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Working Holiday Visa Canada IEC 2021: Ultimate Application Guide

Looking to apply for a working holiday visa for Canada? Perhaps you want to work a ski season or live in Vancouver for a year? The International Experience Canada program is what you need. It is the easiest way for young people to live and work in Canada temporarily.

This guide is intended to help applicants prepare and apply for the IEC, specifically the working holiday stream. It explains everything you need to know about successfully getting a working holiday visa for Canada.

If you want to read just one article about the IEC application process and be confident about applying yourself, this is it! I have been writing application guides for the IEC for over 9 years.

There’s a lot of misinformation about the IEC on the internet but you can be assured that this application guide is the most up to date and comprehensive around. 

The FAQ section at the end covers most common areas of confusion, such as ‘when does the 2022 IEC season open?’ and ‘how did the pandemic affect the IEC program?‘ and ‘what happens if I don’t get an invite?

This article is regularly updated to reflect changes in the IEC application process. Last updated 22nd November 2021.

What you’ll find in this guide:

Gemma hiking up a hill with lake and mountain views behind
A taste of what you could get up to on your working holiday in Canada

Important updates – read this first

As you may guess, there have been plenty of changes and updates to the IEC program since March 2020. Initially, the season was put on pause and then eventually closed at the end of the year.

On 24th February 2021, it was announced that the new season would open but with some new requirements – the biggest being that applicants would have to have a valid job offer to receive an invite to the program.

Everything changed again on 7th September 2021.

For the last few months of the 2021 season, the IEC requirements were as follows:

Fully vaccinated IEC participants did not need a job offer to enter Canada.

They needed to:

  • Upload proof of vaccination in the ArriveCAN app before leaving for Canada
  • Bring a paper copy of vaccination proof to Canada
  • Have a negative molecular test result within 72 hours of scheduled departure time of flight to Canada (or within 72 hours of planned entry by road/ferry)
  • Be prepared to quarantine for 14 days and supply a plan to do so, in case vaccination exemption is not accepted (as a back up)

Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated IEC participants had to have a valid job offer on entry to Canada.

The job offer needed to meet the provincial and territorial labour standards in the applicant’s planned work location.

Participants also had to:

  • Submit a quarantine plan prior to arrival via the ArriveCAN app
  • Have a negative molecular test result within 72 hours of scheduled departure time of flight to Canada (or within 72 hours of planned entry by road/ferry)
  • Take a test on arrival and also on Day 8 of quarantine

On 29th October it was announced that the final round of invitations for all remaining pools would be on Friday 12th November. The pools then closed for the 2021 season. It is unknown when the 2022 will open.

I will continue to update this section of the guide when possible, but the most up-to-date information is also available on the IRCC website here and here. For current arrival restrictions, please refer to the Government of Canada website.

Looking down into a valley on a plateau, with multiple calm lakes surrounded forest and snow capped mountains (Lake O'Hara, British Columbia)
Lake O’Hara, British Columbia

What is the IEC program?

International Experience Canada (IEC) is Canada’s youth mobility scheme.

Within it, there are three programs – Working Holiday, Young Professionals and International Co-Op. 

Participating IEC countries have at least one of these programs available, with some countries having more than one.

The most popular IEC stream is the working holiday program. The length of the included work permit varies from country to country. Check out the chart below for more info.

Australia: 24 months
18 – 35
Austria: 12 months
18 – 30
Belgium: 12 months
18 – 30
Chile: 12 months
18 – 30
Costa Rica: 12 months
18 – 35
Croatia: 12 months
18 – 35
Czech Republic: 12 months
18 – 35
Denmark: 12 months
18 – 35
Estonia: 12 months
18 – 35
France: 24 months
18 – 35
Germany: 12 months
18 – 35
Greece: 12 months
18 – 35
Hong Kong: 12 months
18 – 30
Ireland: 24 months
18 – 35
Italy: 12 months*
18 – 35
Japan: 12 months
18 – 30
Latvia: 12 months
18 – 35
Lithuania: 12 months
18 – 35
Luxembourg: 12 months
18 – 30
Netherlands: 12 months
18 – 30
New Zealand: 23 months
18 – 35
Norway: 12 months
18 – 35
Poland: 12 months
18 – 35
Portugal: 24 months
18 – 35
San Marino: 12 months
18 to 35
Slovakia: 12 months
18 to 35
Slovenia: 12 months
18 to 35
South Korea: 12 months
18 to 30
Spain: 12 months
18 to 35
Sweden: 12 months
18 to 30
Switzerland: 18 months
18 to 35
Taiwan: 12 months
18 to 35
United Kingdom: 24 months
18 to 30

There are also reciprocal IEC arrangements with Mexico and Ukraine but these programs have been closed for a number of years
*New for a future season, still 6 months work + 6 months travel at this time

Participation in Canada’s working holiday visa program is usually a one-time deal unless you have dual citizenship. So the moral of this story is: use it or lose it!

Each participating IEC country has an annual quota of places based on reciprocal agreements with Canada.

Demand outstrips the quota in certain countries for the working holiday programs. France, South Korea and the UK are just some examples where demand is high.

For more advice, check out the Working Holiday in Canada intro page and my 20,000+ member IEC Facebook group.

How much does a working holiday visa for Canada cost?

The following are the total costs for a working holiday visa for Canada (in Canadian dollars).

Please note that none of these fees need to be paid until you have received and accepted an invite to the working holiday program. 

  • Participation fee – $156
  • Open Work Permit Holder fee – $100
  • Biometrics fee – $85
  • Police certificate(s) – country dependent
  • Medical, if applicable* -country dependent, $300-500 average
  • Travel insurance policy for length of intended stay in Canada**
  • Flights/travel expenses to Canada
  • $2,500 proof of funds to show on arrival in Canada 
  • Return flight or proof of additional funds to purchase a return flight (credit card is acceptable)

Please note – There are additional fees for pre-testing before arrival in Canada (new for 2021), plus quarantine expenses and additional tests for unvaccinated participants.

*For those intending to work closely with children or in healthcare AND/OR applicants who have visited certain countries for 6 months or more

**Typical 2 year IEC policy without ski coverage is around £500-600 for British citizens, $2000 for Australians

This post includes affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I may receive a small percentage at no extra cost to you.

Quick Overview of the IEC Canada application process

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

The application process for applying for a working holiday visa for Canada is as follows:

  1. IEC working holiday applicants must first complete the ‘Come to Canada’ questionnaire to check their eligibility for the IEC program.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Once an invite is received, the applicant has to decide whether to accept or decline within 10 days.
  5. 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.
  6. 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’, generally running from autumn to autumn. If you’d like to be alerted of updates, sign up for my IEC newsletter (includes a free packing list on sign up!) or join the O Canada IEC Facebook Group

IEC Application Process Overview graphic
IEC Working Holiday Visa Application overview*

How to apply for a Working Holiday Visa for Canada

Read on for a step by step guide to the IEC working holiday application process.

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 IEC Canada pool

To create and submit an IEC profile for a working holiday visa in Canada, 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.

  1. Once signed up/logged in, select ‘International Experience Canada’ under the ‘what would you like to do today’ title.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Each section must be validated and then saved.
  5. 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 IEC pool have an equal chance of being picked randomly.

This does, however, mean that if you are applying for a program that has high demand, there is sadly no guarantee you will receive an invite to the Canada 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.

Medical

An exam is required if you have lived/travelled in certain countries for 6+ months OR if you plan to work closely with children/health-related services in Canada.

The exam must be performed by an approved Panel Physician. If you do not complete a medical before arriving for Canada working holiday, your IEC work permit will state that you are unable to work in these sectors.

Step Four: Receiving an invite for the IEC Program

If you are randomly selected, 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,’ the next stage begins.
  • 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 CIC 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.

  1. First, you must submit more information regarding your work/education history, citizenship info, communication details (email address, phone numbers etc).
  2. A fair amount of this info is pre-loaded from stage one (profile) and is not possible to change.
  3. 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 $156 plus $100 for an Open Work Permit Holder fee if taking part in the working holiday program

Major update to the Canada working holiday application process: IEC applicants now have to visit a Visa Application Centre (VAC) and submit biometrics (fingerprints and photo) after submitting their work permit application. More details below.

There is an optional ‘Client Information’ slot (under ‘Optional Documents’) which is useful if you need to provide any extra information about your application. If you are having trouble submitting your application without something in this section, upload a document 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 any receipts/appointment proof/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: Submitting biometrics

Since 2019, IEC applicants have been required to submit biometrics – fingerprints and a photo to complete their working holiday visa application.

These biometrics can only be submitted at Visa Application Centres (VAC), Application Support Centres (ASCs, USA only) and some Service Canada locations (in Canada only).

After submitting your work permit application, you’ll be sent a request to submit biometrics, usually within 24 hours. You must submit your biometrics within 30 days.

Here is what you need to know about IEC biometrics:

  • Biometrics can be given at any VAC in the world – applicants do not have to go to the one in their home country
  • As of Dec 3rd 2019, IEC applicants can now give biometrics at selected Service Canada locations in Canada. 
  • It is only possible to submit biometrics with a request letter. This is sent to the applicant after submitting the work permit application (stage five in this guide)
  • Submitting biometrics costs $85. Applicants also have to make their own way at their own expense to the nearest VAC, ASC or designated Service Canada location. 
  • IEC applicants from Europe and Asia have been required to submit biometrics since 31st July 2018. From 31st  Dec 2018, IEC applicants from Asia, Asia Pacific and the Americas also had to do so. 

Stage Seven: Receiving your POE (final approval)

Once your biometrics have been 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 is a POE letter example for the Canada working holiday program.

Congratulations! Be sure to print and save your IEC POE Letter, so you have both electronic and paper copies.

Arriving in Canada for your working holiday

With your POE approved, you can now move to Canada anytime within the next calendar year. I would not recommend waiting until just before expiry to activate in case of flight or other travel delays.

On arrival at the Canadian border (land or airport), you will need:

  • Passport
  • Valid POE letter
  • Proof of $2500 in funds – bank statement or online banking print-out, dated within last 7 days
  • Proof of a return flight OR additional funds that would be used for a return flight (credit card is acceptable)
  • Proof of insurance for the full length of your intended working holiday in Canada

September 2021 update – there are new additional, hopefully temporary, requirements for POE holders travelling to Canada (negative test before arrival, quarantine plan, job offer for unvaccinated participants etc). Please refer to the ‘updates‘ section of this guide for detailed info.

I also recommend bringing printed copies of the following documents, to avoid any potential expiry date mistakes on the work permit:

When issued your work permit, triple check all details before leaving immigration.

If there are any issues, it is much more difficult to fix after leaving the airport or border. In particular, be sure to check the expiry date and work location (it should read ‘open’).

Long stay travel insurance policies can be hard to find. Check True Traveller (EU citizens and Brits), Fast Cover (Australians, unfortunately still not selling policies in 2021) and World Nomads (over 100+ nationalities). Click to read more about working holiday visa Canada insurance options

Calgary skyline
Calgary is one of the most popular destinations for those applying for a working holiday visa in Canada

Working Holiday Application Advice and Tips

After years of helping others with the working holiday visa application process, I’ve picked up a few bits of crucial advice that may be helpful along the way.

  • Be sure to fill in all form fields when completing the IEC application. If a question does not relate to you, enter ‘n/a’ or ‘not applicable.’
  • Some countries have a residency requirement e.g. Sweden, the Netherlands. If you are from one of these countries it is mandatory to list a permanent mailing address in your home country to be eligible for the IEC. If you don’t, you will be automatically refused.
  • 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.
  • 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. The certificate(s) must be no more than 12 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 to activate your IEC. 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!

IEC Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a burning question about applying for Canada’s working holiday program, you’ll probably find the answer below.

How has the pandemic changed the IEC application process?

There have been quite a few updates since March 2020. Since 7th September 2021, things are almost back to normal for fully vaccinated participants (kind of). Please see the updates section for more info.

How do the IEC seasons work?

It is not possible to apply for the IEC program all year round as it runs using application cycles or ‘seasons.’

Each season usually lasts around 10 months. In the last few years (prior to 2020), the season opened in December and closed in October. The exact opening and closure dates changing from year to year.

More recently, opening and closure dates have been even more haphazard. The 2020 season opened in December 2019 and then was put on pause in March, finally closing in December.

The 2021 season opened in February and then will close in November.

It is unknown at this time (29th October 2021) when the 2022 season will begin. Dates are usually posted on assorted IEC webpages at least a week before opening. The easiest way to keep updated is to join my IEC support group on Facebook.

Is there anything I can do to prepare my application before the pools open?

It is best to just wait until the pools are open (but read my answer to ‘when should I apply for a police certificate’ below first). Once the pools do open, it is not necessary to rush. Since the IEC no longer runs on a first come, first serve system, there is no benefit to submitting an application on the day the pools open. Invites do not usually start for another two weeks afterwards. Take your time and make sure all details are correct before submitting your IEC profile.

What happens if I don’t receive an invite during the IEC season?

Since the IEC does work as a lottery (random selection)and some pools are oversubscribed, it is possible to not receive an invite during the IEC season. At the end of the season, all profiles are removed from the pool. At the start of the next season, you’ll need to enter a new profile. Not being picked during a prior season does not affect your chances to be picked in a new season.

My passport runs out within the next year. Will this be a problem when applying for the IEC working holiday program?

For the working holiday visa program in Canada, your passport must be valid at the time of application. Once you have your POE, I would recommend getting a new passport before you go to Canada. Click here to find out what to do in that scenario

I turn 31/36 soon, how does this affect my IEC 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. It doesn’t matter how old you are when entering Canada for the actual working holiday.

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. Make sure that you have selected ‘British Citizen’ for country/territory of passport.

When should I apply for a police certificate?

It is my opinion that it is not worth applying for police certificates in advance unless:

a) you are from (or have lived in) a country which has low demand or unlimited places (e.g. Australia)

AND/OR

b) the police certificate has a complex application process. Check the latter first here

Can I apply for the IEC program from within Canada?

Yes, you can apply for the IEC from within Canada. The application is entirely online. Do be aware however, of two important issues:

Some countries require you to list a permanent mailing address from the country of your citizenship. If you do not, your application will automatically be refused. This affects citizens of Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, Czech Republic, Latvia, South Korea, Sweden, Hong Kong, Denmark, Slovakia and Norway.

Secondly, I would not recommend going to Canada to wait out the rest of the application after submitting a profile to the pool unless you are from a country with an unlimited quota. Visiting Canada for a holiday is fine, but waiting for months without being able to work is not ideal.

What is an eTA, do I need one?

Canada has an Electronic Travel Authorization program. This means that every visitor arriving by air needs approval before boarding their flight to Canada. All IEC approvals issued after August 1, 2015, come with an ETA automatically (check page 2 of your POE letter). Applicants do not need to apply for one separately unless they change their passport after application.

I am a dual citizen – am I eligible to participate in the IEC more than once?

Yes! As per this CIC FAQ, dual citizens (or triple citizens for that matter) can take part in the IEC as many times as each citizenship will allow.

Once you receive a second invite for your second citizenship, you’ll need to answer YES to “Have you ever applied for or obtained a visa, an eTA or a permit to visit, live, work or study in Canada?“ then NO “Have you ever participated in International Experience Canada before?”

Finally, you’ll also need to upload a Letter of Explanation to mention your dual citizenship status and prior participation on the other passport. If you have previously provided biometrics for your first application, you do not need to provide them again (they are linked to a person rather than a passport).

Is there a template for the resume/CV?

There is no longer an example provided but here is an older IEC resume sample. The most important thing to remember about the IEC working holiday application resume is that it is not the same as a work resume. It is a factual timeline of your work, travel and educational history.

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 IEC application, but there is no update. What is going on?

These are referred to as ‘ghost emails’ by those in the IEC community – think of them as a false alarm. Most Canada working holiday applicants get a couple during their application, but it is perfectly normal to not receive any either. What you need to be looking for is an email about a new message on your account.

I am currently in Canada or have lived in Canada before – do I need a Canadian police certificate for my IEC working Holiday Application?

Not unless specifically asked by CIC.

I have previously lived in Canada. CIC have now 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.

If you are in Canada, this is reasonably straightforward to get. Visit your local RCMP station for more info. If you are outside Canada it is much more difficult and involves sending either a postal application (which takes a LONG time) or submitting an electronic application through a third party company.

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’ve lived in Queensland or Victoria (Australia) for over 6 months. CIC says I need a traffic report or 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 requirements.

Contact the transportation authority in Queensland and/or Victoria and explain your situation. Both authorities accept email enquiries.

If you did not have a license while visiting or living there, explain that you need a letter stating you did not hold a license. Provide all relevant details (visit dates, addresses 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. now it says I must provide information including an employer number for this job. How do I do this?

As per this CIC FAQ, 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. Even if you do have a job lined up, it’s best to just receive the standard open work permit so you’re not tied to that specific employer.

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 mailing address in the country of their citizenship. Be sure to check the requirements for your own country. I’ve seen people try and appeal this before with no luck. If you are refused, you’ll just have to apply again with the correct info next time.

Should I use BUNAC/SWAP/other working holiday company to help with my application?

If you are a citizen of an IEC participating country and it is your first application, I would highly recommend applying independently of any company.

While it may be your first time travelling or living abroad, 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 on the application and arrival process.

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!

My advice would not be the same, however, for those applying through a Recognized Organization (RO) for necessity. This could be because your country does not have an IEC program. More recently, ROs have also been given separate allocations of IEC that they can offer to second time applicants or even to people beyond the regular age limits. This information is changing so often that it is best to check the files in my Facebook group for updates.

I did not submit my IEC 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 fees paid. You will need to apply again for the IEC and hopefully receive another invite.

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.

Is my POE the work permit?

No, you’ll receive the actual work permit in Canada. For more info on the arrival process, check out this post (it’s refers to Vancouver but the process is roughly the same at any Canadian border or international airport)

I’ve received my POE but no longer can/want to go to Canada at this time. Can I apply again sometime?

Unfortunately, receiving a POE counts as participation whether you go to Canada or not. If your country only allows for one IEC participation, I’ve afraid you’ve used it and will not be able to apply again.

Can I go to Canada for a holiday without activating my IEC work permit?

Yes. POEs are not automatically activated so it is no issue to visit Canada without accidentally starting your working holiday. The eTA issued with your POE (page 2) will be valid to use to fly to Canada so be sure to have a printed copy of this to show at check in.

Can I use an online bank statement as proof of funds?

Yes, as long as it has your name on it. This is what I used.

What kind of travel insurance do I need to buy for my working holiday in Canada?

Travel insurance for a working holiday in Canada 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.
Two-year travel insurance policies are not common. Check True Traveller (EU citizens) and World Nomads (over 100+ nationalities). Fast Cover usually offers IEC policies to Australians but has paused sales since March 2020.

How long will my IEC working holiday work permit be valid for?

It depends on your citizenship. I listed all of the working holiday lengths at the beginning of this post but you can also see them here.

The other considerations are passport validity and work insurance policy length. Be sure that your travel insurance policy matches the length of your allowed stay in Canada. If your passport expires during your working holiday, don’t panic, there is a process to extend your IEC work permit once the new passport arrives.

Can I study while in Canada on the IEC?

Yes, as long as the course is completed within six months.

Is it possible to extend my IEC working holiday visa?

Only in very specific situations. These specific situations include correcting expiry date mistakes made by border officers. It is NOT possible to extend an IEC work permit outside of these specific scenarios. If you want to stay longer in Canada, consider either applying for Permanent Residency or a sponsored work permit.

Communication – Who can I contact?

As a government organisation, IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, previously 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

Any questions? Leave a comment or check out my 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.

Please note: I do not work (or have not ever worked) for IRCC/CIC. I am not an immigration lawyer or consultant. 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 it is peer-to-peer advice. I cannot be held liable for you, an applicant, experiencing any problems (including a refusal) with your IEC application. 

Secondly, be aware that I refer to ‘working holiday visas’ in this article but what IEC actually offers is an open work permit. Most participating countries are part of the visa waiver program and hence citizens from these countries do not need a visa to enter Canada. 

Looking to apply for a working holiday visa for Canada? The International Experience Canada program is what you need. This up-to-date guide features everything you need to know about applying for a Canada working holiday! offtracktravel.ca

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Check out these Canada working holiday guides next:

A Working Holiday in Canada: Everything You Need To Know

Insurance Options for Working Holidays in Canada

How to Work a Ski Season in Canada

The Cheapest Way to Transfer Money to Canada for your Working Holiday

Toronto vs. Vancouver for your Canadian working holiday

Calgary vs. Toronto for your Canadian working holiday

Beau

Wednesday 17th of November 2021

Hi Gemma,

Thanks for the information, still I do have a question.

I was too late with applying for a work holiday visum, so I need to wait till the season 2022 opens. I am living currently in Belgium but also have a Dutch passport. I wanted to go in May 2022 to Canada for my internship. Do you think that's still possible (visa, internship etc.)? Also I saw that you wrote: ''Most participating countries are part of the visa waiver program and hence citizens from these countries do not need a visa to enter Canada.'' Does Belgium or Netherlands fall in this category? I couldn't find it but it would really help.

I hope that you can help/give me a (guiding) answer.

Beau

Gemma

Thursday 18th of November 2021

Hi Beau,

It's really hard to say with timing as we have no idea when the next IEC season will open. And then you need to factor in waiting time to get an invite (it is a lottery system after all).

Here's the list of visa exempt countries for Canada.

Christy

Saturday 30th of October 2021

Hi Gemma,

Thanks for this guide, it's really useful! Just wondering if my applications gets refused, am I eligible to apply for the next pool when it opens? Also any idea when they might open the 2022 pool? :)

Thanks Christy

Christy

Saturday 30th of October 2021

@Gemma, super fast response! Thank you!

Gemma

Saturday 30th of October 2021

Hi Christy,

Funny, I was just updating this guide as you submitted your comment. It depends on the reason why your application was refused. For example, if you were refused because you have already participated, then you still wouldn't be eligible to apply in the next IEC season (unless there was a rule change).

You can find the answer to your other question in the FAQs :)

Ami

Thursday 23rd of September 2021

Hi guys! Thanks so much for this article, it's super helpful! My partner and I have both got job offers for this winter but than other putting "yes" to the do you have a job question, is there anything else we can do?! Is it possible that they won't accept our application in time?!

Gemma

Saturday 25th of September 2021

Hi Ami,

It is possible, yes - sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I would not recommend putting yes to the job question for the working holiday program, even if you have one. It has led to issues before - participants were given a work permit tied to that job only, even though the working holiday program offers an open work permit. Saying you have a job do not give your application any kind of priority (the prior pandemic related requirement to have a job offer was removed in early Sept 2021).

Arun

Friday 10th of September 2021

Hello Gemma, This is one of the best summarized article I have ever found on internet. Thank you for this. I have a question related to IEC Holiday Working Visa for my wife. Our situation is as follow: Background- I am an Indian citizen and my wife is from Poland. I am a Canadian PR holder currently working in Toronto for a well known bank as a full time employee. My wife is presently living in Canada with me on a Visitor visa. She is from visa exempt country and she joined me in August 2021 via ETA. The maximum she can live here on visitor visa at one time is for 6 months i.e. until February 2022. (however we can extend her visitor visa)

We initially planned to apply for her PR and open work permit under Inland spousal sponsorship but current situation of spousal sponsorship backlog with CIC is 12 months of processing time and open work permit processing time is 6 month which doesn't give a good feeling. We are also not 100% sure if we both will live in Canada for more than 2 years or may get back to Europe. Our intention is for my wife to experience working life in Canada and gain some international work exposure in next 1 to 1.5 year. If we both feel good here then we will move forward to process her PR.

So we have applied for my wife in IEC Working holiday visa under Poland country. Now her profile is in pool awaiting for ITA.

My question- Is it totally acceptable and legit that we have applied for her under IEC program instead of Open work permit in spousal sponsorship program given the fact that she is my depedent and living in Canada on a visitor visa. Will there be any reason of denial in her application in such case?

regards, Arun

Arun

Friday 10th of September 2021

@Gemma, Thanks a lot for looking into my query. Appreciate it. :)

Gemma

Friday 10th of September 2021

Hi Arun,

Totally legit - I also applied for the IEC program while being the partner of a Canadian and eligible for PR and an open work permit. I wasn't in Canada, however, but it's completely fine to apply for the IEC while in Canada.

John

Wednesday 25th of August 2021

Hi! Thanks so much for the guide and reading the comments has also been an invaluable resource.

I recently placed myself in the pool for a UK Working Holiday visa. I have and submitted a valid job offer and am currently in Canada.

Do you have any idea from speaking to other people currently in the process if having a job offer has dramatically sped up the process for other people? It seems strange to me that: 1. There are more spots than people in the pool right now 2. There are still so many spots late in the season

I wondered if this could be accounted for by lots of folks not having job offers, and wondered if this would increase my chances. For me there's a lot of guesswork and anxiety going on so I wondered if you would have a better inside look from other cases!

Best and thanks so much again for the guide.

John

John

Wednesday 8th of September 2021

@Gemma, Just for anyone else's benefit. I submitted a valid job offer and got my ITA a couple of days later so it seems it has improved your chances if you have one considerably.

Gemma

Sunday 29th of August 2021

Hi John,

Glad you found the guide helpful! At the current time, a job offer is required to get an invitation for the IEC program. Applicants who do not email IEC with the details of a valid job offer will not receive an invite. So this explains why there are so many spots still available at this time of the year.