Want to live and work in Canada for a year or two? If you’re aged 18-30 (18-35 in some cases) and from one of the participating countries, you need to apply for the International Experience Canada! It is the easiest way to try out living in Canada.
This guide is intended to help applicants prepare and apply for a working holiday in Canada via the IEC. It is long but it explains everything you need to know about the IEC working holiday application process. If you want to read just one article about it and then apply, this is it! I have been writing application guides for the IEC since 2012. This article is regularly updated to reflect changes in the IEC application process.
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What is the IEC?
International Experience Canada (IEC) is Canada’s youth mobility scheme. Within it, there are three programs with the most popular being the working holiday program. Participating countries have at least one of these programs available, with some countries having more than one. The length of the included work permit varies from country to country – click here to check yours.
Each participating IEC country has an annual quota of places based on reciprocal agreements with Canada. A quick heads up – demand outstrips the quota in certain countries for the IEC working holiday Canada program. France, South Korea and the UK are just some examples where demand is high.
Quick Overview of working holiday canada (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:
- 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, documents (such as police certificates) and payment within 20 days.
- Up to 8 weeks after submitting the work permit application, a decision will be made.
The IEC working holiday program runs in year-long ‘seasons’ (or cycles), generally running 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 2018.
How to apply for the working holiday canada program
Read on for a step by step guide to the IEC working holiday application process or skip to the section you need with the Table of Contents below.
Step One: Check eligibility for the IEC program
The first step to apply for your IEC working holiday in Canada 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 answer would be ‘IEC – Travel and Work.’ Entering the rest of your personal information is straightforward from here.
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 already have MyCIC account from a previous application, you can use it for this IEC application too. If you do not have a MyCiC account, you will need to use the ‘Continue to GCKey’ link to open one (NOT the ‘Continue to Sign In Partner’ link unless you happen to have one of the listed Canadian bank accounts)
- 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.
- On the e-service application, 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 into the pool.
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.
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 a program with unlimited places (Australia) or low demand (Ireland), there is sadly no guarantee you will receive an invite for the IEC working holiday 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. Updated 2018.
- Medical – an exam is required if you have lived/travelled in certain countries for six months or more OR if you plan to work closely with children or 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’ 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. Whatever you do, do not wait until the 9th or 10th day! Technical issues sometimes cause the website to fail.
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’ slot 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, medical or biometrics appointment email, a copy of request 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: Receiving your POE (final approval)
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 with travel/backpackers insurance covering the length of your trip. Two-year travel insurance policies can be difficult to find. Check True Traveller (EU citizens), Fast Cover (Australians), Down Under (Kiwis) and World Nomads (over 100+ nationalities).
You will also need proof of funds of at least $2500CAD (and extra if you do not have a return flight booked). If you have everything required, you should receive your IEC work permit in your passport. Before leaving the immigration desk, check all of the details on the printed permit, including the expiry date.
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 Visa Application Advice and Tips
After six years of helping others with the IEC working holiday application process, I’ve picked up a few bits of crucial advice that may be helpful along the way.
Click here to read essential tips and advice
- 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 with 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 2018 – 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.
- 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.
- 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 Working Holiday program
Got a question? Find the answers to the most commonly asked questions about the IEC program below.
Click here to read frequently asked questions and answers
My passport runs out mid-2018. Will this be a problem when applying for the IEC working holiday program?
For the IEC, your passport must be valid at the time of application.
I turn 31/36 soon, how does this affect my application?
To be eligible, you must submit your profile to the pool(s) before turning 31 (36 for some countries) AND get picked from the pool before turning 31/36.
I am a British citizen and do not seem to be eligible to take part in the working holiday program?
The most common issue to come up for British applicants is having trouble passing the initial ‘Come to Canada’ questionnaire. The solution for most people – make sure ‘British Citizen’ is selected instead of ‘United Kingdom & Colonies’ for country/territory of passport.
When should I apply for a police certificate?
For the application, police certificates must be dated within the last six months (they can more than this if from a country that you have not returned to since receiving the certificate) but it is not worth getting them in advance without knowing when/if you will be invited from the pool, especially if you are applying from a country where there high IEC demand (e.g. the UK). There isn’t really a major advantage to getting police certificates in advance unless they are from a country where it is complex to apply e.g. the USA.
Can I apply from within Canada?
Yes, you can apply for the IEC where ever you are in the world as long as your country’s requirements do not ask for current residency i.e. Italy. For Australia, Ireland and the UK (and most other IEC countries), there is no problem applying from within Canada. However! If you were considering going to Canada to wait out the rest of the application after submitting a profile to the pool, I would not recommend this unless you are from a country with an unlimited quota (e.g. Australia).
When I receive final approval (POE), how long do I have to enter Canada?
You will have one year to enter Canada and then another year (or two, depending on the participating country) to live and work in Canada. Example – I am a British citizen, eligible for a two-year IEC working holiday permit. I receive my POE in April 2018. I have until April 2019 to enter Canada. I decide to move to Canada on 10th November 2018. I will be given a permit valid for work and travel until 9th November 2020.
What is an ETA, do I need one?
Canada has started an Electronic Travel Authorization program as an entry requirement (much like the USA’s ESTA). All IEC approvals after August 1, 2015, are issued with an ETA automatically, so applicants do not need to apply for one separately unless they change their passport after application.
I am from a country that has more than one IEC program. Can I apply for more than one?
Yes! As per the ‘Submit your profile’ CIC info here, ‘For each category in which you are eligible, you can decide if you want to submit your profile to be added to the pool of candidates.’
Is there a template for the resume/CV?
CIC have not provided one specifically for this year’s IEC, but I have linked one from previous years in the above checklist of documents.
I have been asked for a Court Record/police report, why is this?
If you’ve been asked for this document, you answered ‘yes’ to the “Have you ever committed, been arrested for, been charged with…..” question. You will need to get details of your arrest/offence and submit this. If you’re from the UK, you can apply for a Subject Access Report. I would also suggest attaching a Letter of Explanation with more details of your offence and how you have been rehabilitated since then.
I have just received an email which says something has changed in my application, but there is no update. What is going on?
These are referred to as ‘ghost emails’ – think of them as a false alarm. Most applicants get a couple during their application, but it is perfectly normal to not receive any either.
I am currently in Canada or have lived in Canada before – do I need a Canadian police certificate?
Not unless specifically asked by CIC.
Should I use BUNAC/SWAP/other working holiday company to help with my application?
If you can apply directly to the IEC (without having to use a recognized organisation) I would highly recommend doing so. 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.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when you apply to the IEC yourself, your first priority is your own application. Allowing a business to apply on your behalf gives the control away to someone else and you will NOT be their first priority. My advice would be to keep your own IEC destiny in your own hands!
Do I need proof of insurance when I apply?
No. You only need proof of your working holiday travel insurance on arrival in Canada.
I have been refused because I did not include an address in the country of my citizenship in my application. What’s the deal with this?
The eligibility criteria for some countries require applicants to have a permanent address in the country of their citizenship. Be sure to check the requirements for your own country.
I’ve lived in Queensland or Victoria (Australia) for over 6 months. CIC says I need a traffic report (driving history)?
Even if you did not drive in these Australian states or hold an Australian license while living there, you still need a traffic report/driving history to complete the police certificate. 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.
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?
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.
Help! My Letter of Introduction (POE) is blank?!
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.
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 an 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 around 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 practised 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?
The method with the best exchange rate and least fees is to use an online money transfer service like Transferwise and CurrencyFair (this link offers one free transfer). Click to read more about all the money transfer methods.
What kind of travel insurance do I need to buy?
It must cover repatriation, medical expenses and be the length of your intended work permit. Otherwise, you risk having a shortened permit with no option of extension.
When will the 2019 pools open?
No-one knows yet – the Canadian government probably does not know yet either.
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. More information, including content list and testimonials, can be found here. Any questions? Leave a comment or check out the O Canada IEC Discussion & Support Facebook group!
About me: I have been helping people with the IEC process since 2012. I originally moved to Canada on the IEC program in 2011, became a Permanent Resident in 2014 and finally a Canadian citizen in 2018.
Note: I do not work (or have not ever worked) for 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. If you found this post helpful, PIN or save it for future reference with the image above!
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