How Australians Can Work in Canada – A Complete Guide

July 16, 2020
Posted in How To Guide, Working Holiday

Note: If you are looking for information regarding IEC repeat participation, please refer to our Recognized Organization IEC Season 2020/2021 page.

The many similarities between Canadians and Australians is a big draw for Australians looking to work in Canada. Together we’re friendly, open to adventure, value a laidback lifestyle, and have an appreciation for natural beauty. The opportunities for Australians to work in Canada gives you the chance to explore a country full of new experiences.

Like Australia, Canada is large and diverse. It requires a substantial amount of time to properly explore. Plus, its location near the United States means there is even more to see! This post breaks down everything you need to know for working in Canada as an Australian.

What It’s Like to Work in Canada

The work culture in Australia and Canada is fairly similar, with a few minor differences. Work-life balance plays an important role, especially on the West Coast of Canada. However, there are a few aspects where Canada’s work culture is closer to that of our American neighbours.

Working Hours & Pay

On average, the working hours are 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. This of course depends on your job. Lunch breaks are typically 30 minutes up to one hour max.

Payday is most commonly bi-monthly. There is statutory holiday (public holiday) pay increases equal to 1.5 times your standard wage. However, unlike in Australia, weekend pay increases do not exist in Canada.


This is where we are closely tied to the American work culture. In most cases, starting holidays are 10 days or two weeks. This will increase with years of service. To draw top talent, companies will offer three, even four weeks of starting vacation. In some cases, companies will close over the Christmas holidays. This week off is either added or included to your vacation allowance. Ultimately, starting holidays will depend on your job and industry.


Like Australia’s Medicare, healthcare in Canada is publicly funded. Health care is provided by the provinces and coverage varies slightly between provinces. Some provinces charge a small monthly fee, however as of June 2020, British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario do not charge fees. On top of this, companies will provide coverage after completion of your probation period. This coverage is typically a percentage of the cost of medical, dental, and vision expenses like prescriptions, ambulance, and check-ups.

Canada does not have an equivalent of the Australian ‘Super’. Instead, individuals are required to save for retirement on their own. Some companies will offer retirement savings matching. In this instance, your employer will contribute to your retirement savings fund when you do (up to a certain limit each year).

Your experience of a lifetime in Canada is waiting. Check out how Karolina made her dream to work in the Canadian Rockies a reality!

How to Work in Canada

For Australians aged 18 to 35, work permits are distributed through a program called International Experience Canada (IEC). Eligible Australians are fortunate to receive an unlimited quota, or number of spots in IEC’s annual program. Canada limits all other countries to a certain number of spots each year. Luckily for our beloved Australians, Canada has the red carpet rolled out! Australians receive IEC work permits that allow you to work in Canada for up to two years.

There are three categories of IEC work permits that Australian citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 can apply for:

  • Working Holiday – an open work permit to work in any job. Valid for 24 months.
  • Young Professional – if you have a job offer that falls under Canada’s NOC Skill Type 0, Level A or B. Valid for 24 months.
  • International Co-op – for students at Australian post-secondary institutions doing an internship in Canada. Valid for 24 months, unless it’s your second participation in IEC, then it’s only valid for 12 months.

Australians can participate in IEC a maximum of 2 times. One time must be either the Working Holiday or Young Professional category. The other must be the International Co-op category. You cannot, for instance, do a working holiday, then get a young professional permit. For more information, please visit the Government of Canada website.

Australians working in Canada on the working holiday permit may work for any employer for any length of time, up to the maximum 24 months duration of the visa.

Valeria moved to Vancouver on a working holiday in 2016 with Stepwest’s assistance and since then has called Canada home.

Eligibility Requirements for IEC Work Permits

In general, the requirements that Australians must meet to be eligible for a Canada Working Holiday permit are:

  • hold an Australian passport that will be valid for the duration of your stay in Canada
  • between the ages of 18 and 35 at the time of application
  • proof of a minimum of $2,500 CAD of accessible funds
  • have purchased health insurance for the entire duration of your stay
  • a round-trip ticket or proof of funds to purchase a return flight back to Australia

Additional Requirements for the other Work Permit Categories:

If you are applying for the Young Professional permit you must also have a job offer or contract in your field of expertise that contributes to your professional development under NOC 0, A or B.

If you are applying for the International Co-op permit you must also have a signed internship offer or contract for your internship placement that meets your academic institution’s requirements.

In both cases, employers in Canada must submit your offer of employment through the IRCC’s Employer Portal.

Cost of an IEC Work Permit

To participate in IEC, Australians must pay the IEC fee of $153 CAD plus $85 CAD for getting your biometrics done. Working Holiday applicants must also pay an open work permit fee of $100 CAD. Young Professional and International Co-op participants must get their employer to pay a $230 CAD Employer Compliance fee.

Timeline of Application

From the time you submit your application, it typically takes eight weeks for process your file. This of course can change based on volume, public holidays or other circumstances.

Oscar experience in The Rockies, Canada - Stepwest Stories
Oscar moved to Vancouver on a Working Holiday Visa to experience the powder in the Rockies. Stepwest helped him secure a job on our Working Holiday Program.

How to Work in Canada with an IEC Work Permit

The process to legally work in Canada starts when you are still in Australia. The simplified version of applying for the Working Holiday Visa is to make an online profile with IEC, then submit your work permit application through your account. Once your work permit application has been approved, you receive a letter to provide the border officer when you arrive in Canada. In exchange, they will give you the work permit.

We have put together a complete step-by-step guide on how to apply for the Canada Working Holiday Visa. We recommend you carefully read through it before considering starting your application. This will give you a complete understanding of what is required before you get started.

Below is the simplified process for working in Canada with an overview of what is required in each stage of the process:

Step 1: Create your IEC Profile

First, you must complete the Come to Canada questionnaire. This will help you determine your eligibility to participate in International Experience Canada. If you are eligible, you are given a personal reference code.

Use this code to create your account on the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. This is called your ‘MyCIC’ account. Once your MyCIC account has been created, you may fill out your personal profile information. Our post on how to apply for the Canada Working Holiday Visa contains a video showing you exactly how to create and submit your IEC profile.

When you submit your IEC profile, you are placed in a pool of Australian applicants. During this time, IEC will select candidates from this pool and invite them to apply. Even though Australians get an unlimited number of IEC visas to Canada, you still have to be invited to apply. This is the process for every country with a bilateral agreement with Canada.

Under normal circumstances (outside of covid), IRCC sends out Invitations to Apply (ITA) to Australians on a weekly basis. It should continue once work permit application approvals begin again. This means after submitting your IEC profile, you only need to wait a few days to continue the process of applying for your working holiday visa!

Note: There are exceptions where you may not receive your ITA within one week. This might be a result of a public holiday in Canada, or if there are problems with your IEC profile. If this is the case, you simply need to wait a bit longer.

Step 2: Submit your Working Holiday Visa Application

Once you receive your ITA in your MyCIC account, you have 10 days to begin your working holiday visa application. Once you officially begin your application, you have 20 days to complete your application and pay the fees.

The application has four parts to complete. Following this, you must upload the requested documents listed in your account. These documents will include a scan of your passport, a photo, your resume, and police certificates from every country you have resided in for 6 months or longer. The Australian police certificate is called, “Australian National Police Certificate – Standard Disclosure – Name check only.”

Police certificates often take longer than 20 days to collect. It is highly recommended to begin gathering these documents in advance. We’ve put together an informative post on what you need to know about police certificates.

Depending on your personal case, you may be requested to provide different documents such as the results of a medical exam. If you are from Victoria or Queensland, you are required to provide your driving history.

The final step of the application is to pay the fees. This includes a fee to have your biometrics collected. This is a relatively new part of IEC’s work permit application process. You can read more about the process for biometrics.

Step 3: Receive your Letter of Introduction (POE Letter)

Upon submitting your application, it will take approximately eight weeks to receive notice if it was approved or denied. If your application is successful, you will receive a Letter of Introduction in your MyCIC account. You must bring this letter, also known as your Port of Entry (POE) letter, to Canada with you.

Step 4: Arrival in Canada

Prior to your arrival in Canada, you must gather specific documents necessary to receive your actual work permit. You will present these documents along with your POE letter at your first port of entry. This means the first place you land in Canada, even if it is only for a short layover to your final destination. After presenting your documents to the Immigration Officer, they will provide you with your work permit.

Step 5: Apply for a SIN

In order to legally work in Canada, you must have a social insurance number (SIN). This is the equivalent of the Australian TFN. The Government of Canada uses it to collect income taxes. Previously you could apply for a SIN in-person at a Service Canada office. Due to COVID-19, now you can apply online.

In order to apply for a SIN you must provide a copy of your work permit and a proof of address in Canada. This can be tricky if you do not yet have a permanent place to reside. In this case, you can apply by mail and provide an address where your confirmation will be mailed. This could be the address of your employer.

Stepwest can assist you through the visa application process. Our team in Vancouver will help you before, during and after your arrival in Canada!

Where to Work in Canada

Now that you know how you can start working, you might be thinking about where you would like to work in Canada. Canada’s largest cities are Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Popular tourism destinations with work opportunities are Whistler, Banff, and Jasper.

Whistler, British Columbia

Whistler is known to many Australians as the ultimate Canadian ski resort experience. It’s located two hours from BC’s largest city of Vancouver. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, the resort hosted many events. Since then, there has been a surge in the cost of living and a reduction in rental vacancies. Your best bet here is to find an employer that offers staff accommodation to offset their living expenses.

Top employers: Ski resort, hotels, restaurants, and retail.

Vancouver (West Coast), British Columbia

Similar to Sydney with world-renowned city parks, beaches, festivals, and events, Vancouver has consistently been rated in the world’s topmost liveable cities. This comes at a price, however, with the cost of living being akin to that of Sydney or Melbourne. The mild climate and beautiful setting of the city on Canada’s West Coast draws tourists from around the world. This makes it a great place to meet other newcomers to Canada. Lifestyle has a large priority in the work culture here.

Top industries: Tech, tourism, retail, hospitality, construction, real estate, events, and film. The city also has three local ski hills employing seasonal workers.

Rocky Mountains – Banff, Lake Louise & Jasper

The Canadian Rocky Mountains draws tourists and working holidaymakers from around the world to experience the incredible natural beauty. The top industries here are tourism and natural resources. While it is possible to find work year-round, the summer and winter seasons are the most popular for ideal weather conditions. Each town’s location inside the National Parks puts a strict limit on the development inside the park. This results in low vacancies and a high cost of living. Again, your best bet here is to find a job with staff accommodation.

Top employers: Ski hills, resorts, hotels, restaurants, retail, tourism, forestry and mining.

Calgary, Alberta

Located on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, many tourists begin or end their Canadian vacations here. The standard of living here is high as a result of prosperous decades of the resource industry. However, with the low commodity prices in recent years, the number of jobs in this industry is shrinking. The low cost of living is the main draw here. Alberta has the country’s lowest sales tax at just 5%.

Top industries: Resources (oil and gas), construction, real estate, finance, agriculture, services, retail, tourism (Calgary Stampede) and hospitality.

Montreal, Quebec

Montreal is the dual French-English cultural heart of Canada where a dynamic mix of old Europe and contemporary style fuels the city’s joie de vivre. A fantastic lineup of events, food scene, nightlife and constant celebration of the arts will keep you endlessly entertained. Montreal is an up and coming city in the real estate market attracting new industries and young families from higher-priced cities like Vancouver and Toronto. The cost of living here is still low, but not for long.

Top industries: Tech, services, retail, education, engineering, telecommunications, tourism, events, arts, and music.

Toronto, Ontario

Toronto is Canada’s equivalent of Melbourne – a large buzzing metropolis with a thriving arts and music scene. It’s one of the world’s most multicultural cities lending to a diverse offering of festivals, events, restaurants, sports, and theatre. The work hard, play hard culture is offset by the city’s location along one of Canada’s Great Lakes. This provides 50 kilometres of waterfront access with beaches, parks, marinas, and trails to enjoy the outdoors. Like Vancouver, the cost of living is high but decreases as you make your way out to the neighbouring cities that make up the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Top industries: Banking, finance, marketing, film, fashion, services, communications, design, transportation, manufacturing, retail, tourism, and events.

Where ever you decide to live in Canada, make sure it will help you achieve your goals for your time here. Oskar wanted to spend the winter skiing, so we got him a job at a ski resort in Banff!

Where ever you decide to work in Canada, we recommend you allow yourself to stay flexible. Keep your options open to a few different places and industries of work. By moving abroad you are gaining life experience. It’s the best time to try out new jobs, industries, and lifestyles. Allowing yourself to stay flexible will help you achieve the experience you were hoping for.

Canada is a huge country. It’s culture, landscapes and lifestyles vary greatly from coast to coast to coast. Why not experience more than one place?

How to Find Work in Canada

Once you’ve set your sights on a place to begin your Canadian adventure, you will need to plan out your strategy for finding work. We’ve broken down the three most common approaches to finding work in Canada.

1) Apply for jobs before arriving

This is the most difficult approach. Even if you received your Letter of Introduction, this is not your physical work permit. You don’t receive that until you are in Canada. If you are a skilled worker or have specific expertise this option might work for you if you plan to apply for the Young Professional work permit.

2) Apply for jobs after arriving

This approach will make it easier to land a job but is more costly. You will need to budget for several weeks of unemployment while you wait for a callback and go through the interview process. During that time, you will need to pay for your accommodation, food, and transportation. You may find it more difficult to be selected to rent until you have a job as property management companies will give preference to people with full-time employment.

3) Use an agency like Stepwest to secure work ahead of time

While this may seem like an expensive option at the start, it will save you heaps of time and stress. Arriving in Canada with a job secured or interviews already lined up takes a lot of uncertainty out of moving to Canada.

Stepwest will help you start working faster, so you earn money faster. Securing your job on arrival means you can get set up in a flat or sharehouse faster, reducing your adjustment time.

You will also be able to meet people faster and plan outings together to explore your new city. 24 months seems like a long time to live in Canada, but trust us, it will fly by. The last thing you want is to spend weeks looking for work while draining your savings. Not an ideal start to your experience in Canada.

Traveling to Canada on a Working Holiday? Interested in securing a job before you arrive?

Stepwest offers working holiday programs where we guarantee you a job. We offer complete employment support because we know moving abroad takes a lot of planning. Enjoy the winter or summer season working at a resort in Whistler, Banff, Jasper, or Lake Louise. If you’re more of a city person, check out our Working Holiday City Job Program and get assigned a personal job coordinator to secure interviews for you upon arrival.

Are you still considering your options for your Working Holiday experience in Canada? No worries!

Book a FREE consultation with our team to learn how we can help you make the most of your work experience in Canada:

Additional Resources

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The material on our website and on this webpage is intended to provide only general information and comment to our clients and the public. Although we make our best efforts to ensure that the information found on our website is accurate and timely, do not, under any circumstances, rely on information found on our website as legal or immigration advice. Nor do we guarantee the accuracy of any information contained on websites to which our website provides links. For assistance with your specific inquiry or problem, please contact a lawyer or an immigration consultant.