International Experience Canada (IEC) [R205(b)] (exemption code C21) – Overview

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

The mandate of International Experience Canada (IEC) is to enhance key bilateral relationships between Canada and other countries and emphasize the importance of improved reciprocity. This mandate will be achieved through the following 3 key objectives:

  • prioritize high-value bilateral relations and low-risk exchanges with other countries
  • facilitate applications from high-quality participants who fit Canada’s immigration priorities
  • increase reciprocity with other countries and enhance international opportunities for young Canadians

Program and mandate

About the IEC program

IEC supports Canada’s economic and cultural interests by administering bilateral, reciprocal agreements and arrangements with 35 countries and territories. Agreements and arrangements are open to Canadian and foreign youth aged 18 to 35. The reciprocal nature of these agreements and arrangements qualifies foreign youth for a Labour Market Impact Assessment-exempt (LMIA) work permit or for an open work permit.

Currently, the IEC Program administers Canada’s agreements (international treaties) and arrangements (Memoranda of Understanding) with 35 countries and territories. IEC also facilitates youth mobility opportunities through travel and work service providers recognized by the program (Recognized organizations).

The dynamic IEC electronic application (e-application) was deployed in November 2015 and allows candidates to submit their profile to an IEC pool. The system assesses whether they meet basic IEC eligibility requirements before enabling them to submit their profile to the pool and become candidates for the IEC program. Through campaigns managed by IRCC, candidates are invited to submit their complete work permit e-application to IRCC. The primary office for these applications is the Operations Support Centre (OSC) at IRCC.

Framework

Canadians and foreign nationals aged 18 to 35 can benefit from the IEC program under the following:

  1. Bilateral agreements and arrangements established by the Government of Canada with foreign governments

    There are 3 possible categories of participation through bilateral agreements and arrangements under the IEC program:

    • Working Holiday (travel and work): Participants are eligible to apply for an open work permit to allow them to work for any employer or location in Canada to subsidize their stay as they travel and discover their host country, Canada.
    • Young Professionals (career development): Participants are eligible to apply for an employer-specific work permit to help them gain targeted experience in their profession or field of study.
    • International Co-op (internships for students only): Participants in this internship category are eligible to apply for an employer-specific work permit to help them gain targeted experience in their field of study.
  2. Recognized organizations

    A recognized organization is a third-party Canadian organization that facilitates international travel and work opportunities for foreign nationals and whose programs and services are recognized by IEC. Recognized organizations may provide, as part of their services, support and advice to foreign nationals applying under all 3 IEC streams throughout the application process, and may assist with their travel arrangements or arrange their work placements. Recognized organizations provide their services for a fee. Each recognized organization is given an allotted number of spaces under the IEC. For more information on recognized organizations, consult IEC recognized organizations for foreign youth.

Work permits issued under IEC are exempt from the requirement of a positive LMIA (exemption code C 21).

Role and responsibilities

The IEC program is governed jointly by IRCC’s Strategic and Program Policy and Operations Sectors. The following outlines each sector’s respective roles and responsibilities:

Immigration Branch, Strategic and Policy Program Sector

  • Negotiate reciprocal agreements and arrangements with foreign governments and implement the IEC program.
  • Negotiate and set annual reciprocal quotas (global level, country/territory level, and recognized organizations level).
  • Conduct ongoing country/territory assessments to evaluate that agreements and arrangements meet the IEC program’s objectives.
  • Monitor program delivery for Canadians to assess reciprocity.
  • Provide functional guidance on IEC’s participation eligibility requirements.
  • Provide guidance and support to IEC hub missions (Sydney, Australia, Paris, France, Berlin, Germany, Tokyo, Japan, Seoul, South Korea, and Warsaw, Poland).
  • Support the promotion and awareness of IEC abroad and to foreign youth in collaboration with IRCC’s missions.
  • Implement IEC’s engagement strategy to increase Canadian participation through partnering relationships with the following key sectors:
    • provinces and territories, and academic networks;
    • Canadian private sector (including the travel and work sector);
    • other federal government departments and agencies, provincial, territorial and foreign governments;
    • youth (including Indigenous youth and IEC alumni);
    • non-governmental organizations serving youth; and
    • ethno-cultural communities and diaspora communities.
  • Promote IEC to Canadians and foreign nationals through activities, including attending international and domestic conferences, workshops and fairs.
  • Develop promotional products and advertising campaigns for outreach to both foreign nationals and Canadians.

Operations Sector, National Headquarters

Temporary Resident Program Delivery Division, Immigration Program Guidance (IPG) Branch
  • Provide functional guidance on the processing of work permits, including those connected with the IEC program.
Operations Support Centre (OSC), Centralized Network
  • Act as the primary office to process all IEC e-application.
  • Verify the names, date of birth, country/territory of birth, and passport information, and make any necessary corrections, as per IRCC’s Naming Policy and procedures.
  • Search the electronic databases to avoid duplicate unique client identification numbers and perform data integrity actions where necessary.
  • Assess IEC applicants’ eligibility to apply under IEC and process work permit applications.
  • Collect the IEC program participation fee, the open work permit holder fee (where applicable), and ensure that the employer compliance fee for an employer-specific work permit application has been paid.
  • Respond to case-specific enquiries from foreign nationals through the IRCC Web form within 5 business days. Note that OSC does not respond to case-specific enquiries from foreign nationals whose work permit applications have been transferred to migration offices (consult the section on IRCC migration offices below).
  • Issue port of entry (POE) letters to clients who have been found eligible to the IEC Program and admissible to Canada.
  • Issue refunds to clients whose IEC applications have been refused or withdrawn.
IRCC migration offices, International Network, Operations Sector
  • Promote the IEC program to the general public abroad.
  • Process all applications from foreign nationals who require a temporary resident visa.

    Note: All IEC applications are promoted and reviewed by OSC before being referred to a migration office for a final decision. Prior to referring the case to migration offices, the OSC officer should enter the following note in the remark section in the Global Case Management System (GCMS): “Eligibility assessed and passed. Admissibility determination referred to migration office <insert name of the migration office>”.

  • Process complex cases referred by OSC where local knowledge is required. This would include cases where there may be bona fide concerns, where clients may be inadmissible for complex criminality, or on health grounds or pursuant to sections 34, 35, or 37 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). OSC will also refer cases where the client requires an authorization to return to Canada or where a client has a second application in process at the migration office (e.g., if the client has a second work permit application, an application for an authorization to return to Canada or application for rehabilitation).

Border services officers at ports of entry

  • Review the POE letter and issue work permits if the foreign national is admissible to Canada. As IRCC has already assessed IEC Program requirements and collected all fees associated with the work permit, border services officers should not reassess the client for program eligibility and should not request additional fees (see exception below for United States (U.S.) citizens and permanent residents applying at the POE).
  • May refuse to issue a work permit if the IEC participant cannot show proof of health insurance that is valid for the entire duration of their expected stay (it should be noted that proof of health insurance is a program requirement under IEC).
IEC applications at ports of entry

Except in the case of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations do not allow applicants to submit IEC work permit applications at a POE. Paragraph R198(2)(c) stipulates that a foreign national may not apply for a work permit when entering Canada if the foreign national is a participant in an international youth exchange program, unless they are a national or permanent resident of the United States or their e-application for a work permit was approved before their entry into Canada.

Note: Although Canada and the U.S. currently have no formal bilateral arrangement concerning youth mobility, U.S. citizens and permanent residents may apply to IEC through recognized organizations. They may apply for their work permit online (recommended option) or at a POE [R198(2)(c)], as long as they have the following documents:

  • a valid invitation to apply letter, which they can obtain only by first submitting their profile to an IEC pool
  • a copy of the confirmation letter from their recognized organization
  • an online fee payment receipt; IEC applicants must pay their participation fee (and other fees, if applicable) online before arriving at the POE

If the client is applying for an IEC work permit at the POE, the Canada Border Services Agency must assess the client for both eligibility and admissibility.

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