Applying for a Canadian work visa from the UK: IEC explained

Applying for a Canadian work visa isn’t the most straight forward of jobs, so we’re here to make that a little easier for you. This is a super quick blog post simply explaining the steps you need to take if you’re applying from the UK, and how to take them.

All links in this guide are from the official Canadian Government website, which is where you will apply for your visa, create your profile and submit all of your documents.

Jump to:

The whole process in a nutshell…

First things first, you HAVE to do this!

Prepping before you apply

Applying as a couple

Step 1 – Check your eligibility

Step 2 – Register to get a key (GCKey)

Step 3 – Prepare supporting documents

Step 4 – Invitation to apply (with fees)

Step 5 – Fill out forms and submit your application

Step 6 -Biometrics

Step 7 – Wait…

In a nutshell

So what is IEC? It stands for International Experience Canada. This is a visa for those who want to travel and work in Canada, which allows you to do so for 2 consecutive years. If you do not want to work, there is an alternate option which is the tourist visa, which allows you to travel Canada for 6 months, and you’re not allowed to work.

The whole IEC process has not got a set time and could take weeks, or even months, so if you’re contemplating moving to Canada to work then just get straight into it!

Once you have first applied, you will be entered into a pool of people. People will then be chosen at random from the pool and given an official invite to apply for the visa, but this does not mean you have been successful in getting your visa yet – this is just the next step.

If you’re NOT chosen from the pool, you can re-apply to go into the next pool for the next year. WHEN you apply will not affect your chances of being chosen from the pool either – it isn’t on a first-come-first-served basis and is completely random, so as long as you get in the pool in time you have a fair chance at success.

Once you have your invitation to apply, this is when you will need a whole bunch of documents to upload to complete your profile – you will then submit all of this and await for a response. Shortly, you may receive an online letter to go and get your biometrics done, which will be the very last step.

Once the above are completed, this is when you will wait to hear if you have been approved for the visa or not. It’s not until you have given your biometrics that you have completed your application. With that being said, you may also be contacted to supply additional information such as your travel history and a medical check.

Your letters and communication regarding your application will all be done digitally via this Canadian Government website, which makes it super easy and accessible! When you get invites and letters, these will appear straight in your inbox on your profile, which you are going to create.

First things first…

To save you a lot of time, ag, delays and potentially a declined submission… We highly recommend joining O Canada! IEC Discussion & Support on Facebook. This group was an absolute God-send and we have no idea what we would have done without it!

The incredible community of 11,600 people were the reason we got through our applications successfully! There are tonnes of support, FAQ’s, documents and advice so you don’t have to go it alone.

If you have a question, it will be answered. If you’re stuck, someone will help. If you’re looking for a job, someone may have one! If you’re looking for a travel buddy, you may well just find one. But most importantly, the quality advice given on here has been the difference in people getting their visa accepted, or having to wait another year.


Checking the pools

If you want to check if the current pool is open, when it closes or how many people are in the pool, or you’re simply intrigued, then you can check the current pool info here. Just pop in your country and choose “working holiday” and voila!

It will look something like this.

Reading more about the process

On this page, you can read all about the process you’re about to take. From the process itself, who can apply, how to apply, after you apply and even preparing for your arrival.

Preparing financially

Moving to Canada is a big deal and you need to have some money in your pocket to get you going.

By law, you need at least $2,500 CAD to enter the country, as proof you can stand on your own two feet when you first arrive. But this is just a guideline budget – you need to consider funds for other things such as travel/health insurance, buying a vehicle if necessary, vehicle insurance, first months rent/deposit if you want an apartment, and not forgetting a Canadian phone contract.

Here is a guide to help you prepare financially.

Applying as a couple

If applying as a couple or group, you still have to apply separately and unfortunately there is a chance one may get approved and the others may not – (luckily myself and Luke both got picked from the pool and eventually approved just a few days apart!).

You can read more about applying for an IEC with your spouse or common-law partner, and what steps you can take.

Step 1 – Check your eligibility

Your very first step is to fill out this questionnaire to find out if you’re eligible to work, study, travel through or live permanently in Canada.

In the first drop down menu, (What would you like to do in Canada?), select “IEC – Travel and work”.

NOTE: Unfortunately, you now need a job offer before you enter Canada. This was not the law before COVID, but is now mandatory and your job offer will be checked at immigration upon entry.

Once you have complete this form and are eligible, you will be taken to a page where you will be given a personal reference code – keep this safe as you will need this to create your profile/application. This code also has an expiry date so also make note of this, however you can always fill out the form again and get a new one.

You will also be given your next 8 steps on this page, so it’s best to either bookmark, print it or take a photo.

From the same page, click “Register to get a key” (step 2 below).

Step 2 – Register to get a key

Your next step is to register with GCKey

Once you have registered and created your profile, you will receive a “Welcome to pool letter” in your inbox. This is just to acknowledge that your place in the pool has successfully been accepted.

From here, all you need to do now is wait patiently for an invitation to officially apply for the visa. People will be randomly chosen from the pool, so there is a chance that you may not be chosen, and you will have to re-enter the pool for the following year.

NOTE: once you have registered and try to login, you may experience glitches with the website. You’re not going crazy, it’s them, not you! Once you login, you should be taken to the terms and conditions, then a security question, and then your profile. If you are taken back to the home page where it tells you to choose “English” or “French”, then try logging in with a different browser. You will also find that if you clear your cookies and cache, this should also let you login. My advice is to always login with a different browser to your regular one, so you can clear cookies and cache without messing everything up on your regular one!

Step 3 – Prepare your supporting documents

Now you’re in the pool and waiting for an “invitation to apply letter”, you should start to get your documents in order for when you’re accepted (fingers firmly crossed for you).

You will need:
  • Photocopy/clear photo of your passport
  • Proof of current address (P45 or payslip)
  • Work history with dates from the last 5 years
  • Addresses from the last 10 years
  • Life history for the last 5 years
  • Police Certificate* (NOT the same as a DBS check!) **
  • Medical check certificate*
  • Digital passport style photo in colour
  • Endorser contact details
  • Up to date CV

*These are usually requested, but not always. If you already have one, remember to check that it’s valid and in date.

** Police certificate = £45 (10 working days + delivery time), £80 (2 working days + delivery time)

Step 4 – Invitation to apply

Congratulations! You are the chosen one…

Once you have received your “Invitation to apply letter”, you will have 10 days to start the application. Once started, you will then have 20 days to fully complete and submit the application.

This is where all your documents will need to be submitted, so it’s important to have them all ready so you can complete everything within the timescale given.

At the end of this step when you submit, you will also need to pay the following necessary fees (these are refunded if your application is unsuccessful):

Participation fee: $150 CAD
Biometrics fee: $85 CAD
Working holiday permit: $100 CAD
Total: $335 CAD (£205)

Step 5 – Fill out all forms and submit your application

Your inbox messages will state all of your next steps and any forms you need to fill out, such as the family information form (IMM5707) and the employment/travel history form.

Along with these forms, you will need upload your CV, digital passport style photo, police certificate and medical certificate. These will all be uploaded on the same page so you can see what you have and haven’t uploaded.

Once everything is uploaded, you can then proceed to pay your fees and officially submit your IEC work visa application!

Your inbox will then start to look something like this – this is your work permit application inbox
This is a separate inbox – your main profile IEC inbox (kind of your overall, important letters and decisions)

NOTE: you may be required to fill out additional forms if they feel like they need more information from you – these can be uploaded after your application so don’t worry. This is also a very normal process and happened to us. Our employment/travel history wasn’t detailed enough, and here’s why:

IMPORTANT: When filling out your employment/travel history form, DO NOT LEAVE ANY GAPS IN YOUR WHEREABOUTS. Every single day needs to be accounted for, so this will obviously include when you were at home as well as travelling/holidays. If you do not, this could delay your application and you’ll have to provide even more details about your travel history.

NOTE: You can only upload one file for each section, so if you want to upload multiple photos (for passport and police certificate) you will need to add the photos to a word document, then upload the single word document.

NOTE: Include a screenshot of your police certificate confirmation email as well as your certificate, to support your application.

Step 6 – Get your biometrics done

You should then receive a letter requesting you to go and get your biometrics done, and will have 30 days to go to a Canadian biometrics office within the time frame stated on your letter. If you do not go in this time frame, your application can be declined.

The process will simply consist of your fingers prints and photograph being taken, and that’s literally it – apart from waiting to be called in, the process took no longer than 5 minutes!

NOTE: you will need to take along with you to your appointment; your passport/travel document stated in your application, and a copy of your biometrics letter from your profile which will have a bar code.

There are unfortunately only two Canadian Visa offices in the UK, one in London and one in Dublin.

Book a biometrics appointment in London
Book a biometrics appointment in Dublin

Once you have attended your appointment, you will then wait to hear if your application has been approved.

IMPORTANT: You will also be given a small ticket-style piece of paper as your confirmation, so keep this safe as this will/may be asked for upon your arrival to Canada.

Step 7 – You wait…

The horrible part! Some people wait months, some people wait weeks. Personally, our whole process took 5 weeks from applying, to getting our visas approved. They were both approved within 2 weeks, and Luke’s got approved just 4 days after mine!

If you get accepted, you will receive the letter in your inbox on your profile, which will state the date you need to enter Canada by, which is within 1 year.

If you do not get accepted, you will only know once the IEC season and pools have closed, so unfortunately it can be a long wait for some. You will then be removed from the pools, but your profile will remain for you to apply the following year – so keep your login details close by!

You can follow the season and pool updates via the IEC socials, or the CIC’s “rounds of invitations” page.

Facebook: O Canada! IEC Discussion & Support

That’s it, you’ve done it! We wish you the BEST of luck with your IEC application and hopefully we’ll see you around in Canada one day! 🙂

Do let us know if you have anymore questions about this whole process or moving to Canada in general.

Safe travels!

Round the world with us


  • Michel

    It is so much work just to get to go and work in Canada, or any other country for that matter. I also couldn’t believe the costs involved. It will take months to make up what you have spent, but if you are in for the experience, then it is worth it.

    How easy is it to get work in Canada? It must be disappointing to go and then you can’t get work and have to come back in the end. Do you know what the unemployment rate is?

    • Kelly

      Hey Michel 🙂

      You are very right! Super long process and costly but this has been our dream so definitely worth it for us! We’ll just have to work even harder to make up for it haha

      So we are not sure at the moment, we’re going to try and line up jobs in advance – we’re looking to work and live on a skii resort for the winter months at least, but not decided on the best way to travel and live in the summer?! Lots of planning to do! But we know it’s fairly easy to get seasonal work so shouldn’t be a problem 🙂 (fingers crossed!)

      All the best, Kelly

  • Chloe

    Hello there, thanks for sharing this wonderful information with us. Canada for some time now have been on the lips of so many people as they all want to travel there for various reasons. However looking at going there to work which is a very good idea, I know of quite a number of people who are willing but have no idea how they can apple for a visa. Coming across this post gives to much assistance in that aspect. What are the chances that one wouldn’t be picked?

    • Kelly

      Hi, thanks for your kind words Chloe 🙂 We have only heard great things about Canada from friends and family, and everyone seems to want to go there don’t they?! So we just have to see what the hype is all about for ourselves haha

      We are very lucky to have both been chosen, and the chances of being chosen completely vary – it depends on how many people are in the pool at that time and how many spaces there are left to be offered an IEC. But I do believe the chances are quite good for people from the UK, as long as you’re in the pool in time and don’t have any issues with your application! 🙂

  • Shelley

    The place of finance can truly not be overlooked while preparing for the trip to Canada. Though it is IEC but then, it is requiring and demanding too. Hence, this is a guide fully on how to go about it all and I’m truly delighted I came across it. This is an informative post and I truly fancy it. I’m thinking of relocating to Canada for work reasons and I was looking for information’s all around. Thanks for providing the detailed gguide for me on here. Thumbs up

    • Kelly

      Yes agreed! Sometimes it can be overwhelming organising the trip but the finances are the most important part and need to be thought about carefully – we need to get saving!

      Wishing you all the best if you do manage to get out to Canada, I’m sure you won’t regret it!! 🙂

      Thanks Shelley

  • Eric

    I didn’t think it was that kind of a process to get a working visa for Canada. You did a great job explaining how things work and how to go about it. First time I went to Canada was in 1988, I travelled from the East to the West coast in 4 weeks. Great country, love to go back sometime soon.

    P.S. you should check the loading time of your site, it takes ages to load.

    • Kelly

      Hi Eric, thanks for your comment 🙂

      We didn’t realise the process was like that either, and we had a few hiccups so was really excited to be able to explain to people.

      That sounds amazing! My auntie done something similar and I’ve heard tonnes of stories. Not suprised I want to go myself!

      Oooh okay thank you so much for that! Probably our photos stacking up again oops

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