Big snowfall, oodles of backcountry and a rad mountain lifestyle to boot. To work as a ski or snowboard instructor in Canada – for example, after qualifying on your Nonstop course or as part of an internship program – you’ll need to land yourself a valid work permit.
For foreign travellers, the easiest way to secure your work permit is through the International Experience Canada (IEC) initiative, which allows you to live and work in Canada for up to two years. You’ll need to use the IEC website, alongside our step-by-step guide, to give yourself the best chance of securing a visa. To apply, you must be a citizen of an eligible country and, typically, aged between 18 and 30 inclusive. Be positive, plan well-ahead and make sure you’ve all your supporting documents, and the process should be a relative breeze.
The COVID-19 outbreak is currently affecting global travel and the Canadian Prime Minister has announced travel restrictions that limit travel to Canada, which may affect your travel plans and visa application. You can find out more on how the global pandemic is affecting foreign workers here. We've also included a helpful snippet from the IEC website below.
Invitation rounds for International Experience Canada (IEC)
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, invitation rounds are currently on hold. We will provide an update once invitation rounds resume.
IEC work permit applications
Application processing is currently on hold. For those who had already accepted an invitation to apply, we will accept your application but it will not be processed for the time being.
IEC applications in progress will not be closed or refused due to a lack of documentation or inability to complete the application process in time, such as giving biometrics or completing an immigration medical examination.
If you are planning on working for winter 20/21 in Canada, keep yourself updated with the situation. Like everyone, we hope things we return to normal in advance of next season and we can enjoy mountain life once again.
When to apply
Due to COVID-19, the application process is currently on hold. When it resumes, to be in with the best chance of securing a visa, it’s worth getting your profile into the IEC pools as early as possible.
You can (usually) apply at any point in the year, but if you’re planning on heading to Canada for a future ski season, you should apply for your visa 12 to 9 months ahead of when you intend to enter.
Keep an eye on the IEC website for important dates and other helpful information.
What you need
There are a number of important documents you’ll need during the application process. It’s worth being proactive and getting these ready so you’re prepared for when your invitation comes through - some can take a little while to get hold of. Don’t panic if you don’t have most of this list yet – a lot of these documents will only be needed from Step 6 onwards.
*May only be necessary for certain applicants
Getting your visa: step-by-step
Step 1: plan early
Looking into visas should be one of the first things on your to-do list if you’re thinking about working in Canada. The number of visas available from country to country varies. Australia has an unlimited quota, while the UK traditionally receives around 5,000. Individuals are randomly selected from a pool of eligible candidates, and once the limited number of visas are given out, that’s it. With its epic mountainscapes, famous powder and welcoming locals, Canada is a popular destination for travellers, skiers and snowboarders alike, and so there are usually many more hopeful candidates than there are visa spots available. For this reason, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be successful, and therefore it’s best to get started with the process as soon as possible.
Step 2: check your eligibility
Depending on your country of citizenship, there are different visas available and different eligibility criteria. On the Government of Canada website, you can check your eligibility for the IEC initiative by answering a series of questions. Check your eligibility here.
Step 3: become a candidate
If you are eligible, you’ll be directed to an online form asking for basic details to complete your Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) account. At this stage you will also need to upload a copy of your passport. You’ll submit your profile and choose the IEC pools you want to be in.
Step 4: wait
Once you’re in an IEC pool, there’s nothing you can do but wait. Draws take place at regular intervals throughout the year until all places are filled. Your profile will stay in the pool until you either receive an invitation to apply, all permits are given out and the process is closed, or you become no longer eligible.
Step 5: receive an invitation to apply
After a bit of waiting around and crossing your fingers, you should receive an email through your IRCC account inviting you to apply for your visa. Once you receive this email, you have 10 days to decide whether to accept the invitation and begin your application.
Step 6: complete your application
Once you’ve started your application, you have 20 days to complete and submit it. This involves answering more questions and uploading all supporting documents, including police and medical exam certificates (see ‘what you need’ above). Although 20 days may sound like a long time, some of the documents can take a while to get, so it’s worth preparing before you’re invited to apply.
Step 7: Pay your fees
Within the 20-day constraint you must pay a participation fee of CAD$150. This payment can be completed online through your IRCC account. Other fees may also be applicable, including a $85 biometrics fee and $100 Working Holiday open work permit holder fee.
Step 8: Get your visa
Once you’ve submitted your application and payment, it can take up to 56 days to be processed. You may be asked to provide additional documents. If you’re successful, IRCC will send a Port of Entry Letter to your account. You’ll have one year to enter Canada from the date that your application is approved, and your visa begins from the day you set foot in Canada.
What happens when you get to Canada?
Your visa doesn’t guarantee you entry into Canada, so you need to be prepared for the border services. On entry into Canada you’ll need:
Didn’t get your visa?
Even if you’re enormously prepared, the application process means there’s no guarantee that you’ll be successful. Don’t feel disheartened if you don’t get invited to apply for your visa the first year you try – remember it’s just the luck of the draw and you can keep applying for as many years as it takes.
However, while you wait, it might be worth having a look at some back-up ideas. We run a range of ski instructor courses and snowboard instructor courses in Canada, for which you don’t require an IEC working visa. Only for our internship programs – where you’ll qualify and work in the same winter – do you need a working visa.
If Canada is a no-go, there are plenty of other great destinations to work and shred – from Europe, to Japan, to down south in New Zealand. You might still need a visa to work but securing one may be a little easier.
Good luck, and we’ll see you out there. If you have more questions about the IEC visa process, the Government of Canada has a helpful FAQ section.
We look forward to speaking with you.