Applying for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa – Your Detailed Guide

a young woman watching over the mountains

If you’re confused about how to get a working holiday visa, don’t worry, we’re here to help!

From spectacular wilderness in the north to bustling modern cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal – Canada is an incredibly diverse country with something to offer everyone.

So it’s no surprise that Canada attracts thousands of working holidaymakers yearly!

A working holiday is an unbeatable opportunity to really explore Canada and sample what it’s like to live and work there.

Of course, the first step along the road to your dream working holiday is to secure a visa and work permit.

Understandably, many people find the prospect of completing the necessary files and forms to be daunting.

But not to worry, we’ve put together what you need to know to get your Working Holiday Visa application up and running!

This article includes:

What is a Working Holiday Visa?

A Working Holiday Visa grants you permission to stay, work and travel in Canada for anywhere from one to two years.

What is International Experience Canada (IEC)?

IEC is a Canadian program that offers a Working Holiday Visa.

Some terms to know are CIC and IRCC which are essentially the same thing.

The government department that takes care of Working Holiday Visas is known as Citizenship and Immigration Canada, otherwise known as CIC.

However, CIC was rebranded as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), so you may see these terms used interchangeably from time to time.

How do I know if I am eligible to apply for the IEC program?

There are a number of important factors to consider in order to be eligible for a Working Holiday Visa through the IEC program.

These include:

  • You must be between the age of 18 to 30 (or 35 depending on the country you’re from)
  • Your passport should be valid for your entire stay in Canada
  • Show at the port of entry that you have adequate funds to sustain yourself while in Canada – more specifically $2,500 CAD
  • Before entering Canada, you’ll need a return ticket or the financial resources to purchase a departure ticket for when your working holiday visa expires
  • Obtaining travel insurance to cover you for your entire stay in Canada (you may be asked to present evidence of this at the point of entry)

For more information on travel insurance read: Travel Insurance for a Working Holiday in Canada.

  • You’ll also need to hold a valid passport from one of the eligible countries

Are there any other category options aside from a Working Holiday Visa?

If a working holiday isn’t right for you, you have two other categories you can apply for in the IEC program!

For both of these options below, the eligibility requirements for the Working Holiday Visa Canada also apply.

Young Professionals

The Young Professionals category is designed for post-secondary graduates, who wish to further their careers by gaining professional work experience in Canada.

Participants must have a signed employment offer letter or contract of employment with a Canadian employer before applying. The offer must be in line with the area of expertise the applicant has.

International Co-op (Internship)

Studying in your home country and want to acquire some useful work experience in Canada? Then go ahead and apply for the International Co-op (Internship) category!

Applicants must want to complete a work placement or internship in Canada in order to fulfill part of their academic curriculum.

During the time that applicants are doing their internship, they’ll be seen as registered students.

One of the requirements for this category is to have a signed job offer from the internship or work placement that’s in Canada.

You can usually travel to Canada for 12 months through this category.

Participating countries

You must be a citizen (passport holder) of one of the 30 participating countries (see below) that have a bilateral youth mobility agreement with Canada to participate in the IEC program.

Canadian IEC Visa Participating Countries Infographic

Other requirements

Finally, each country that holds a bilateral agreement with Canada’s IEC program also has its own unique requirements in order to qualify.

For example, if you live in Ireland, in order to be eligible for a working holiday visa you must be between the ages of 18-35 and the maximum validity period of your visa will be 24 months.

Meanwhile, if you are applying from Belgium, you must be in the 18-30 age bracket and your visa will be valid for a maximum of 12 months.

additional requirements for Canadian IEC Visa

Do I have to apply for an eTA to travel to Canada?

If you’re travelling by air you may need to apply online for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to enter Canada.

An eTA is required to enter if you are from a visa-exempt country.

If you receive an eTA it’s generally attached to your passport and once you apply and receive an eTA, it is valid for five years or once your passport expires.

Note: if you’re from one of the visa-exempt countries who received a work permit either on or subsequent to August 1, 2015, you could receive an eTA automatically.

What is the process of obtaining a Canadian Working Holiday Visa?

To become a candidate for an IEC Working Holiday Visa you can start by checking your eligibility. All you have to do is answer a couple of questions!

The questionnaire will ask you your country of citizenship, country of permanent residence, age, family members, student status and job offer (if this applies to you) and more.

You’ll receive a personal reference code if you’re successful and you should write this down. It will look something like this: JM1234567890. It’s important and you’ll need it for the next step!

The next step is creating a MyCIC account.

You can create an IRCC secure account by selecting “register” on the “don’t have an account” option.

You will first have to register for a GCKey account and set up your security questions.

first step

For further guidance you can follow the instructions below:

GCKey registration

Then paste your personal reference code and hit continue.

The IEC will then be informed that you have completed the eligibility questionnaire, and your results will be connected to your MyCIC account.

personal checklist

Then complete your MyCIC account by submitting some personal details on your IEC profile.

You will need your passport and be asked to tell the IEC about your:

  • Identity (full names, date of birth, place of birth etc.)
  • Country of citizenship
  • Country where you permanently live
  • Country of residence (where you live now)
  • Contact information
  • Student status (if this applies to you)
  • Job offer (if this applies to you)

Submit your IEC profile to the category that you are eligible to apply for. Make sure to choose the right category! So if you want to go on a working holiday to Canada make sure you choose the Working Holiday category.

You will be put in a pool of candidates for the category you applied for and you should now wait to receive an Invitation to Apply or ITA.

Receiving an ITA can take anywhere between three to four months.

*Note: Submitting your IEC profile does not mean that you have applied for your work permit, you will be required to give further information and to pay fees further down the line if you are invited.

IEC Visa Application Process

What is a ‘pool’?

‘Pools’ are simply groups of different countries and category types that are on offer.

For example, ‘Ireland: International Co-Op’, ‘UK: Working Holiday’, and ‘Germany: International Co-Op’ are all different types of pools.

You can become a candidate in multiple categories as long as you’re eligible for them. However, most applicants only choose one pool.

Already have a MyCIC account?

  • Login to your MyCIC account
  • When you’re in your account, under “Start an application”, click on “Apply to come to Canada”

how to start an application

  • You firstly need to complete the eligibility questionnaire if you haven’t done so so that you can obtain a personal reference code. To do this you should click on the “Visitor visa, study and/or work permit” under “Determine your eligibility and apply online.”

You can see this button circled in red below.

missing personal reference code

  • Complete and submit the questionnaire. You’ll find out if you’re eligible to continue with the application process. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for more than one IEC category

application eligibility

For example: if you’re Australian and have a job offer, you may be eligible for Australia: Young Professional and Australia: Working Holiday.
Submit your IEC profile to the category that you are eligible to apply for
You will now have to wait to receive an Invitation to Apply or ITA

* Please Remember: Submitting your IEC profile does mean that you have applied for your work permit, you will be required to give further information and to pay fees further down the line if you are invited.

Received the Invitation to Apply, what’s next?

Once you receive the letter of invitation you have 10 days to accept or decline the invitation.

If you accept the invitation, from there on you have 20 days to apply for a work permit online, providing any additional information and making the payment.

How do I accept the invitation?

You accept the invitation by going on the “continue my application” or “application, not yet submitted.” You should look for a “work permit” and then click “Start application” on your profile.

What happens if I don’t accept the invitation within 10 days?

If you don’t accept the invitation within 10 days, the invitation will automatically expire and you’ll have to go through the process of applying again.

What happens next?

An IEC officer will start your review once your work permit is submitted alongside all the required documents.

If your application is refused, you will receive a letter of explanation.

However, you’ll receive a port of entry (POE) letter of introduction if your application is successful. You’ll be able to find this in your account.

Having your POE letter when entering Canada is crucial.

Remember to bring it with you to Canada and show it to a border services officer at the port of entry (airport, land border, etc.).

You’ll also need the POE letter to obtain a work permit once you’re in Canada.

An important thing to keep in mind is that you should only make plans for your holiday and buy a plane ticket once your application has been approved. You do not want to be stuck with a plane ticket and no work permit!

How much does an application cost?

Becoming a candidate is free. However, there are some fees as you advance through your application.

The different fees include:

  • IEC participation fee
  • Open work permit holder fee
  • Biometrics fee

The price of these fees is subject to change over time so ensure you check at the time you are applying for the IEC program.

Note: the cost of the fee will depend on the IEC category you are applying for.

a happy young man holding a passport and tickets

When to apply for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa?

If there is a high demand in some countries for the IEC, the program can close during the spring or summer.

Applicants will be drawn from the pools at regular intervals until there are no more places for that year.

In other words, you can create a profile and become a candidate at any time after the opening date for your country. However, applying early is definitely a good idea.

Why apply earlier? Because your name will be in the hat more from draws.

If you are unsure about your application, you can always apply with a trusted independent visa agency like Visa First.

You won’t need to worry about missing a document or any other requirement as they guide you through the entire process.

How can I apply for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa?

You have two options to choose from when applying for your visa – apply directly with the IEC or apply with an agent.

Apply directly with IEC

You can apply for a Working Holiday Visa directly yourself.

If you choose this option, make sure that you read all of the information, instructions, and FAQs thoroughly on the IEC website, IEC Facebook groups, and our blog!

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Apply with an agent

Busy packing or saying goodbye to your family and friends at home? Or just finding the overall process of applying for a visa stressful?

Not to worry! You can apply with Visa First – a group of visa experts.

They can help you get all of your documents in order and guide you throughout the entire process.

They also offer additional services, such as Canadian SIM, money transfers and more.

Apply for your Working Holiday visa with Visa First today!

What kind of jobs are available for working holidaymakers in Canada?

There is different type of work available depending on what part of Canada you’re in.

Working on the slopes is always a very popular option for working holidaymakers of the outdoor variety.

The most popular ski resorts are in British Columbia (such as Whistler) and Alberta (such as Banff).

Typical ski resort jobs include:

  1. Barista
  2. Bar person
  3. Lift operator
  4. Local guide
  5. Retail assistant
  6. Ski or board technician
  7. Ski instructor
  8. Waitress/waiter

Of course, there are plenty of other industries you can find work in regardless of your skillset!

Read also: Finding a Working Holiday Job in Canada

Here are some common types of jobs and where you’re likely to find them.

  • Electronics (Montreal)
  • Forestry (Vancouver)
  • IT (Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton)
  • Manufacturing (Montreal, Ottawa)
  • Marketing (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver)
  • Oil and Gas (Edmonton, Calgary)
  • Software (Montreal)
  • Trading (Vancouver)

There are also plenty of jobs in administration, hospitality, retail, and tourism.

To help your job search in Canada, you can browse the jobs sections on our site and register for our WHC Jobs Kit?

Canada's Parliament Buildings

Why register for our WHC Jobs Kit?

You’ll have access to our list of Canada’s top 100 working holidaymaker employers
Our guide can help you improve your resume and you’ll also receive templates – so that you’ll be completely prepared for your dream job
You’ll receive a Calendar with important events and job fairs

For more information, feel free to check out another wonderful Canada Working Holiday Guide.

Updated On: 14.06.2022


  • Valeria says:

    Hello, thank you for your blog, it’s very useful. I followed your istructions and submitted my application for IEC. I got a message on mycic saying i had been accepted to the pool. Later on, i got another email that said there was an update for my application but when i logged in i couldn’t find any new messages. What should i do?
    Thank you very much

    • JFrench says:

      Hi Valeria! Thanks for your message! We haven’t heard about this happening this year, but last year there were lots of ghost emails being sent by the IEC! If you don’t see any updates on your file, it might just mean that they’re reviewing your file. Hold out for another email from them, hopefully that will have an update for you. Thanks 🙂

      • Lis says:

        Hey Valeria and JFrench! The same happened to me as you Valeria. Cannot find that message anywhere. Hopefully not that important 🙂 Great blog btw.
        Do you have any Idea when they give away the Visas?

  • Sarah says:

    Hi there
    Just a quick question – if I want to move to Canada next year in April (2017) when should I start applying for my Visa?
    If I applied now and got my Visa straight away, does that mean I have to move to Canada ASAP?
    I still need to save a bit of money before I go and get things in order.

    • JFrench says:

      Hi Sarah,

      If your country still has visas left for this year, you should apply before tomorrow morning (9am EST). However, 2017 should be opening in mid October so you won’t have too long to wait if there are none left.

      Once you have your PoE, you have 1 year to actually go to Canada and activate it. So really, in your case, the sooner you get it the better, as right now it mightn’t be guaranteed that you will receive the PoE before April 2017.

      Hope this helps!

  • Iva says:

    Hello there J. French.
    I’m not sure did I understood enough. The situation is that I’m waiting from IEC to sent me an invitation for applying for WH visa and I cant go there before May, June. So my question is if I get the visa, and go in Canada in June 2017., can I stay there until June of 2018.?Thanks a lot.


    • JFrench says:

      Hi Iva,

      Yes once you receive the PoE/ Working Holiday Visa, you will have one year to go to Canada and activate it.
      If you have a 1 year visa, you will be able to stay 1 year from when you activate it. For example; if you activate it in June 2017, you can stay and work until June 2018! 🙂


  • Jess says:

    Hi guys, I was wondering if you could clarify something. I am a UK citizen and I am going to New Zealand at the end of February to work but after that I am keen to apply for a WHV in Canada, do I have to be in the UK when I apply for a Canadian visa or can I do it whilst I’m in New Zealand?


    • JFrench says:

      Hey Jess,
      That sounds awesome 🙂 You can absolutely be in another country whilst applying for your visa, just make sure to be upfront on your application and advise them of your current location when asked on the application.

  • Tatum says:

    Hi Jfrench,

    So I have started my application for my visa but had to log out and save information because I needed my police check done.

    I have changed phones and have lost my user name to log in to my account!

    Can I re apply for and start again?

    • JFrench says:

      Hi Tatum!
      Bummer! Can you reach out to the IEC to reset the password? I would hate to think that you’d have to start a new application, it’s not likely that you would receive an invitation to apply again this year. Check this out – hopefully it will help you! 🙂

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