The International Experience Class (IEC) is a new name for the International Youth Program and International Exchange Programs.
These programs allow for young people to come and visit Canada and work to support themselves while they familiarise themselves with the country.
The IEC program is more commonly known as the Working Holiday or Student Work Abroad Program (SWAP).
Young people who are approved will be issued a valid Letter of Introduction (LOI) which they can use to apply for a work permit at the port of entry when they arrive in Canada. Canada has agreements with 32 different countries to permit young people to apply for work permits under the IEC.
Processing the Application
To submit an IEC application, there are two steps.
In order to be eligible to apply, you must be a citizen of one of the countries with which Canada has a bilateral agreement on youth mobility. Some of these bilateral agreements require that the individual be living in their country of citizenship at the time they make their application, whereas other agreements provide that applicants may submit their application to the Canadian Visa office responsible for the country in which they are presently and lawfully admitted.
Check and see whether there is an International Experience Canada Program for your country and follow the specific instructions to apply for an IEC work permit on the regional visa website for the geographic region for which you are a national or in which you reside.
Most visa offices only accept applications for a limited time each year.
Path to Permanent Residence
For many young people, the IEC category is a good way to pursue permanent residence to Canada.
Most IEC programs provide for work permits that are for 12 months or more which means you can obtain the one year of work experience which will allow you to apply for permanent residence under the Canadian Experience Class.
For those agreements which allow for a work permit of less than 12 months, it still provides you with a wonderful opportunity to connect with a Canadian employer who may be willing to offer you further employment in the future which may ultimately lead to permanent residence.
While a work permit under the IEC may permit you to lawfully work in Canada, possession of the work permit alone will not make you eligible to apply for permanent residence to Canada.
If permanent residence is your ultimate goal, you will need to not only obtain the work permit, but you will also need to gain full time work experience in Canada for a minimum of 12 months to be eligible to satisfy the Canadian Experience Class criteria.