number of times certain Australians can apply for the working holiday visa as well as other visa programs for which Australians are eligible.
    Aug 09, 2017 1:34 PM PT