Live Like a True Canuck: How to Work and Travel in Canada As a Foreigner
Welcome to Canada!
Canada hosts a myriad of work and travel opportunities. And it’s just starting to get the attention it deserves from travelers.
To help you make the most of your time in the country, we’ve crafted a guide containing everything you need to know to work and travel in Canada. The following information focuses on relatively short-term and temporary jobs that allow you plenty of time to travel.
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)
Necessary Paperwork to Work and Travel in Canada
Your first step should be to determine which documents you need to enter Canada in the first place.
Some travelers will need either a visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Read this document to find out if you need an eTA.
Still unsure about whether you need a visa or an eTA? Check this handy questionnaire on the Government of Canada Citizen and Immigration website to determine your status.
Short-term Visas and Work Permits
There’s a variety of visas available for those who wish to work temporarily in Canada. Those traveling during their gap year or coming from countries that have a special agreement about youth travel in Canada have some special options.
You don’t have to handle this confusing process alone! Plenty of organizations, such as BUNAC or InterExchange, will walk you through the process if you join one of their programs that combines work and travel. Provided you’re under 35 years of age, of course.
If you’re an American between ages 18 and 35, there’s the option of the IEC Work Permit. This document is specifically designed to combine work and travel. But a limited number of permits are available, and the wait list can get pretty long. Apply as early as you can!
If you plan to work and travel in Canada for career purposes, there are different rules for you to follow.
The documents previously mentioned are intended for relatively short visits. If you plan to stay Canada for a while or are already in the country and want to extend your stay, the following visas can help. Remember that these require full-time employment and are more career-oriented than travel-oriented.
Both Americans and Mexicans are eligible to apply for a North American Free Trade (NAFTA) Work Permit. Those who hold passports from outside NAFTA countries can apply for a work permit through a Labour Market Opinion (LMO).
Both permits require a job offer from a Canadian company.
Other Documents to Work and Travel in Canada
There are a few others documents that might be useful, if not essential, for your journey.
An International Student Identity Card (ISIC) confirms your age and student status so you can take advantage of discounts and promotions. There are similar identity cards available for full-time teachers and visitors under age 30.
If you plan to rent a car or drive at all in Canada, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is a worthy investment. Americans can use their driver’s license in Canada, but other nationalities need additional documentation. It can also be used as an ID card, which is useful even if you aren’t driving.
Canada has socialized medicine, but only for residents. Visitors and travelers should buy private insurance plans.
Using an agency to help with your work and travel plans? Most of these include insurance as part of the package.
Language Skills to Work and Travel in Canada
Canada’s two official languages are English and French—a nod to the two European nations that are integral parts of the country’s history.
You’ll have a major advantage in your job search if you can speak both languages. Especially in Quebec, Eastern Ontario and Manitoba. Quebec is the only one of these provinces that uses French by default instead of English.
If you don’t have any French under your belt, it’s best to start now to prep for work and travel in Canada. One resource that might help you get ready for job interviews is FluentU, a comprehensive language program that uses authentic media clips to teach both conversational and industry-related communication skills.
Hospitality and tourism jobs throughout the country always welcome those who speak multiple tongues. Canada needs multilingual workers and pays well for them.
How to Work and Travel in Canada As a Foreigner
You could spend years traveling around Canada and still not see everything.
The country touches three oceans, boasts the longest coastline in the world and encompasses almost 4 million square miles in total land area.
Canada has a reputation for a its cold climate, but each corner of the country has four distinct seasons and a wide variety of landscapes and environments.
Travel and Sightseeing in Canada
Do you want to see heritage lighthouses? Vast waterways? Maybe your big travel priority is visiting stunning natural wonders.
Thankfully, you can see it all in Canada. Bring you camera and prepare to create amazing memories!
What’s your favorite time of year? Winters are known for being long and beautiful in Canada, with plenty to keep snowboarders and skiers busy.
But if you travel in winter, know that certain roads and modes of transportation can be compromised by bad weather. If you plan on taking a ferry or encountering an ice road on your trip, do your research beforehand!
Are you a fan of the cherry blossom time in spring? Canada’s west coast competes with locations like South Korea and Japan when it comes to the ethereal beauty of the sakura.
Head out east and experience the maple sugaring season, which also takes place in spring. Or you may choose to visit the east coast in autumn instead to see colors that rival fall in Maine and Vermont.
How much money will you spend? Well, let’s just say it’s a good thing you’re planning to work in Canada as you travel! You might need to extra cash just for basic transportation costs.
Canada is one of the most expensive countries in the world to book a flight.
Ground transportation is available, but seeing as Canada is so spread out, it can take a long time to get from Point A to Point B. Unless you’re content to spend two days on a bus, use air transportation to travel around Canada.
Working in Recreation and Tourism in Canada
If you’re here to enjoy the great outdoors, it’s easy to combine your passion with employment. Plenty of travelers in Canada find the perfect balance of work and play at Canadian ski resorts, historic parks and nature preserves. You can search for outdoor jobs with Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA).
Contrary to popular belief, these jobs aren’t strictly seasonal. Visitors who want to work during the Canadian summer can find jobs as camp counselors, boating instructors or hiking guides. The famous resort Whistler Blackcomb is one example of a spot with employment opportunities year-round.
Theme parks like La Ronde (Round) in Quebec hire both seasonal and long-term employees, so regardless of your work goals, you can apply to these parks.
It’s not all about the forest and trees when it comes to tourism in Canada, though. History and culture come to together in both urban and rural settings across the country. Festivals and famous landmarks always mean more job opportunities for aspiring guides, vendors and street performers.
Montreal is part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities network, putting it on the cutting edge of innovation and historic significance. Visitors also flock to the nearby cities of Quebec City and Ottawa to continue their tour of historic Canada.
Vancouver and Victoria on the west coast are famous for whale watching and ghost tours. Foodies from around the world flock to these hubs to try local cuisine, making them great places for anyone interested in cuisine, artwork or related careers.
Working in General Labor in Canada
General labor work consists of farm work, landscaping or basic construction-related jobs.
These jobs tend to be popular choices for travelers. You need little or no experience to land a gig, and you typically don’t even need a special certification. And most of these jobs offer flexible dates or seasonal schedules. Perfect for travelers who want to keep moving!
You can experience Canada’s vast wilderness as a tree planter or work on a family farm in a small, rural community. Farmstay Canada offers homestay programs on family farms, and room and board is covered if you don’t mind living without a salary.
British Columbia is an ideal place to look for work if you’re interested in the food or wine industries. Yes, Summerland and Peachland are real, actual places! Wouldn’t you love to tell your friends back home that you worked in a place called Summerland?
The vineyards of Ontario hire help for the planting and cultivation of their grapes and take on extra hands for the yearly harvest. Search Indeed for the best positions.
National parks and resorts hire for these kinds of positions in the off-season, when the hills are closed to skiers but open to hikers, rock climbers and boat traffic.
Working in Hospitality in Canada
These opportunities can range from temporary, seasonal positions for unskilled travelers to full-time jobs for older travelers looking for management positions. Any general Canadian job board will have listings in this category.
Employment in Canada’s hospitality industry is concentrated in bigger cities, busy transportation points and popular tourist attractions. Find the right kind of job to match your travel itinerary in this versatile category.
For those of you who like wine but aren’t keen on general farm labor, hospitality work at vineyards could be more your style. Vineyards are also places for servers, sommeliers and managers.
If you want to spend your time in Canada in more urban areas or heavily touristed sites, it’s worth checking out opportunities in hotels, theme parks and certain historic areas.
Choose from jobs in historic hotels, sprawling ski resorts, big cities with a lot of business and commercial traffic, or with a wilderness tour company like Canadian Wilderness Adventures.
Working in Technology and Entertainment in Canada
This industry includes video game development and virtually every aspect of the film industry, from roadies, to extras, to caterers.
All you aspiring actors out there—don’t go thinking that you can just walk off the bus in Gastown and onto a movie set! The level of planning required actually makes this industry a less likely choice for travelers. But if you’re dedicated to your craft and willing to put in the time and effort, Canada is a great place to get your foot in the door.
Check out this list of Canadian talent agencies and visit one with your headshots.
The film industry is big in Vancouver and Toronto. There’s tons to see and do in these cities, too! Explore quirky neighborhoods like the Pot Block on Vancouver’s notorious East Side or explore an iconic Victorian distillery in historic Old Toronto.
Vancouver and Calgary also proudly host several resource extraction, software development and game design companies.
Working in Education in Canada
When it comes to working in education, any language skills you might have become infinitely more valuable.
If you can speak more than one language, the Canadian workforce will welcome you even if you don’t have any official teaching certification. Your pay level will depend on your experience and education, though.
Education jobs could include working as an interpreter, teacher or editor.
The marketability of your language skills will depend on your location. Big cities have larger ethnic communities where more languages are spoken, which is better for interpreters.
You can tutor privately just about anywhere. Unlike some countries, there aren’t any laws against tutoring privately in Canada while you travel. In fact, there’s no required accreditation process for tutors in Canada at all. So be wary of any agency that claims otherwise!
Do you really want to teach in a public or accredited school? In this case, you’ll need a teaching certification and/or a four-year degree.
Check out programs with Go Overseas or job boards like WowJobs to find language teaching gigs.
Working in the Digital Workforce in Canada
It’s possible to bring your job as a freelance writer, online teacher or website developer with you as you travel Canada.
The country has plenty of quality Wi-Fi and internet access points for travelers who work from their laptop. However, the distance between these access points might mean you have to have to use your cell phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Bear in mind that if you’re exploring Canada’s wilderness, you might not receive a Wi-Fi signal. You can plan to go off the grid for certain adventures or use some modern technology to stay connected. If you plan in advance and use the right hardware, you can get a signal almost anywhere.
If you need to stay plugged in, it’s best to stay near urban centers on the eastern side of the country or upscale hotels or big resorts. The internet is slower is smaller towns with fewer options for internet service providers.
Are you going to Canada for the untamed wilderness, small town charm or excitement of big city life? Do you prefer admiring Mother Nature at her best or enjoying the comforts of modern human civilization?
Canada has all that and everything in between. And working as you travel is the smartest way to see it all!
Every season in Canada has something unique and breathtaking to offer provided you have the time, money and endurance to see it all. So throw some pemmican in your pack, find your favorite toque and prepare to portage the canoe!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)
Kristy Ambrose has been writing professionally since 2010. She dabbles in various genres, including everything from short blog posts to serialized novels. Her inspiration comes from gamers, beachcombers, foodies and of course her fellow travelers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Victoria.