Canada’s Working Holiday Program for Australians
Given its natural beauty and similarities to Australia, Canada is one of the most popular countries for Australians considering an overseas working holiday.
If you’re an Australian aged between 18 and 35 years old, you can apply for a Canadian working holiday visa as part of the International Experience Canada (IEC) program. If you subsequently receive an invitation, this allows you to live and work in Canada for up to 2 years.
This page contains useful information about the International Experience Canada working holiday visa for Australian citizens, as well as living in Canada. It was last updated on 23 August 2021.
Key facts about Canada
- Population: Approx. 38 million
- Official languages: English & French
- Capital city: Ottawa
- Largest cities: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton
- Currency: Canadian dollar (CAD)
About International Experience Canada (IEC)
IEC Rounds of Invitations have now opened for 2021!
However, please note that COVID-19 may impact on IEC applications. At this time, you would need a valid job offer to be eligible to travel to Canada and must be able to start work once you arrive in Canada.
There is also a current requirement to complete mandatory quarantine after arriving in Canada, but from 7 September 2021 this will be waived for foreign nationals who have been fully vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine. Approved vaccines include Pfizer/BioNTech.
The Canadian government website has more information about the temporary additional requirements when travelling to Canada during COVID-19.
Please also note that you may need to apply for an Australian government exemption to leave Australia before travelling to Canada.
Canada’s working holiday program works a bit differently to most other countries. If you wish to apply for a working holiday visa for Canada, you’ll first need to create an online profile with International Experience Canada (IEC) once the “pools” for the current year’s season have opened.
You’ll then need to wait until you receive an invitation to apply for a visa – which is not guaranteed and subject to availability of places in your chosen category.
The IEC program isn’t just for working holiday visas. It provides temporary work permits to young people from around 30 countries, including Australia, in three different categories:
- Working Holiday
- Young Professionals
- International Co-op (Internship)
You can check the Canadian government website for full details of the IEC categories and eligibility criteria.
Canada working holiday visa requirements
Canada offers working holiday visas to citizens of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Ukraine & UK. See the Government of Canada website for more information.
This information is applicable to Australian citizens and may differ for citizens of other countries.
The Working Holiday category is designed for young people who wish to travel in Canada and undertake temporary paid employment to finance their trip. This comes with an open work permit which allows you to work for more than one employer and in more than one location of your choice.
Unlike the other two categories, you do not normally need a job offer to apply for a visa in the working holiday category. (However, the rules have been changed temporarily during COVID-19.)
To be eligible to apply for a working holiday in Canada as an Australian citizen, you must meet the following requirements:
- Aged between 18-35 years old (inclusive) at the time of application
- Have a valid passport which won’t expire during your stay in Canada
- Have at least CAD$2,500 (approx. AUD2,550) to cover your initial expenses in Canada
- Have health insurance to cover the duration of your stay
- Have a return plane ticket to Canada or enough money to buy one
You cannot apply for this visa if you:
- Are inadmissible to Canada (e.g. due to a criminal record)
- Are accompanied by dependent children
See the Government of Canada website for more information.
The IEC application process
There are multiple steps in the International Experience Canada (IEC) application process.
If you would like to travel to Canada for a working holiday, you should begin the process as soon as possible as it can take up to a year and there is no guarantee you’ll be invited to apply. When completing the application, you should be living in your country of citizenship.
The full process is outlined on the Government of Canada website, but here is an overview of the steps involved:
Create a profile to become a candidate
The first step is to become a candidate in the IEC working holiday pool. To do this, you’ll need to create a free IEC profile online and then submit your profile to any of the available pools.
Get invited to apply
You’ll later receive a message if you’re invited to apply for a Canadian visa. If this happens, you’ll then have 10 days to accept the invitation and a further 20 days to complete your application.
Complete the application process
Once you’ve accepted the invitation, you’ll need to complete your application online. This involves filling out an online form, providing the necessary documents and making an appointment to give your biometric data (see below for details).
Travel to Canada
Once you’ve completed your application, it takes an average of 4 weeks to process (but could be up to 8 weeks).
If your application is approved, you’ll be sent a Port of Entry (POE) letter. You can then prepare to travel to Canada any time before the expiry date listed on your POE letter (typically one year).
On arrival at the Canadian border, you’ll need to show your POE letter to a border services officer at the airport to then receive your work permit.
Documents required to complete the application process
Required documents may include:
- Proof of financial means
- Your passport
- Police certificate
- A digital photo of yourself
- Family information form
- A copy of your CV/resumé
You may need a medical exam if you’ve recently spent more than six months in certain countries or plan to work in a health care or education field.
At the time of application, you’ll need to pay the relevant visa fees. These include:
- CAD$156 (AUD158) IEC participation fee
- CAD$100 (AUD101) open work permit holder fee
- CAD$85 (AUD86) biometric fee (if you need to give biometrics)
To give your biometric data (i.e. fingerprints and photograph taken) in Australia, you would likely need to visit a VFS Global visa application centre.
Although you don’t need health/travel insurance to apply for this visa, you will need to prove that you have adequate coverage when you arrive in Canada.
There are quite a lot of steps involved, but you’ll be given all the details if you’re invited to apply. You can also see the Government of Canada website for details.
Arriving in Canada
Once you’ve arrived in Canada, you’ll need to get a Social Insurance Number (SIN) through Service Canada.
After receiving your SIN, you can open a Canadian bank account.
When you’re ready to look for a rental house, apartment or condominium (condo), useful websites include Kijiji, Craigslist, Padmapper and Rentals.ca. Alternatively, try looking in local Facebook groups or other social media platforms.
Living in Canada
Many Aussies in Canada choose to live in Vancouver (or Vancouver Island) for the mild year-round weather, or work in the ski resorts of Banff, Whistler, Jasper & Lake Louise during the winter months.
Of course, they aren’t your only options! Cities like Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton or (if you speak French) Montreal also have great appeal. Smaller cities also worth considering could include Kelowna, Halifax and Winnipeg. However, rental properties in Toronto and Kelowna are quite expensive.
Beware that many parts of Canada are extremely cold during the northern hemisphere’s winter. Vancouver’s winter is relatively mild compared to other parts of the country.
Canadians are renowned for their friendliness and many parts of Canadian culture are quite similar to Australia, but there are differences. For example, Canada has a tipping culture and the national sports are ice hockey & lacrosse.
If you’re considering moving to Canada, the Aussies in Canada Facebook group has lots of useful advice and suggestions!
While best efforts are made to keep this information updated, we do not guarantee its accuracy. If you spot an error, would like to suggest new information to be added or simply have a question, please let us know in the comments and we’ll endeavour to respond or update the article as quickly as possible!