The land of northern lights, free-roaming moose, and 24-hour poutine might not be everyone’s idea of a fantastic working destination. But Canada’s beautiful and diverse environment and constant growth as a world leader in multiple fields make it an amazing place to travel, live, and work. Here is your step by step guide on how to get an IEC Working Holiday Visa in Canada.
Note: IEC visas are also available to Canadians who want to work and travel abroad, due to reciprocal agreements with other countries. Check the guidelines for more info.
How to get a working holiday visa (IEC) for Canada
1. Which visa do you want?
Depending on your home country, there are three different types of visa available:
- Working holiday visa. You will receive an open work permit of limited time, with which to fund your travel in Canada.
- Young Professionals visa. This visa is employer-specific — if you already have a job offer and/or want to work for the same employer for your whole stay in Canada, and the job contributes to your “professional development”, you can get this visa.
- International Co-op Internship visa. This is also an employer-specific work permit, but is geared towards students who must complete a work study or internship to finish their studies. Visa recipients must work for the same employer during their stay in Canada.
This article will focus primarily on the Working Holiday visa, but if you want to explore the other two options (say, you already have a job offer in Canada), you can look for more information on the Canadian immigration website.
2. Determine your eligibility.
You must hold a passport from a country that has a reciprocal agreement with Canada that allows you to apply for an IEC visa. If you do not hold a passport from one of these countries, you must apply through one of the Recognized Organizations. The United States DOES NOT have a reciprocal agreement with Canada.
33 countries participate in the Working Holiday visa program with Canada. The table at the end of the article also shows their age restrictions and length of time the visa is good for. You can check your country against the table for details.
Aside from age restrictions, you must meet the following criteria:
- Your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay in Canada.
- You must have a minimum of $2500 CAD to help cover your expenses in Canada.
- You must have health insurance for the duration of your stay.
- You must be admissible to Canada — that is, you must not previously have been denied entry or been deported from Canada.
- You must have an onward ticket or sufficient funds to purchase one at the end of your trip.
3. Become a candidate.
Due to the high volume of applications, Canada has a “pool” system for issuing visas, rather than a “first come, first served” system. This means that quotas are met more fairly — previously, visas disappeared within days or sometimes hours of opening for applications. In order to enter, you submit your information so Immigration Canada can determine your eligibility and enter you into the pools. Once you are in the pool, you may receive an invitation to apply for a work permit. There are these steps to becoming a candidate:
- Answer the eligibility questionnaire. You can do this two ways.
- Sign in to your account and select “International Experience Canada”. If you already know you are eligible and just need to submit the information, do this first.
- Complete an eligibility questionnaire without signing in. If you’re unsure of your eligibility, do this first.
- Complete your IEC profile online. If you get a positive eligibility result, go to this step.
- If you checked eligibility without signing in, copy down the personal reference code you receive at the end of the questionnaire, create an account, and enter the reference code when asked.
- If you checked eligibility while signed in, click “Continue”. You will not get a personal reference code, and do not need one.
- You will need your passport to complete the profile.
- You must complete the profile within 60 days of starting, or you will have to begin again.
- Submit the completed profile.
- Click the button to submit to whichever pool you are eligible for.
- Clicking submit does not mean you have applied for a work permit: it only means you have entered the pool of applicants.
- There is no other way to apply for an IEC visa.
- Get together all supporting documents you will need, in case you get an Invitation to Apply. Some documents take months to get, and you could receive an Invitation to Apply at any time.
- You’ll need proof of the information you gave in your IEC profile (proof of identity, etc.).
- You will need additional information about your work and education history.
- You may need other supporting documents, based on your home country.
4. Receive an Invitation to Apply.
Invitations to apply for Working Holiday Visas are issued after the other two IEC visa pools — this means if you are in two different pools, you will get an invitation to apply for one of the other visas before you get your invitation for a Working Holiday Visa. The length of the application season varies per country of your citizenship; check here for your country’s timeframe.
If you receive an invitation to apply, you will get a message in your account. You may also get an email, depending on your account settings. Once you receive it, you have 10 days to decide if you are going to accept the invitation. Once you accept, you have 20 days to apply for the work permit. If you do not respond, the invitation will expire, and you must reapply to the pools from the beginning. If you want to wait for a different IEC visa, you may decline the invitation and remain in the pool.
To accept the invitation:
- Go to the section called “Continue my profile/application, not yet submitted” in your account,
- Find the application called “Work permit”, and
- Click “Start application”.
5. Prepare your work permit application.
You may not apply for a work permit without being invited. Once you are invited and have accepted the invitation, you may fill out the work permit forms online. All of your answers must be true; if you misrepresent yourself, your visa may be immediately terminated or denied, and you may be ineligible to enter Canada in the future.
Note: If the application asks you for employer information when you are applying for a Working Holiday Visa
- Type “A9999999” in the offer of employment number field
- Select “No” to the question “Has your employer paid the Employer Compliance fee?”
- Type “Non-applicable – Working Holiday” into the employer address fields.
You will be given a personalized document checklist when you complete your IEC profile. You must be able to make electronic copies of your documents, so must have access to a scanner or a camera. Here is a list of documents you may need:
- Police certificates. Many applicants require police certificates, sometimes from more than one country (depending on where you have lived and traveled before application, and for how long). There is only one upload field, so multiple certificates must be collated into one document. If you do not have the police certificate by the time you are invited to apply, you may submit a receipt or copy of a confirmation page showing that you have requested a certificate.
- CV. You will need to submit a curriculum vitae or résumé. It should include your current job and list the country where you currently live.
- Medical exam. You may need to submit a medical exam if you are planning to work in a field that requires one (as a nurse or med tech), or if you have recently traveled to a restricted country for 6 months or more (see a list of those here). Your medical exam results are valid for 12 months — to ensure they don’t expire, wait until you are invited to apply before you make an appointment to get one.
- Passport. You must provide a clear, readable copy of your passport. Your passport must be valid both when you apply for the IEC program and for the duration of your stay in Canada. You will not be issued a visa for longer than your passport is valid. Your passport must have empty pages in it.
- Digital photo. You must provide a digital photo of yourself matching the guidelines laid out by Immigration Canada.
- Family information. Depending on your country of origin, you may need to submit a family information form, which provides information about your spouse, parents, or dependent children.
- Recognized Organization acceptance letter. If you are applying through a Recognized Organization (looking at you, US citizens), you must provide a letter of acceptance by that organization.
- Note: You may list your sex as X on your documents, and then apply from within Canada for a supporting document that confirms your sex should be listed as X.
6. Pay the fee.
The fee is currently $150 CAD. Working Holiday applicants must also pay an open work permit holder fee ($100 CAD). If you withdraw your work permit application before you are notified of acceptance, your fees will be refunded.
7. Submit your work permit application.
Once you have filled out all the fields and provided all supporting documents, you may submit the application. If you have not provided all of the documents required, the system will not allow you to submit. Once it has been submitted, Immigration Canada will process the application and decide if you are eligible for a work permit. Usual processing time is 8 weeks.
8. If your application is approved, you can move forward with plans.
You should not purchase tickets to Canada or search for jobs until you receive a port of entry (POE) letter of introduction in your account. This letter of introduction will be shown to border guards, who will issue you a work permit on the spot when you enter. The letter does not guarantee that you will be issued a work permit; it only indicates that you are considered eligible for one. Only the border guards you encounter upon entry are able to issue valid work permits.
POE letters of introduction have a clearly marked expiration date on them. If you do not enter Canada before that expiration date, you cannot be issued a work permit.
9. Arriving in Canada.
When you arrive in Canada, tell a border official that you are there to work. They will likely request the following:
- Your passport
- Your POE letter of introduction
- Proof of health insurance
- Proof of sufficient funds or an onward ticket
- Copies of the documents you provided in your application
- Information about the address you will be staying in for at least your first few days in Canada
You do not need to apply for an ETA (an electronic travel authorization). While you will likely require one if you arrive by air, it will automatically be issued to you with your IEC visa.
You will need to apply for a Social Insurance Number with Service Canada once you arrive in Canada, or you cannot get a job. You may exit the country and re-enter as many times as you like during the course of your visa, providing that your medical insurance remains valid.
You may find further information about arrival here.
|Costa Rica||12 months||18-35|
|Czech Republic||12 months||18-35|
|Hong Kong||12 months||18-30|
|New Zealand||23 months||18-35|
|United Kingdom||24 months||18-30|