The International Experience Canada (IEC) working holiday program allows young citizens of participating countries to work and travel anywhere in Canada without a job lined up in advance. The length of the work permit and age limit depends on the participating country, but for most, it is 18-30 or 18-35 and the work permit is valid for one or two years. Each participating IEC country has an annual quota of places based on reciprocal agreements with Canada. Demand outstrips the quota in some countries such as the UK for the IEC working holiday program.

This guide is intended to help applicants prepare and apply for the IEC 2018. As always, it’s a work in progress as information is released.

NOTE – The IEC pools opened 3rd November 2017 and invites started end of november

About me: I have been helping people with the IEC process since 2012. I originally moved to Canada on the IEC program in 2011 and became a Permanent Resident in 2014.

Other guides I have written that you may find useful:

Insurance Options for Working Holidays in Canada

How to Work a Ski Season in Canada

How to Transfer Money to Canada on a Working Holiday

How to File Taxes on a Working Holiday in Canada

IEC mini guides – flagpoling, visiting the USA, eTAs and more

The Ultimate Guide to a Working Holiday in Canada eBook (updated every 6 months)

I also run the O Canada IEC Discussion and Support Facebook group

Overview of IEC working holiday application process

The IEC application process was completely re-worked in November 2015. Prior to this, the process was first come, first serve. The process is now as follows:

IEC working holiday applicants must complete the ‘Come to Canada’ questionnaire to first check their eligibility for the IEC program.

Eligible candidates then create a profile (with identity details, citizenship, current residence etc) which is put in a pool for the category they wish to participate.

CIC will regularly invite candidates from each pool to participate in the program throughout the next year unless the quota runs out sooner. It is a random selection. An invite may take a week, a month, six months to arrive, or in the case of countries with more demand than places (such as the UK) not at all.

Once an invite is received, the applicant has to decide whether to accept or decline within 10 days.

After the invite has been accepted, applicants will then need to apply for a work permit submitting completed forms and documents such as police certificates.IEC Application Process diagram - How to Apply for a Working Holiday in Canada

Opening of 2018 IEC pools, first round of invites

The IEC working holiday program runs in year-long ‘seasons’ (or cycles), generally from autumn to autumn. The date of the opening of the 2018 pools was 3rd November 2017. Regular invite rounds started in late November 2017 and are likely to continue (as per the last two years) until early autumn. 

How to apply for the IEC working holiday program

step One: Check Eligibility for the iec program

The first step for applicants is to check eligibility using the ‘Come to Canada’ tool. Note that the first question is ‘What would you like to do in Canada.’ To participate in the IEC program, the correct answer is ‘IEC – Travel and Work.’

If eligible, you should see a confirmation of eligibility for the IEC working holiday program and then a reference code (e.g. JM1234567890). There will also be a link lower on the page to MyCIC, the next step of the process.

step two: Create profile to submit into pool

To create and submit an IEC profile, you will first need a MyCIC account. If you happen to already have a MyCIC account, you can use it for this application. If you do not have a MyCiC account, you will need to use the ‘GCKey’ link to open one.

  • Once signed up/logged in, select ‘International Experience Canada’ under the ‘what would you like to do today’ title.
  • On the next screen, you will need to enter that personal reference code you got at the end of the Come to Canada questionnaire. Entering the correct code will take you to the e-service application.
  • Here there are four categories of information to validate and submit. Some information that you supplied in the Come to Canada questionnaire has already been entered automatically for you. Only basic contact and personal details are required for this section, along with information from your passport.
  • Each section must be validated and then saved.
  • Once each section is complete, you can submit your profile for the pool(s).

The profile must be submitted within 60 days of starting it. Once entered, the profile will remain in the pool for a year. Submitting your profile is free and you do not have to accept a place and continue on in the process if invited.

TIP – Even if you have a job lined up for your working holiday, DO NOT say that you have. This complicates things later as extra documentation from your employer will be requested.

step three: Wait for an invite

All eligible applicants in each country pool have an equal chance of being picked randomly. Unless you are applying for the Australian program (with an unlimited quota), there is sadly no guarantee you will receive an invite for the program.

While waiting, consider what police certificate(s) you may need to apply for and whether you need to perform a medical exam

  • Police certificate(s) – these are required from any country or territory that you have spent six months or more since the age of 18. This six month period is not cumulative (doesn’t accumulate), so even if you live in another country (other than your home country) for four months every year, you still wouldn’t need a police certificate for that country unless asked.
  • Medical – an exam is required if you have lived/travelled in certain countries for six months or more OR if you plan to work in health-related services in Canada. The exam must be performed by an approved Panel Physician. If you do not complete a medical before arriving in Canada, your work permit will state that you are unable to work in these sectors.

step four: Receiving an invite

An invite to apply for a work permit will be sent to your MyCIC inbox. Applicants have 10 days to decide whether to accept or decline the invite.

  • Clicking ‘Start Application’ shown in the screenshot below accepts the invite, waiving whatever is left of the 10 day period. As soon as the application is ‘started,’ stage five starts.
  • If you have multiple/complex police certificates to apply for and/or a medical (or just need more time in general) consider holding off clicking the ‘Start application’ button for 7-8 days.

step five: Apply for IEC work permit

After accepting your IEC invite, you will 20 days to complete a work permit application via MyCIC.

  • First, you must submit more information regarding your work/education history, citizenship info, communication details (email address, phone numbers etc).
  • A fair amount of this info is pre-loaded from stage one (profile) and is not possible to change.

Your answers to the work permit application questions will determine a list of required documents that also need to be uploaded. MyCIC will guide you through the process to download/complete/upload the forms and complete payment.

For most people the required list of documents will include:

  • Family Information Form IMM5707
  • CV/Resume
  • Digital Photo
  • Police Certificate (multiple) – don’t worry if you only have one!
  • Passport/Travel document (scan of photo page plus all stamps)
  • Participation fee of $150 plus $100 for an Open Work Permit Holder fee if taking part in the working holiday program

There is also an optional ‘Letter of Explanation’ section which is useful if you need to provide any extra information about your application. If you are having trouble submitting your application without a Letter of Explanation, upload a document in this section and then delete it. You should now be able to submit your work permit application.

Important! If you do not have the required documents within the time you need to submit them (police checks, medical proof if applicable) you should upload a ‘Letter of Explanation’ (self-created) to explain why. You will then be given a time extension for this section of the application.

  • Provide as much proof as you can regarding the missing documentation (receipts, copy of emails sent to police).
  • If you do not upload a Letter of Explanation and the 20 days runs out, your application will be cancelled and you will have to wait for an invite again. 

Stage six: Approval of IEC application

Once submitted, you should receive an assessment within 56 days (8 weeks). If not, follow your application up with the IRCC web form.

If successful with your IEC working holiday application, you will find a ‘Correspondence Letter’ in your MyCIC inbox. This is your Port of Entry Letter of Introduction (referred to as a POE or LOI). Here’s an example of a POE. Congratulations! 

Print this letter and bring it to Canada along and travel/backpackers insurance covering the length of your trip (True Traveller covers working holidays including those 24 months in length for EU citizens. Not from the EU? Have a look at FastCover or World Nomads) plus proof of funds ($2,500) and you should receive your IEC work permit in your passport.

If you feel that your IEC working holiday application has been unfairly refused, use the IRCC web form linked above to contact CIC.

IEC working holiday Application Advice and tips

Click here to expand tips and advice

Frequently Asked Questions about the iec program

Click to expand each FAQ.

When do the 2018 pools open?

My passport runs out mid-2018. Will this be a problem when applying for the IEC working holiday program?I turn 31/36 soon, how does this affect my application?
I am a British citizen and do not seem to be eligible to take part in the working holiday program
When should I apply for a police certificate?
Can I apply from within Canada?
When I receive final approval (POE), how long do I have to enter Canada?
What is an ETA, do I need one?
I am from a country that has more than one IEC program. Can I apply for more than one?
Is there a template for the resume/CV?
I have been asked for a Court Record/police report, why is this?
I have just received an email which says something has changed in my application, but there is no update. What is going on?
I am currently in Canada or have lived in Canada before - do I need a Canadian police certificate?
Should I use BUNAC/SWAP/other working holiday company to help with my application?
Do I need proof of insurance when I apply?
I lived in Australia for over 6 months. CIC says I need a traffic report (driving history)
I said I already had a job in Canada in the first stage and now it says I must provide information including an employer number for this job. What do I do?
Help! My Letter of Introduction (POE) is blank?!
I have previously lived in Canada and CIC have requested a RCMP Criminal Record Check. How do I get this?
I did not submit my work permit application within the required 20 days. What happens now?
How do I transfer money to Canada on a working holiday?
What kind of travel insurance do I need to buy?

Communication – how can I contact IEC?

As a government organisation, IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, also called CIC) is notoriously hard to get in touch with. There is a Canadian call centre but to be honest, like many call centres, they simply repeat information from the website. They cannot really offer much in the way of advice and updates on your individual application.

If you’re looking for advice on applying for the program the best resource is the IRCC website and the Applying for a Work Permit Outside of Canada guide (step five). Other than that, Facebook groups are a great resource for advice from others who are currently applying or have done before.

If you are refused or need to add anything to your application after step five, use this IRCC webform.

Final notes and disclaimer

For more on the IEC working holiday program, purchase my eBook ‘The Ultimate Guide to a Working Holiday in Canada’ (updated every six months) – available to purchase online in our store. More information, including content list, can be found here. IEC Working Holiday Canada GuideAny questions? Leave a comment or check out the O Canada IEC Discussion & Support Facebook group!

Note: I do work (or have not ever worked) IRCC. I am not an immigration lawyer. The information here has been gathered from personal experience/online research of the IEC working holiday program as well as second-hand information from previous applicants. If you follow the advice above and in the comments below, you are doing so on the understanding that is peer-to-peer advice. I cannot be held liable for you, an applicant, experiencing any problems (including a refusal) with your IEC application. All opinions are my own but some links are affiliate links. This means that there no extra fees for you when using these services, but I receive a very small percentage of the sale. This helps maintain this website and enables me to provide free information about the IEC working holiday program. I would never recommend a service I have not personally used or would not use.Want to live, work and travel in Canada? Here's a guide with everything you need to know about applying to the IEC working holiday program - offtracktravel.caIf you found this post helpful, PIN or save it for future reference with the image above!

Read these guides next:

Insurance Options for Working Holidays in Canada

How to Work a Ski Season in Canada

How to Transfer Money to Canada on a Working Holiday

Gemma
Author

One half of a Canadian/British couple currently living in Penticton, British Columbia. Gemma is happiest with a paddle in her hand, on the trail or planning the next big adventure.

41 Comments

  1. Hi Gemma,

    Thanks for the guide! I have a question. My boyfriend and I want to apply, but he is British and I’m Dutch, so we’ll be in different pools. But say when he doesn’t get an invite and I did and accepted it, can I still cancel and apply again the year after, or would I then have used up my chance?

    Nicky

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Nicky! No, as soon as you receive a POE (final acceptance letter), you are considered to have participated and wouldn’t be able to apply again unless you have dual citizenship. When you do receive a POE however, you have a whole year to actually go to Canada and activate it. So plenty of time for your boyfriend to potentially receive an invite too 🙂

  2. Hi Gemma,
    I am applying for the Irish pool of Young Professionals. I am currently in Canada on Working Holiday, so I am wondering will I need all police checks again for this application? I obviously already provided them when applying for WH and I’ve only been in Canada since then. Really appreciate your time to reply, thank you;)

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Warren,

      You will need to provide the police checks for this application too. However, as long as you haven’t been BACK to Ireland (or the origin country of any other police cert you applied for) since you received your police checks, you won’t need to apply for brand new certificates.

  3. Hi Gemma,
    How many days exactly do they consider as six months, 180? I spent 183 days (185 if you count the day of departure too) in New Zealand the past years, which is approximately 6 months. Would you recommend getting a police check for New Zealand if I get an invite to apply?

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Leonie, I think it’s 180 days, yes. I would get a NZ one, especially since it’s free anyway.

      • Thanks! Do you know what would happen if I accept the invitation to apply, but in the end decide not to finish the application (so drop out of it)? Would I be able to get back into the pool or would I never be able again to apply for the WHV? I cannot find information about this on the official website, only about declining an invitation.

        • Gemma
          Gemma Reply

          If you do not finish the application (and hence do not receive your POE), you can apply again. If you receive your POE however (final acceptance), this is considered participation even if you do not go to Canada. In this case, you wouldn’t be able to apply again unless you have another citizenship.

          • Thank you again! I hope I will receive the NZ criminal record check soon, it’s been over 5 weeks since I sent in the form…

            Do you know if I have to legalize (or get an apostille) for my police checks before I send them in during my application? I know that you need to send in certified translations if the language is not English or French, but I cannot find any information on the Immigration Canada website about legalization of these documents.

  4. Hi Gemma,
    URGENT!
    Thanks for the info, it was really helpful. Do you know how likely you are to receive a POE once you accept an invitation? I am waiting on a family member in Canada to see if they could provide accommodation for me next year but if they can’t, I don’t want to use up my POE (and may apply in the future instead). I luckily received an ITA but as long as my criminal records are clean and my documents are valid does that normally grant a POE? Would really likely to know ASAP before the 10 day limit runs out!

    Many thanks

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Lee

      As long as you submit the correcr documents and don’t have a criminal record, there is no reason why your POE wouldn’t be approved.

      • Thanks so much for the reply. I will definitely be visiting your site often!

  5. Hi Gemma!

    Your website is a GOLDMINE! Thank you! Still have a couple of question though… I’m in Canada on a Work and Holiday (I’m from Sweden if that matters), and plan to apply for a Yong Professional-visa when my WH expires. I arrived in August 2017, so my WH visa expires in August 2018. WHEN should I start the application process for YP? Can I start it now, or is that just unnecessary?

    I have a full time job in Canada already, but I have read somewhere that in the application for Young Professional, you should say NO when asked if you have a job offer or not. Is this correct? Seems a bit weird to me.

    Hope you can answer my questions. 🙂

    Thanks a million!!

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Glad you found the site Stella! I would organise your YP work permit whenever you like. For Sweden, there doesn’t seem to be requirement to leave a gap between IECs so there’s no issue with a ‘waiting period’ or anything like that.

      For Young Professionals you MUST ‘a signed letter of offer or a signed contract of employment (up to 12 months)’ before even submitting a profile to the pool. For the Working Holiday program I recommend people to say ‘no’ to the employment question since CIC will then ask for employment details in the second stage and then the final work permit may be limited to one employer. For YP, you must supply this info since it is a closed work permit, limited to just one employer.

      I hope this helps!

  6. Hi Gemma,

    This is a really helpful site – thanks so much!

    I have my POE letter and it states a date (in April) I need to enter Canada by to obtain my work permit.

    I have a few long term work commitments and would really like to see them through to the end, so ideally I would like to leave my employment in the UK later in the year – I’m thinking August or September. By this point my POE letter will have expired.

    I’m wondering if I can go to Canada to validate/obtain my work permit in April (say a weekend trip) but return to the UK for a 3-4 months, before coming back to Canada. I appreciate this will eat into my 2 year work visa term, but I’d rather have a reduced term visa than no visa at all.

    Do you know of anyone who has done this? Do you foresee any obstacles?

    Many thanks!

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Terence,

      Thank you! No, there are quite a few people who do this. The only real issue with doing this is that you must purchase a 24-month insurance policy before departing the UK (in order to receive the full 24 months work permit on arrival in Canada) that allows you to return to the UK and then go back to Canada later. The problem is, you see, that the vast majority of insurance policies will be completely invalidated if you go home to the UK for 3/4 months. In fact, I only know of one UK company that allows you to return home for so long – True Traveller.(affiliate link). Otherwise, you’d have to buy another policy on your eventual return to Canada (which inevitably costs more $$). More here http://offtracktravel.ca/iec-insurance-options-for-working-holidays-in-canada/

      • Thanks for this, Gemma – you’re an invaluable source of information!

  7. Hi Emma,

    I may need a little guidance on staying in Quebec! It’s very hard to explain IEC, work permit, working holiday etc. to any employer here in Quebec. They expect me to already have my permanent residency or citizenship and do NOT understand what a work permit is and why I don’t have my PR. I’ve been here for 4 months, I speak fluent french and I have a Masters. I understand that Quebec is supposedly “different” than the other provinces, but in term of getting PR for Canada, I hear it’s easier to find work as a bilingual in Toronto/Ottawa. Also, since I’m from the USA, I don’t get the automatic 2 year work permit. I only get one year and have to renew for the 2nd year..should I go ahead and apply early before my first work permit expires this summer. Thanks.

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Ashley,

      I’m sorry to hear that you’re having what seems like a difficult experience in Quebec. I know a few people personally who have spent their working holidays in Quebec but haven’t heard of these issues before. Quebec is most certainly different (people on work permits are not eligible for provincial healthcare for one) yet I’m still surprised that you’re having trouble with people not understanding what a work permit is. Definitely a bit strange! I’m not 100% on how the IEC works with the USA (since you have to apply via a recognized organisation) but I would apply as soon as possible. If it’s just the same as the regular IEC program, then you have 12 months to enter and activate the permit anyway.

  8. Hi Gemma,

    I would like to ask regarding the IEC visa. I have applied for it and I am waiting for the POE letter. However, I am in the process to change my first name and that takes some time from the municipality. I want to ask if I have a POE letter with my old name (but same last name) and two passports (the old one and the new one) I will face any problem entering the country.

    Thank you very much.

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Renos,

      Hmmmm…this is a tricky one. In this situation, I would actually contact IRCC (via https://secure.cic.gc.ca/enquiries-renseignements/canada-case-cas-eng.aspx) before you leave and ask whether they can update your work permit. They may just reply saying this is not needed but I think it would be worth seeing if they could. Otherwise, I’d bring all your documentation (including proof of name change) to the border with you.

      • Gemma
        Gemma Reply

        Also, I just realised that if you would then have a new passport due to the name change, you will need to apply for a new eTa before flying to Canada. These electronic authorisations are tied to individual passports so the one you will receive with your POE, will not be valid once you change your name and passport. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/answer.asp?qnum=861&top=25

  9. Hi there. Love your website, very helpful.

    Just a query about the eTA on the POE. I keep reading everywhere that an eTA will be on my passport automatically as I have received a POE. There is also an eTA number and expiry date on my POE.

    However when I put the details through the ‘Check your eTA status’ tool, it comes up with no matches.
    Do you know if that’s the case for all eTA’s obtained through a work permit or a mistake?

    My old eTA for when I visited a few years ago which should still be valid has also been cancelled, according to the ‘Check your eTA status’ tool.

    Many thanks.

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      I’m glad you’ve found the site helpful Owen! Yes, this is a common technical issue with IECs and eTas. As long as you don’t change your passport before going to Canada, your eTa that you received with your POE is valid. Be sure to take a copy of page 2 (in addition to page 1) of your POE with you to the airport when flying to Canada.

      • That’s great, many thanks.

        I didn’t want to apply for a separate eTA just in case it mattered that the new number wouldn’t match with the eTA on the POE.

        But if it’s just a technical issue then that’s great.

        And I’m assuming my old eTA has been cancelled as they issued a new one with the POE?

        Again many thanks, will be visiting your website several times again before I go!

  10. Hi Gemma,

    Could I send a request for invitation twice if I hadn’t declined the 1st invite and I let to expire my 20 days to upload all the documents ???

    I did not click on the yellow “Withdraw profile” button and I requested again for IEC on 3rd January 2018. I used my old profile an I have been accepted again to the International Experience Canada pool(s) of candidates on 04th January and received a new application number.

    How long after have you received the invite to apply and upload all the documents ??
    I have to with

    Where can I check how many places are available (openings) in the pool ?

  11. Hi there! You saved me with to the Police Certificate info. That tweet clarifies all!!!
    I’m applying to IEC-Working Holiday for the second time and I already submitted my documents.
    I was recently very nervous about the “accumulative time” spent on a country because within the past years I spent a lot of time traveling in Thailand as a tourist and I was worried that I may be needed to submit a Thai Police Certificate (which seems a long and complicated process on its own) but now I feel super relieved. I wish the distinction for IE regard to Police Checks were also specified on their website, tho.

    Thank you so much, guys! Love you!!

    Happy travels 🙂

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      I’m glad the info helped you Marcela! They have tweeted elsewhere that the website will be updated at some point.

  12. Hi Marcela,
    which twit are you speaking she saved you ??
    I am traveling in Us too more than 6 months but I don’t know if I have to update Police Certificate from Us even If I am resident in Italy

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Jack,

      Marcela is referring to the recent update from the IEC team (via their Twitter) that they no longer require police certificates for people who have spent 6 or more months in a country cumulatively i.e. added up over different trips. You are only required to get police certificate if you have spent 6 or more months in a country in one go. So, if you travelled in the USA for 6 months or more (e.g. May 2017 to November 2017) then you would need a FBI police cert. If you travelled June 2016 – September 2016 and then February 2017 to May 2017 (for example), then you would not need one.

  13. Hi Gemma,

    My name is Kieran, I am a British citizen (currently 17 years of age). I’ll be 18 in April which is when I will apply for the IEC. My partner lives in Vancouver. When I eventually arrive I’ll be living with her and her parents for the duration of my stay. I was wondering what my options are to stay in Canada as I am determined to not go back to the UK. If it helps to know, I will be going into the beauty industry. I would very much appreciate your opinions on what the best option for me to stay is. Thank you so much.

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Kieran,

      If you manage to get an invite for the IEC, I would look into Permanent Residency if you decide to stay in Canada. Should you want to stay, you could apply for the common law route after living with your partner for a year (or spousal if you get married) OR apply via Express Entry for Permanent Residency under the skilled route. For the latter, there are quite a few routes to do it but you’d have to work out whether your job in Canada is considered ‘skilled’ or not – the easiest way to do this is to check CIC’s NOC system. Skill types 0, A and B are considered skilled and if you work in one of those titles for a year, you may be eligible for PR. Check the NOC here https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/express-entry/become-candidate/eligibility/find-national-occupation-code.html and the Express Entry calculator is here https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/express-entry/works.html

      I’d keep in mind that Permanent Residency is quite a commitment considering it will cost you around $2k and around a year to process (more or less, it depends on the route). The common law/spousal route shouldn’t be underestimated either, as it involves your Canadian sponsor being financially responsible for you for a number of years after you receive PR. The only way to stay in Canada besides PR is to get job sponsorship but this is difficult and involves a $1000 for the employer and they have to prove that no Canadian is able and willing to do the job.

  14. I am resident in Italy but I am traveling since November 2016, 3 months in USA (November 2016-Feb 2017), 5 months in Mexico (Feb 2017-June 2017), 3 months in USA (June 2017- September 2017), 2 months in Italy (September 2017-November 2017) and I am living again in Usa since November 2017.

    Mailing address\” is where I am currently living and \”Residential address\” is where is my place of residence ??

    In the line \”Residential address\” I have to fill out my home address in Italy or my american address where I am currently living since November 2017 ?

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Jack,

      Mailing address has to be Italy since you are applying for the Italian program and Italians must have a permanent mailing address in Italy.

      The residential address is where you are currently physically living so this would be the US address.

  15. Hi Gemma,

    I’m about to book my flight to Canada.

    My POE letter states I must enter by 2018/04/27.

    I was planning to fly (and arrive) on 2018/04/25.

    Do you think it it OK to arrive so close to the cut off date?

    Many thanks,

    Terence.

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Terence,

      I’ve heard of people activating a couple of days before their POE expires so I doubt you’d have issues. The one thing I would never recommend is to activate it on the DAY it expires. But you’re not going to do that, so all good 🙂

  16. Hey there Gemma 🙂

    I have Australian and British Passport.

    I have already been on IEC on my Australian passport. Am I able to apply for a new IEC permit on my British passport?

    Thank you 🙂

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