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# How To's

How to get a Canadian working holiday visa

A step-by-step guide to securing a Canadian work permit for budding ski and snowboard instructors. (6 min read)

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.



Current status - updated 05 Jan 2023

The 2023 IEC Season pools opened on 19th December 2022. Applicants can now create a profile to enter the pools. The first round of invitations started on 9th January 2023.


When to apply


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.


  • A valid passport – ideally in-date for the entirety of your stay in Canada
  • Copy of your passport – for your initial profile and for your supporting documents
  • Police certificate - for countries where you have spent six or more consecutive months since the age of 18
  • CV/resume – covering your education, work history and travel movements
  • Digital passport-style photo
  • Family information
  • Medical documents*
  • Biometrics*
  • The equivalent of at least $161 to pay your visa participation fee
  • A lot of patience, as there may be some waiting around


*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$161. 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.


To recap:


  1. Plan early
  2. Check your eligibility for an IEC work permit
  3. Become a candidate in an IEC pool
  4. Wait to be drawn and start collating your documents
  5. Receive an invitation to apply
  6. Complete your application
  7. Pay your fees
  8. Get your visa


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:


  • Your passport
  • Printed confirmation of your visa
  • Proof of health insurance for the whole time you’ll be in Canada
  • Proof that you have funds to support yourself during your trip. This involves a copy of your bank statement (issued no less than one week before your departure) showing you have the equivalent of CAD$2500.
  • A ticket for your departure from Canada or proof that you have enough money to purchase a ticket
  • Copies of the documents you used in your visa application


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.


Once you’ve secured your visa, you’ll be able to apply for one of the coveted instructor positions on our ski internships or snowboard internships in Fernie. Get in touch with our team for more info.

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