Luck wasn’t on your side—you kept your fingers crossed throughout the entire IEC season but, alas, you didn’t secure a Working Holiday permit to Canada.

Now what?

Here are a few options to make it to Canada or start planning another adventure elsewhere!

Plan B options to go to Canada

If you’re dead set on going to Canada, you might want to explore these options.

If your profile wasn’t drawn

Canada is one of the hardest Working Holiday permits to get. It’s a popular one with a limited number of permits available each year, so profiles are drawn randomly from a pool during each IEC season.

The odds are more in your favour if you submit your profile early in the IEC season—more Working Holiday permits available, fewer candidates.

Don’t forget that if your profile wasn’t drawn during an IEC season:

  • You can submit your profile again to a future IEC season
  • But you won’t get any kind of priority over other candidates submitting a profile for the first time

So, if you were unlucky during an IEC season, keep in mind you can always postpone your adventure in Canada and submit your profile again as soon as the next IEC season opens!

If you’re a couple and only one of you has a Working Holiday permit

Let’s assume your partner’s profile was drawn from the pool but yours wasn’t. This is a tricky one, but you can consider these options to go to Canada together.

Declining the invitation to apply

If only one of you gets an invitation to apply during a round of invitations, it’s always an option to decline the invitation and wait for the next round. Hopefully, you will both get an invitation to apply this time.

This is a risky move but declining an invitation to apply will not jeopardize your chances of having your profile drawn again from the pool of candidates.

Accepting the invitation to apply and finding a plan B for the one without a Working Holiday permit

First, it’s important to remember two things about the Working Holiday permit:

  • 1) If you accept the invitation to apply, submit your application and get a port of entry (POE) letter, the Working Holiday permit has been issued. It can’t be cancelled. You will not be eligible for a second Working Holiday permit, even if you don’t go to Canada.
  • 2) Working Holiday permits come with an activation deadline specified on the port of entry (POE) letter. If you don’t enter Canada by this date, the Working Holiday permit is “lost,” so no refund and no option to apply again.

So keeping this in mind, there are three options to travel to Canada as a couple if your partner has a valid Working Holiday permit and you don’t.

  • You could enter Canada as a visitor. Most of the time, visitors are granted a six-month stay. Proof of funds may be required since it’s absolutely forbidden to work in Canada as a visitor.
  • You could postpone your departure to Canada until the start of the next IEC season. You may be luckier the next time around! Now, your partner should keep an eye on their Working Holiday permit activation deadline or travel to Canada first without you.
  • You can check if you’re eligible for an open work permit as the spouse or partner of a Working Holiday permit holder. Good news, under a new 2022 measure, the spouse or common-law partner of a foreign work permit holder is eligible for an open work permit regardless of the job category of the principal foreign worker. For more info, read Canada Work Permit 2023 – Expanded Eligibility for Spouses and Common-Law Partners. Note that you could also be eligible for an open work permit if your spouse or partner is going to Canada with another type of work permit or a study permit.

If you’re interested in exploring other work permit categories

The Working Holiday permit is the most flexible option because you don’t need to find a job before going to Canada. However, you may want to explore the following work permits, especially if you’re in a high-demand field.

Young Professionals permit

The Young Professionals permit is another IEC permit available to 18-30 or 18-35-year-old citizens from 24 countries who have a job offer in Canada.

Unlike the Working Holiday permit, it’s a closed work permit, which means you’re tied to a specific employer. The job offer must be directly related to your studies or work field and “contribute to your professional development.”

Depending on your country of citizenship, you could work in Canada for up to 12, 18 or 24 months.

Note that if you get a Young Professionals permit, you will no longer be eligible for a Working Holiday permit.

The International Co-op (Internship) permit

The International Co-op (Internship) permit is the third IEC permit. It’s available to 18-30 or 18-35 year-old citizens from around twenty countries who have a job offer for a work placement or internship. This job offer must be related to your field of study.

Depending on your country of citizenship and the internship offer, you could work in Canada for up to 12, 18 or 24 months.

If you’re interested in studying or taking professional development training in Canada

Depending on your institution, your study permit may specify you can work on campus or off campus for up to 20 hours a week.

Your spouse or partner could also be eligible for an open work permit to come with you to Canada.

Canada offers academic, professional development and foreign language study opportunities.

Postsecondary programs are offered in colleges and universities all over the country, including the world-famous University of Toronto, University of British Columbia and McGill University. Education is expensive in North America—even more so for international students who are charged higher tuition fees—but it can be a great career move and a way to boost your French or English language skills as well. To learn more about the admission process, study permits and life as an international student, check out Study in Canada as an international student on the Government of Canada website.

If you want to focus on your French or English language skills, check out a language school, sign up for classes and get extra daily practice in your new environment!

Professional training is also an option. For instance, ILAC International College offers the “vocational program + work experience” to learn about customer service, sales, event management, hospitality, business, marketing, business administration, and health care administration in Toronto and Vancouver. The first half of the program is classes and paid coop experience/work experience is completed during the second half of the program. To learn more, read Study and Work Experience in Toronto & Vancouver (Canada).

If exploring Canada is your main goal

You can always enter Canada as a visitor! You will not be allowed to work but you could stay up to six months, which is plenty of time to explore this huge country and enjoy a few seasons.

Note that if you don’t need a visa, you will have to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to travel to Canada. The fee is CAD7 and getting one is very straightforward.

The tricky part when entering Canada as a visitor is to convince border officers that you will not work illegally or overstay. Don’t forget that in most cases, you do need a work permit to volunteer in Canada.

Your luggage may be searched, including your phone and computer. Make sure you don’t have a document that says “Canadian resume” and watch what you’re saying on social media! Border officers can refuse you entry to Canada and put you on the next flight home.

Proof of funds and a solid plan (accommodation and transportation booking plus a trip itinerary) should help your case.

If you really want to live in Canada

If Canada is the right place for you, you can consider applying for permanent residence. The country does need immigrants and actively welcomes newcomers through several immigration programs.

First, explore the various immigration categories and see if you qualify as a skilled worker, a self-employed person, a close relative of a Canadian citizen and more.

The permanent residency process is long and involves a lot more red tape than applying for a Working Holiday permit but this status gives you the right to live, work and study in Canada indefinitely and you can apply for citizenship after three or four years.

Plan B options to enjoy an adventure elsewhere in the world

Working Holiday permits around the world

Some 60 countries are part of the Working Holiday program. Start by checking where you can go on a Working Holiday adventure using our tool—simply enter your citizenship and age to discover all the destinations available to you.

Only Canada has implemented this randomized lottery system for Working Holiday permits, many countries are much more accessible. How about Australia or New Zealand? Somewhere in South America, maybe, like Chile or Brazil? South Korea or France?

Opportunities in the European Union for EU citizens

It’s worth reminding EU citizens that they can work, study and live in other EU countries without a visa!

That’s 27 countries in total—not bad, right?

WWOOFing, HelpX and Workaway volunteering experiences

Volunteering abroad is a great way to make your money go further and gain precious life or work experience along the way.

Some countries like Canada and New Zealand require a work permit to volunteer but many other destinations are more flexible if all you get is room and board.

Platforms such as WWOOF, HelpX and Workaway can connect backpackers to “hosts” looking for volunteers. You won’t make any money but you shouldn’t spend any either. Volunteering is a great way to gain new skills, save money, meet people and discover a new culture.

So dry your tears and start considering other options!


En PVT au Canada de novembre 2021 à 2023, je répondrai à vos questions avec plaisir. Pour le premier trimestre 2024, direction l'Amérique latine !

I moved from France to Canada on a WHV from November 2021 to 2023, followed then by spending the first quarter of 2024 in Latin America! Happy to answer all your questions.

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