The mandate of International Experience Canada (IEC) is to enhance key bilateral relationships between Canada and other countries and emphasize the importance of improved reciprocity. This mandate will be achieved through the following three key objectives:
- prioritize high-value bilateral relations and low-risk exchanges with other countries;
- facilitate applications from high-quality participants who fit Canada’s immigration priorities; and
- increase reciprocity with other countries and enhance international opportunities for young Canadians.
Program and mandate
About the IEC program
Effective August 31, 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) assumed responsibility for the IEC program, which was previously administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD). The IEC program began in 1951 as a reconciliatory cultural exchange between Canada and Germany following World War II. It was formally created in 1967, following approval from Cabinet, on the recommendations of the Department of External Affairs and International Trade (predecessor of DFATD), the Department of Employment and Immigration (predecessor of CIC and Employment and Social Development Canada [ESDC]), and the Secretary of State (predecessor of Canadian Heritage).
IEC supports Canada’s economic and cultural interests by administering bilateral, reciprocal Youth Mobility Agreements with 32 countries and territories. Agreements are open to Canadian and foreign youth aged 18 to 35. The reciprocal nature of these agreements qualifies foreign youth for Labour Market Impact Assessment-exempt (LMIA) work permit.
Today, the IEC program administers Canada’s agreements (international treaties) and arrangements (Memoranda of Understanding [MOUs]) with 32 countries and foreign territories. The IEC also facilitates youth mobility opportunities through travel and work service providers recognized by the program.
The deployment of the new dynamic IEC e-application in November 2015 allows clients to submit their profile to an IEC pool through MyCIC. The system assesses whether they meet basic IEC eligibility requirements before enabling them to submit their profile to the pool and become candidates for the IEC program. Through campaigns managed by CIC, candidates are invited to submit their complete work permit application to the Department. Once the application is submitted, the system assesses, based on a series of rules, whether the applications can be automatically promoted or whether they need to be reviewed further. The primary office for these applications is the Operational Support Centre (OSC) at CIC. This new system design replaces the two-step process applicants undertook, first submitting their applications to the Kompass system, then applying to CIC through MyCIC.
Canadians and foreign nationals aged 18 to 35 can benefit from the IEC program under the following:
- Bilateral agreements and arrangements established by the Canadian government with foreign governments
There are three possible categories of participation through bilateral agreements and arrangements under the IEC program:
- Working Holiday (travel and work): Participants are eligible to apply for an open work permit to allow them to work for any employer or location in Canada to subsidize their stay as they travel and discover the host country.
- Young Professionals (career development): Participants are eligible to apply for an employer-specific work permit to help them gain targeted experience in their profession or field of study.
- International Co-op (internships for students only): Participants in the internship category are eligible to apply for an employer-specific work permit to help them gain targeted experience in their field of study.
- Recognized organizations monitored by CIC
- A recognized organization is a third-party Canadian organization that facilitates international travel and work opportunities for foreign nationals and whose programs and services are recognized by the IEC. Recognized organizations may provide, as part of their services, support and advice to foreign nationals applying under one of the three IEC categories listed above throughout the application process, and may assist with their travel arrangements or arrange their work placements. Recognized organizations provide their services for a fee.
Work permits issued under the IEC are exempt from the requirement of a positive LMIA (exemption code 21).
Role and responsibilities
The IEC program is governed jointly by CIC’s Strategic and Program Policy Sector (SPP) and Operations Sector. These are the roles and responsibilities:
- Negotiate reciprocal agreements and arrangements with foreign governments and implement the IEC program.
- Negotiate and set annual reciprocal quotas (global level, country level, and recognized organizations level).
- Conduct ongoing country assessments to evaluate that agreements and arrangements meet the IEC program’s objectives.
- Monitor program delivery for Canadians to assess reciprocity.
- Provide functional guidance on IEC’s participation eligibility requirements.
- Provide guidance and support to the IEC hub missions (Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, and Poland).
- Support the promotion and awareness of the IEC abroad and to foreign youth in collaboration with missions.
- Implement the IEC engagement strategy to increase Canadian participation through partnering relationships with the following key sectors:
- provinces and territories, and academic networks;
- Canadian private sector (including the travel and work sector);
- other federal government departments, provincial, territorial and foreign governments;
- youth (including Aboriginal youth and IEC alumni);
- non-governmental organizations serving youth; and
- ethno-cultural communities and diasporas.
- Promote the IEC to Canadians and foreign nationals through activities, including attending international and domestic conferences, workshops, and fairs.
- Develop promotional products and advertising campaigns.
National Headquarters operations
Temporary Resident Program Delivery Division, Operational Management and Coordination (OMC)
- Provide functional guidance on the processing of work permits, including those connected with the IEC program.
Operations Support Centre (OSC) within the Centralized Processing Region (CPR)
- Act as the primary office to process all applications (except for applications from visa-required recognized organizations—with the exception of Mexico and Costa Rica) and applications from nationals of the Ukraine).
- Promote applications within one business day of receipt of the application in the Global Case Management System (GCMS).
- Verify the names, date of birth, country of birth, and passport information, and make any necessary corrections, as per CIC’s Naming Policy and procedures.
- Search the electronic databases to avoid duplicate unique client identification numbers and perform data integrity actions where necessary.
- Assess IEC applicants’ eligibility to apply under the IEC and processes work permit applications.
- Collect the IEC program participation fee, the open work permit holder fee (when applicable), and the employer compliance fee from qualified applicants and employers.
- Respond to case‑specific enquiries from foreign nationals (through the Case Specific Enquiry web form) within five business days. The OSC does not respond to case‑specific enquiries from foreign nationals whose work permit applications are handled by visa officers (consult the section on CIC visa offices below).
CIC visa offices in the International Region
- Promote the IEC program to the general public abroad.
Border services officers at ports of entry (POEs)
- Review the letter of introduction (LOI) and may issue a work permit if the foreign national is admissible and compliant with program requirements.
- May refuse to issue a work permit if the IEC participant cannot show proof of health insurance that is valid for the entire duration of their expected stay (it should be noted that proof of health insurance is a program requirement under the IEC).
Except in the case of citizens and permanent residents of the United States (U.S), the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) do not allow the submission of a work permit application under the IEC at a POE. Paragraph R198(2)(c) stipulates that a foreign national may not apply for a work permit when entering Canada if the foreign national is a participant in an international youth exchange program, unless they are a national or permanent resident of the United States or their application for a work permit was approved before their entry into Canada.
Participation eligibility requirements
To apply under the IEC program, the following eligibility requirements must be satisfied:
Citizenship and residency
A foreign national applying under a bilateral agreement or arrangement must be a citizen of one of the countries or a resident of one of the territories with which Canada holds a bilateral agreement or arrangement. Some bilateral agreements and arrangements require that the applicant be residing in said country or territory at the time of the application. When assessing this requirement, the processing agent should first consider the residency requirements as stipulated in the bilateral agreement or arrangement.
Note: The citizenship and residency requirement does not apply to applicants participating under the banner of an IEC recognized organization unless the foreign national is from a country or territory that holds a bilateral agreement or arrangement with Canada. Applicants from those countries and territories must meet the citizenship and residency requirements as outlined in their country or territory’s bilateral agreement or arrangement with Canada.
Applicants must meet the age requirement applicable to them as defined in the bilateral agreement or arrangement between Canada and their country or territory of citizenship on the date they submit their work permit application. Most countries set the age requirement to be between 18 and 35 on the date applicants submit their work permit application. However, agreements and arrangements with Australia, Belgium, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom set the age requirement to be between 18 and 30, and the bilateral agreement with Mexico sets the age requirement to be between 18 and 29.
Subsection R52(1), states that in order to become a temporary resident, a foreign national must hold a passport that remains valid throughout the period of their authorized stay in Canada. Exceptions to this are noted in subsection R52(2).
Each IEC application must include a legible photocopy of the identification pages of the applicant’s passport. The copy must show the given and family names, the date of birth, the place of birth, the passport issuance date, the expiry date, and the applicant’s signature. The passport must be valid for at least one day beyond the date of the applicant’s planned departure from Canada.
Refer to the eligibility and admissibility instructions, which describe how to take into account the passport validity period when issuing work permits.
Sufficient financial resources, including transportation to depart from Canada
While the IEC requires that participants have sufficient financial resources to cover their expenses at the beginning of their stay (i.e., the first three months of their stay) in Canada, this requirement simply reflects the provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) and its Regulations respecting the admissibility of any foreign national into Canada for a temporary stay. In summary, a border services officer at a port of entry will not admit a foreign national into Canada unless they are satisfied that the foreign national will be able to support themselves and any accompanying dependants while they are in Canada.
IEC applicants must possess sufficient financial resources (minimum of $2,500 CAN) to cover any expenses (e.g., room and board) that may be incurred at the beginning of their stay. IEC applicants who intend to take an unpaid work placement in Canada under the International Co-op (internship) category may be asked by the border services officer to prove they have additional financial resources to cover their expenses for their entire stay.
Travel or healthcare insurance
Applicants do not have to show proof of healthcare insurance at the time of the application. They are, however, required to declare that they will purchase comprehensive healthcare insurance, including insurance for hospitalization and repatriation, for the entire duration of their authorized period of stay in Canada. It is imperative that IEC applicants have healthcare insurance during their stay in Canada so that they do not make an excessive demand on Canada’s health care system. Applicants should be advised that they should purchase their healthcare insurance only after they have received their LOI.
Participants’ insurance policies must cover their entire stay in Canada and must be purchased before they arrive at a Canadian port of entry. Border services officers verify this information when issuing the work permit. Participants may be refused entry if they do not have insurance. If their insurance is not valid for the entire period for which the work permit is sought, the duration of the work permit may be shortened accordingly. If they receive a shorter work permit due to the length of their insurance policy, they are not eligible to apply for an extension at a later date.
Previous participation or discontinuous stay
Foreign nationals applying under a bilateral arrangement or agreement may be permitted to benefit from the IEC program more than once in their lifetime. Some bilateral agreements and arrangements require foreign nationals to apply under a different category (i.e., Working Holiday, International Co-op or Young Professionals) for their second participation. Some countries require the two stays to be discontinuous. See Bilateral agreements and arrangements for details.
The guidelines on repeated participation vary for foreign nationals applying under a recognized organization supporting youth mobility.
Applicant not accompanied by dependants
Under the IEC program requirements, applicants may not list any dependants (i.e., spouses, common-law partners, or children) on their application to benefit from the IEC program. This means that an applicant and their family members may not benefit from the IEC program as a family unit under one IEC application. However, this does not prevent dependant(s) from submitting their own individual request to come to Canada (e.g., spouse may submit their own application to benefit from the IEC program).
CIC has no specific policy prohibiting spouses and dependants of IEC participants from joining them in Canada. However, the spouse and dependant(s) must be admissible to Canada based on their own merits. Family members will have to answer the Come to Canada Wizard questions for themselves and have their own MyCIC account.
The spouse or common-law partner of an IEC participant is not eligible to obtain an open work permit by virtue of the participant’s IEC application. However, the spouse or common-law partner can apply for an open work permit if the IEC candidate is approved to work in Canada for six months or longer and is working in a job at skill level 0, A or B in the National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Likewise, the children of an IEC participant are not eligible to obtain a study permit by virtue of the participant’s IEC application. They must submit their own application for a study permit if they intend to study in Canada.
For more information about eligibility requirements such as passport validity, health care insurance, and sufficient financial resources, consult Apply—International Experience Canada.
- Based on the Service Level Standards set out between the IEC and its partner countries, complete work permit applications must be processed within eight weeks. The eight-week period begins on receipt of the work permit application and ends when the final decision is sent to the applicant.
- When there are requests for further information or documentation, this period will be suspended, but attempts should be made to ensure that applications are not unduly delayed.
- For questions regarding the IEC participation eligibility assessment or general IEC questions, applicants should be referred to the IEC website.
- For case-specific requests for applications that are processed at the OSC, IEC applicants should be directed to use the in-Canada Case Specific Enquiry web form.
- If a visa office receives a case-specific request from an IEC applicant whose application is processed at the OSC, the applicant should be directed to use the in-Canada Case Specific Enquiry form.
- Visa officers can create a standard reply message for these situations, such as the following:
“You have requested information regarding your International Experience Canada work permit application. This office does not process these applications and can be of no further assistance. Please consult the CIC website and submit your question using the in-Canada Case Specific Enquiry web form.”
IEC application process
Applications from foreign nationals are reviewed for
- eligibility for participation in the IEC program; and
- eligibility for work permits.
All foreign national youth undergo the same application process under the IEC.
As of November 21, 2015, there is a new application process for participating in the IEC.
Clients are required to initiate their participation by creating an online IEC profile using MyCIC. A pool of eligible candidates for each country and each category will be created. Clients can indicate their interest in applying in more than one category. After they submit a profile, they become IEC candidates. Once candidates receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA), they have 10 calendar days to refuse or accept the ITA. If they accept the ITA, they are considered to be applicants and they have 20 days to submit their work permit application (the 20-day period starts when the applicants accept their ITA).
It is mandatory for all IEC candidates to submit their work permit application using MyCIC (with the exception of American citizens and permanent residents (see note below). If their application is approved, they will be issued an LOI and become IEC participants. They must present their LOI to a border services officer on their entry to Canada. It should be noted that visa application centres (VAC) cannot accept IEC work permit applications.
If a candidate does not respond to the ITA within the prescribed 10-day period, their profile will be deactivated. To be considered again, the foreign national must submit a new profile. If they decline the ITA, they may subsequently receive a second or third ITA in the same or other categories.
Note: Although Canada and the U.S. currently have no formal bilateral arrangement concerning youth mobility, U.S. citizens and permanent residents may apply to IEC through recognized organizations. They may apply for their work permit online (recommended option) or at a POE [R198(2)(c)] as long as they hold a valid ITA letter and a copy of the confirmation letter from their recognized organization. IEC applicants must pay their participation fee (and other fees, if applicable) online before arriving at the POE.
Participation eligibility steps
The application process and country-specific information on the participation application can be found on the page Determine your eligibility—International Experience Canada.
Work permit eligibility
File assignment: primary office
- Upon submission by the applicant, GCMS sets the primary office when the prospective application is created. The OSC will promote all prospective e-applications to real applications without changing the primary office.
- For applications where there are complex admissibility concerns, the OSC will refer the IEC application to the visa office responsible for the applicant’s country of citizenship. The OSC uses electronic transfer to refer the applications to the visa office, which automatically sets up the visa office as the primary office.
Application and documentation
- Clients who choose to use the services of a recognized organization and who have received an ITA letter must provide a copy of the confirmation letter from their recognized organization when they submit their work permit application.
- The Come to Canada Wizard creates the personal document checklists based on the requirements provided by the IEC program. Officers should ensure that all documents required on the checklist are submitted. OSC officers processing IEC work permit applications can check whether a police certificate or a medical examination is required.
- If a work permit application is refused and the foreign national still wishes to participate in IEC, they must create a new profile.
- Only 6 of the 32 IEC countries are designated as countries where a medical examination is required prior to entry to Canada (see Bilateral agreements and arrangements). If the IEC applicant indicates that they have resided in a designated country or territory for six or more consecutive months in the last year, they must complete a medical examination, and attach the Medical Report – Client Biodata and Summary form and upload it into the Proof of Medical examination or Optional documents slot.
- To prevent applicants’ medical results expiring before the applicants have received an ITA, applicants should be encouraged to wait until they receive their ITA before proceeding with their medical examination.
- Citizens of the IEC countries and territories that are not designated require a medical examination if they wish to work in specific occupations in Canada.
- Applicants who require a medical examination but are unable to get one within the 20-day deadline may submit proof with their work permit application that they have scheduled an appointment with a panel physician approved by CIC. The submission of either of these forms or the proof of a scheduled appointment will alert the processing office that medical results must be received before a final decision can be made.
- Completed medical examinations will be listed as “passed” in GCMS. Border services officers should confirm that the medical results are in GCMS in order to apply the correct conditions.
- It is important that the validity on the LOI for approved cases where a medical examination was completed be valid for the same duration as the medical examination (i.e., 12 months from the last medical assessment on file).
- Mandatory police certificates for the IEC are requested in the personal checklist for certain countries (see Bilateral agreements and arrangements).
- Police certificates are required for all countries where the applicant has lived more than six months since reaching the age of 18 and should be requested as a standard process, if required in the bilateral agreement or arrangement.
- If applicants are unable to obtain a police certificate before the deadline to submit their work permit application, a copy of the receipt proving they have requested one is acceptable and can be uploaded in place of the police certificate. However, they must have the police certificate ready to submit to CIC when an officer later requests it before the issuance of the work permit.
Fees and refunds
For information, see the following:
A work permit application will be refused under paragraph R200(3)(f.1) if, where applicable, the employer has not
- paid the employer compliance fee, as per section R303.1 [unless the employer has been exempted from paying the fee under subsection R303.1(5) or 303.2(2)]; or
- submitted an Offer of Employment, as per section R209.11.
See When can a refund be issued? for more information on when refunds of the employer compliance fee and open work permit holder fee may be initiated.
IEC categories and coding
Foreign nationals fall under one of the three overarching IEC categories below.
In general, work to be performed by Young Professionals under IEC is remunerated. However, in most cases for the Co-op category, participants are not remunerated. Regardless of whether applicants are remunerated, all IEC applicants are required to apply for a work permit. Refer to the definition of “work” in the IRPR and to the instructions on what activities are not considered to be work.
This category is for applicants whose intention is to travel in Canada and work in order to supplement their financial resources.
Note: For tracking purposes, officers should enter the special program code WHP.
This category is for applicants who are registered post-secondary students in their home country (see note below) and whose intention is to fulfil part of their academic curriculum in Canada by completing a pre-arranged work placement that is related to their field of study.
Note: The following 17 countries have a requirement of registration in the home country for Co-op applicants: Australia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Ukraine. There are no such restrictions for Austria, Chile, France, Germany, Greece, and Norway.
Note: For tracking purposes, officers should enter the special program code ICP.
This category is for applicants whose intention is to gain work experience in Canada under a pre-arranged contract of employment in support of their career development. Starting in 2015, the job offered in Canada must be classified as NOC skill type level 0, A, or B to be considered professional experience.
For program integrity requirements, the only LMIA exemption code that should be used for all IEC work permit applications is C21. The cost recovery exemption code is E05.
Note: IEC applicants from biometric-requiring countries must still pay the the biometric fee.
Due to the requirement to control the numbers in these programs and report on them to Parliament, it is very important that the correct LMIA exemption code (C21) and special program code be used.
Special program codes
Special program title
International Co-op Program
NOC code as per occupation
Working Holiday Program
NOC code = 9999 (only)
Young Professional Program
NOC code as per occupation (minimum NOC code B)
Conditions of work permit
LOI or port of entry introduction letter (in GCMS) validity
For all IEC applicants, the LOI should only be issued for a validity period of 12 months or for the medical validity period, whichever is shorter. If a medical examination result exists, the LOI should not be valid for longer than the medical result.
Duration of work permit remark for POEs
A case note should be added to alert the POE to issue the work permit for the correct duration according to the applicant’s citizenship.
- POE REMARK: Please issue work permit for [number] months from date of entry
- POE REMARK: Young Professional – validity of work permit to match job offer/employment contract [date]
Note: Regardless of the POE remark, border services officers should never issue an IEC work permit beyond the duration specified in the bilateral agreement or arrangement (i.e., only six months for Italy).
Validity period of work permit
The validity period for an IEC work permit may not exceed the maximum length of stay authorized under the agreement/arrangement (e.g., the maximum validity period of the work permit for Australian nationals cannot exceed 24 months).
Exceptions to have a shorter work permit validity period are as follows:
- Officers cannot issue a work permit or grant status as a temporary worker beyond the validity of the passport. Exceptions to this are noted in subsection R52(2).
- If the participant’s healthcare insurance is not valid for the entire period for which the work permit is sought, the duration of the work permit may be shortened accordingly. If they receive a shorter work permit due to the length of their insurance policy, they are not eligible to apply for an extension at a later date.
Guidelines and reminders for POE processing
- During the issuance of an open work permit, if the foreign national has not passed an immigration medical examination, conditions restricting their occupation must be imposed.
- Once it is determined that the foreign national still meets the requirements and is admissible, the work permit should be issued as indicated in the LOI unless the case notes in GCMS indicate differently (see Duration of work permit remark for POEs above).
Change of employers for employer-specific categories (Young Professionals Program, International Co-op and recognized organizations)
For participants who are admitted to the IEC under the Young Professionals and International Co-op internship categories, the IEC requires that the employment they maintain in Canada be relevant to their studies, training, or professional experience.
In cases where an IEC participant holding an employer-specific work permit is requesting a change of employer, the participant must complete the in-Canada Case Specific Enquiry web form to have their new employer and occupation assessed for participation eligibility before submitting a work permit application either online or by mail to the Case Processing Centre in Vegreville to change the conditions imposed on their work permit (e.g., change in employer).
The IEC applicant or participant will need to provide, via the web form, a justification for requesting a change of employer (e.g., company closed, not receiving the wages or working conditions offered). Having a better wage or a better job cannot be accepted as a justification.
The justification must include information on why this change is consistent with their objectives and with the objectives of the IEC program. The applicant will also need to provide information about the offer of employment. The decision to approve will be left to the discretion of the case processing agent, with the approval of their respective team leader.
If a change is requested during an IEC participant’s approved stay, the period of the new approval will be reduced by the amount of time that has already elapsed.
Example: If, 3 months into a 12-month approved stay, a change is requested, the new approval period will be a maximum of 9 months. The two approvals will count as a single participation; however, if only some or none of the new 9-month approval is used, the applicant’s experience will still count as a full participation at the end of the 12 months.
If an IEC agreement exists between Canada and the foreign national’s country or territory of citizenship, and the requirements established by the IRPA and its Regulations are met, an open work permit may be obtained under the IEC through the Working Holiday category that may allow self-employment work under a newly created Canadian corporation. However, self-employment is not the main focus of the IEC program, and final decisions are always made by officers who fully assess all applications.
Any person considering self-employment in Canada while under the IEC should be made aware of the numerous federal, provincial, and municipal legislative and regulatory requirements related to operating a business in Canada.
- Date Modified: