Canada is a popular travel destination for foreign residents who want to experience the country’s natural beauty and friendly culture. If you’re a young person looking for an adventure abroad, a Working Holiday Visa is an excellent way to explore Canada’s diverse landscape and multiculturalism, while also earning money to fund your travel.
The Canadian Working Holiday Visa program is available to youth from 35 countries, giving them an opportunity to live and work in Canada for up to two years. In this article, we provide in-depth information on how to apply for a Working Holiday Visa for Canada, including who is eligible and how you can get an open work permit under this program.
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What is a Working Holiday Visa?
The Working Holiday Visa is part of the International Experience Canada (IEC) program, which gives youth from selected countries a chance to live, travel, and work in Canada for up to two years.
Also known as programme vacances-travail (PVT), the Working Holiday Visa is very popular among young people aged 18 to 35 years who want to earn money while travelling across Canada.
Applicants approved for a Working Holiday Visa receive an open work permit that allows them to work for any eligible employer in Canada at any location in the country. Moreover, Working Holiday Visa holders don’t require a job offer to qualify for the program, and can instead look for jobs after arriving in Canada. Also, Canadian employers don’t need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to hire candidates with open work permits, which makes the job search process easier for Working Holiday Visa holders.
Which countries have a Working Holiday Visa agreement with Canada?
Citizens of 35 countries are eligible for the Working Holiday Visa program, as part of bilateral Youth Mobility agreements with Canada. Some of the participating countries include Australia, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. You can find the full list of eligible countries on the government website.
Who is eligible for a Working Holiday Visa?
You may be eligible for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa if you meet all of the following criteria:
- You’re a citizen of one of the 35 countries that participate in the program
- You’re 18 to 35 years of age (some countries have a maximum age limit of 29 or 30)
- You want to work for one or more Canadian employers in more than one location
- You don’t have a Canadian job offer
- You want to earn money to fund your travel and stay in Canada.
Other visa categories under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program
The Working Holiday Visa is only one of the work and travel experiences available under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program. There are two additional experience categories available under this program. You may be eligible to submit your profile for more than one category pool to increase your chances of qualifying.
To be eligible for the Young Professionals (YP) category, you must have a Canadian job offer that will help in your professional development. Selected applicants under the YP category receive an employer-specific work permit and must continue to work for the same employer for the duration of their stay in Canada.
International Co-op (Internship)
Students who are studying at foreign universities or colleges may be eligible for the International Co-op IEC category if they have an internship or co-op job offer from an employer in Canada and need to complete a work placement as part of their study program. If you qualify for this category, you’ll receive an employer-specific work permit and can only work for one Canadian employer during your stay in Canada.
How to apply for a Working Holiday Visa in Canada
If you’re planning to apply for a Working Holiday Visa to Canada, here’s a step-by-step overview of the application process:
Understand how IEC pools work
International Experience Canada is a seasonal program, and each year, quotas are set for each country and category. For example, in the 2023 IEC season, France has a quota of 7,000 for Working Holiday Visa, 2,200 for Young Professionals, and 4,250 for International Co-op. The quota depicts the target number of work permit applications that will be accepted under each category. However, in some cases, Invitations to Apply (ITAs) may be issued over and above the quota for the season.
There may be several rounds of invitation per category per country. Shortlisted candidates are invited to apply for a work permit that allows them to work in Canada.
If eligible, you can submit your profile to more than one IEC category. However, you can only create one profile. Your profile will stay in the pool until the end of the season, until you get an ITA, or until you’re no longer eligible (whichever comes first).
Become an IEC candidate
Create an IRCC account
Before you apply, you’ll need to create an account on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.
Check if you meet eligibility requirements for IEC
Find out if you’re eligible for the IEC program by filling out the online questionnaire. If you’ve already created an IRCC account, you can access the questionnaire by signing into your account and selecting “International Experience Canada”.
The questionnaire takes 10 minutes and you’ll need to provide basic information about your country of citizenship, country of permanent residence, country of residence, student status, and job offer (if this applies to you).
Complete your online IEC profile
If you were signed in to your IRCC account when you checked your eligibility, that information is automatically entered into your IEC profile. However, if you completed the questionnaire without signing in, use the personal reference code you received at the end of the questionnaire to pre-fill part of your profile.
You can then complete your International Experience Canada profile with additional information to verify your identity and contact details. You have 60 days to complete and submit your IEC profile.
Submit your IEC profile
Once your profile is complete, you’ll receive details about the IEC pools available (Working Holiday Visa, Young Professionals, or International Co-op) to you. You can choose to enter your profile into more than one pool to maximize your chances of qualifying for a visa. The schedule section on the IRCC website will give you insight into your chances of receiving an ITA in the next round.
Wait for an Invitation to Apply (ITA)
There may be multiple rounds of invitation for different IEC categories, depending on the country you’ve applied from. If you’re selected under any of the categories, you’ll receive an Invitation to Apply for a work permit.
Rounds of invitations are conducted separately for each country, and invites are issued for the International Co-op category first, followed by the Young Professionals category. Working Holiday Visa ITAs are issued last. This means if you qualify for the Young Professionals and Working Holiday Visa category (and there are spots left in both), you’ll receive an ITA for Young Professionals first, which you can accept or reject. If there are no spots left in other categories you’re eligible for, you may receive only a Working Holiday Visa category ITA.
Apply for a work permit under Working Holiday Visa
An Invitation to Apply is not a work permit, and it does not allow you to come to Canada. Once you receive an ITA, you must apply for a work permit, pay the application fee, and get a port of entry letter of introduction. Here’s an overview of the work permit application process under the Working Holiday Visa category of IEC:
Accept your ITA
Once you get an ITA, you have 10 days to accept (or reject) it. If you accept, you have 20 more days to apply for a work permit. To accept an ITA, go to the “Continue my profile/application” section in your account, find the Work permit application, and click “Start application”.
If you don’t respond to the ITA (accept or reject) within the stipulated time, your invitation will expire and you’ll need to create a fresh IEC profile (if you’re still eligible) to reapply. However, if you reject an ITA, your profile will remain in the pool to be considered for future invitation rounds. For instance, if you’re more interested in the Working Holiday Visa category but receive an ITA under Young Professionals, you can reject it and wait for a Working Holiday Visa ITA. Bear in mind that you’ll only receive an ITA if there are still open spots left in your category.
Gather essential documents
Since you only have 20 days to submit your work permit application, it’s advisable to start gathering your documents as soon as you’re accepted into the Working Holiday Visa pool. Typically, you’ll need your passport, proof of residency, police clearance certificate, resume, medical test results, and photograph. You may also need to show that you have enough funds for your travel, and either a return flight ticket or money to purchase one.
Submit your work permit application
Sign in to your IRCC account and continue your work permit application. Fill out the application form and upload all the necessary documents.
In the section about your offer of employment, type “A9999999” in the offer of employment number field. For the question, “Has your employer paid the Employer Compliance fee?”, select No. Type “Non-applicable – Working Holiday” in the employer address fields. Pay the work permit fee before submitting the application.
Receive your port of entry letter of introduction
If your application is approved, you’ll get a port of entry letter of introduction, which you must show to the border official when you enter Canada to get your work permit. A letter of introduction does not guarantee that you’ll receive a work permit, and the decision will be made by the border officer after checking your documents and interviewing you.
How long can you stay in Canada on a Working Holiday Visa?
Your Working Holiday Visa may be valid for up to 12 or 24 months, depending on your country of citizenship. However, the length of your work permit may also vary depending on other factors, such as the remaining validity of your passport, your health insurance coverage, and more.
Some countries allow youth to participate in the International Experience Canada (IEC) program twice, but usually under different categories.
What is the processing fee for a Working Holiday Visa for Canada?
The total processing fee for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa is $346 CAD. This includes a $161 IEC fee, a $100 open work permit fee, and an $85 biometric fee. However, there may be additional costs you need to account for, such as the cost of travel documents, photocopies, courier and delivery charges, and more.
Do you need proof of funds to apply for a Working Holiday Visa for Canada?
You’ll be asked to demonstrate that you have at least $2,500 CAD to cover your expenses during your stay in Canada (citizens of some countries may have to show more funds). However, the cost of living in Canada can be quite high and it can take some time to find employment, so it’s best to bring enough money to cover your living and travel costs for at least four to six months. You can use Arrive’s cost of living calculator to estimate your monthly expenses in a particular Canadian city.
In addition, you’ll have to show that you either already have a return flight ticket or have enough funds to buy one before your work permit expires.
What is the processing time for a Working Holiday Visa for Canada?
Once you’ve submitted your documents, it will take around five weeks for your Working Holiday Visa application to be processed. This typically doesn’t include the time it takes to submit your biometrics. However, processing times may change depending on seasonality, total application volume, and other factors, so please check the government’s website for up-to-date information.
Can you bring your family to Canada on a Working Holiday Visa?
Unfortunately, your family cannot accompany you to Canada based on your Working Holiday Visa. If you wish to bring your spouse, common-law partner, or dependent children to Canada with you, they will need to separately qualify for a visitor visa, study permit or work permit.
Do I need health insurance to apply for a Working Holiday Visa for Canada?
As a Working Holiday Visa holder, you must purchase health insurance for the entire duration of your work permit before arriving in Canada. You may be asked for proof of your health insurance when you enter the country, and if your insurance is inadequate, your visa may be rejected or you may be given a shorter work permit. For instance, if your health insurance is valid for six months, you may be granted a six-month visa, even if you would otherwise be eligible for a two-year visa.
To be considered valid and sufficient, your health insurance must cover medical care, hospitalization, as well as repatriation. Although the IRCC does not specify a minimum coverage amount, it’s best to purchase adequate health coverage to avoid unforeseen emergency expenses.
Can I apply for PR after staying in Canada on a Working Holiday Visa?
Having experienced the beauty and diversity of Canada, many Working Holiday Visa holders choose to settle in Canada for good. Depending on how much Canadian work experience you gather during your time in Canada, your Working Holiday Visa can make it easier for you to qualify for permanent residence (PR) programs later.
Immigration pathways such as Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) or the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program under Express Entry award applicants extra Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points for Canadian experience. If you have at least one year of Canadian work experience in a managerial, professional, or technical trade job (NOC TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3), you may also qualify for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program.
The Working Holiday Visa or programme vacances-travail is a popular way for young people from 30-plus countries to visit, travel, and work in Canada. With a Working Holiday work permit, you’ll have the freedom to travel across Canada while also earning an income to sustain your travels. Moreover, if you happen to fall in love with Canada as you explore everything the country has to offer, your Canadian work experience will make it easier for you to qualify for PR.