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:
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.
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
- 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 tipsClick here to expand tips and advice
- It is generally easier to complete a medical before entering Canada. It is possible to do a medical in Canada after you have arrived but you will have to go to a border to have your work permit details changed after the medical has been processed. This loses you time on your work permit and may cost extra money.
- Be sure to fill in all form fields when completing the IEC working holiday application. If a question does not relate to you, enter ‘n/a’ or ‘not applicable.’ This is especially relevant in regards to the intended work/employment questions. The IEC working holiday program offers an open work permit, so do not enter any job details in these fields, even if you do happen to have something arranged.
- Always answer as truthfully and completely as you can. If there is not enough space in a field to you to fully answer the question, upload an additional Word document with more information under the ‘Letter of Explanation’ section.
- Don’t leave time gaps in the resume. The resume is NOT designed to be used in Canada to look for work, it is a document required by IRCC to understand your movements (employment, education, travel) prior to the application. The immigration team are not evaluating work/education skills, but are looking for gaps in the resume that may suggest travelling/working in other countries (and hence a police certificate may be required). If you leave gaps, it is very possible IRCC may request more information and this will delay your application.
- If you have more than one document for a category (i.e. two police certificates) combine documents into a multi-page PDF using an online converter.
- As per a recent update from IRCC, when submitting the Family Form, you must print, sign, scan and then upload.
- The question ‘What is your current country/territory of residence?‘ refers to where you physically are at the time of application. If this has changed since you completed your IEC profile, add a Letter of Explanation in your application and explain where you currently are.
- Keep in mind that CIC may contact you and request more documentation, depending on your circumstances. This does not necessarily mean you will not get your IEC work permit, but it will prolong the process.
- Police certificates are required from each country or territory where you have lived for six months or more (update 2017 – IRCC have confirmed that this six month period is NO LONGER cumulative, meaning that you could live in another country for four months every year but would not need to provide a police cert from that country unless asked). The certificate(s) must be no more than six months old unless they are from a country you no longer live in and not returned to. If not in English or French, the certificate must be translated.poli
- Before submitting your IEC work permit application, make sure you have uploaded each document in the right category.
- Don’t leave it until the last minute to submit. Although you have 20 days to submit the documents, do not wait to submit until the 20th day. Anything can happen – computer failure, server issues…both at your end and with CIC. Don’t risk it! If you don’t have a document (e.g. police certificate) by the time you need to upload it, submit the details in a ‘Letter of Explanation’ in this slot instead.
- Once you have your POE, print it at least once and then save it onto your computer and keep a backup via the cloud/email/USB storage. Don’t let your only copy of your all-important POE be an online version. You never know when websites are going to be down for maintenance or have other technical issues!
Frequently Asked Questions about the iec program
Click to expand each FAQ.
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?
BUNAC, and other working holiday companies cannot guarantee you a place on the IEC program, so look carefully into what exactly you are paying for. It may be your first time travelling or living abroad, but there is a lot of information already available about working holidays online plus a range of different forum websites (including Facebook) on which you can gather advice and possibly meet others in the same situation.
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?
A minority of applicants may be asked for a RCMP Criminal Record Check due to previous residency in Canada. Do not apply for this unless you have been specifically requested for one. The request may come even if you have already received your LoI/POE after Stage 2. If you are in Canada, this is straightforward to get – visit your local RCMP station for more info (choose the electronic submission option!). If you are outside Canada it is much more difficult.
Submitting fingerprints is an integral part of the application. Post and electronic applications are both accepted but here’s the issue: postal applications take a long time (currently 5 months!) but electronic applications cannot be filed from outside Canada. There is a way round it however; you can get your fingerprints done at a police station in your home country and then pay a private company to submit them for the electronic application for you.
My friend Joe from morehawes has been through this himself (in fact, this advice is all his) and initially had his prints done at a local police station in the UK. They were rejected. He ended up going to New Scotland Yard in London and paying a high fee to get them done, but these were actually accepted. The staff at NSY are practiced at doing fingerprints the old way (ink), while at smaller police stations it is a rare thing to do.
You can usually request an extension if you are having trouble getting the Police Check done by a certain timeframe.
I did not submit my work permit application within the required 20 days. What happens now?
I’m afraid you have missed your opportunity to get your POE and will receive a refund for money paid. You will need to apply again and hopefully receive another invite.
How do I transfer money to Canada on a working holiday?
What kind of travel insurance do I need to buy?
True Traveller offers a range of travel insurance packages for British (and EU) citizens on working holidays up to 24 months, including those who need to start a policy away from their home country (i.e. long-term travellers or serial working holidaymakers). Not from the EU? Have a look at FastCover or World Nomads.
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. Any 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.If you found this post helpful, PIN or save it for future reference with the image above!
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