What Is IEC (International Experience Canada) & How To Participate

You may have heard of Working Holidays before, but did you know Canada offers this program for youth from over 35 countries? This program is called International Experience Canada (IEC). It’s a Government of Canada initiative that allows young people to work and travel in each other’s countries, providing a platform for cultural exchange and professional growth. This blog aims to guide you through the details of the IEC program, including eligibility criteria, visa types, the application process, and how Stepwest can assist you in making the most of this enriching experience in Canada.

The History and Benefits of IEC (International Experience Canada)

IEC has a rich history dating back to 1956, beginning with France as its inaugural partner. Today, it boasts over 35 participating countries worldwide, fostering bilateral agreements aimed at cultural exchange and economic collaboration.

While not available to every country, participation in the IEC program offers an unparalleled opportunity to live and work in Canada. This initiative not only enriches the lives of youth participants but also enhances the economies and cultural landscapes of both Canada and its partner nations.

Duration of an IEC Work Permit

IEC provides the opportunity to foreign national youth from countries that currently hold an agreement with Canada, with the chance to work and travel in Canada for periods ranging from 1 to 3 years. The duration of the work permit granted under this program depends on two primary factors:

Bilateral Agreement between countries: The specific agreement between Canada and each participating country determines the maximum length of the work permit. Not all countries are eligible for the same work permit duration.

Health Insurance Requirement: The duration of the work permit will be influenced by the length of the health insurance you bring to Canada at the time of your work permit activation. Bringing the maximum duration of your work permit will ensure you receive the maximum duration of your working holiday in Canada. Learn more about this requirement here.

Types of IEC Work Permits

The IEC program offers three distinct types of work and travel experiences tailored to suit different career goals and educational pursuits:

  1. Working Holiday: Participants receive an open work permit enabling them to work anywhere in Canada, supporting their travel adventures.
  2. International Co-op (Internship): Designed for registered students seeking hands-on experience as part of their education degree. The work placement or internship must be required in order to complete their study program.
  3. Young Professionals: Participants gain professional work experience aligned with their career path through an employer-specific work permit for skilled workers working at roles under Training, Education, Experience and Responsibilities (TEER) category 0, 1, 2 or 3 of the National Occupational Classification (NOC).

Participants not only live and work in Canada but also have the opportunity to enhance their language skills in English or French, contributing to a well-rounded cultural and professional experience.

Age Requirements for IEC Participants

The age eligibility for the International Experience Canada (IEC) program varies depending on the bilateral agreements between Canada and each participating country. Some countries set the age limit up to 30 years old. Others extend the age limit up to 35 years old. Specifically:

  • 18 – 30 years old: Eligible participants must be within this age range before their 31st birthday.
  • 18 – 35 years old: Eligible participants must be within this age range before their 36th birthday.

It’s important to verify the age requirements each season, as they can change. For instance, during IEC 2024, the age limit for UK citizens increased to up to 35 years old, offering greater opportunities for individuals who wish to work in Canada after their 31st birthday, as that was the age limit until IEC 2023 Season and now has been updated, which is great news!

How to Apply for an IEC Working Holiday Visa for Canada

Applying for an International Experience Canada (IEC) working holiday visa involves a specific process:

Invitation Only (ITA): The working holiday visa is available by invitation only. Eligible candidates must create an online profile and wait for an invitation to apply (ITA) from IEC, issued every week to eligible participants that are part of the pool of applicants per country.

Online Application: Once invited or received your ITA, applicants need to complete their work permit application online. This includes uploading required documents, paying visa fees and receive all the updates regarding the work permit application.

Biometrics Requirement: Biometrics (fingerprints and a photo) are part of the work permit application process. Applicants must visit in person one of Canada’s Visa Application Centers (VFS) worldwide to complete this step. You can complete biometrics at any VFS location, not necessarily in your country of citizenship. You must be sure to complete this step within the 30 days timeframe provided by IEC.

At Stepwest we offer support throughout the work permit application process and beyond. Our experienced Travel Coordinators will guide you at every step. We ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience to maximize your chances of securing an IEC working holiday visa for Canada.


International Experience Canada – Walkthrough Video Guide

YouTube video

IEC Working Holiday Canada – Country-Specific Guidance:

For more tailored guidance based on your country of residence, you should check out one of these articles: UK, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Austria, Australia, New Zealand & Ireland.

These articles provide specific information relevant to applicants from each country, ensuring you have all the necessary details to successfully apply for an IEC working holiday visa to Canada.

Apply For An IEC Working Holiday With Stepwest

Ready to embark on your Canadian working holiday adventure with the International Experience Canada (IEC) program? Explore Stepwest’s tailored IEC programs offering guaranteed job placement, staff housing, and seamless visa assistance. Begin your journey today and discover the opportunities awaiting you in Canada!

How much does the Working Holiday visa cost for Canada?

When applying for a Working Holiday visa through the International Experience Canada (IEC) program, there are several fees payable to the Government of Canada:

  • IEC Fee: CAD $172 – This fee covers the administrative costs associated with processing your application under the IEC program.
  • Open Work Permit Fee: CAD $100 – This fee is specifically for the open work permit that allows you to work in various roles and locations throughout Canada during your stay.
  • Biometrics: CAD $85 – Biometrics are a mandatory part of the application process and involve providing fingerprints and a photo. The biometrics fee is valid for 10 years, allowing flexibility for future travel to Canada.

These fees are essential components of your application and must be paid when submitting your working holiday permit application for this to be processed by the Government of Canada. Only after a payment is submitted, the work permit application will be considered submitted and in progress.

Who are we as a Recognized Organization (RO)?

Stepwest has been a Recognized Organization (RO) of the Government of Canada since 2015. This designation signifies our expertise and authorization to facilitate International Experience Canada (IEC) programs. As an RO, we specialize in assisting first-time travellers to Canada under the IEC program.

To learn more about our services and the specific IEC permits available under our Recognized Organization (RO) designation, Check our dedicated RO program page here.

Participate In IEC With Stepwest

Embark on your Canadian working holiday adventure with confidence through Stepwest, a trusted Recognized Organization (RO) since 2015. Our expertise ensures a seamless application process, job placement, and convenient staff housing arrangements upon your arrival. Whether you’re eager to explore Canada’s vibrant cities or its breathtaking natural landscapes, we are committed to making your working holiday experience unforgettable. Join us and discover the opportunities that await you in Canada.


What documents are required for the IEC visa application?

In general, the documents will be always the same:

  • Valid Passport.
  • Police Certificate from your country of citizenship.
  • Police Certificates from any country where you have lived for 6 months or more, if any.
  • Most Updated Resume.
  • ID Picture.
  • Family Information document.
  • … among some others, you might need like: medical exam, extra passport, previous visas or permits, etc..

Depending on your background these documents can change and sometimes IEC requests some supportive extra information, if needed. Remember that each application will be reviewed by a Canadian Immigration Officer and they must get a clear picture of your background to approve your work permit application

How can I find accommodation in Canada as an IEC participant?

Finding accommodation in Canada as an IEC participant is made easy with Stepwest. Explore our tailored programs offering guaranteed job placement and staff housing at popular summer and ski resorts across Canada:

These programs ensure you have secure accommodation while enjoying your working holiday experience in Canada.

What is the best time of year to apply for an IEC visa?

Early in the season – The season normally starts the December before the year you are planning to travel to Canada. The sooner you present your IEC profile, the higher the chances of getting Invited by IEC to apply for a work permit for Canada.

As each country has a limited number of visas (except Australians, lucky ones!), the later you apply the less amount of visas will be available. That’s why the Working holiday in Canada is all about preparation in advance!

Can I apply for an IEC visa if I have previously participated in the program?

It will depend on your nationality and the number of times that you participated in the IEC program. Some countries will allow second participation and repeat participation.

For example, countries like Italy, the UK, Korea or Chile will allow you to participate up to 2 times, so it is best to check the specifics about your country. Also, remember that RO participation doesn’t count towards regular IEC participation, so it is important to check the details of your specific situation.

What support services are available to IEC participants once they arrive in Canada?

This is a program built for youth from the IEC participating countries to work and travel in Canada, so there is no specific government program to support your job search upon arrival. That’s why the ROs exist to support IEC working holiday visa holders who don’t feel comfortable doing this experience on their own and want to have the support and expertise of a company that has done this for years like us!

Besides that, you will have the support of our Travel Coordinators during your complete stay, who, like you, are also working holidaymakers themselves so they know exactly what the feeling of being on the other side as a newcomer to Canada.

How do I prepare for my job search in Canada as an IEC participant?

At Stepwest we offer a working holiday program for each season, where we guarantee your job and accommodation before your arrival. Can you do this experience solo? Absolutely, but learn more about the advantages of doing it with us here.

Still want to know how to prepare for your job search in Canada? Check this post with our tips so you can make the most of this experience.

Are there any restrictions on the types of jobs I can take with an IEC visa?

If you are using a working holiday under IEC, you will have an open work permit that will allow you to work anywhere and do any type of job in Canada

There are some jobs that will have specific requirements that you must keep in mind during your work permit application process. Example of restricted roles:

  • Childcare or caregiver for minors or those that need assistance.
  • Teacher for minors
  • Health-related occupations: doctor, dentist, nurse, clinical laboratory worker, health science worker, …

If you are planning to work in any of the above-mentioned types of jobs or industries, you can still do it but Canada will require you to complete an Upfront Medical Exam. Please note that this medical exam can only be completed by a panel of physicians approved by the Government of Canada. The Government of Canada has these approved clinics or medical centers all over the world.

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