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How to get a Canadian Working Holiday Visa (IEC)

How to get a Canadian Working Holiday Visa (IEC)

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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 a Canadian Working Holiday Visa (WHV). I don’t blame you, so far things are pretty great here. If you’re wondering how to get a Canada visa then check out the information below for how I got my Canadian working holiday visa.

NEW & updated information for getting a Canadian Working Holiday Visa in 2022!

The 2022 pool is not yet open and the 2021 pools closed on October 4. It’s expected that the 2022 pools will open soon and now is the perfect time to get ready and learn how to apply for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa. The whole process is a pretty simple process (much easier than getting a visa to China was…) and here is how you go about it! Here’s everything you need to know on how to apply for a Canadian Working Visa.

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?

How to move to Canada on working holiday iecThe 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 the time the IEC is for people aged 18-30 or 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 getting your UK to Canada Working Holiday Visa through a company.

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 2022?

Usually, pools (find out more below) open in November. There is no set date for when they close but it is usually around October/November.

You can do your Canada visa application online which is much better than some visa applications!

New processes for the 2022 Working Holiday Visa

Introduced in 2019, and continuing as part of the IEC visa process for 2022, is having to submit your biometrics in order to apply for a Canadian working holiday visa. If you’re applying for IEC 2022 you will have to submit your biometrics.

How to get biometrics for IEC?

This new stage can be a bit of a pain as it may involve travelling to another city since there currently aren’t many places you can get your biometrics done.

What are biometrics?

Getting your biometrics for the Canada working holiday programme involves getting together a collection of electronic fingerprints, a digital photograph and your other personal details.

How much does getting biometrics cost?

Getting biometrics for a Canadian visa costs $85CAD per applicant which is to be paid to a Visa Application Centre (VAC).

VACs are official centres run by private companies who are able to provide you with the biometrics you need to complete your application.

Where are the VACs in the UK?

If you’re applying from the UK you will need to travel to London to get your biometrics done.

Who needs to send biometrics?

If you’re applying for a work permit and are from Europe, the Middle East or Africa you will need to send your biometrics as part of your application.

If you need to give your biometrics, you’ll be sent an instruction letter which explains how to get them, this process is outlined below.

How to get your biometrics for Canada IEC

Here’s what the process for getting your biometrics looks like:

  1. You need to pay your biometrics fees ($85CAD) when you submit your work permit application
  2. After you pay the biometrics fee, you’ll receive a letter in your CIC account that confirms you need to give biometrics and tells you where you can go.
    You need to take this letter when you give your biometrics.
    When you submit your application you should get this letter within 24 hours of applying.
  3. Upon receiving the letter you have 30 days to get your biometrics done so make sure you go within that time!

What’s so good about a Canada working holiday visa?

The best thing about the WHV for Canada is that it allows you to come over to Canada even if you don’t have a job secured. It means you can work and holiday in Canada all on the same visa.

The standard tourist visa for Canada only gives you 6 months (usually). On a Canada tourist visa, you’re not allowed to work either.

However, with the working holiday programme, you can work or not work. It’s a great option if you’re not sure how long you want to stay in Canada.

If you’ve been wondering how to work in Canada but weren’t sure if you’d be able to get a job beforehand then go for this visa!

Are there any restrictions on what job I can have?

The only restrictions are that you can’t work in the sex trade. If you haven’t completed a medical as part of your working holiday visa application then you also can’t work with children.

Other than that there are no restrictions. You may choose to pursue a job in a similar field to what you were doing back home like Thom. Or, like me, you may decide to do something completely different and start a business!

How much does the working holiday visa in Canada cost?

Getting a longer-term visa like the IEC visa is never cheap.

Having said that I do think the price of the Canada working holiday visa from the UK is pretty reasonable. Before you apply for a work permit in Canada then make sure you can afford the following Canada visa fees.

  • The application cost: About $250
  • Proof of funds: You have to be able to show you have enough money to sustain yourself in Canada. To do this you may be asked to show proof of funds upon your arrival in Canada. This is about $2,500
  • Police certificates: Some countries charge for these. In the UK this is about £40 but I know the French one is free
  • Medical certificate: You may have to pay for this too if required
  • Insurance: You are required to have 2 years’ worth of insurance. This cost us about £370 each with extra winter coverage through Alpha Travel Insurance

Am I eligible for a Canadian working holiday visa?

The best way to find out if you’re eligible for a WHV Canada 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 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 working holiday visa Canada 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 a 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 invitation 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 eligibility 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 changes depending on 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 will 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 lived 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 had 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 a 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 how to get a working holiday visa in Canada / the 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.

Aaron Martin

Sunday 7th of June 2020

Could you send me the Facebook link so I can speak with people who've gone/going for more information thank you

Hannah Kacary

Monday 8th of June 2020

Fi Williams

Wednesday 28th of August 2019

Hi! I was wondering that if you have 2 years to activate your visa - ie actually arrive in Canada, would you need a new Police Check/Certificate as the one that had been downloaded for your application only lasts 6 months? And it would be one of the documents that might be examined on entry. Many thanks!

Hannah Kacary

Wednesday 28th of August 2019

Hey, you should be good using the one you applied. In a lot of cases, they won't actually check it (but take it with you anyway)


Thursday 22nd of August 2019


Really hoping you can help - my little sister went to Canada last November to work in Whistler on the IEC however the person at the airport only stamped for a year, rather than the 2 years she should have qualified for. Shes really struggling to find where she can put this right as she wants to go back this November for a second ski season. Any help or guidance would be really really appreciated.

Thank you!

Hannah Kacary

Thursday 22nd of August 2019

Hey Kate,

I'm not sure if she'll be able to fix it now she's returned back to the UK but it'd be worth asking in one of the facebook posts mentioned above as someone might have experienced the same thing.

Good luck!


Thursday 6th of June 2019


I was wondering what the best time of year to apply would be, my boyfriend and I were looking to go over in 2021 and were curious of when the best time to start the application would be :)

Hannah Kacary

Friday 7th of June 2019

Hey, it depends a little on what time of year you wanted to move too but depending on where you're from you can't be too fussy! There's always a lot more people applying for a permit form the UK than there are available permits and it's just luck as to whether you're invited to apply or not.

If you're looking to move in 2021, you're best to wait until the pools reopen at the end of 2019 (usually October/November time I think!). Then if you get your permit in early 2020 you'll have a year to activate it so could move in early 2021.

This also gives you the chance to apply for a permit the following year if neither, or only one of you, gets a permit.

Sanjay Shah

Friday 18th of January 2019

Thanks this blog was super useful!

I just applied into the pool for IEC with the aim of moving over to Canada next year (2020).The passport details i entered (my current passport) expires in August 2020.

If I get an invite, do i need a new passport before submitting my IEC permit application or can i submit the application with my existing passport as long as I get new passport before I actually move over?

Thanks Sanjay

Hannah Kacary

Friday 18th of January 2019

Hey Sanjay!

It's easiest to get the new passport now and then if/when you get your invitation to apply you can submit it with your new passport number. That's what I did.

You can update the work permit for your new passport after you've got your point of entry but it's a bit more complicated. But you're right in thinking that you'll need a new one before you move over as otherwise they'll only ever grant you a visa until August 2020 and you won't be able to extend it/do the IEC again.

Hope you get an invite!