Are you thinking about applying for your Canadian IEC permit? If so, the good news is the application process can be straightforward, as long as you familiarise yourself with the official Government of Canada instructions. Our own step-by-step guide will also help you through each stage and take the stress out of planning, giving you more time to focus on the exciting opportunities ahead.

But despite all the helpful information available at the click of a button, we still see IEC applicants making common mistakes every year. If mistakes are too numerous or serious, they could even lead to your application being refused, so read on to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

1. Thinking that entering the pool means a guaranteed application

Don’t fall at the first hurdle and confuse putting your name in the IEC pool(s) as meaning a confirmed application. Until you are selected from the pool and receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA), you have not been accepted for an IEC permit!

Unless you are a lucky Australian (with an unlimited quota in the pool), you may find the number of people in the pool for your country is higher than the number of IEC spots available. This means you might have to wait a while to be invited or you might not receive an invitation at all.

Do not commit to any plans—booking flights, applying for housing or work—while you are still waiting to be selected for an ITA; otherwise, you might find yourself having to cancel! It also pays to put your name into the pool as early in the season as possible, so your profile has more chances of being drawn in the random selection.

2. Leaving gaps in your work and education history

Assuming you have now been offered and accepted your ITA, you’ll want to avoid making any errors on your application form. Once it’s submitted, you can’t change the answers you supply and you will have to withdraw your profile and start from scratch.

We cover this in more detail in our step-by-step guide but one of the most common mistakes people can make is not filling out their work and education history completely. This is also true for the resume you have to upload in the supporting documents section (more on supporting docs below). Any gaps, regardless of the reason (unemployed, backpacking, hospital stay, volunteering, etc.), must be declared.

IEC applicants who fail to provide sufficient explanation for gaps in their work and study history get hit with the IMM5257 form. The good news is this is not a refusal… The bad news is the IMM5257 form may ask you to detail your whereabouts from as far back as your 18th birthday. Yes, including short holidays and weekends away! If this doesn’t sound like fun to you (and rightly so), make sure you have fully accounted for any gaps on both your application form and resume.

3. Not merging your documents

When supplying your supporting documents, be aware that there is only space for one document to be uploaded under each type of form (police certificates, proof of medical, etc.) Sometimes you will need to supply multiple documents, e.g. anyone who has lived for more than six months in VIC or QLD, Australia, must provide traffic history as well as a police certificate.

If you try to upload these as individual documents, the second upload will override and delete the first upload; the third upload will delete the second, and so on! You will need to merge your documents into one PDF to upload them correctly into the given space—follow our tips here for how to merge your documents.

4. Not realising you might have to travel for biometrics and medical exams

Sorry to break it to you but biometrics is a mandatory part of the IEC application process. Even if you don’t live near a Visa Application Centre (VAC), you will be expected to make your way to one within 30 days of receiving your biometrics invitation letter (BIL). This may mean travelling across the country or even to another country (for example, people living in the North of England often find it cheaper to fly to Dublin than to visit London, the only VAC centre in England). It may mean booking time off work.

Medical exams are not required for every single IEC applicant, only for those who meet one of these criteria:

  • You stated you want to work with children, in healthcare or as a caregiver in Canada.
  • You recently lived in one or more countries Canada designated as having risk factors for tuberculosis.
  • You or someone in your family has or had TB.
  • You have a physical or mental condition requiring ongoing treatment in Canada.

If this applies to you, you’ll be expected to book a medical exam before your 20-day window of completing the application form. The same rules apply—you cannot skip this part of the process if the timing or locations are inconvenient.

5. Expecting to be granted an extension

Following on from the above point, each year we see applicants ask for—and get denied—an extension. Maybe they ran out of time to complete the application or to apply for supporting documents. Maybe they already completed the application process but can no longer enter Canada within the 12-month expiry date on the POE Letter of Introduction. The truth is that immigration is tough and it is very rare that any government will grant extensions on deadlines, regardless of why you think you might deserve one.

Depending on what you want the extension for, you have the following options:

  • While you can’t ask for more time to fill out the form, you can be strategic with the deadlines. You get 10 days to accept or decline the ITA, so if you wait until around day eight to accept, you have bought yourself an extra week to work on gathering the docs you’ll need to submit! Just don’t wait until the last day (you never know if the website will go down…) and don’t get confused with the time difference—your deadline will be in coordinated universal time (UTC).
  • If you need more time to gather supporting documents, you can upload proof that you have started the process, e.g. proof of payment for a police check or proof of booking for a medical exam appointment. The application form will open up a slot for you to upload your final evidence once you have it to hand, or you can use the web form.
  • If you still want to activate your permit, you can fly to Canada before the POE expiry date, activate your permit, come home and then return when you are ready. You are allowed to come and go as much as you want on an IEC permit. Note that any time you are away from Canada will still count towards the total number of months you are entitled to. So, if you have been issued a 12-month permit and spend the first month at home after activating your permit, you will only have 11 months left when you return to Canada. This option is good for those who would rather lose a bit of time than the chance to participate entirely, e.g. if you have reached the maximum age of participation and won’t be eligible to apply again for future seasons.
  • If you really can’t make it to Canada within 12 months of your POE expiry date, let it expire and apply again in future. Your fees won’t be refunded so it can be a costly option, but you can reuse the biometrics you completed on your original application.

6. Uploading supporting documents but failing to actually hit submit

Sadly, this is a common mistake that can lead to an application refusal. If the spot opens up in your application to add further supporting documents (such as police check results after you initially uploaded proof of payment), you must make sure you actually submit them!

If you upload the requested document(s) but don’t click “Next” and “Submit” to complete the process, the Government of Canada will reject your application based on failure to supply the required information. If this has happened to you, the good news is you can apply again, and your payments (apart from biometrics) will be refunded to you.

7. Not buying the right insurance

This one’s a biggie. Health insurance is a mandatory part of the IEC process—if you don’t purchase coverage that lasts for the duration of your stay in Canada and covers medical care, hospitalisation and repatriation, you risk being denied your permit at the border. Basic travel insurance won’t have the correct medical cover, so you have to specifically look for IEC coverage. Month-to-month subscriptions are also not accepted.

We can’t emphasise this enough: your policy must last for as long as you plan to stay in Canada. Your permit will only be issued for the length of your insurance, regardless of how long you were entitled to stay in Canada. If you are entitled to a 24-month permit but arrive with 12 months of insurance, you could be issued a 12-month permit and lose out on another year in Canada. You cannot apply for an extension or renewal or buy another policy after the mistake has been made. Unless you are 100% sure you don’t want to stay in Canada for the full duration of an IEC permit, don’t risk buying a shorter insurance policy.

8. Not getting a new eTA if you change or renew your passport

Generally speaking, IEC applicants will not need to apply for a separate Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA), as your POE letter will be attached to an eTA. However, if you have changed your details from the passport used in your application, you will need a new eTA linked to your new passport. Every year, some applicants miss this important step and are denied boarding because of an invalid eTA.

Note that this will not impact your IEC permit’s validity in any way, so don’t panic. But the price of a second last-minute flight could be extortionate and the CA$7 for the eTA application is very reasonable, so it’s not worth making this costly mistake!

9. Not booking the right layovers

It’s important to remember that when you’re ready to activate your IEC permit, you have to do this at the first port of entry into Canada. If your end destination is Calgary but you layover in Toronto, your first entry into Canada is Toronto and you must therefore activate your permit during your layover.

We always advise leaving enough time in your layover to queue up and go through the immigration process before boarding the next flight. If your flight route offers a short layover between Canadian cities, i.e. less than three hours, don’t risk booking this option, as you could well miss your second flight.

We also warn that it’s a risky move to book a layover in the US before your onward journey to Canada. (Once you’ve activated your IEC permit, you can come and go as much as you like). This is because the US may ask to see proof of a return or onward ticket out of North America (which includes Canada!) within 90 days of your arrival before you are considered residents of Canada (by activating your permit).

At the start of your IEC permit, it’s likely that you don’t plan on leaving North America within 90 days, so you may not have a return ticket. If you are asked to provide proof of your onward journey and don’t have a ticket to show, you could be denied entry or from getting on your flight.

10. Not checking your permit for mistakes

Phew! You’ve finally made it into Canada and activated your IEC permit. The one final mistake you can make at this stage is to leave the airport without checking the work permit you were provided. The individual officer might not be clued up on the specific rules for your country and issue your permit for six months when you were entitled to 12 months. Or they might have mistakenly added work conditions when you’d taken the medical exam to have them removed.

Any number of mistakes could happen during permit issuance, and it’s much easier to get it fixed then and there at the airport. If you leave and discover errors later down the line, it will be a lengthier and more stressful process applying to get this fixed. Some IEC applicants have had to go back to a border crossing and flagpole to get an issue corrected.

So, even if you’re jet lagged and raring to go, it will save you a lot of hassle to spend the extra time upon arrival reading the details carefully.


I'm originally from Buckinghamshire, UK and love to travel. I've previously completed WHVs in New Zealand and Australia. In 2024, I am embarking on a new adventure to start my Canadian WHV!

Je suis originaire de Buckinghamshire, Royaume-Uni, et j’adore voyager. J’ai déjà complété un PVT en Nouvelle-Zélande et en Australie. En 2024, je pars pour une nouvelle aventure au Canada en PVT!

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(1) Comment

Mathieu I |

Thank you Aiyana for all your tips!