Backpacker Job Board: Canada

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Our complete guide to working holidays in Canada

If you're considering moving to Canada temporarily, the IEC (International Experience Canada) working holiday visa may be the ideal option for you. Whether you’re planning to spend skiing season working in the snow or you’d like to work abroad in a new and exciting location, Canada is a top choice for international work.

We’ve covered all you need to know in our guide to help you complete your application, understand the process, and successfully achieve your final goal. Using the latest guidelines and information, we’ve provided everything necessary to apply once the next pool opens. Read on now to find out more:

What is the International Experience Canada visa program?

Before we get into the details of the IEC visa specifically, it's worth taking a look at Canada's different visa programs. Currently, three different travel and work experiences are offered to international individuals. However, not every country will have access to all three visa programs. So it's essential to check if one, two or all three are available under your specific citizenship.

The three programs are as follows:

1. Working holiday

We cover working holiday visas extensively in this guide. These visas are used as a form of open work permit, allowing you to travel to Canada and find temporary work. Often, seasonal or short-term positions fall under working holiday visas, allowing you to change employers or travel across the country during your time in Canada.

2. Young professionals

If you have a specific job offer in Canada or transfer to Canada while working for an international employer, the young professionals visa may apply. This allows individuals with careers to gain work experience in Canada, which benefits the country by enhancing the global economy. However, this visa is tied to a specific employer, meaning you need to remain employed by them to stay in Canada.

3. International co-op

The other international employer-specific work permit, international co-op, refers to internship and student opportunities within Canada. Any internships under international co-op visas must be directly related to your field of education or study.

Current covid restrictions

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, all IEC visa programs were shut temporarily. For 2021, a select few IEC pools will be opening, allowing limited countries access to working holiday visas. Currently, you must already have a valid job offer in place to travel to Canada, and a quarantine period is required upon arrival.

With global regulations and limitations currently changing, it’s worth checking the Government of Canada website directly to stay up-to-date on the latest information.

Who can apply?

One of the primary factors that determine whether you can apply for a working holiday visa to Canada is your age, as well as your citizenship (which we cover in more detail below). Canada’s IEC programs are referred to as ‘youth mobility schemes’ for a reason. They are designed for younger generations to gain work experience, travel the country, and support the global economy.

While application age may vary from place to place, as a rule, the age of eligibility is between 18 years old and 35 years old. Canada's IEC working visas are also a one-time program. So if you've been part of their working visa program before, you won't be able to apply again. Canadian immigration law also means you’re very unlikely to be able to even enter Canada with a criminal conviction or record, and the same applies to working visas.

Which countries’ citizens are eligible?

Many countries around the world are part of the International Experience Canada program. For a complete list, you can take a look at the Canadian Government's website, which includes currently eligible countries as well as which IECs you can apply for. Some of the 35 current countries included on the eligibility list are Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, South Korea and France.

How do IEC visas change depending on your citizenship?

While many of the basic entry requirements for IEC visas remain the same across countries, there are a few changes you’ll want to know about. First, the validity length of the visa itself may vary based on your specific citizenships, with some countries getting 24 months, some getting 12, and a select few getting 6 months in total. Second, your requirements for documentation may change depending on the country you're applying from. For example, in Australia, you will need to provide police certificates in addition to other documentation.

How to apply for an International Experience Canada visa

Have you decided that signing up for a Working Holiday Canada visa is the right choice for you? The next stage is completing your application and entering the pool you're eligible for based on your circumstances and citizenship. Here's how the process goes:

Eligibility questionnaire

The Come to Canada questionnaire is the first thing you'll need to pass to ensure you're eligible to continue into a working visa program. Eligibility requirements will vary from place to place, but you must be honest and open with all the answers you provide. This questionnaire takes around 10-15 minutes to complete and will tell you if you're eligible to continue to profile creation to enter the pool once it is open.

Profile creation

If you pass the eligibility questionnaire, you'll be provided with a personal reference code. You can then use this code to create an account and put together your profile ready for application. You must submit your profile within 60 days of beginning the process, and you’ll be required to answer basic personal and contact information as part of your profile. Once you’re happy with all the information and you've validated the details, you can submit your profile to the relevant pool. Submission is free, and your profile will remain in the pool for the year following.

Candidate selection

Next comes the tricky part – waiting for an invite. With random choice used to decide upon applicants, there's no way to tell when or if your submission will be successful. For particularly high-demand programs, you may not receive an invite at all. During this wait, you may want to look at any other things you need to do if you are invited. This may include getting a complete medical exam and sourcing police certificates ready for the next step.

Acceptance of invite

If you're selected to enter the IEC program, your invite will be delivered directly into your MyCIC inbox. You must accept your invite within 10 days of receipt, or you’ll be unable to continue. If you still need to organise police certificates or a medical exam, sort it immediately – try not to leave your invite hanging around until the 9th or 10th day, just in case.

Work permit applications

Following acceptance, you’ll then get 20 days to fill out your complete work permit application. At this point, you’ll need to provide more details about your personal information, citizenship, work history and education. MyCIC will request certain documents and forms to be included in your application, depending on what you enter. These could include:

Once all information is completed and submitted, you can then complete payment and move on to the final approvals stage.

Final confirmation and biometrics

Once you've completed your work permit, the final thing is to attend a Visa Application Centre to submit biometrics directly. Biometrics has been a required part of the IEC program since 2019. This will be a fingerprint and a photograph, and both must be submitted within 30 days of permit completion.

8 weeks following your submission, you should receive an assessment and notice of success. You’ll then be provided with your Port of Entry (POE) letter through your MyCIC inbox. Make sure you print off your POE and keep a digital copy safe, too. With everything completed, you can now move to Canada at any point in the current calendar year and make the most of your time working in the country.

When can I sign up for a working holiday visa in Canada?

IEC applications are carried out through 'pools', which open and close throughout the year to allow new applicants. We'd always recommend waiting for the next pool to open before considering an application to ensure you get the most amount of time and opportunity to be invited with a Canada working visa.

How much does applying to be part of the IEC program cost?

There are a few costs you'll want to know about before you go ahead with your IEC program application. While submitting yourself to the pool in the first place doesn't cost you anything, there are specific fees you'll need to cover throughout the whole process. These include:

What are the work restrictions with an IEC?

As an open work permit, your Working Holiday visa allows you to work at just about any job in Canada. Some special restrictions may apply where medical exams are required, but if you're able to cover these costs, you're free to work anywhere you want.

What kinds of jobs can I get with IEC?

Technically, you can get any job you want with an IEC for a working holiday. For those looking to travel and enjoy the country, typical jobs include roles in hospitality and tourism. However, you may have more trouble finding temporary work in other fields, as many employers prefer longer-term employment for their staff. Further work can be found in seasonal jobs, such as farming work or working in skiing resorts.

When is ski season in Canada?

The skiing season in Canada can vary depending on the specific part of Canada you happen to be in. Typically, seasonal skiing runs from late November through to late April. However, in some areas, ski season is all year round.

Do I need to pay tax?

Whether you're a resident of the country or on a working holiday visa, you're required to file a tax return and pay any necessary tax to the Canadian Government each tax year. Therefore, it's essential to make sure you file tax returns on time, and you may want to seek the help of a trained accountant to ensure everything is completed to the required standards. Like any resident, you can also claim back overpaid tax on your tax return.

What other visa options are there for Canada?

Outside of the IEC program, there are a few different ways you can get a visa to Canada. For example, temporary access may be granted for those looking to vacation in Canada without working. At the same time, Super visas are typically used for parents and grandparents to come to Canada to be with their children. Other work visas include skilled worker visas, business class immigration, and various trade programs for permanently living in Canada.

Our top tips for your working holiday in Canada

Ready to start your application for your working holiday Canada visa? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get there:

1. Ensure you’re truthful and transparent

The most important thing you can do when filling out your application is to be clear and transparent about everything. If you're unsure of the correct answer, reaching out to Canada’s help service or speaking to a professional is the best place to start.

2. Have all your documentation ready to go

From police certifications to CVs and passports, make sure you have everything collected and ready to go for your invite to avoid losing time later on. You'll also want to make sure any vital documentation remains in date throughout your stay in Canada.

3. Don’t rush – IEC isn’t first come, first serve

While IEC programs were once 'first come, first serve', the pool is picked from entirely at random these days. You don't need to rush to apply on the very first day if you aren't as prepared as you would be a week later.

Have questions about working holiday Canada processes?

If you’re thinking of applying for a working holiday Canada visa, seeking expert advice can make all the difference. Get in touch today to find out more about how to make your working visa application go smoothly.