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Working Holiday Visa Canada IEC 2023: 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 in 2023.

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

If you want to read just one article about the IEC application process and be confident about applying yourself, this is the one! I have been writing application guides for the IEC for 10+ years (and moved to Canada via the program!)

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. This post was last updated September 2023.

The FAQ section at the end covers most common areas of confusion, such as ‘how do I apply for the IEC?‘ and ‘is the 2023 IEC season open?’ and ‘what happens if I don’t get an invite?

What you’ll find in this guide:

Important updates – read this first

The 2023 IEC Season pools opened on 19th December 2022. Applicants can now create a profile to enter the pools. The first round of invitations started 9th January 2023.

According to a statement made on 1st December 2022 by Sean Fraser (Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship), there will be a 20% increase in available spots in the 2023 season.

In another recent development, receiving a POE (final IEC approval) no longer counts as participation if you do not activate it. This is in force after 9th January 2023. It is unknown whether this is a permanent change or just for the 2023 season.

In July 2023, it was announced that UK participants will soon be allowed to live and work in Canada for up to three years (rather than two). I will update this guide when more information is released.

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, run by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, previously known as CIC).

Within it, there are three programs –

  • Working Holiday
  • Young Professionals
  • 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 as it provides an open work permit that can be used to work anywhere in Canada (no job offer required!)

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 the 2023 season, previously 6 months work + 6 months travel

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 and South Korea are examples where demand is high. This once was the case for the UK as well, but from 2023 it seems that demand has lessened and there are now more places than applicants.

For more advice, check out my IEC Working Holiday guide and my 30,000+ 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. 

2023 fee list:

  • Participation fee – $161
  • 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

*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 £600-700 for British citizens, $2000+ for Australians

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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. IRCC 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 France) 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. You may also want to check out the official version

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. Be sure to also check out the official IEC application guide.

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 , 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 an IRCC account.

If you already have an IRCC account (previously called MyCIC) from a previous application, you can use it for this IEC application too. If you do not have an IRCC 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 exam

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 IRCC account 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 IRCC 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 your IRCC account.

  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. IRCC 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

Since 2019, IEC applicants have had to provide biometrics (fingerprints and photo) at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) 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
  • When asked for document later, make sure you submit it correctly – upload and transmit. Follow the instructions here (‘if we sent you the request via your account’). If you do not transmit the document, your application will be cancelled

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

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 IRCC account inbox.

This is your Port of Entry Letter of Introduction (referred to as a POE or LOI). Please note, however, that the POE is NOT your work permit. Your actual IEC work permit will be issued to you on arrival in Canada when you choose to activate it.

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

See below for an example of an IEC POE.

Red star #1 indicates the validity of the letter. This is the length of time you have to travel to Canada to activate the POE and receive your physical IEC work permit. This will be one year from the issue date of your POE, unless you completed a medical as part of your application. In this instance, it would be one year from the date of the medical.

Red star #1 indicates your eTA number. All visitors need an eTA (electronic travel authorisation) to board a flight to Canada. eTAs last 5 years and one is automatically issued with your POE. You may be asked to show this eTA number when checking in for your flight. If you’ve changed your passport since applying for the IEC, you’ll need to apply for a new eTA.

POE letter

Arriving in Canada for your working holiday

With your POE approved, you can now move to Canada anytime within the next 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

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 or HeyMondo (Australian citizens) and BestQuote (over 100+ nationalities). Click to discover 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.

General application advice

  • 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
  • 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 IRCC 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 and medicals

  • 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
  • IRCC have confirmed that this six month period is not 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)
  • 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
  • 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

Submitting your application

  • Before submitting your IEC work permit application, make sure you have uploaded each document in the right category.
  • If IRCC contact you and request another document, make sure you upload AND transmit that document. Follow the instructions here (‘if we sent you the request via your account’). If you do not transmit the document, your application will be cancelled
  • 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 IRCC. 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.

When will the 2023 IEC season open?

The 2023 IEC season opened on 19th December 2022. From this date, applicants were able to create a profile and enter the pools. The first invite round started 9th January 2023.

When will the 2023 IEC season finish?

Based on previous years, it will likely close in October 2023.

When will the 2024 IEC season open?

No-one knows at this point, but based on previous years, it will probably open sometime in December 2023 or January 2024.

How will I know when the application season will open?

In regular years, a notice is usually added on various IEC webpages to advise of the season opening. This usually happens a week or so prior.

2022 was unusual in that the 2023 IEC season announcement was made by Sean Fraser (Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship) at an event in Banff and confirmed on Twitter.

Alternatively, you can join my IEC Facebook group for updates.

What do I need to do when the next IEC season opens?

Don’t rush! The system is often overloaded on the first few days of the season opening. Wait a few days – it is not a first come, first serve system. Invites are not sent out for a week or more.
After a few days have passed, get your passport ready and create a profile (as per the instructions in this guide).

How did the pandemic change the IEC application process?

There have been quite a few changes to the program since March 2020. Since 1st September 2022, however, things are basically back to normal.

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 closed in November.

The 2022 season opened on 13th January, with the first invites being sent the week after. The 2022 season closed in mid October.

The 2023 season opened on 9th January and will likely close in October.

Is there anything I can do to prepare my application before the pools for the next season 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 immediately, most often the week after. 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 (the only year this did not happen was 2022). 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.

I’m stuck in a loop on the website – I can’t start/finish my application. What’s going on?

This is, unfortunately, a relatively normal occurrence with the IRCC website.

First, clear your cache and try again. If this doesn’t work, try different browsers (Chrome, Edge, Firefox etc.)

If it still doesn’t work, try a different device and then repeat the above (clear cache, different browsers).

Trying a different time of day is a good idea too.

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.

I can’t open any of the PDF forms required to complete the application, what should I do?

The PDF forms (IMM###) do not open on mobile devices, such as cellphones or tablets. They must be opened on an actual computer.

You must have the latest Adobe reader to open these files. A free copy of Adobe Reader is available from the Adobe website.

Download the form, then navigate to the document. Right click the file and then select ‘Open with’ and choose Adobe. You can tick a box so that similar files will always be opened with Adobe.

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 receive an invitation 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’ (code GBR) 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)


b) the police certificate has a complex application process

I hold two different citizenships and I could apply to the IEC with both. How does that work?

Wow, lucky you! You can only be in one pool at a time, though, so you’ll need to choose which to enter first.

If you’re desperate to get to Canada ASAP, choose the one which has better odds (more places, less applicants).

If you think you may to stay in Canada for a long time, consider choosing the one with ‘worse’ odds. Then you can secure the most difficult one to get before leaving for Canada and apply for the second one while in Canada (knowing that you’re more likely to get it).

I applied during a previous season but not get an invite. Can I apply again?

Yes, as long as you still meet the requirements (the main one being age).

This is also true if you applied during a previous season, received an invite and did not continue with the application OR received an invite, accepted it and then withdrew the application later.

As long as you didn’t receive the POE (final acceptance, called a ‘Correspondence Letter’) then you can apply again.

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 (or with very good odds of receiving an invitation). Visiting Canada for a holiday is fine, but waiting for months without being able to work is not ideal.

I have moved house/country since applying for the IEC. Do I need to update the address on my application?

No. The IEC application is entirely online – nothing will be sent to you. So there is no need to update your address.

As mentioned in the previous FAQ, it is, however, very important to include a permanent mailing address from the country from your citizenship if you are from Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Japan, Czech Republic, Latvia, South Korea, Sweden, Hong Kong, Denmark, Slovakia and Norway.

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. POEs are always issued with an eTA automatically (check your POE letter for the number).

Applicants do not need to apply for an eTA 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 IRCC FAQ answer, 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.

The IEC resume is a factual timeline of your work, travel and educational history. Do not leave timeline gaps. If you do, you will be asked to complete an additional form that will slow down your application (and it’s a pain to do!)

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 IRCC.

I have previously lived in Canada. IRCC 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 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’ve lived in Queensland or Victoria (Australia) for over 6 months. IRCC 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.

Victoria Full License History Search:

Contact VicRoad’s Licence Correspondence Team at [email protected] and ask for an email confirmation that you have never held a Victoria license. Include the following:-

A scanned passport copy
A detailed explanation of your request, eg. ‘For my Canadian working holiday application, I need proof that I did not hold a Victoria license while living in Victoria’
A list of all addresses you lived in while in Victoria
Your current contact information, phone number, address
How you would like VicRoads to send you this information. e.g. ‘Please send the written confirmation via email’ (so that you can then upload this with your Australian Police Certificate, in the same multi-page PDF with any other police certificates).

Queensland License History:

Contact the Department of Transport and Main Roads at [email protected] and ask for an email confirmation that you have never held a Queensland license. Explain the situation (applying for a Canadian working holiday) and include the following:
Completed F2121 form (link updated September 2022)
Three proofs of identity

The License History usually has a fee but politely request for it to be waived since you have never held a license. The response from the Department of Transport and Main Roads has been varied for IEC applicants – some people have been asked for the identity proofs to be certified, others have been asked to pay a fee. Payment is difficult as they only accept cheque and postal order.

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 the IRCC 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! Many horror stories have been shared in my IEC Facebook group. In one example, the person’s IEC POE letter (approval) was cancelled as they were travelling to the airport to depart to Canada!

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.

UPDATED – As of 9th January 2023, the above statement is no longer true. If you receive a POE but don’t activate it and receive the work permit in Canada, it does not count as a participation and you can apply for the IEC again!

I believe that this rule change is designed to help those who were unable to activate their POEs during the pandemic. At this time, it is unknown whether this is a temporary or permanent change.

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/screenshot as proof of funds?

Yes, as long as it has your name on it. I personally used a screenshot (and it was checked).

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 super common. Check True Traveller (EU and UK citizens). Fast Cover is also an option for Australians, as is HeyMondo and Best Quote.

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 an employer-supported work permit (with a positive LMIA).

After I receive the POE, how long do I have before I need to actually go to Canada and activate it?

Exactly one year from the date of the POE unless you had a medical as part of the application. In this case, the POE would expire one year after the medical. The expiry date of the POE is always listed on the document.

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 official 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 official IEC application guide.

My Facebook group is a great resource for advice from others who are currently applying or have done before. If you have a question, it’s most likely been asked (and answered) there already.

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 understand 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. 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 any problems with an IEC application (including a refusal).

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!

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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

Harry Bains

Monday 28th of August 2023

Hi Gemma,

Thank you very much for the guide, I used it to get my working holiday visa.

However, I have a few questions, I got my POE letter in April. I got married in July and would like to move to Canada with my wife. I understand we can go through the Spousal Open Work Permit route or she can apply as an individual.

The question I have is, I am married now, do I need to update anything with the IRCC? I got my POE while I was single. Moreover, initially, the plan was that my wife would not move with me to Canada as she would come later; I added no spouse in my family form. Could this be an issue?

The next question is, my expiry date for POE is in April 2024, how close can I go to this date? I plan to move in February 2024, is this okay?

Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards, Thank you, Harmanvir


Wednesday 30th of August 2023

Hi Harmanvir,

I'm so glad you found the guide helpful.

No, you don't need to update IRCC at this point. You answered the questions truthfully at the time. It shouldn't have an impact later.

Yes, you can definitely move in February with your POE expiring in April. I always recommend that people fly to Canada at least 3/4 days before their POE expires (longer in winter) due to potential flight delays. So a few months before is fine :)


Monday 10th of July 2023

Hi Gemma,

My wife and I are Australian citizens and want to go to Canada on Working Holiday visas.

As you know these visas are valid only for 2 years, can be applied for only once and are not extendable.

Can I apply for a Working Holiday visa and my wife joins me as a dependent? And once these visas expire after 2 years, can she apply (as a primary applicant) for a Working Holiday visa and I be a dependent for the next 2 years? Can we apply for the Working Holiday visa one after another and be each other’s dependent to extend our stay for 4 years?

I hope this makes sense.

Looking forward to seeing your reply. Thanks


Monday 10th of July 2023

Hi VJ,

Yes, you can apply for the working holiday program and your wife can later apply for a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) after you have secured a job. If you manage to secure a job before arriving in Canada, she would be able to get the SOWP (with the expiry matching yours) on arrival. If you get a job after arriving, you'll need to go on a short visit to the USA and get it on your return or flagpole. As of 2023, the job does not need to be a skilled one and you don't need to show pay stubs (only the job contract).

And yes, you could do this plan again with your wife being the working holiday participant and you the SOWP applicant. We have many people in my Facebook group who have done something similar.

Hajar Nassrallah

Saturday 8th of July 2023

Hi Gemma, I have a quick question. Can I travel as a tourist to Canada (Vancouver) with my eTa before receiving my POE letter? Because I would like to visit my boyfriend since he lives there.


Monday 10th of July 2023

Hi Hajar,

Yes, you can, but there are some things you need to keep in mind. If you don't have the POE yet and plan to fly to Canada, you'll need a return flight as it is very unlikely that the airline will let you board with a one-way ticket.

Second, if you think you may receive the POE while you're in Canada and will want to activate it, you'll need to enter the USA for a short visit or flagpole. Either way, you'll need to have one/two years of travel insurance (depending on the IEC work permit length you're eligible for) starting on the activation date. If you buy a separate policy for your leisure trip, the policy for your IEC participation needs to be one that allows you to be 'already travelling' i.e. you are not starting the policy from home.


Monday 19th of June 2023


How do I proceed if my IEC profile has expired? Why did it happen?



Tuesday 27th of June 2023

Hi Tanel,

Did you let an invitation expire? If so, you need to create a new profile again. Fill out the 'Can I Come to Canada' questionnaire again and get a new personal reference number, sign into your existing account and then enter youe new reference number. There will be a prompt to create a new IEC profile.


Monday 19th of June 2023

What is the procedure for activating the permit once the POE is received?


Monday 19th of June 2023

Hi Elia,

The official instructions are on the IRCC website. You may also find my IEC Vancouver Arrival Guide helpful, even if Vancouver is not your first stop.