how to get a canadian working holiday visa

If you’ve been reading my blog for some time you’ll know that up until February 2017 I lived in the UK. Then in February I left the UK for Canada on a Canadian Working Holiday Visa (also referred to as the IEC – International Experience Canada visa). One of the things I’m emailed most about is how to get get a Canadian Working Holiday Visa. I don’t blame you, so far things are pretty great here.

The good news is that the pool is now open again which means now is the time to get your application for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa for 2018 in! It’s a pretty simple process (much easier than getting a visa to China was…) and here is how you go about it!

Already got your Canadian Working Holiday Visa? Don’t forget to take these documents with you!

What is the International Experience Canada, or Working Holiday Visa?

The International Experience Canada (IEC) program is a type of visa that allows you to work and/or travel in Canada. You do not have to have a job sorted before you go.

The length of the open work permit you get and the age limit varies depending on where you’re from.

The majority of time the IEC is for people aged 18-30 aor 18-25. Where this is the case the permit usually lasts for two years.

Since I’m from the UK I’ll be focusing on the application process there. However the steps are largely the same, it’s just the duration and the age limits that change.

If you’re from the UK you can get a working holiday visa for Canada between the ages of 18-30 and it will be given to you for two years (provided you bring all the documents listed here when you arrive in Canada). You get the two years in one go; unlike in Australia where you have to apply for the second year.

Every country that takes part in the IEC programme has a yearly quota which is based on an agreement that has been made with Canada. For the UK (and some other countries) the demand is way, way higher than the quota. This means not everyone who wants a working holiday visa will get it.

Should I go through a company to get my visa?

Personally I’d say a big fat ‘no’ to this.

Since the Canadian working holiday visa process is random a company cannot guarantee they’ll get you a visa. They have no more chance than you do. Basically they charge a lot of money for not much.

They do promise to help you with jobs but if you’re open to the type of work you do you should have no problem finding work. Every day I walk by hundreds of shops, restaurants and cafes in Vancouver looking for new staff. In Vancouver, shops like Whole Foods and restaurants such as Cactus Club have one day every week where they will give you an on the spot interview.

TLDR; you do not need to pay someone. It’s easy to get a Canadian Working holiday visa yourself.

When can I apply for an IEC visa in 2018?

The pools (find out more below) for the 2018 visa opened on November 3rd 2017. There is no set date for when they close but it is usually around September/October.

Am I eligible for a Canadian working holiday visa?

The best way to find out is to check this page of the CIC (Canadian Immigration & Citizenship) website. To be eligible you will need to meet the following criteria.

  • Be a citizen of one of the 33 participating countries
  • Have a passport that is valid for the duration of the work permit. So, if your work permit would end in 2022 your passport must be valid past that time. You will not be given a work permit that is longer than the the validity of your passport
  • Be between the ages of 18 and 30 (if you’re from the UK). Other countries go up to 35
  • Have the equivalent of CAD$2,500 on landing to help cover initial expenses. You can screenshot your bank statement for this
  • Have travel insurance for the full duration of your Working Holiday Visa in Canada
  • Be admissible to Canada (i.e. not have any criminal charges)
  • Not be accompanied by your children

How do I apply for a Canadian working holiday visa from the UK?

Before November 2015 getting a visa was first come first served. This resulted in people waiting at their laptops and frantically trying to type in the information requested as quickly as possible. Now the Canadian working holiday visa works on more of a random, lottery based selection.

I applied back in 2015 so was the first year to undergo the newer and current process. Whilst there are quite a few steps they’re relatively easy.can

To get a working holiday visa you have to:

  1. Do the ‘Come to Canada’ quiz to check your eligibility for the IEC work permit.
  2. If you are eligible then you will be allowed to “create a profile”. This involves basic details such as; your name, current country of residence passport number, citizenship etc. Once complete, this profile is added to the pool of candidates for the working holiday visa. This is known as “joining the pool.” There are separate pools for each country. You can find out more about the pools here.
  3. CIC will send out invites, via email, to people from every pool. This is random selection and there is nothing you can do to speed it up. An invite could take one week, months, or could not come at all. It’s worth noting that if you’re applying as a couple there is no guarantee that you’ll both get an invite.
  4. If you get an invite you have 10 days to say “yes, Canada here I come”, or “nah, I’ve changed my mind”.
  5. Once you accept your invite for your working holiday visa in Canada you will need to submit further forms and information. You get 20 days to do this.
  6. Then, provided you submit everything in time and have no criminal convictions, you will be sent a POE (Port of Entry) You have a year to activate this by entering Canada. If you bring all the required documents, you’ll be given a work permit!

1. Check your eligibile for the IEC programme

If you want to come to Canada on a working holiday visa then you’ll first have to check you’re eligible. This chances depending where you’re from and the easy way to know for sure is to use the Government of Canada’s ‘Come to Canada’ questionnaire.

If you are eligible you’ll see this confirmed after the questionnaire. You’ll then be given a reference number (keep this handy you’ll need it later), and a link to MyCIC which will take you to the following…

2. Create your profile and join the pool

To join the pool you need to create a MyCIC account. Use this GCKey link to create one.

  • Log in and under the ‘what would you like to do today’ tab, select ‘International Experience Canada’
  • You will then need to use the code you got at the end of the quiz referenced in Step 1.
  • The initial part of the application has four sections to fill in. Some of this will be automatically entered from before. For this part of your working holiday visa you only have to put in your contact and personal details.
  • Fill in and save each section and, once done, send your profile off to the pool!

You have 60 days to finish this stage. Once complete you wchangill stay in the pool for 12 months and don’t have to accept a place on the IEC programme.

3. Wait and wait…and then wait some more

If you’re anything like me then you’ll be checking your email every day. Then logging into your account to see if anything has changed. I’m not the most patient person around…

The good thing about the pool over the previous application process, is that everyone has the same likelihood of being sent an invite. All you can do is wait. Unfortunately there’s no guarantee you’ll ever get an invite.

To make the time go quicker you could think about the other documents you will need should you get your invite to apply (ITA).

This definitely includes a police certificate (or multiple), and may include a medical certificate too.


Most people applying for the Canadian IEC programme don’t need to get a medical test. However, you will need one if you have live or been travelling in these countries for 6 months or longer. You will also need one if  you plan to work in healthcare, or with children, while in Canada. In order for your medical exam to be accepted it must be done by a Panel Physician.

Police certificate(s):

You have to get a police certificate from every country you have spent 6 months or more in since 18.

Your police certificate cannot be older than 6 months when you submit it to CIC. Therefore I wouldn’t suggest getting one on the off-chance that you get invited to apply as it may no longer be valid.

I had to get a police certificate from both the UK (where I’m a citizen), and France (where I did my year abroad). The French one was free and came super quick, the UK one cost upwards of £40 and was a bit slower.

I know that US certificates can take a very, very long time. If you haven’t received your police certificate by the time you need to submit the other documents you can send over a receipt to CIC to show you’ve asked one.

4 Getting that invite!

If you get an invitation to apply (ITA) you will get an email to the account you signed up with and a message in your MyCIC inbox. You now have 10 days to accept or reject your invite. From your MyCIC account you can now:

  • Click ‘Start Application’ to accept your invite. When you click this you go straight to step 5 and those 10 days disappear.
  • If you want more time to decide, or have several police certificates and a medical exam to apply for then you can hold off starting your application. This means that you’ll get a total of 30 days to send all your documents.

5. The final application for the IEC Work Permit

You are given 20 days to finish your work permit application as part of your Canadian working holiday visa.

This step involves submitting more information including; your work and education history, your citizenship, family details and contact details. A lot of this is automatically entered from step 2 and cannot be changed.

However, you can change your passport number if you’ve have to get a new one since entering the pool and applying (which I did).

You will then be asked to upload a number of documents and pay the fee ($250) for the IEC visa.

The documents you need to send usually include:

  • The family Information Form IMM5707
  • Police Certificate(s) (and medical certificate if needed)
  • Your CV
  • A passport style photo. This can be taken with your own camera but must be the same measurements as a passport photo
  • A scan of the photo page of your passport
  • $250 application fee

If you don’t have the requested documents (perhaps your police certificate hasn’t arrived yet) you can upload a self-written letter which says why you don’t currently have them. If this isn’t done within 20 days your application will expire and you’ll go back into the pool.

6. Waiting (again)

Once you have sent everything off you should hear back within 8 weeks. Usually you’ll hear back quicker. If you do not hear back within 8 weeks you can use the IRCC web form to see what’s happening.

If your IEC/Canadian working holiday visa application is successful, you’ll be emailed again and there will be a new message in your MyCIC inbox: your Port of Entry (AKA POE). 

Congratulations, you’re ready to enter Canada! 


Sometimes these letters miraculously disappear from your MyCIC account so make sure you save it somewhere else too.

When you enter Canada make sure to bring this letter along with proof of funds ($2,500), proof of insurance for the whole two years and your police certificates (plus medical certificate if applicable). You should then be given your IEC work permit stapled into your passport! If you’re from the UK this will be for the full two years.

Get a checklist of the documents you need to bring here. 

Where can I find out more about the Canadian Working Holiday/IEC programme?

If you have more questions either ask below or join these Facebook groups. They’re full of people who have been or are going through the process and the members are super knowledgeable.