IEC Working Holiday Visa Guide: How to Get a Working Holiday Visa in Canada?

Canada offers the IEC Working Holiday Visa through partnerships with 34 countries around the world, for the purpose of inviting young people to immerse themselves in a different culture to travel, learn a new language, or gain professional skills. Let's get started!

21 Nov 2021, 9:11 am


min read

IEC Working Holiday Visa

Have you always wanted to move abroad to experience the thrill of starting somewhere completely new? Does the thought of Canada’s landscape inspire your sense of adventure? 

Renowned for its natural beauty, high quality of living, and welcoming immigration policies, Canada is an attractive destination for the trip of a lifetime, or for an entirely new country to call home.

Traveling & Working with a Working Holiday Visa

Whether you have your eye on the vibrant city life of Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver, or dream about road-tripping through the Rocky Mountains, with the IEC program there are boundless opportunities for anyone to explore whether you are from the UK, Western Europe, Australia, or some other country distant from Canada.

The Canadian government offers the Working Holiday Visa through partnerships with 34 countries around the world, for the purpose of inviting young people to immerse themselves in a different culture to travel, learn a new language, or gain professional skills.

Some people use their Work Holiday visa as a strategy to Express Entry, which is awarded through a points system. Time spent working in Canada earns you more points, meaning that a Working Holiday can ultimately increase your chances of becoming a permanent resident of Canada. Recent government initiatives have opened the doors for more skilled immigrants than ever before, and now is the time to take advantage of it, preferably with the help of an RCIC, but we will talk more about it later.

Some people refer to Working Holiday Visa as “IEC Travel And Work Visa”, but that does not change the idea. Applying for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa offers a chance to break out of your comfort zone, allowing you to explore the country while working to fund your travels for up to 2 years. It is an ideal option for anyone wishing to see the world, who craves adventure alongside a flexible work-life balance.

IEC Working Holiday Visa

Why Take a Working Holiday in Canada?

A Work Holiday Visa is a popular and flexible option for moving abroad and is a great way to begin exploring Canada, no matter your immigration goals. Some common reasons to apply for the Working Holiday Visa include:

Taking a Gap Year

Adventuring in the vast beauty of Canada can be the perfect reward to yourself after years of concentrated studies. Working Holidays are very popular with new graduates because they offer the ability to fund your travels debt-free and enjoy a balanced lifestyle of work and travel.

Exploring New Career Paths

Cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal offer vibrant, diverse working opportunities for young professionals. The Work Holiday Visa offers an open work permit, meaning, you don’t need a job offer until you arrive, granting you the flexibility to dive into a new role and gain valuable experience to compete in the global economy.

Bridging The Distance

Perhaps you have friends or family in Canada who you’d like to visit or live with for a time, or you may be looking for a way to move abroad with a long-distance partner working or living in Canada. A Working Holiday Visa can give you up to 2 years of being closer to the people who matter, all while discovering a new country.

Beginning The Journey To Permanent Residence

Canada’s Express Entry immigration system is one of the most popular in the world, and it’s obvious as to why: it allows skilled workers to become permanent residents in just a few months. A Working Holiday opens the door to Express Entry, as Canadian work experience can boost your points score for admissibility. 

Keep in mind that the Express Entry program is discerning and highly competitive. If permanent residence is your goal, be sure to do your research and ensure you meet all the admissibility requirements.

Hiring a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) can be an invaluable resource when it comes to completing the required documentation, submitting it within time-sensitive deadlines, avoiding legal issues, and ensuring that you have an edge over other applicants. 

No time for reading? Check the video below:

Working Holiday Visa in Canada Explained

You may find more videos on our youtube channel.

Who Can Apply for IEC Working Holiday Visa

The International Experience Canada (IEC) program is a bilateral agreement between Canada and 34 countries, which allows young people to study, travel, and work for a period of 12-24 months. The duration of your stay in Canada is determined by your country of citizenship.

The Work Holiday Visa is one of 3 visa categories in the International Experience Canada program: 

IEC Working Holiday Visa

This work permit is the only one of the 3 categories that provides its participants with an open work permit, meaning that you do not require a job offer before arriving in Canada and can work for nearly any employer. For this reason, the Working Holiday category is a very popular choice in the countries where it is available, and obtaining one is more competitive.

IEC Young Professional

Designed for those who wish to further their careers, the Young Professional work permit requires a valid job offer in Canada prior to arrival. You must work with the same employer, in the same location, for the duration of your stay.

The Young Professional category:

  • Is available in 25 countries
  • Can be used to extend a Working Holiday Visa in Canada for participants from countries where a second IEC participation is allowed
  • Offers higher chances of success for applicants as supply does not usually exceed demand

International Co-Op

This category is designed for students wishing to obtain work experience relevant to their field of study and requires a valid job offer in Canada prior to arrival. You must work with the same employer, in the same location, for the duration of your stay.

The International Co-Op category:

  • Is available in 23 countries
  • Offers a maximum validity of 12 months, with some exceptions
  • Can be used to   extend Canadian Working Holiday Visa for participants from countries where a second IEC participation is allowed
  • Offers higher chances of success for applicants as supply does not usually exceed demand
IEC Working Holiday Visa

Working Holiday Visa Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the IEC program, Working Holiday applicants must:

Eligibility Requirements
Be a citizen of one of the 34 participating countries:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Chile
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands)
  • Estonia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Taiwan
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • Hold a passport valid for the total duration of their stay in Canada
  • Age Limit for the Working Holiday Visa: Must Be between the ages of 18 and 30, or 18 and 35 at the time of IEC application (age limit depends on the country of citizenship)
  • Have the equivalent of $2500 CAD in funds upon arriving in Canada
  • Have health insurance covering the full duration of their stay in Canada, or proof of the ability to purchase it
  • Have purchased a round-trip ticket prior to departure, or proof of funds to purchase a return ticket at the end of their authorized stay
  • Be admissible to Canada
  • Not be accompanied by dependents
  • Pay the required visa application fees
  • Be a resident of their country of citizenship at the time of IEC application

As far as securing a job offer in Canada, you do not need to worry about this until your Canadian Working Holiday Visa is finalized and issued to you.

You can begin searching for and applying for jobs during the visa application process if you wish, but—unlike the Young Professional and International Co-Op visas— a job offer is not required to enter Canada on a Working Holiday.

Align your job search with your immigration goals. For example, if you wish to work for short periods to fund travels all over Canada, then the part-time flexibility and high turnover of the hospitality industry may be the best fit for you. If you are immigrating to build experience in a specific profession, start your search early and be more discerning in your IEC applications and interviews to find the company and role that fits you best.

How To Apply for an IEC Working Holiday Visa in Canada

Visa Application Steps

The Canadian Working Holiday Visa is competitive to obtain, and applications are therefore handled through a “pool” system, which invites candidates to submit applications through random weekly draws. 

Chances of an invitation vary based on a country’s quota of visas issued annually, the number of candidates in the pool, and the time of year. Keep updated on your chances by checking the number of permits available for your country in the current season. 

Your chances of receiving an invitation will be higher the earlier you submit your profile as there will be fewer candidates in the pool than later in the season.

Step 1: Become a Candidate

The Government of Canada’s website is where you start your Working Holiday journey. There you take the questionnaire, get the personal code and use it to submit your profile.

Let’s look at it closer. You begin by discovering if you are eligible to apply for a work permit by taking the Come to Canada Questionnaire.

If you are eligible, you will receive a personal reference code at the end of the questionnaire. Enter the code to create your visa applicant account, and then build your profile by filling in the necessary information.

Finally, submit your profile to the pool and select the category for which you want to be considered (Young Professional, International Co-Op, or Working Holiday).

Step 2 (Optional): Hire an RCIC

Mistakes can be costly when it comes to your visa application. Book a meeting today with A Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant who will sort through the details with you, ensuring that your documents are correct and that your paperwork will be accepted. Keep things simple with the help of an expert.

Don’t get stuck in the process just because you didn’t fill out your applications correctly!

Step 3: Wait for an Invitation To Apply (ITA)

To continue your IEC application process, you must wait to receive an invitation to apply (ITA). In the meantime, it is wise to begin gathering the documentation you will need for your application.

Once invited to apply, you will have limited time to submit this information and to pay the relevant fees.

Use this time to also check which police certificate(s) you may need and whether you need to perform a medical exam as part of your IEC application.

Time constraints and the amount of information to be gathered can make this part of the process demanding and complex. If you are feeling overwhelmed, look for consultants who will be able to help you simplify the process once you are invited to apply.

Step 4: Accept Your Invitation

You will receive an invitation to apply by email and in your MyCIC inbox if you are randomly selected. Take a moment to celebrate, but keep in mind that the clock is ticking. You have 10 days to accept your invitation from the time you receive it. Once accepted, you have 20 days to complete and submit your application for a work permit. 

The 20-day period to compile all necessary documents begins from the time you click ‘Start Application’. If you need extra time to obtain complex documentation or multiple police certificates, hold off on accepting the application until the 7th or 8th day. Avoid waiting until the 9th or 10 days in case of technical issues on the website.

Review which documents you need, with the help of your consultant if you have decided to use one, and get started.

Step 5: Prepare Your Application

Ideally, you will have already gathered some of your required documents and information while you were waiting for your invitation. Now is the time to get everything together and finally submit it.

Attention to detail is crucial as you compile your IEC application over the next 20 days, and preparing in advance will help ease the stress of the approaching deadline.

For most applicants, the required documents will include

  • Family Information Form IMM5707
  • CV or resume
  • Digital passport-style photo
  • Police Certificate(s)
  • Passport/Travel Document
  • Participation fee of $150 CAD
  • Open Work Permit Holder fee of $100 CAD (for Working Holiday program only)

If you are unable to submit some required documents within the allotted time, provide as much proof as you can in the Letter of Explanation section. Receipts for police checks or an email confirming a medical appointment are examples of helpful proof in these situations.

Once you have provided all required documents and information, you should be able to submit your application for a work permit—but keep in mind that you are not finished yet. 

Step 6: Submit Biometrics

All Working Holiday participants must visit a Visa Application Centre (VAC) to submit biometrics in order to complete their application. You have 30 days from the date of your application to do so. 

Here is what you need to know about submitting your biometrics:

  • Many countries only have one VAC in a major city, so you may need to plan your visit in advance. Be sure to consider the necessary travel expenses.
  • You can give your biometrics at any VAC in the world, not just the one(s) located in your home country. 
  • Submitting biometrics requires a fee of $85 CAD
  • Be sure to bring the following with you:
    • Biometrics request letter (sent to you upon completing the previous stage of the application)
    • Valid passport
  • Booking your appointment in advance can save you time when you arrive at the VAC. You can do so online.

Expect an assessment within 56 days (8 weeks) from the date of your biometric appointment. If not, you are able to follow up with the IRCC Web Form.

Step 7: Receive Port of Entry Letter (Final Approval)

Once your application is processed and your work permit has been approved, you will receive your Port of Entry Letter. Congratulations! 

This is the letter you must bring with you to Canada to gain entry and begin the 12 or 24-month term of your Work Holiday Visa. It is valid for 12 months from the date of issue, meaning you must enter Canada within the next calendar year.

Step 8: Start Planning Your Working Holiday!

That’s it! Now that you’re good to go, it’s time you start planning your working holiday in Canada.

For saving you time and money, we have written 2 wonderful guides to help you in the process:

Traveling and Working In Canada With A Working Holiday Visa

Working Holiday Visa: a Story from the Traveler’s Diary

See you around!

Ready to Begin Your Journey to Canada?
Book a free consultation with our certified immigration consultants today
Can I Apply For A Working Holiday Visa While In Canada?
No, you can only apply for a Working Holiday Visa being in the country of your citizenship. 

Good to Know: Canadian Working Holiday Visa for the Citizens of Australia and the UK

Generally speaking, applying for Working Holiday Visa from the UK or Australia does not differ anyhow from applying from other countries that are a part of the IEC program or have a bilateral agreement with Canada. 

However, the IEC program is highly popular in those two countries, so make sure you plan the timing when applying for the visa – most likely it will not take less than the average waiting time to process your IEC application in Australia or in the UK. Get Started with Process here.

Getting Ready For IEC Working Visa 2021 Draw

The 2021 IEC season will open in the coming months. Getting your Canadian Working Holiday Visa for 2021 is a competitive task, so it pays to prepare as soon as you possibly can, and inform yourself of your chances and all relevant deadlines.

Get Ready for the Working Holiday Visa in 2021 by: 

The earlier you make these preparations, the more quickly you will be able to submit your application once you receive an invitation. You will also be more informed and feel more confident about making decisions about work, travel, and the city where you will begin your Working Holiday.

Working Holiday Tips

Canadian Working Holiday Visa Insurance

It is required to have insurance coverage for the duration of your stay in Canada. Resources such as True Traveller and BestQuote Travel Insurance offer IEC-compliant plans for your stay of up to 24 months. Research the available options and find the best rate based on the country you are from.

Arriving in Canada

With your POE letter in hand, you are able to begin planning your arrival, booking flights, and making plans for initial accommodations. 

Upon arriving at the Canadian border, be sure to have with you:

  • Your Passport
  • POE letter
  • Proof of $2500 CAD in funds, dated within the last 7 days
  • Proof of a return flight OR proof of finances to book one
  • Proof of insurance for the full length of your stay

Check your work permit to make sure everything is accurate once it is issued to you. It is easiest to address and resolve any errors before you leave the airport. If everything is in order, you are free to begin your adventure in Canada!

Extending Your Working Holiday Visa

Your Working Holiday experience might take you by surprise, and you may realise that you don’t want to leave Canada at the end of your stay! 

Luckily, there are ways to extend a Working Holiday Visa and pathways to permanent residence that you can pursue. For example, if you are a skilled worker, Express Entry could be the solution for you. Discovering the pathways to PR that are available requires diligent research, or the help of an approved, Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant who can advise you. 

Bottom Line

In this time of closed borders, Canada has opened its doors to the world, making it more possible than ever to immigrate and experience the move of a lifetime.

The bottom line is this: All that stands between you and your Working Holiday adventure is some carefully completed paperwork, a bit of patience, and some savings. If Canada is calling to you, don’t hesitate to get started!

Commonly Asked Questions about Traveling & Working with a Working Holiday Visa

Here we have answered some of the questions you may have regarding travelling and working with a Working Holiday Visa. Feel free to reach out to us and ask any questions you have – our team would be happy to help!

How Many Working Holiday Visas Can I Get For Canada?
It depends on the agreements between the country of your citizenship and Canada. If you are allowed to participate more than once, you should have a certain break between your visits.
Can I Get A Working Visa For Canada If I Am Over 30?
Yes, Working Holiday Program is designed for people between 18 and 35 years old. However, citizens of certain countries cannot apply if they are over 30. 
Get started on the Road to Permanent Residence
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Stellan is a copywriter and second-generation Canadian based in Toronto, Canada. Descended from British and Slovenian immigrants, he is still discovering Canada for himself and is proud to call it home for its social diversity and natural beauty.

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