Arrival in Canada: How to Activate your IEC Work Permit

Congratulations on your IEC Working Holiday approval! Now it’s time to start preparing for your arrival in Canada. In order to do so, there are a few documents you must get ready to ensure your entry through Immigration Canada goes smoothly.

If you are coming to Canada with our Working Holiday programs, our team will provide you with a pre-departure orientation. During this orientation, we go over all the steps for your arrival into Canada. We carefully answer your questions before your departure so you have no problems or concerns upon arrival in Canada.

Make sure you refer to the Government of Canada’s website for the most accurate and up-to-date information on arrival to Canada with your IEC work permit.

Understanding your Port of Entry (POE) Letter

After receiving notification in your MyCIC account that your working holiday application has been approved, you will receive your Port of Entry (POE) Letter. This letter is also known as your Correspondence Letter, Letter of Introduction, or Introductory Letter. Even though this letter confirms that your working holiday permit for Canada has been approved, this letter is not your actual work permit.

Keep this letter. In order to get your IEC work permit, you must show your POE letter to the immigration officials upon arrival in Canada. This letter states, “Your application to work in Canada has been initially approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada”.

When you receive approval for your working holiday permit, you have 12 months to enter Canada and activate your permit. If you enter Canada after those 12 months have passed, you will NOT receive a work permit. Your exact deadline date to activate your working holiday permit is found in your POE letter. The date is included in the ‘For officer use’ box where it states, Must enter Canada by (YYYY/MM/DD).

Review your electronic Travel Authorization

When you get your working holiday permit approved under IEC, you will automatically get an eTA connected to your passport. Your eTA number is also included in your POE letter.

In order to board your plane to Canada, you must have an eTA. Therefore, it is important to verify you received an eTA number by reading your POE letter. You should also verify the dates that your eTA is valid for in the letter. This is because sometimes the officer issuing your POE letter makes a mistake. We recommend that you double-check that your POE letter includes your eTA number and that you will be traveling to Canada during its valid dates. If you don’t have an eTA, or you are traveling when it is no longer valid, you must apply for a new eTA.

New Passport requires new eTA

If you renew your passport after receiving your POE letter, your new passport will not have an eTA. And even though you have a valid passport, it does not have an eTA so you will not be allowed to board your flight to Canada. If you travel to Canada with a new passport, then you must re-apply for a new eTA. You can apply for a new eTA here.

Arrival in Canada – Activating your Working Holiday Permit

You will activate your working holiday permit upon arrival to Canada at the first port of entry. Your first port of entry is the first place you land in Canada, even if it is only a layover on your way to your final destination.

For example, if you are traveling to Calgary with Stepwest’s Working Holiday Ski Resort Program and your flight has a layover in Toronto, you MUST go through immigration control in Toronto before boarding your next flight to Calgary. In this example, Toronto is your first port of entry and where you will receive your work permit.

Keep in mind that sometimes the line at immigration control can be long. So if you will be activating your work permit on a layover, ensure that you buy a flight that has a long layover (at least three hours). This will give you enough time to pass through immigration, even if your flight gets delayed.

When you first arrive in Canada off an international flight, the airport will lead you to immigration control. You do not need to worry about missing it. When you arrive at immigration, you will first talk to an officer from the CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency). Tell the officer that you have an approved work permit and you would like to activate it. They will then send you to the Immigration Service Area to get your permit activated.

Documents you must have ready to go through immigration:

The following list of documents is required to pass through immigration upon arrival to Canada. You should have them easily accessible in your carry-on or hand luggage so you can provide them to the officer. Do not keep these documents in your checked luggage!

  • Port of Entry Letter or Approval Letter
  • Biometrics validity letter
  • Proof of funds. This can be cash or a bank certificate/statement that proves you have at least $2,500 CAD in accessible funds. It should not be dated more than a week before your arrival in Canada.
  • A flight ticket for your departure from Canada or sufficient funds to buy a flight to return back home.
  • Police certificates and other documentation requested during your work permit application. This should include all of your police certificates. Not only the one from your home country, but also from each of the countries you have resided in for longer than 6 months. If you were requested to get a medical exam, make sure you bring a copy of the results with you. Remember those results last for 12 months after you completed the medical exam.
  • An insurance policy that is valid for your entire stay in Canada. It is extremely important that you have insurance coverage for the whole duration of your stay. This document creates the most problems for IEC participants entering Canada. Please refer to our detailed post on International Experience Canada Health Insurance for how to avoid running into problems with your insurance document. Check our recommended insurance here. 

A further note on insurance:

For example, someone from Germany decides to travel to Canada with 3 months’ insurance. Even though they are eligible for a 12-month work permit, the immigration officer will only give them a 3-month work permit. Unfortunately, there is NO option to extend your permit. Even if you are convinced you will only be staying in Canada for the summer, don’t make this same mistake. You never know what could happen on your working holiday to make you want to stay longer. Learn everything you need to know about your insurance for your Working Holiday Permit in Canada here.

Review your Work Permit BEFORE Leaving Immigration

We know that speaking with an immigration officer can make people nervous and want to rush through the experience. However, we cannot stress enough how important it is for you to carefully review your work permit before you leave the immigration control area. This is your chance to make sure there are no mistakes on your work permit. Unfortunately, sometimes mistakes happen and the officer will have entered some information incorrectly. Once you leave the airport, fixing a mistake on your work permit can be a very challenging and lengthy process.

After the immigration officer hands you the work permit, take a moment to confirm your personal details and work permit duration are correct. Look for any errors with the following information:

  • Family Name
  • Given Name
  • Date of birth (YYYY/MM/DD)
  • Gender
  • Country of Birth
  • Country of Nationality
  • Travel Doc Number – This is your passport number
  • Date Issued: YYYY/MM/DD – Your date of entry into Canada
  • Expiry Date: YYYY/MM/DD – This is when you must leave Canada and will mark the duration of your permit. Confirm it matches your insurance duration and the agreement of your country with Canada.
  • Employer: Should say UNKNOWN
  • Employment Location: Should say UNKNOWN
  • Occupation: Should say UNKNOWN
  • In force from: YYYY/MM/DD – Your date of entry into Canada.

CBSA Officers can make mistakes, so it is important to check your work permit

Sometimes the officers issue your work permit with an expiration date equal to your POE validity by mistake. If you notice this mistake has been made, let them know and ask them to correct it. If they are don’t realize they have made this mistake, you must show them the note in the image below, taken from the IRCC website.

We also highly recommend you save your country-specific page from the IRCC website that states the maximum duration of the work permit you should get if you have your insurance for the full duration of the permit. This is in case the officer mistakenly gives you the permit duration for another country. If you have this webpage saved on your phone or printed out, you can show the officer where it states the maximum duration for your country of origin so they can fix it right away.


Ready to activate your Working Holiday?

Want to learn how we can help you kick-start your working holiday in Canada with a job?

Fill in our application form and our team will get back to you within one business day. We look forward to chatting with you!