IEC Work Permit Top Tips

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 with a Working Holiday visa, Young Professionals Visa or the International Co-op 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 IEC permit holders can legally maximize the amount of time they spend in Canada.

Top Tips for Working Holiday visa holders to stay longer in Canada

Our office regularly meets with young people who are in Canada working under the International Experience program.  If you have obtained a work permit to Canada under this program, including the Working Holiday Visa, Young Professionals Visa, or the International Co-op Internship Visa; you may find that you fall in love with our beautiful country and you aren’t quite ready to leave at the end of your work permit expiry.  We wanted to share our top tips that will enable you to plan for the best possible outcome as a result of your time spent working in Canada.

Start planning immediately

Ideally, you should meet with a professional as soon as you arrive to Canada as an IEC work permit holder.  The short duration of IEC work permits does not give you much time to arrive, find employment and make an application for Permanent Residence.  In many instances, we find that IEC work permit holders contact our office when there is no longer sufficient time for them to do anything related to applying for PR.  It’s important to understand your options at the earliest possible date, so that you can position yourself to enjoy the greatest number of choices to remain in Canada for as long as you like.

Enter as a visitor to start your job search

If you have been granted approval for a working holiday permit, and you are from a visa exempt country, consider travelling to Canada first as a visitor in order to start your job search.  Then, once you have obtained a job offer, you can return to the port of entry and ask that your working holiday permit be issued. (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.   In some cases, an application for permanent residence requires a minimum of one year of work experience.  If you enter Canada on a one-year work permit and then spend the first month searching for a job, you have already lost the opportunity to apply for Permanent Residence through some of the available categories.

Find work in an occupation or region with labor shortages

In very general terms, if you want to be in the best position to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment, look for 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, your chances of being eligible for an LMIA are significantly increased.

Check out options related to country of Citizenship

If you hold citizenship of more than one country, ensure that you check out options to participate in the IEC program for each of the countries.  If you have US citizenship, there may be options for you to get another work permit through NAFTA provisions, depending on your employment situation.  If you have citizenship from a country that is a member of the European Union, there may be options under CETA, again, depending on your employment situation.  Recently, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement or TPP has opened up additional opportunities for nationals of Australia, Japan and Mexico to work in Canada.

Don’t change your status to 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 has not yet been approved so that a work permit extension application can be made.  The IEC work permit holder changes their status to visitor and continues 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.  You might find yourself being ordered to leave by CBSA instead of getting your new work permit, and you will need to wait 6 months to apply for your new permit.  By that time the LMIA will have expired.  AND even if you do manage to obtain the new work permit, you have opened yourself up to misrepresentation issues on any further immigration applications.  Misrepresentation carries a five-year ban on making any immigration applications to Canada.  There may be other legitimate options that you are not aware of that would enable you to continue to work as long as possible.  If you find yourself in this situation, come and talk to us before you put your future in jeopardy.

Double check your work permit expiry

Your work permit will be issued for less time than you are entitled to if your passport was set to expire.  You can obtain another permit for the remaining time that you are entitled to once you have a new passport; as long as you apply for the new permit before your current permit expires.

Change your address as soon as you move, particularly if you move to co-habit with a partner

At some point, for immigration purposes, you may need to demonstrate how long you have been co-habiting 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 care coverage, payslips at work, and your income tax filing.  Also, try to have your name included on any rental lease and on utility bills whenever possible.

Avoid self-employment

Self-employed work experience does not count under several options to apply for Permanent Residence.  If you spend your time in Canada setting up your own business or working as a sub-contractor, you are greatly limiting your future options.  If possible, work for someone else, on payroll, during your work permit validity, and save your great business development ideas for when you have obtained Permanent Resident status.

Make yourself indispensable to your employer

You may need your employer’s help to be eligible to stay longer in Canada as a worker, or to 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’s company.  That way when you need to ask for your employer’s help, they won’t think twice about doing whatever they possible can to assist you with remaining in Canada.

Save your money

In the event that you are not eligible to apply for Permanent Residence during the period of your work permit validity, you will need to explore other options if you wish to remain in Canada.  One of these options may be a study permit to complete a program at a Canadian post-secondary institution.  Obtaining a study permit will provide you with significant benefits, including the opportunity to work part-time while studying as well as the possibility of an open work permit after graduation for eligible programs of study.  In addition, a Canadian credential will provide more potential options for a PR application.  However, you need to demonstrate significant savings to qualify for a study permit – a minimum of $10,000 CAD for living expenses plus the cost of your first years’ tuition.

You can benefit from implied status in certain situations

One of the most confusing topics for Working Holiday permit holders is whether or not you can benefit from implied status when making a new work permit application.  Implied status means that you continue to be allowed to work legally in Canada after your work permit expires, while you are waiting for your new work permit application to be processed.  The implied status is gained as long as the new application was submitted before your current work permit expired.  Whether or not you have implied status as an IEC work permit holder depends on your situation and what type of work permit you are applying for.

If you are applying for a new or different work permit under the International Experience Canada category (ie. a new Working Holiday, Young Professionals or International Co-op permit) then you will not benefit from implied status because these are applications made outside of Canada.  Note: It does not matter whether or not you are residing inside Canada at the time you apply for these types of permits.  They are still outside applications.

If you are making an inland application for a new work permit, you will benefit from implied status.  The following types of applications will benefit from implied status, assuming that your application is prepared properly:

  • Application to extend the validity of your original IEC permit due to passport expiry
  • Application for an LMIA based work permit that is submitted for inland processing
  • Application for a Bridging Open Work Permit when a PR application is in process
  • Application for a Provincial Nominee based work permit that is submitted for inland processing
  • Application for a spousal open work permit based on a Spouse or Common-Law partner sponsorship
  • Application for an open work permit based on being the spouse or partner of a skilled worker or student

This can be a confusing situation to sort out on your own and in all situations it is imperative that your new work permit application is prepared properly to ensure that you can continue to work legally while you await a decision.  If you submit an incomplete application and it is returned to you after your current work permit expires, you no longer have implied status and you need to stop working until the new permit is issued.  Keep in mind that much of the information you will find in online forums regarding this type of scenario is unfortunately inaccurate, even though some of it sounds convincing.

Our office gains approval for these types of applications on a weekly basis and we would be happy to ensure that your situation is handled properly.

Your spouse or Common-Law partner can get an open work permit if you are working in a skilled position. 

There is no option for a spouse or common-law partner to obtain a work permit on the basis of your IEC permit; however, if you can demonstrate that you are working in Canada as a skilled worker (NOC 0, A or B), and you have more than 6 months remaining on your work permit,  then it would be possible for your spouse or common law partner to apply for an open work permit as the spouse of a skilled worker – assuming your partner is not Canadian.  If your spouse or common-law partner is a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident, they may be able to sponsor you for Permanent Residence in the event that you want to remain living in Canada.

This bring up another common question among IEC work permit holders, “What is a common-law partner?”  Common-law status means that you co-habit with your life partner but have not taken the steps required to get legally married.  In order to meet the criteria for common-law status 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. Our office would be pleased to meet with you to explore your best options to remain in Canada longer as a worker, or to make an application for Permanent Residence. We work regularly with IEC permit holders and work hard to ensure that we stay up to date on all the best possible immigration options.



Fran Wipf is an expert in Canadian immigration matters. She was licensed as an immigration consultant in 2008, and since that time, she has assisted thousands of individuals, families and businesses to find Canadian immigration success. You can learn more about Fran, and the services she offers, at


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