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This article is your guide to alternative immigration options for when you're hoping to use the IEC Working Holiday to come to Canada but life decides otherwise.

Each year, tens of thousands of youth from around the world travel to Canada to work and travel using International Experience Canada (IEC), a work permit option that includes the popular Working Holiday program. For years, IEC Working Holidays have provided a reliable and simple pathway for youth from participating countries to come to Canada.

But sometimes, life has a way of showing us that plans don’t always unfold as we imagined. The working holiday program is very competitive for candidates from certain IEC participating countries and invitations may be hard to get. Also, a few years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic caused IEC and the Working Holiday program to come grinding to a halt.

So, one can wonder: What are the options to come to Canada other than the IEC Working Holiday?

What are the alternatives to the IEC Working Holiday visa for travellers looking to come to Canada

#1 — Wait for IEC to be open. Yes, we’re serious.

Okay, so this probably isn’t the answer you were looking for, but before we get into your alternative immigration options, we wanted to stress the fact that the IEC Working Holiday program is relatively simple and straightforward when compared to Canada’s other immigration options.

The Working Holiday program doesn’t require a job offer, it doesn’t have any complicated ranking system, and the processing times are fast.

If you can handle waiting it out, it’s likely to be your easiest option.

One thing to keep in mind is that even when IEC opens, there are quotas for each country and invitations are issued through a randomized system. You may want to refer to the quota history for the previous season to get a sense of the quotas available to each country — although quotas could change next season.

If you think you can hang on and wait until then, great! If not, let’s really dive into your alternatives.

#2 — Get a Labour Market Impact Assessment-based (LMIA-based) work permit

There are many different types of Canadian work permits. But, aside from IEC, one of the other popular options for people residing outside Canada, is a Labour Market Impact Assessment-based (LMIA-based) work permit.

An LMIA-based work permit requires that you land a job from a Canadian employer. But, this can’t just be any job offer — the job offer must be supported by a document called a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment, or LMIA.

An LMIA is a document that your employer must obtain (you can’t get it yourself) that proves that they attempted to hire someone in Canada, but were unable to do so, hence why they are hiring a foreign national.

LMIAs are complicated documents for Canadian employers to get. They have to:

  • Prove they posted their job in different locations,
  • Submit a detailed application,
  • And they usually have to pay a CAD$1,000 processing fee.

For all of these reasons, most Canadian employers prefer to hire people who already have the legal authorization to work in Canada — it just saves them a lot of hassle.

All that said, tens of thousands of positive LMIAs are issued every year, so it’s possible. Competitive and challenging, but possible.

If you can get a job offer supported by a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment, you can use this to apply for a closed work permit — authorizing you to come to Canada and work for that specific employer.

#3 — Apply directly for permanent resident status

Canada has several immigration pathways that allow you to apply directly for permanent resident status, or PR.

Getting PR means that you can live in Canada for as long as you want, working for any employer in any location, plus you get access to Canada’s healthcare system and social services. It’s a pretty sweet deal.

But, it’s extremely competitive and processing times are long.

The Federal Skilled Worker program (FSW), a program within Canada’s Express Entry immigration system, enables skilled workers to apply directly for permanent resident status, without ever needing to have set foot in Canada before. The downside? Express Entry uses a complex points-based system to rank interested candidates based on their age, work experience, language skills, level of education, and more. Only the candidates with the highest scores are invited to apply.

There are other Canadian immigration programs that allow you to apply directly for permanent resident status, including Provincial Nominee Programs (you can sort through more than 80 PNP streams here) and Quebec immigration. However, these are equally as complex as Express Entry, and often similarly competitive.

Family sponsorship could also be an option, although you’d have to already be in a marriage or common-law relationship with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.


#4 — Come to Canada as an international student

Yes, coming as an international student can be considered a reliable way to enter Canada. But becoming an international student is a big commitment that involves a few key actions: getting accepted into a school, obtaining a study permit, and handling the financials for tuition and other fees. It’s also important to remember that the Canadian government may tighten the rules for international students during tough times, like what happened in January 2024. So, before you dive in, make sure that your qualifications align with what’s needed to study in Canada.

Once you’re through, it does open a lot of doors. Most international students are eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit after graduating from a Canadian school, and there are many Canadian immigration programs targeted toward people with Canadian education and work experience.

So, it’s a big commitment, but it can have a big payoff. The choice is up to you!

#5 — Come to Canada as a visitor

The last option we wanted to mention is coming to Canada as a visitor. It’s easy to overlook, but a visitor visa, either a Temporary Resident visa or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) depending on the country you come from, provides a generous amount of time to experience what Canada has to offer. While it doesn’t allow for as long a stay as a working holiday permit would, six months is still substantial for touring, networking, and scouting potential places to live if you’re thinking of applying for a more permanent solution later on.

It’s an excellent way to get a feel for Canadian life and its job market before you decide on a particular work permit or immigration path. Just remember, while job hunting in the traditional sense is off-limits without the correct permit, there’s nothing stopping you from making new friends and connections.


Can I apply for Express Entry and IEC at the same time?

Is Express Entry the same as IEC?

How long can I stay in Canada as a visitor?

What is the difference between an LMIA work permit and an IEC Working Holiday permit?

About the author

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Rebecca Major

Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Rebecca Major is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (R511564) with nearly 15 years of licenced Canadian Immigration experience, gained after graduating with a Bachelor of Laws in the UK. She specializes in Canadian immigration at Moving2Canada.
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Citation "Alternatives to the IEC Working Holiday to come to Canada in 2024." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation