Step-By-Step Guide to IEC Canada Work Permits — International Co-op, Young Professionals and Working Holiday Applications

Chapter 1: Introduction

Published: 19-12-2022



The International Experience Canada 2023 season is now open and the 1st round of invitations will on January 9th, 2023!

Does the prospect of working in a downtown Toronto office tower or remote Alberta ski resort sound fun to you? Interested in adding Canadian work experience to your resume?

Good news—it may be easier than you think. You’ve probably heard that getting a work visa is complicated, especially if you’re young and don’t have much experience. Well, allow us to introduce you to International Experience Canada (IEC), a program that gives 18-to-35-year-old travellers the opportunity to work in Canada for a certain period of time. Citizens from a number of countries are eligible and the process is fairly straightforward.

The main purpose of this guide is to give you a complete overview of the IEC work permit application process and help you through it—we’ve even included screenshots to explain every single step.

This guide tackles the three IEC categories—Working-Holiday, Young Professionals and International Co-op Internship. The general process is quite similar and we give you heads-up when something applies to one category but not the others (e.g. supporting documents to provide, etc.).

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The three IEC work permit categories

Depending on your country of citizenship, you could be eligible to apply in one, two or three of these categories:

  • Working Holiday: This extremely popular, flexible open work permit allows you to travel and work in Canada for 12 months (and up to 24 months depending on your country of citizenship). An open work permit isn’t job-specific, which means you can work for any employer anywhere in Canada. Unlike most work visas, you don’t even need a job offer before applying for a Working Holiday permit. (Dozens of countries signed bilateral Working Holiday program agreements to allow young travellers to explore different countries and work to supplement their funds. Read more…)
  • Young Professionals: This work permit is a great opportunity to gain relevant professional experience in Canada. You must first find an employer in your field in Canada and get a formal offer of employment. Depending on your country of citizenship, you could be allowed to work in Canada for 6-24 months.
  • International Co-op Internship: This work permit gives students the opportunity to complete a paid or unpaid—a work permit is required in both cases—internship in Canada. Students could stay in Canada for 6-12 months, depending on their country of citizens.

Interested? The first step is to check your eligibility for an IEC permit. Go to IEC eligibility, then select your country of citizenship and category.

Note that this guide is intended for all English-speaking applicants, so pay attention to the fine print that might apply for your country of citizenship. For official, up-to-date info, your reference should always be the Government of Canada—we don’t make the rules, we’re just here to explain them to you!

The five steps of an IEC work permit application

Step 1: If you don’t already have have an account with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), create it using a GCKey user ID (Government of Canada login) and a password. The process is straightforward and only takes a minute. See sections 2 and 3 of this guide for more details.

Step 2: Once your account is set up, you can apply in one or more categories of your choice. When you apply, you enter a “pool” as a “candidate.” See sections 4-10 for more details.

Step 3: Candidates in the Young Professionals or International Coop-op Internship category should receive an invitation during the next (or one of the next) “round of invitations” as long as there are spots available. There are rounds of invitations sent out about once a week. For Working Holiday applicants, things are a little trickier. As there are often more candidates than spots available in this category, the Government of Canada has to “randomly select candidates from within the pool and invite them to apply for a work permit.” That means you might have to wait for several months before receiving an “Invitation to Apply”—if you receive one at all. See sections 11-13 for more details.

Step 4: After you receive an “Invitation to Apply,” you have to accept it and formally apply for the IEC permit (i.e. submit the application, supporting documents and pay the fee). You have 10 days to accept or decline an Invitation to Apply. If you accept an Invitation to Apply, you will have 20 days to submit your application online—time is of the essence! See chapters 14-28 on completing this process.


Step 5: Submitting biometrics is now required for IEC applicants and can only be done at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) or SCO (in Canada). From the date you receive the request for biometrics, you have 30 days to complete them and upload your receipt. See section 25 for more details on this new requirement.

Now let’s get started!

Starting the application process — two options

You have two options to start your application—using the Come to Canada online tool or creating an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada account directly.

Both options are perfectly fine! Choose the one that works for you, it won’t make a difference in the application process.

Option 1 — Using the Come to Canada tool

If you don’t have an account with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada yet, you can start your IEC work permit application with the Come to Canada online tool.

After answering a few questions regarding your plans in Canada and providing some basic info, you will get a “personal reference code.” Write it down, you will need it in a second! Now, create an account with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Enter your personal reference code and ta da! No need to re-enter your info, the answers you provided in the Come to Canada  tool are now part of your immigration account.

Let’s start with the application. Select “IEC—Travel and Work.” Yes, you probably want to “visit” Canada and “work” here but trust us, you have to choose “IEC — Travel and Work” at this stage.


Option 2 — Creating an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada account directly

If you already have an Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada account, log in and click “Start an application” on the homepage. On the next page, select “International Experience Canada.” Tick “I do not have a personal reference code” and answer the questions detailed in section 4 of this guide. You won’t get a personal reference code and it’s okay, you won’t need it—you’ll complete your profile directly in your Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada account.

Let’s start your application! The first question is a bit different than in option 1. Since you’ve already selected International Experience Canada, you won’t be asked what you would like to do in Canada.


Ready to proceed with your application and to follow the guide step by step?

  • If you choose option 1, read section 4 on “Come to Canada” tool questions before reading chapter 3 to create an account.
  • If you decide to go for option 2, follow the steps one by one from here.
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