Formative experiences in your youth can influence your future career and personal journey. As a young professional or student, you may want to spend time working abroad to enhance your resume and lived experience outside your home country.
The International Experience Canada (IEC) program presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for foreign youth and students to explore the country, be part of a global workforce, earn income while they travel, and decide if they want to settle in Canada permanently. In this article, we look at the types of experiences available under the program and how you can get a work permit with International Experience Canada.
In this article:
- What is International Experience Canada (IEC)?
- Three types of work and travel experiences under IEC
- Eligibility criteria for International Experience Canada
- How can I apply for IEC if I’m not from a partner country?
- How does the International Experience Canada program work?
- Apply to work or stay in Canada under IEC
- Apply for a work permit after you get an ITA under IEC
- Do I need a job offer to apply for a Working Holiday visa for Canada?
- Can I decline an invitation to apply for a work permit under IEC?
- How much does the application fee for International Experience Canada cost?
- Can I settle in Canada after my IEC work permit expires?
International Experience Canada is a youth-exchange program that allows citizens of select countries to travel and work in Canada for up to two years. The Canadian government has reciprocal IEC agreements (also known as Youth Mobility Agreements) with over 30 countries. This makes it easier, faster, and cheaper for young foreign nationals to apply for a Canadian work permit and for Canadian citizens to work and travel abroad.
Working Holiday Visa
The Working Holiday Visa category is best suited for eligible youth who don’t have a Canadian job offer or who want the flexibility to be able to work for more than one employer during their stay in Canada. If you qualify, you’ll receive an open work permit that allows you to work for any eligible employer in Canada or in multiple locations. This category is popular among youth who want to travel across Canada, explore the country, and use the money from their Canadian jobs to fund their stay.
The Young Professionals category is for applicants who already have a Canadian job offer that contributes to their professional development. Applicants who qualify for the Young Professionals category receive an employer-specific work permit and must work for the same employer in a single location throughout their stay in Canada.
International Co-op (Internship)
The International Co-op category is for students enrolled at a foreign university or college who need to complete an internship or work placement to get their degree, diploma, or certificate. Eligible applicants for this experience must have an internship or co-op job offer from a Canadian employer and will receive an employer-specific work permit.
To qualify for a work permit with International Experience Canada, you must meet the following criteria:
- Age: You must be between 18 and 35 years of age.
- Country of citizenship: You must be a citizen of a country that has an IEC agreement with Canada. Canada has over 30 partner countries, including Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. In some cases, citizens of other countries may also be eligible for a work permit under IEC.
- Valid travel documents: You must have a valid passport for the duration of your stay. The length of your work permit cannot be more than the validity of your passport.
- Proof of funds: You must have at least $2,500 CAD to cover your expenses in Canada. In addition, you must have either a round-trip ticket or the funds to purchase a return ticket at the end of your stay in Canada.
- Admissibility into Canada: You must meet some general admission requirements to enter Canada, including clearing security and criminal checks. Medical tests may be required to work in certain industries.
Applicants to the Young Professional or International Co-op experience categories must also meet category-specific requirements, including having an eligible job offer. Some of these are listed below.
Additional eligibility criteria for Young Professionals
- You must have a valid employment offer in a NOC 0, A, or B job. If you have a post-secondary education credential, a NOC C job offer may also be accepted.
- Your job offer must be for paid work and meet or exceed the province’s minimum wage requirements.
- You must work for the same employer at the same job location in Canada for the duration of your stay.
Additional eligibility criteria for International Co-op
- You must be registered with a post-secondary institution outside Canada.
- Your internship job offer must align with your field of study.
- The internship or work placement must be required to complete your foreign study program.
- The internship can be paid or unpaid, depending on the regulations in the province where you’ll be working.
- You must work for the same employer at one job location in Canada for the duration of your stay.
Citizens of countries that don’t have an IEC agreement with Canada may be eligible to apply for a work permit with IEC through a recognized organization that offers work and travel support to youth. You can find a complete list of recognized organizations, along with the countries they serve and types of work permits and industries they specialize in, on the Canadian government’s website.
You will need to contact a registered organization that serves your country and sign up for their services. These services may be free or paid. The organization will issue a letter stating they will help you plan your trip or find work in Canada. You will need this letter to qualify for IEC.
Download our guide on immigrating to Canada to explore other options for moving to Canada.
You can only create one IEC profile. If you qualify for more than one IEC category, you must submit the same application to all relevant pools.
When you complete your IEC profile, you have the option of submitting it to the Working Holiday Visa, Young Professionals, or International Co-op pool. In some cases, you may be eligible to apply to more than one IEC pool and will receive a prompt stating which pools are available to you.
Once you submit your profile, it remains active until you receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for a work permit, you’re no longer eligible for IEC, or the end of the IEC season. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) regularly issues ITAs to candidates in the IEC pool during the season. At the end of each IEC season, all remaining profiles are cleared from the pool for a fresh start the following year.
There may be a quota or cap for the number of applicants to be selected from your country. The quota for your country, the number of ITAs issued and candidates in the pool, and your chances of selection are regularly updated on the government’s website.
The timing and duration of the IEC season vary by country. Typically, the IEC season starts just before or at the beginning of each year and continues until the allotted number of ITAs for that particular country have been issued.
The application process for a work permit with International Experience Canada includes two parts: submitting your IEC profile and applying for a work permit. Here’s a step-wise overview to help you create and submit your IEC profile:
Step 1: Check your eligibility for International Experience Canada
You can check your eligibility for IEC online. If you already have an IRCC account, you can sign in and select “International Experience Canada” to check if you’re eligible. If you don’t have an account yet, you can proceed without signing in. Fill out the questionnaire to see if you qualify for any of the IEC pools. You’ll need to answer questions about your country of citizenship and permanent residence, where you currently reside, whether you are a student, and if you have a Canadian job offer.
If you check your eligibility without signing in to your IRCC account, write down the personal reference code you receive at the end of the questionnaire.
Step 2: Create and submit an online IEC profile
If you weren’t signed in when you checked your eligibility, create an IRCC account and enter the personal reference code you received at the end of Step 1. If you were signed in and received a positive response, fill out the rest of your IEC profile and submit it directly. You’ll need to provide additional personal information, such as your name, date and place of birth, contact information, and passport details.
When your profile is complete, IRCC will tell you which IEC pools are available to you, and you can submit your profile to one or more of these pools. You have 60 days to complete and submit your IEC profile.
Step 3: Wait to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA)
After submission, your profile is placed in the IEC candidate pool(s) and may stay there for several months. Use this time to gather the documents you’ll need later on for your work permit application.
If you apply for the Young Professionals or International Co-op category, your employer must pay a $230 CAD employer compliance fee and submit your job offer through the IRCC employer portal. You won’t be able to apply for a work permit until your employer completes these steps.
Submitting an IEC profile does not guarantee that you’ll receive a work permit for Canada. You can only apply for a work permit with IEC after you receive an Invitation to Apply.
If your IEC profile is selected, you’ll receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for a work permit. You will have 10 days to accept or decline the ITA. If you accept, you’ll have another 20 days to complete and submit your work permit application.
Fill out the online form
Answer all the required questions accurately and provide details about your background, education, and work experience. If you’re applying for the Young Professionals or International Co-op category, enter the seven-digit offer of employment number that your employer shared with you into the form.
Upload essential documents
Once your application is complete, you’ll receive a personalized document checklist with information about the supporting documents you need to provide. Follow the instructions to upload digital copies of your documents and sign them electronically.
You may be asked to submit your family information, curriculum vitae or resume, police certificates, passport details, job offer (if applicable), or a digital photograph, along with other documents, to support the information in your IEC profile. For the International Co-op category, you also need proof of school registration and proof that the internship aligns with your field of study.
If you recently lived in certain countries for over six months or if you plan to work in healthcare, education, child or elder care, you may also need to undergo a medical exam.
If you’re unable to get a police certificate or medical exam within the 20-day window to submit your work permit application, you can temporarily submit proof that you’ve requested a police certificate or booked an appointment for a medical test.
Pay the fees and submit your application
Use the fee payment tool to review the application cost for the category you’re applying to and pay your fees. Pay all applicable fees, including the biometric and open work permit holder fee, if required. Double-check your application to ensure you haven’t missed any necessary documents and that all your digital copies are legible before you hit “submit.”
Await further instructions
After you submit your application, IRCC will review it for completeness and confirm your eligibility to work in Canada. If you’re eligible, you will receive a message in your IRCC account with instructions on the next steps. You may need to submit your biometrics, provide additional documents, or attend an interview with a visa officer.
After your work permit application is approved
Once your work permit application is approved, you’ll receive a port of entry letter of introduction. This is not your work permit, nor does it guarantee entry into Canada. You must show this letter to the border official while entering Canada to receive a work permit.
If you require a visa or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to enter Canada, it will be issued along with your work permit. Before you arrive, you also need to purchase health insurance for the duration of your stay.
Unlike the other two IEC categories, you don’t need a job offer to apply for a Working Holiday Visa for Canada. If you qualify, you can apply for an open work permit that allows you to work for any eligible employer in Canada. You are also allowed to change jobs, relocate to another province or territory, or look for employment while you travel in Canada.
Since you don’t necessarily require a job offer to apply for a Working Holiday Visa, you should enter the following information in your work permit application:
- In the offer of employment number field, type “A9999999.”
- For the question “Has your employer paid the Employer Compliance fee?,” select “No.”
- In the employer address field, type “Non-applicable – Working Holiday.”
When you receive an invitation to apply for a work permit under International Experience Canada, you have the option of accepting or declining it. Declining an ITA will not impact your chances of being reselected at a later date. Your profile will stay in the IEC pool until the end of the IEC season or until you receive another ITA, provided you still meet other eligibility requirements.
If you’ve applied to more than one IEC category and are confident about securing admission into your preferred category instead of the one you received an ITA for, you may want to decline the ITA.
If you aren’t ready to apply for a work permit within the given timeline or are missing essential documentation, declining an ITA might be a better option as it will allow you to stay in the pool longer. On the other hand, accepting an ITA and then being unable to complete your work permit application will result in disqualification from the IEC pool.
Applicants who receive an ITA must pay an International Experience Canada participation fee of $156 CAD while submitting their work permit application. If you’re required to give biometrics, you need to pay an additional $85 CAD per applicant along with your other fees.
If you apply for the Working Holiday Visa category, you also need to pay an open work permit holder fee of $100 CAD. Young Professionals and International Co-op category applicants don’t need to pay this fee, but their employers must pay the employer compliance fee.
The application fees do not include courier charges, fees charged by the registered organization (if any), the cost of medical exams, travel, or your living expenses in Canada. Use our cost of living in Canada calculator to estimate your monthly living expenses and budget accordingly.
A work permit is a temporary residence permit and you can only stay in Canada until it expires. However, it allows you to gain Canadian work experience and can help you improve your chances of qualifying for permanent residence later on.
The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) immigration program allows individuals with one year or more of Canadian work experience to apply for PR. In addition, Express Entry programs, such as the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program and Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), and many Provincial Nominee Programs grant applicants additional Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points for Canadian experience or education.
For foreign nationals who want to experience life in Canada and work here for a few years before they decide whether to move to Canada permanently, the International Experience Canada program can be a great starting point.