The Government of Canada has announced that the International Experience Canada (“IEC”) program will partially re-open on March 1, 2021. To participate in the program, eligible candidates may create an online profile with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”), and submit this profile to any of the three available IEC pools. Candidates will then be randomly selected up to a set quota and issued an Invitation to Apply for a work permit.
In order to be eligible, a candidate’s country of citizenship must have an IEC Agreement with Canada. Candidates must also meet their own country’s eligibility requirements, which generally include age requirements and a particular number of participations. The age of eligibility ranges from 18-30 or 35, depending on country.
As noted, there are three IEC categories:
- The Working Holiday category provides an “open work permit” which allows individuals to work for more than one employer in Canada in any location. Importantly, due to COVID-19 restrictions, candidates in this category are now required to have a valid job offer in order to receive an Invitation to Apply.
- The Young Professionals category provides an employer-specific work permit, and requires the individual to work for the same employer during their stay in Canada. The job must be classified as highly skilled. In some instances, a lower-skilled role may be accepted where the individual submits confirmation of post-secondary education with their work permit application. Because this is an LMIA-exempt, employer-specific work permit, the Employer must submit an Offer of Employment to a Foreign National Exempt from an LMIA and pay the associated $230 fee.
- The International Co-op (Internship) category similarly provides an employer-specific work permit, requiring the individual to work for the same employer while in Canada. This category is available to students registered at a foreign post-secondary institution with a job offer for a work placement or internship in Canada, and who require the work placement or internship to complete their studies. The internship must be directly linked to the individual’s field of study. The Offer of Employment and associated fee noted above are required for the Co-op category as well.
Due to current COVID-19 travel restrictions, all IEC participants are required to have a valid job offer and a pre-approval letter, in addition to the usually required proof of adequate health coverage. The job offer must include written confirmation from the Canadian employer stating that their business is continuing to operate and that the IEC participant will commence work after their mandatory quarantine period.
Importantly, Canadian employers do not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) to hire workers through the IEC program. Canadian employers may therefore utilize the IEC program to hire foreign employees where an LMIA is not available or appropriate. The IEC program has been closed since April 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic. Although not all countries who hold an IEC agreement with Canada will offer Invitations to Apply at this time, it does signify that we are on a pathway back to normal.
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If you have any questions about this matter, other COVID-19 related issues, or would like any other workplace law assistance, please contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer, or refer to the Firm’s COVID-19 website resources.