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Every year, tens of thousands of young adults from around the world arrive in Canada on an International Experience Canada (IEC) Working Holiday work permit. While most working holidaymakers enter a formal employer-employee relationship after arriving in Canada and landing a job, some IEC participants want to be self-employed in Canada. Fortunately for them, self-employment in Canada while on an IEC Working Holiday is possible. 

However, there are a few things you should know before attempting to set up a business or work freelance while in Canada on an IEC work permit.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) states that an open work permit may be obtained under IEC through the Working Holiday category that may allow the participant to register a new Canadian corporation for self-employment work. However, IRCC points out that self-employment is not the main focus of the IEC Program, and final decisions are made by a delegated migration officer.

Participants with an employer-specific work permit, under either the Young Professionals category or the International Co-op (Internship) category, must always demonstrate that an employer-employee relationship exists. No self-employment may be accepted under either of these categories.

IEC Working Holiday self-employment

Canada’s federal framework gives power to the provinces with respect to starting and operating a business in Canada. Anyone considering self-employment in Canada while on an IEC Working Holiday work permit should be aware of the numerous federal, provincial, and municipal legislative and regulatory requirements related to operating a business in Canada.


Here is some general information from the federal government on starting a business in Canada.


Alberta | British Columbia | Manitoba | New Brunswick | Newfoundland | Nova Scotia | Ontario | PEI | Quebec | Saskatchewan


Calgary | Edmonton | Montreal | Ottawa | Toronto | Vancouver


‘I don’t want to start a business in Canada, I just want to freelance a bit,’  we hear you say. So, let’s have a look at freelancing in Canada while on an IEC Working Holiday.

Whether you are a writer, photographer, graphic designer, or dress up as a clown for children’s birthday parties — if you are rendering a service for payment or selling a good while in Canada on an IEC Working Holiday, and if the only person being paid is you, this likely fits the definition of freelancing. This means that you are liable to pay income tax on your earnings.

Paying income tax as a self-employed IEC’er

Fortunately, we have an extensive guide on paying income tax while self-employed on an IEC Working Holiday.

About the IEC Working Holiday

Figuring out IEC Working Holiday self-employment is just one aspect of organizing your time in Canada. To find out more about the IEC program, visit these resources: