Recent reports indicate that some International Experience Canada (IEC) participants attempting to take a shortcut around the program’s insurance requirements are receiving work permits valid for a far shorter period than those who follow the government of Canada’s clear instructions.
IEC participants are required to take out an insurance policy that will cover medical care, hospitalization, and repatriation costs. Participants who wish to obtain the full duration of their work permit are required to purchase insurance for the entire period they wish to stay, in line with the maximum allowable duration for their IEC category and country of citizenship.
For example, if an IEC Working Holiday applicant from Australia wishes to avail of the full 24-month open work permit he or she is eligible to obtain, he or she then needs to purchase an insurance policy covering 24 months and present proof of purchase upon arrival, if demanded by the visa officer. If the insurance policy covers a shorter period, however – say, six months – the visa officer then has the discretion to issue a work permit covering six months only. In most cases where a shorter policy is presented, the officer exercises this discretion.
Consequently, some participants now in Canada hold work permits far shorter in duration than they would have otherwise received had they purchased a longer insurance policy. Moreover, through the opening weeks of 2018 some members of the Moving2Canada IEC Forum have come forward with stories that they are now looking to extend or amend their status in Canada, having presented an additional insurance policy.
However, participants cannot simply purchase additional insurance and then ask for a longer work permit. The work permit duration issued on arrival will remain the duration, regardless of whether additional insurance is presented. (There are certain rare scenarios where additional validity of an IEC work permit may be possible, but none of these scenarios cover the duration of insurance policies.)
There are reports that some affected IEC participants were simply unaware that they had to purchase a certain insurance policy duration, even though government sources – including communications sent directly to applicants during the application process – state the requirement clearly.
However, it has also come to light that some participants are fully aware of the requirement, but choose to ignore it in the hope that the visa officer they meet on arrival in Canada will not ask them to present their proof of purchase of an insurance policy. In such cases, participants are taking a massive gamble on their future in Canada, essentially for the sake of saving what typically amounts to a few hundred dollars. Further, in the event that these participants were fortunate enough to meet a visa officer who didn’t demand presentation of a policy – thereby allowing the participant to receive a work permit valid for a longer period than their insurance policy – participants are taking an additional gamble on their health.
“We occasionally get phone calls from working holiday travelers stuck at the border, desperately looking around for travel insurance for their IEC requirements. Of course, it’s better not to leave the purchase to the last minute — there can be delays processing with an international credit card, for example,” notes Bob Hornal, President and CEO at BestQuote Travel Insurance.
“For travelers wanting 24 months of coverage, the options do become somewhat limited and thereby more expensive when it’s a last-minute purchase, not to mention the stress and aggravation caused by having to delay what would have otherwise been an easy border entry.”
To find out more about insurance for IEC and review a range of providers, see our Travel Insurance for Canada page.