Working Holiday in Canada

One of the most popular WHV destinations, Canada is seen as a land of opportunities and the perfect country for long, rewarding road trips where you can end up far from civilization or in a vibrant metropolis. Home of two official cultures and language—English and French—it embraces multiculturalism with a laid-back attitude.

Whatever your plans are for Canada, pvtistes.net provides free info and great insider trips!

Working Holiday Permit travel insurance.

We’ve been recommending Globe WHV for nearly 15 years (medical expenses, hospitalization, repatriation…).

Contents

1. Eligibility requirements

2. General Information / FAQ

01. COVID-19 – Canada borders closed to foreigners

On March 16, 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced starting on March 18, 2020, Canada is closing its borders to anyone who is not a citizen or a permanent resident.

This meant that International Experience Canada (IEC) permits holders—Working Holiday, Young Professionals and International Co-op (Internship)—couldn't enter Canada until further notice.

On March 26, 2020, Canada announced that "temporary workers who had made arrangements to come to Canada to work before travel restrictions were put in place" were "authorized to travel to Canada to work". More info...

02. What is International Experience Canada (IEC)?

International Experience Canada (IEC) is a Government of Canada program designed to give 18-35 year-old travellers from around 33 selected countries the opportunity to work in Canada.

There are three IEC work permit categories: Working Holiday permit (often referred to as the “WHP”), Young Professionals and International Co-op (Internship).

Depending on your country of citizenship, you can be eligible for one, two or up to three IEC permits—sometimes even all three of them. For instance, British citizens are only eligible for the Working Holiday permit, Swiss citizens are eligible for the Young Professionals and the International Co-op (Internship) permits only and Australian citizens are eligible for all three IEC permits. More info...

03. What’s the Working Holiday permit to Canada?

The Working Holiday permit (often nicknamed the “WHP“) is an open work permit, which means you can work for one or more employers in Canada and you don’t have to find a job before leaving your country. There are 12- and 24-month Working Holiday permits (depending on your country of citizenship). This is basically a chance to discover Canada and explore the land and culture. For more information, read Introduction to the Canada Working Holiday permit.

Note: Italian citizens are eligible for a six-month Working Holiday permit, with which they have the right to work in Canada. They can extend their stay for another six months but they won’t have the right to work.

The Young Professionals and International Co-op (Internship) permits are employer-specific work permits. You must respect the conditions on your work permit, which include the name of the employer you can work for, how long you can work and the location where you can work (if applicable).

04. Annual Working Holiday permit quota

Every year, the Government of Canada allocates a certain number of permits in each IEC category to each country.

The number of “spots” is reviewed every year and can even change during an ongoing IEC season. There are usually more candidates than permits available, so candidates are selected randomly from a pool.

Note: There’s no quota system in place for Australian citizens—lucky them!

05. When to apply for a Canada Working Holiday permit

International Experience Canada (IEC) seasons usually start mid-fall and end mid-fall the following year. You can apply for an IEC permit anytime during an ongoing season.

For the latest updates on the ongoing 2020 IEC season, read International Experience Canada season – The latest news on IEC permits.

06. Working Holiday permit application process overview

The five steps of a Working Holiday permit application:

Step 1 – Submit your profile to the Working Holiday pool. At this stage, there are no fees to pay. Create an IRCC account, then complete and submit your profile to the Working Holiday pool. You only need to submit your profile once—it will stay in the pool until it’s drawn or until the end of the IEC season.

Step 2 – This step is a waiting game, as you’re keeping your fingers crossed to receive an Invitation to apply (ITA). The Invitation to apply is the key to move onto the next step, i.e. the application for a Working Holiday permit to Canada. Invitations to apply are sent randomly during “rounds of invitations.” Remember that it all comes down to luck, profiles aren’t reviewed based on work experience, skills, etc. If you do not receive an Invitation to apply by the end of the IEC season, you can submit your profile to a pool again the following year. If you do receive an Invitation to apply, you have 10 days to accept it or decline it—if you do accept it, you’re moving onto step 3.

Step 3 – You have 20 days to submit your completed application, provide supporting documents and pay the CA$338 fee after accepting an Invitation to apply. Don’t miss the deadline!

Step 4 – Within 24 hours after submitting your application, you will receive a biometric instruction letter (BIL). You have 30 days to complete this step, which involves going to a visa application centre to have your fingerprints and picture taken.

Step 5 – Up to 8 weeks later (or even much faster!) you will receive a Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction, also called “Correspondence Letter,” “Introduction Letter” or “Introductory Letter.” This is the document you will have to show when you arrive in Canada to have the actual work permit issued. You have 12 months to enter Canada and “activate” your Working Holiday permit after the Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction is issued.

To learn more about the application process, read Step-By-Step Guide to International Experience Canada Work Permits — International Co-op, Young Professionals and Working Holiday Applications.

07. Supporting documents required for a Working Holiday permit application

If your profile is drawn from the pool (congrats!), you will have to provide:

  • A scanned copy of your passport
  • A digital photo of yourself
  • An up-to-date resume (including all work experiences)
  • Family information (using form IMM 5707)

All these documents must be uploaded to your IRCC account and submitted with your application (a checklist is provided).

You may also have to provide:

  • A copy of your national identity document
  • A proof of medical exam performed by an IRCC-approved doctor
  • Police certificate(s)

For more information, read the “Gathering the supporting documents for your application” chapter of the step-by-step application guide.

08. Working Holiday permit fees

Submitting your profile to the pool is free. If your profile is drawn and if you choose to submit your application, you will have to pay the Working Holiday permit fee (CA$338), which includes:

  • CA$153 IEC participation fee
  • CA$100 open work permit holder fee
  • CA$85 biometrics fee

The fee for both the Young Professionals and International Co-op (Internship) permits is CA$238 since you don’t have to pay the CA$100 open work permit holder fee.

09. Avoiding scams and getting official info

The one official source you should use is the Government of Canada website.

You will find an infographic with an overview of the IEC application process as well as details on the various application steps.

The Government of Canada’s help centre provides short and helpful answers to about 60 typical questions about IEC.

Watch for scammy Internet websites that look official but only have one goal in mind—make you pay a lot of money for useless or imaginary services. Some of them won’t hesitate to call you back and threaten you. For more info, read Looking to work or settle in Canada? Watch for immigration scams!

10. Working Holiday permit application processing times

Officially, it can take up to 8 weeks for your work permit application to be reviewed after submitting your biometrics.
However, the process is much faster for many applicants.

11. POE Letter of Introduction and Working Holiday permit validity

You have 12 months to land in Canada after your application is accepted and your POE Letter of Introduction is issued.

If you do not travel to Canada by the deadline, you Working Holiday permit is still considered “used” and you won’t be able to apply for another one (unless you’re eligible for a second Working Holiday permit in Canada).

So, when you apply, make sure you will be able to travel to Canada within the next 12 months!

When you land in Canada, you will be issued a 12- or 24-month Working Holiday permit (depending on your country of citizenship). Make sure you have all the required documents, otherwise the border officer won’t hesitate to issue a shorter Working Holiday permit.

Example: Your POE Letter of Introduction was issued on March 3, 2020. You have until March 2, 2021, to travel to Canada and activate your Working Holiday permit. If you travel to Canada on November 10, 2020, your Working Holiday permit will be valid until November 9, 2021, or until November 9, 2022 (depending on your country of citizenship).

12. Withdrawing an application (before and after submission)

Withdrawing your application BEFORE the POE Letter of Introduction is issued

If you change your mind and withdraw your application before it’s processed and finalized:

  • You’ll free up a spot for another Working Holiday permit candidate in the pool
  • You can get a partial or full refund of the fees you paid (the biometrics fee is not refundable if you’ve already given your biometrics)
  • You will be able to apply for a Working Holiday permit again this IEC season or the next

Withdrawing your application AFTER the POE Letter of Introduction is issued

If you decide to not travel to Canada after your Working Holiday permit application is approved, regardless of the reason and even if you notify IRCC of the change of plans:

  • You used a Working Holiday permit spot
  • You can’t ask for a fee refund
  • You’re considered a Working Holiday permit holder even if you never set foot in Canada

You can’t apply again for the Working Holiday permit (unless you’re eligible for a second Working Holiday permit).

Australian, Irish and French citizens are no longer eligible for the Young Professionals permit either because the IEC agreement with these three countries specify that you can’t get both a Working Holiday and a Young Professionals permit unless you used the first IEC permit before 2013 for Irish citizens or before 2015 for Australian and French citizens.

13. The Working Holiday permit adventure as a couple or family

Regardless of your marital status—married, common-law partners, etc.—each traveller to Canada must submit their own application and they will be processed separately. There’s no such thing as “fiancé visa” or “get one Working Holiday permit and the second one is free.”

However, a spouse or common-law partner may be eligible for an open work permit if the Working Holiday permit holder secures a NOC Skill Type Level 0, A or B job. For more info, read Working Holiday permit to Canada: Travelling as a couple and/or with kids.

14. Travelling outside Canada with a Working Holiday permit

You can enter and leave Canada as many times as you wish while your Working Holiday permit is still valid. However, note that any time spent outside Canada still counts towards the duration of your Working Holiday permit. For instance, if you activate your Working Holiday permit and then spend six months travelling in the US and in Mexico, your Working Holiday permit will still expire six, 12, 23 or 24 months (depending on your country of citizenship) after it was activated.

15. Working Holiday permit conditions

You can work for as many employers and for as long as you wish during your Working Holiday experience. Note that Italian citizens can only work for six months maximum.

If you’re planning to work in healthcare, with children or as a caregiver, you have to take a medical exam. This step should be completed when applying for your Working Holiday permit, otherwise the following condition will be attached: “Not authorized to work in 1) child care 2) primary or secondary school teaching 3) health services field occupations.” If you took a medical exam, this condition is removed.

Note that work permit holders can’t work in strip clubs, massage parlours and escort agencies.

Pro-tip—in Canada, around 20% of professions and trades are regulated, which means you must obtain a Canadian licence to practise or a certificate of qualification. Research opportunities and fine print for your occupation before travelling to Canada to determine if it’s regulated and, if applicable, to go through the regulatory body registration process. For more info, read Degree equivalency – find out what your degree is comparable to in Canada.

16. Studying in Canada with a Working Holiday permit

Working Holiday permit holders can study in Canada for up to six months.

01. Do I need a visa to discover Canada as a tourist?

It depends on your country of citizenship. Use the Government of Canada “Find out if you need a visa” tool to check applicable requirements.

Australian, British, German and Irish citizens (among other nationalities) do not need a visa to enter Canada. If standard requirements are met, your passport will be stamped. Most visitors can stay for up to 6 months in Canada.

As of November 2016, visitors who don’t need a visa to travel to Canada must apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to fly to a Canadian airport.
IEC permit holders—Working Holiday, Young Professionals and International Co-op (Internship) do not need to apply for an eTA because it’s automatically issued with their permit. However, if you travel to Canada with a different passport than the one you use when you applied for your IEC permit (i.e. your passport expired and you renewed it before the trip), then you must apply for an eTA (CA$7) on Canada.ca ONLY (don't get scammed!).

02. Can I work or volunteer in Canada with visitor status?

You must have a valid work permit to work in Canada.

You can apply for two kinds of work permit—an employer-specific work permit or an open work permit.

An employer-specific work permit requires you to find an employer in Canada. You and your future employer must complete a number of steps before the work permit is issued. Once in Canada, you can only work for the employer for the length of time specified, and if applicable, at the location shown on the permit.

Employer-specific work permit examples: International Co-op (Internship), Young Professionals, Temporary Foreign Worker Program and International Mobility Program (outside Quebec).

An open work permit allows you to work for any employer anywhere in Canada and for as long as you want while the permit is valid. You do not have to secure a job offer before going to Canada.

Open work permit examples: Working Holiday permit and spouse or common-law open work permit (also available if your spouse or common-law partner is studying in Canada).

Volunteering in Canada as a visitor may be allowed under certain conditions. For more info, read Volunteering in Canada (WWOOF, HelpX…) – do you need a work permit?

03. Candidate selection and “rounds of invitations”

Candidates for the Working Holiday permit to Canada submit their profile to a pool. Profiles are drawn regularly from the pool during “rounds of invitations”. Candidates drawn from the pool receive an Invitation to apply.

So basically, a “round of invitations” is a random draw because the number of Working Holiday permits is limited.
Note: Australian citizens are not subjected to any Working Holiday quota, the number of spots is not limited unlike for other countries.

You can submit your profile to the pool any time before the last round of invitations of the IEC season. However, the earlier you submit your profile (the IEC season usually opens mid-fall), the higher your chances are to be drawn because you participate in more rounds of invitations.

04. Being a candidate vs. getting a Working Holiday permit

Not all eligible candidates will be issued a Working Holiday permit or even have the chance to submit their application—the number of spots available is usually much lower than the number of candidates.

Since Invitations to apply are sent randomly during rounds of invitations, your profile could be drawn a week, 3 months, 8 months after submitting it to the pool—and there’s also the chance it won’t be drawn at all.

05. Number of rounds per IEC season

The exact number of rounds of invitations isn’t disclosed officially but over the past IEC season, there were several dozen over a period of ten months.

You only need to submit your profile to the pool once. It stays in the pool for the entire IEC season so it can be drawn anytime (there’s one exception, see below).

The pool of candidates is only cleared when the IEC season ends and all the Working Holiday permits are gone.
If you didn’t receive an Invitation to apply, you must wait until the opening of the next IEC season to submit a profile again.

06. Accepting or declining the Invitation to apply

If your profile is drawn from the pool, you have ten days to accept or decline your Invitation to apply (i.e. your chance to submit an application for a Working Holiday permit).
Here are the three possible scenarios:

  • If you accept the Invitation to apply (within 10 days of receiving it), you have another 20 days to complete and submit your Working Holiday permit application.
  • If you decline your Invitation to apply (within 10 of receiving it), your profile goes back into the pool and it could be drawn again later on (declining the Invitation to apply has zero impact on your future chances of getting another one).
  • If you don’t accept or decline your Invitation to apply within 10 days of receiving it, your profile is withdrawn from the pool and if you still want to go to Canada, you have to submit it again.

Check out the infographic in Accept or decline your Invitation to apply for an IEC Working Holiday permit? for a visual reference.

07. Going to Canada as a couple if only one of you was issued a Working Holiday permit

This is always a tricky situation because there’s no such thing as a “fiancé visa” and the spouse or common-law partner who didn’t receive an Invitation to apply doesn’t have any special rights getting an immigration status in Canada.
You could investigate the open work permit option, available under certain circumstances. For more info, read IEC Canada – Spouse or Common-Law Partner Open Work Permit 101.

08. The Working Holiday permit assessment process

Curious to know how the Government of Canada processes your application? Officials must check that you:

09. Most common reasons why a Working Holiday permit can be denied

The problem could be the information you provided, for instance, if the name on your application doesn’t match the name in your passport.

Your application could also be denied if you don’t provide the supporting documents required or don’t follow instructions.

Make sure to double-check all the fields and follow the different steps of the application process.

Don’t forget to log into your IRCC account regularly to see if you received further instructions.

A certain number of legal issues can also make you inadmissible, including DUIs and DWIs.

10. Applying for a Working Holiday from within Canada and “flagpoling”

Technically, you can apply for a Working Holiday permit from within Canada. However, to activate it, you will have to leave Canada and come back (even if only for five minutes!).

Going to the airport won’t do the trick—without an international plane ticket, there’s no access to immigration. Most of the time, backpackers simply cross the land border to the US and come back to Canada (hence the term “flagpoling,” you’re basically going around the flagpole!).

11. Applying for another Working Holiday permit if you never activated the one you got

If you don’t travel to Canada at most 12 months after getting your POE Letter of Introduction (i.e. your Working Holiday permit), it’s still considered that you “used” your Working Holiday permit and you can’t apply for another one again. For more info, check out the infographic in Accept or decline your Invitation to apply for an IEC Working Holiday permit?

There are a few exceptions that make you eligible for a second Working Holiday permit in Canada.

12. Typical budget for a Working Holiday permit holder

The Government of Canada requires all Working Holiday permit holders to start their adventure with at least CA$2,500. Proof of funds is often required when you land in Canada. You can provide a statement from a foreign or Canada institution—yes, you can open a bank account in Canada before your trip, check out special offers with Desjardins or the National Bank of Canada.

So, why would you need savings when you have a work permit and plan to get a job ASAP? Because settling in Canada is expensive—consider that you will have to pay for a short- or long-term accommodation solution, food, transportation, etc. and you may not find a job as quickly as you want.

Note that you aren’t eligible for any kind of financial help in Canada.

Budget your first few weeks in Canada carefully. The minimum amount of CA$2,500 may be okay or may be ridiculously low if you’re aiming for a city with a high cost of living.
To plan your trip and budget, read How expensive is life in Canada? A 2019-2020 cost of living review by province and territory.

And on the practical side, read the chapter “How to carry/transfer money” in Your To-Do List Before Going to Canada.

13. Buying the mandatory health insurance coverage

All IEC permit holders—Working Holiday, Young Professionals and International Co-op (Internship)—must buy health insurance coverage before their trip to Canada. It must include “medical care, hospitalization, and repatriation” and it must be valid for the entire duration of your stay in Canada. For instance, if you want to be issued a 12-month Working Holiday permit, you must buy a 12-month insurance plan. If you buy a six-month plan, you may be issued a six-month work permit and you won’t be able to extend it.

Pvtistes.net recommends Globe WHV, a long-term trusted partner—you can buy a plan for €29.70/month (departing from the European Union) or €53.10/month (departing from a non-European Union country) and they’re super helpful in our forum. More info here!

14. Travelling to Canada with a one-way or a return ticket

You don’t have to buy a return ticket when you have an IEC permit. However, you must show that you have enough money to buy a return ticket at the end of your stay. So add $500 or $1,000 to the minimum required $2,500 (depending on where you live, a London-Toronto ticket is cheaper than a Sydney-Vancouver ticket!).

Travellers with a 24-month Working Holiday permit will find out that it’s technically impossible to book a return date, so most buy a one-way ticket.

Don’t forget to read Get the best airfare deal for tips and tricks to save money even before landing in Canada!

Get benefits with Air Transat! If you travel with this Canadian airline and book through pvtistes.net, IEC permit holders get an extra 23 kg of checked luggage allowance at no extra cost. Check out this special offer!

15. Travelling to Canada with a pet

Taking your cat, dog, exotic bird or ferret to Canada is generally okay but there’s some red tape involving a vet, the airline company and Canadian customs. Note that it may be difficult to find a place to stay for both the short and long term (hostel, Airbnb, apartment, etc.).

For more info, read Importing or Travelling with Domestic Cats, Travelling with your dog and Import rules when travelling with pets.

16. Landing in Canada and presenting all required documents

The landing process is pretty straightforward. In most airports, non-Canadian passport holders will be directed to a primary inspection kiosk, i.e. a self-serve kiosk that reads your passport and confirms your identity.

Then you will be directed to a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) checkpoint—expect a lineup. Have your passport, Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction and Declaration Card (handed out by flight attendants, don’t forget to fill it out before landing!) ready. During this “primary inspection,” the border services officer will examine your Declaration Card and passport, then you’ll be sent to another CBSA booth a few metres further to have your Working Holiday permit activated.

The whole process takes about 30 minutes… or much longer on a busy day at the airport.

You may be asked to show:

  • Your passport
  • Your POE Letter of Introduction
  • Proof of funds, e.g. a bank statement issued no more than one week before your departure for Canada. It must clearly show that you have enough money to support yourself for the first three months of your stay in Canada—the equivalent of $2,500.
  • Proof of health insurance covering medical care, hospitalization and repatriation. Your insurance policy must be valid for the entire duration of your stay in Canada. If your insurance policy is valid for less time than your expected stay in Canada, you may be issued a work permit that expires at the same time as your insurance. We’ve heard of travellers who were issued a three-month or six-month work permit—they can’t be extended or renewed.
  • A return ticket, a proof of onward travel or additional funds (in addition to the mandatory $2,500) to show that you will be able to leave Canada at the end of your stay.

The Government of Canada also recommends bringing original copies of the documents you provided in your work permit application, e.g. Form IMM5707, a copy of your resume, digital picture, and if applicable, proof of medical exam and police certificate.

International Co-op (Internship) permit holders who will be in an unpaid position have to show they have enough funds to cover their living expenses for the entire duration of their stay in Canada.

For all custom issues (“Can I bring this or that?”), check Canadian Food Inspection Agency list (Vegemite is probably okay, durian probably isn’t!).

17. Reviewing your Working Holiday permit once issued at the border

Check your work permit carefully right away and pay attention to the following details:

  • First and last names (spelling)
  • Expiry date
  • Specific conditions attached. If you didn’t take a medical exam, you will see the “Not authorized to work in 1) child care 2) primary or secondary school teaching 3) health services field occupations” condition. If you did submit proof of medical exam, make sure the condition was removed
  • Geographical limitations (make sure you aren’t limited to work in a specific province, Working Holiday permit holders can work anywhere in Canada)

If you think there’s a mistake on your work permit, tell the border services officer—at this stage, it can be corrected easily and quickly.

18. First steps after landing in Canada

Relax, explore, eat poutine or maple syrup… but also try to tackle a few chores like getting your Social Insurance Number (SIN), choosing a cellphone plan, registering with your consulate or embassy and opening a bank account.

Benefits with pvtistes.net:

  • Desjardins Bank offers newcomers (Working Holiday, Young Professionals, International Co-op permit holders, permanent resident, etc.) 12 months of no-fee banking services (or for students, as long their study permit is valid). On top of that, Young Professionals and Working Holiday permit holders get one month of Globe WHV insurance! Check out the offer details.

  • The National Bank of Canada offers newcomers (Working Holiday, Young Professionals, International Co-op permit holders, permanent resident, etc.) up to three years of no-fee banking services, plus $50 cashback. Check out the offer details.
  • For a complete overview of your first few days, weeks or months in Canada, read The landing process and your first steps in Canada.

If you don’t start exploring Canada right away, your next steps will likely be finding a place to stay and a job. We’ve got you covered!

And if you’re into travelling… read Everything you need to know to plan for a campervan road trip!

19. Taxes in Canada

All workers in Canada must pay personal income tax. This amount is calculated based on your taxable income (income earned less allowed expenses) for the tax year. The federal income tax system is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

For most employees, income tax is deducted at the source, i.e. employers withhold money from your paycheque and remit it directly to the CRA. At the end of the tax year (January 1 to December 31), you will receive a T4 tax slip from your employer indicating what you have been paid before deductions, as well as other contributions deducted from your paycheque during the tax year.

The deadline to file taxes is April 30 for most workers and mid-June for self-employed individuals.

Since taxes are deducted from your paycheque, most Working Holiday permit holders don’t have to pay anything at the end of the tax year—you could even get a tax refund if you overpaid.

You can tackle the tax filing process alone, get help from a tax refund service like Taxback.com or hire an accountant (small fee, less headache!).

20. Travelling outside Canada as a Working Holiday permit holder

You can travel within and outside Canada during your Working Holiday permit adventure—go ahead, explore a few American states or take a break from winter in Cuba!

Just remember that you may need a visa to travel to other foreign countries (your Working Holiday permit doesn’t give you any special rights and doesn’t make you Canadian).

Also keep in mind that days spent outside Canada still counts towards your Working Holiday permit validity. I.e. if you have a 12-month Working Holiday permit and spend six months in Mexico, you will have six months left to spend in Canada.

21. Staying in Canada after a Working Holiday permit and applying for permanent residence

There are different options to stay in Canada but your Working Holiday permit can’t be renewed or extended. You need a new immigration status—work permit, student permit, etc. You will find a complete list of options to immigrate, work and study in Canada on the website of the Government of Canada.

If you want to move to Canada for good, you’re looking at applying for permanent residence. The process takes time and money, so check whether you’re eligible long before your Working Holiday permit expires. In most immigration categories, eligibility is based on a point system—age, work experience, education, etc. are taken into account. For more information, read Immigrate to Canada.

Note that you can’t “apply for Canadian citizenship” directly—this option is only available after being a permanent residence of Canada for several years (and it’s a separate process).

3. The Canada Working Holiday permit application process

4. Pre-trip prep and Working Holiday permit health insurance

5. The landing process and the first steps in Canada

6. Finding a job in Canada

7. Travelling in Canada & activities

8. Other temporary and permanent permits and visas

9. Testimonials and feedback from Working Holiday permit holders