Working Holiday permit holders are often eligible for Permanent Residence in Canada, but many fail to plan in advance and run out of time to qualify. If you are planning to travel to Canada on the Working Holiday, Young Professionals or International Co-op (Internship) Visa, it’s a good idea to create an immigration strategy at the earliest possible moment, in order to maximize the opportunity created by your work permit. In this article, you will discover our best strategies for how participants in IEC (International Experience Canada) can legally maximize the amount of time they spend in Canada.
10 Tips for Working Holiday visa holders to stay longer in Canada
Our office regularly meets with young people working under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program. IEC Canada welcomes foreign youth from many countries wishing to visit, work or travel in Canada for set period. Participation in the program offers maximum flexibility to explore our vast country, work at a ski hill or find a professional development opportunity – it’s totally up to you!
IEC participants sometimes fall in love with our beautiful country and may not be quite ready to leave Canada when their time is up. If this might be you, we would like to share our top tips to help you to think ahead about ways you can extend your stay legally.
1. Start planning immediately
Ideally, you should meet with a professional as soon as you arrive. The short duration of IEC work permits does not give you much time to get settled somewhere, find employment, gain enough work experience, and start a PR application process. In many instances, when a potential PR applicant contacts us, there is no longer enough time for them to take the necessary steps for PR, such as collecting documents needed.
It’s important to understand your options at the earliest possible date, so you can position yourself to pursue options to remain longer if you wish.
2. Enter as a visitor first to start your job search
If you were approved for a Working Holiday work permit, and are from a visa exempt country, consider travelling to Canada first as a visitor in order to start looking for employment. Of course, you are permitted to travel to more than one location, and talk to more than one employer and can explore your possibilities without urgency. Once you accept a job offer, you can return to the port of entry and ask that your working holiday permit be issued then, which will be valid from that date. (It’s important that you don’t actually start working before you have your work permit in hand – that’s illegal.)
The benefit to this approach is that you won’t waste even one day of your precious allocation of time to work in Canada. As one example, you may be able to submit your profile for Express Entry with the minimum 12 months Canadian work experience. If you enter Canada on a one-year work permit and spend the first month searching for employment, you’ve already lost the opportunity to apply for Permanent Residence through some of the available categories. Entering as a visitor is one way to prevent this.
3. Find work in an occupation or region with labour shortages
IEC participants in the Working Holiday category can work in different locations throughout Canada, wherever they wish. It is a vast country, so you may want to look outside the major cities as employers are desperate for staff in smaller places.
In very general terms, IF you want to be in the best position to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) later, it is wise to look for either a highly specialized position or any skilled position in a remote or rural location. If there are very few people qualified to do your job, or just very few people in general, the employer’s chances of getting an LMIA are significantly increased.
All the better if you find a work placement related to your own education. Getting professional experience will open up the possibility of an employer-specific work permit after the Working Holiday if an employer can offer you a position in your field. There are employer-specific IEC work permits under the Young Professionals category and (for students) the International Co-op (Internship) category that do not require an LMIA.
4. Check out options related to the country of Citizenship
If you hold citizenship in other countries, ensure that you check out the IEC options for youth mobility in each of the participating countries. If you have US or Mexico citizenship, there may be options for another work permit through CUSMA provisions, depending on your employment situation. If you have citizenship in a member country of the European Union, there may be options under CETA, again, depending on your employment situation.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement or TPP has also opened up opportunities for nationals of Australia, Japan and Mexico to work here. And there are also several smaller categories of work permits under bilateral youth mobility agreements that are less well known but professionals can steer you to, if applicable.
5. Don’t change your status to a visitor and keep working
This is unfortunately a common scenario, and one that both IRCC and CBSA are regularly checking for: The IEC work permit is set to expire and the employer’s LMIA is still in process, so you cannot apply for a new work permit yet. So you decide to change your status to visitor and continue to work, unofficially, until the LMIA is approved. At that point, the plan is to travel to the nearest land border to have the work permit printed.
Our best advice is don’t even think about it; this idea creates more problems than it solves for the applicant. You might find yourself being ordered by CBSA to leave the country instead of getting a new permit. You will need to wait 6 months to apply again, so probably must travel abroad — and by that time the LMIA will have expired. But even if you do manage to obtain a new permit, you have opened yourself up to possible misrepresentation issues in any future immigration applications. Misrepresentation carries a five-year ban on making any immigration applications to Canada.
There may be other legitimate options you are unaware of that would allow you to continue to work as long as possible. Before you complete any forms or make any plans, please come and talk to us so you are not putting your future in jeopardy.
6. Double check your work permit expiry
If your work permit was issued for less time than you are entitled to because your passport was set to expire, you can renew your passport and apply to extend. You will be granted the remaining time you are entitled to, as long as you apply for the new permit before the first one expires, and submit a valid passport.
7. Change your address as soon as you move, particularly if you co-habit with a partner
At some point, for immigration purposes, you may need to demonstrate how long you have been cohabiting with a partner. Therefore, when moving, ensure that you officially change your address as soon as possible for things like your driver’s license, health insurance, payslips at work, and your income tax filing. Save any additional documents (even mail) with your address. Also, try to have your name included on any rental lease, utility bills or similar document whenever possible.
8. Avoid self-employment
Self-employed work experience does not count under several programs for Permanent Residence. If you spend your time setting up your own business or working as a sub-contractor, you are greatly limiting your future PR options. If possible, use your IEC experience to work for someone else, on payroll, and save that great business development idea for after you have secured Permanent Residence.
9. Make yourself indispensable to your employer
You may need your employer’s help to remain working in Canada or apply for Permanent Residence. Ensure that you have positioned yourself as the most valuable employee in your workplace by constantly performing in ways that add value to your employer. That same employer may be happy to assist you as much as they can, which is theoretically (depending on your situation) through an LMIA, a new job offer through the employer portal, possibly a Young Professional opportunity, or a reference letter to support your PR.
10. Save your money
If you are not eligible to apply for Permanent Residence during your work permit validity, you will need to explore other options if you wish to remain in Canada.
One option may be a study permit for a Canadian post-secondary institution. This will provide you with significant benefits, including the opportunity to work part-time while studying and an open work permit after graduation if your study program qualifies. In addition, a Canadian credential provides more options for getting PR. However, you need to demonstrate significant savings to qualify for a study permit – a minimum of $10,000 CAD to pay your living expenses plus the first year tuition fees.
Speaking of saving money, consultation fees to pay a professional to map out a feasible strategy for you for the long term is money well spent! We see many sad cases of money wasted on getting supporting documents that are not needed, paying someone to submit a profile for Express Entry that is hopeless, or finding an employer but the job will not advance your long term plans. International Experience can be a good jumping board to PR, but only if you use it wisely.
The benefits of ‘maintained status’ in certain situations
One of the most confusing topics for IEC participants is whether you can benefit from maintained status (previous called implied status) after making a new work permit application. This allows people to continue working legally while awaiting the process (as long as you don’t travel abroad). Maintained status only ever applies as long as you remain in Canada and the new application was submitted before the current permit expired. BUT, to be eligible for the benefit of maintained status, the type of work permit you are applying for is also key.
If you are applying for a new or different category within International Exchange, i.e., a new Working Holiday, Young Professionals, or International Co-op (Internship) permit then you will not benefit from maintained status because you have to make your IEC application outside of Canada through the IEC pools. Note: It does not matter that you are living in Canada when you submit your profile. They are still outside applications.
If you are making an inland application for a new work permit, you can benefit from maintained status. More specifically, an applicant will benefit from maintained status if you properly complete and submit an application in these circumstances:
- to extend the validity of your original IEC permit due to passport expiry
- for an LMIA-based work permit to be processed inland
- for a Bridging Open Work Permit when a PR application is in process
- for a Provincial Nominee based work permit to be processed inland
- for a spouse or common-law open work permit filed with an inland sponsorship
- for an open work permit based on being the spouse or partner of a skilled worker or student
This can be confusing to sort out on your own. In all situations it is imperative your new application is properly prepared to ensure you can continue working legally while awaiting a decision. If you submit an application that is not complete and is returned to you after your current work permit expires, you no longer have maintained status and must stop working until you get the new permit. Unfortunately, much of the information online about this is not accurate, even though some of it sounds convincing, and you should not blindly accept advice from online forums to make life choices without confirming things with an expert.
Our office gains approval for these types of applications for International Experience workers on a weekly basis and we would be happy to ensure that your situation is handled properly.
Options for your Spouse or Common-Law
The requirements of International Experience Canada do not allow dependents to accompany you (i.e., spouses, common-law partners or children). Although they are not eligible to obtain an open work permit as your partner, there may be other options.
Sometimes each partner can obtain their own work permit independently. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has no policy against this if they each create an IEC profile and get their own personal reference code and an invitation to apply. Plus, of course, obtain any necessary police certificate, medical exam and other supporting documents.
They can apply also for an open work permit if their partner is approved to work in Canada for 6 months or longer and is working in a job in TEER category 0, 1, 2 or 3 of the National Occupational Classification (NOC). Evidence proving this is required.
Of course, if your spouse or common-law partner is a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident, they may qualify to sponsor you for Permanent Residence.
What is a common-law partner?
This definition is not just for the International Experience Canada system – it applies to all temporary and permanent programs of Canada Immigration. Common-law status means that you co-habit with your life partner but have not taken the steps required to get legally married. For immigration purposes, you will need to demonstrate that you have lived together for a minimum period of 12 consecutive months, in an exclusive conjugal relationship that you both intend to be permanent, you have combined your affairs to the greatest extent possible and you present yourself publicly as a couple.
Working in Canada on a Working Holiday visa is the adventure of a lifetime and you may not be ready for the adventure to end when your work permit runs out. Planning ahead for your immigration situation ensures that you are in a position to create the future that you want for yourself. We regularly meet with workers here under International Experience Canada and can often devise a strategy for them for their long term future. Our office would be pleased to meet with you to explore your best options to remain as a temporary worker or make an application for Permanent Residence if you qualify.