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 country has an annual quota of places based on reciprocal agreements with Canada. An exceptionally popular program with a hotly anticipated opening date every year, demand outstrips the quota in many countries such as the UK.
This guide is intended to help applicants prepare and apply for the IEC 2017. Other guides you may find useful:
The Ultimate Guide to a Working Holiday in Canada eBook (updated regularly)
Opening of 2017 pools, first round of invites
2017 pools for most countries opened 17th October 2016. The first round of invites started 28th November (not all countries). Applicants are selected randomly in the invite stage, so all candidates who entered before the first round have the same chance to be picked.
Overview of IEC 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:
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 following ten months, unless the quota runs out sooner. 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.
How to apply for the IEC working holiday program
Stage One: Check Eligibility, Create and Submit Profile
Come to Canada questionnaire
For the working holiday program, use the following screenshots for help. Of course, you must change your country/citizenship/permanent residence as per your own current situation plus your date of birth. Note that the country of permanent residence is not in alphabetical order! (see screenshot for example)
The last two screenshots show the result if successful – a confirmation of eligibility for the IEC working holiday program and then a reference code. Follow the links in step 3 under the reference code to the next stage of the application.
Creating MyCIC account and starting e-service application
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. You’ll notice that some of the categories are listed as ‘in progress’ and ‘complete’ – information submitted in the Come to Canada questionnaire has already been entered 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 Stage Two as IRCC will request documentation from your employer.
Waiting for an invite
The first round for invites will be in November 2016. All eligible applicants in each country pool have an equal chance of being picked randomly.
While waiting, consider whether to apply for any police certificates (check processing times for each country you may need one for) and/or have a medical. Remember that unless you are from Australia (unlimited quota), there is no guarantee you will receive an invite for the program.
It is a requirement to complete a medical if you plan to work in certain occupations in Canada. If you are considering looking after/teaching children or working in the health services, start looking into how the medical process works i.e. where the nearest doctor to you is, how long the wait is, how expensive it is etc.
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. 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.
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.
TIP - 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,’ you’re on to the next stage straight away. So 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.
Stage Two: Apply for a Work Permit via MyCIC
You will have 20 days from accepting your IEC invite to complete a work permit application via MyCIC. Completing the application first involves submitting 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 to be uploaded as part of the work permit application. For most people the list will include:
Family Information Form IMM5707
Passport/Travel document (scan of photo page plus all stamps)
If you do not have the required documents within the time you need to submit them (police checks, medical proof if applicable) you can upload a ‘Letter of Explanation’ (self-created) to explain why. Upload as much as you can and provide as much proof as you can regarding the missing documentation. If you do not upload a letter of explanation and the 20 days runs out, you application will be cancelled and you will have to start again.
There is a $126 participation fee that needs to be paid in this section as well as a $100 Open Work Permit Holder fee if taking part on the working holiday program.
MyCIC will guide you through the process to download/complete/upload the forms and complete the payment.
Once you have submitted your documents, you’re almost at the finish line. It is waiting time again.
CIC states that you should receive an assessment within 56 days. If successful, 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). 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 Brits and other Europeans) plus proof of funds ($2,500) and you should receive your IEC work permit in your passport.
More information about arriving in Canada, proof of funds and insurance (and everything else you need to know such as how best to transfer money) can be found in my ebook, the ‘Ultimate Guide to a Working Holiday in Canada.’Stage Two tips
As in every stage of the IEC application, always fill in all form fields. 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.
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.
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.
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 Stage One (since the answer is pre-loaded from the profile creation stage), add a Letter of Explanation in your application and explain where you are.
Some of the forms state that they must be signed and dated before submitting. Unlike many of Canada’s immigration applications, the IEC is an online application and so there is no physical signing of forms that needs to be done. Validate the forms as prompted and when you submit your MyCIC application, you will be asked to to complete an electronic signature (which involves ticking a box) on behalf of all of them.
Keep in mind that CIC may contact you and request more documentation, depending on your circumstances. This does not necessary 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 or more months (in total, even if it was not continuously) since the age of 18. 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.
If you plan to work with children or in health care, you will need to get a medical exam at this stage. You can also get one before flying to Canada to activate your POE.
Before submitting, 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, sever issues…both at your end and with IRCC. Don’t risk it! If you don’t have a document (e.g. police cert) by the time you need to upload it, submit a ‘Letter of Explanation’ 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!
General IEC FAQs
Not unless specifically asked by CIC.
Only new applicants and those who have previous participated once are eligible for the 24 month IEC work permit (working holiday program). As per the British IEC page –
“If you participated in IEC before 2015 for a period of up to 12 months, you are eligible for a second participation of up to 24 months. Those who participated in IEC more than once before 2015 are no longer eligible to apply.”
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.
No. You only need proof of your working holiday travel insurance on arrival in Canada.
Only if you plan to work in specific fields ‘where public health must be protected’ i.e. schools, nurseries, nursing homes etc. The medical MUST be performed by a panel physician from the IRCC’s approved list. There are panel physicians located around the world so if you are currently away from your home country, do not worry.
If you change your mind once in Canada, you can get your work permit changed to allow you to work with children or in the health services. Find a panel physician, have the medical exam performed, wait for the medical results and then visit a border (the airport won’t work) with the proof of your exam to get your work permit updated. You may be required to pay a $100/$150 fee for this service.
Contact the transportation authority in Queensland and/or Victoria and explain your situation. Both authorities accept email enquiries – explain that you need a letter stating that you did not have a license (and therefore no driving history) and give all your relevant details (dates you lived there, address you lived at etc). You should receive an official letter back which you can upload to MyCIC.
Fill out the fields with obviously fake numbers e.g. 99999999 and/or write “Not Applicable – Working Holiday” where possible. The IEC Working Holiday program offers an open work permit so employer details are not required.
You are probably opening the PDF on a mobile device – try opening the document on a computer. Or better still, save the file onto your desktop and then open it.
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.
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.
True Traveller offers a range of travel insurance packages for British 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 holiday makers).
Communication – how can I contact IEC?
As a government organisation, IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) 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 (Stage 2). 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 Stage 2 application, use this IRCC webform.
Final notes and disclaimer
For more on working holidays in Canada, purchase my eBook ‘The Ultimate Guide to a Working Holiday in Canada’ (updated Nov 2nd 2016) – available to purchase online in our store. More information, including content list, can be found here.
Any questions? Leave a comment and I will reply as soon as I can. Alternatively, check out the O Canada IEC Discussion & Support Facebook group!
Alternatively, check out the O Canada IEC Discussion & Support Facebook group!
If you’re feeling generous and have money to spare, consider helping out my caffeine fund
Note: I do not work for IRCC. The information here has been gathered from personal experience/online research 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. Please be aware that I cannot be held liable for you, an applicant, experiencing any problems with your IEC application. All opinions are my own but some links are affiliate links. This means that there are no extra charge to you to choose these services, but I make a very small percentage. This helps maintain this website. I would never recommend a service I have not personally used or would not use.
Thank you to Cathy and Joe for their help and support!