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Do you want to stay in Canada after your International Experience Canada (IEC) work permit expires? You’re not alone. Tons of people who travel to Canada end up having such a good time on an IEC working holiday that they want to stay longer. But, how do you stay in Canada after IEC? Let’s walk through your options. 

Before we jump into it, there are a few things you should know. First of all, Canada is strict when it comes to immigration rules. If you get caught breaking the rules of your status in Canada, it can have serious legal impacts, so just don’t do it!

With that in mind, you should know that it is illegal to remain in Canada beyond the validity of your status in Canada. If your work permit is going to expire, you need to either get new status or leave the country, otherwise you risk facing the legal consequences of overstaying. 

Can you extend your IEC work permit?

IEC participants are only able to extend their work permits under exceptional circumstances, and sadly, wanting another ski season at Whistler isn’t quite exceptional enough. For this reason, you’ll have to look through the options below to figure out what works best for you.

Golden rule: Plan ahead!

You’ve already gone through the IEC process, so you already have an idea of how the Canadian immigration system works. Would you describe it as the fastest, easiest, or most efficient system out there? No, neither would we. 

Take this into account if you want to stay in Canada after IEC. It’s not a decision that you can make quickly, so try to plan ahead. Many of the options listed below require immigration applications to be prepared, submitted, and processed, and that can take months. 

So, what are your best options for staying in Canada after IEC?

Participate in IEC again

IEC worked for you the first time, why not do it again? 

Depending on your country of citizenship, you might be allowed to participate in IEC twice, directly through your country’s Youth Mobility Agreement with Canada. Even if your country only allows one participation through the YMA, you can participate up to two more times if you apply through an IEC Recognized Organization. So, this could be your golden ticket!

But, there is a downside for citizens of some countries. In a few cases, you can only apply for a second IEC work permit after one year has passed since the expiration of your first IEC work permit, but this rule only applies to applicants from Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, Slovakia, and Spain. If you are a citizen of one of these countries, that means this option won’t allow you to stay in Canada when your first IEC permit expires, it would only allow you to apply to return to Canada on a later date. 

Apply for a work permit with the support of an employer

If you have special skills or training that makes you attractive to a Canadian employer, they might be able to extend you a job offer that would enable you to apply for a work permit through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program. Getting a work permit this way can be challenging, but if you meet the requirements, it could be an option.

Getting a work permit for Canada outside the IEC program may require your employer to support you by applying for and obtaining something called a Labour Market Impact Assessment, or LMIA. If this is required, your employer will have to advertise the position and prove that there is a need for them to hire a foreign worker; that is to say, that no Canadian was ready, willing, and able to do the job. You can learn more about the LMIA process here.

Extend your stay as a visitor

This is a good option if you’re looking for some wiggle room at the end of your working holiday. You can apply to extend your stay as a visitor, a type of status that is typically valid for six months. Just make sure you apply for a visitor record at least 30 days before your work permit expires and be aware that while visitor status is commonly granted, there is no guarantee that yours will be approved.

One thing to note is that as a visitor, you no longer have the right to work in Canada. If you are caught working without the proper status, this can have serious legal ramifications.

Apply directly for permanent resident status

Your IEC work permit is a type of temporary status in Canada, but what if you could apply to stay permanently, and work for any employer, in any location? The type of status that allows you to stay, live, and work for as long as you’d like is called Canadian permanent resident status

Canada has a few pathways to permanent residence:

Immigration for workers: If you have a decent amount of work experience, post-secondary education, and English or French language proficiency, then you might qualify for an ‘economic immigration’ pathway for workers, like Express Entry or a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). Express Entry is a particularly speedy pathway to permanent residence (the clue is in the name), with processing times within six months, whereas the PNP route can take a bit longer (but you may be able to stay in Canada working while you wait).

Note that not every candidate for Express Entry is invited to apply for permanent residence, but if you obtain at least 12 months of skilled work experience in Canada while on your IEC work permit, that will boost your points and give you a great chance of being invited through Express Entry.

And if you’ve been working in Montreal or anywhere else in the province of Quebec, note that there’s a separate Quebec immigration system for workers, for which you may need to brush up on your French skills.

Immigration for family: Is your reason to stay in Canada that you found someone worth staying for? Well, if your partner is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and the two of you are married or meet the definition of common-law or conjugal partners, then your partner may be eligible to sponsor you to become a permanent resident

Get a study permit

You’ve had a year of fun, now it’s time to continue the adventure but do a bit of self-improvement along the way. Why not apply to study in Canada?

Canada has some of the world’s top-ranked universities, so you can get a quality education. Plus, a Canadian study permit gives you the ability to work while studying. Completing post-secondary studies in Canada is also a great step on the path to becoming a Canadian permanent resident. 

Need help staying in Canada after IEC?

Do you have questions that we haven’t answered? Want to talk to someone who’s gone through it before? Join the Moving2Canada IEC Facebook Group. You’ll be able to connect with thousands of others who have gone through this journey before and hear about what worked and what didn’t work for them. These are great places to get your questions answered.

Are you looking for expert advice? If you want to be sure you’ve considered all your options, you should book a consultation with a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant. We recommend a handful of consultants with years of experience helping others just like you. You can meet with the consultant online, or if you’re in the Vancouver, Whistler, Toronto, or Montreal areas, you can have your consultation in person. Book a consultation here

There you have it. Your options for staying in Canada after IEC. For all the latest news, tips, and tricks, be sure you stay tuned to our IEC news hub.