International Experience Class Open for 2022

The International Experience Canada (IEC) candidate pools are open for the 2022 season and the first rounds of invitations of the season are expected to take place this week. Demand for the IEC program tends to be high and the number of spots available for the year are limited. We expect that demand will be great this year since many businesses in Canada that often rely on workers from the IEC program, including hotels, ski clubs, and restaurants) are experiencing acute labour shortages. Those who are interested should act promptly to maximize their chances of being invited.

The IEC program is based on bilateral youth mobility agreements which Canada has with multiple partner countries which facilitate the issuance of work permits to citizens of the participating countries aged between 18-35 or 18-30 (age limits vary by country). Current participating countries are Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong SAR, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

There are three different work permit categories under the IEC program, two of which are employer specific work permits and the third of which is an open work permit. The categories include:

  1. the Young Professional category, which requires that the candidate has a job offer in Canada that contributes to their professional development.
  2. the International Co-op category, which is intended for post-secondary students who wish to complete the work placement or internship, which forms an essential part of their studies, in Canada.
  3. the Working Holiday category, which does not require that the candidate has a job offer in Canada and gives the holder flexibility to work in a wide range of occupations across the country. A large number of service industry personnel, particularly in seasonal positions at holiday resorts, are IEC work permit holders.

The categories available and the duration for which an IEC work permit will valid be vary by country based on the terms of the applicable agreement. Most of the agreements allow for the issuance of a work permit valid for a duration of at least one year, if not two years, and in some cases, a second participation is permitted.

A similar program exists for US citizens aged 18-35 called the SWAP program.

An option to secure an additional IEC work permit for a candidate who has already participated in the IEC based on their country of citizenship may exist via a recognized organization.

Over the past couple of years, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IEC program has only been partially open. In 2020, the program stopped issuing invitations in March, shortly after it had opened for the season, and there were extensive processing delays for those applicants who had already submitted their applications. In 2021, all candidates, including Working Holiday candidates, required a job offer in Canada.

Processing times did improve in 2021 which we expect is at least in part attributable to the fact that IEC work permit applications submitted on or after April 1, 2021 benefit from a departmental policy pursuant to the Service Fees Act which provides for a partial refund (25-50% depending on the extent of the delay) of the processing fee where the service standard of 56 days is not met.

An IEC work permit can be a great option to secure another work permit for a foreign national in Canada whose work permit is nearing its expiry, including for those who had hoped to secure an invitation to apply for permanent residence who have been impacted by the pause on CEC draws presently. It is important, however, to note that a pending IEC work permit application does not provide the foreign national with maintained status to continue to work or remain in Canada while the IEC work permit application is in process.

Once an IEC work permit application has been approved, it may be necessary for a foreign national who is already in Canada to exit and re-enter Canada to have the work permit issued. A public policy which facilitated inland issuance of IEC work permits during the pandemic has expired and it remains to be seen whether it will be extended.

For further advice on the ins and outs of IEC work permits, please contact one of our legal professionals by phone (416 368 1111) or via email:;;;;;;;;