Internship in Canada – Work permit guide

work permit guide internship in canada

Which permit should you apply for when taking an Internship in Canada?

According to some research there are about 300,000 active interns across Canada. Some of them are Canadians and some international students. An internship in Canada is a great way to develop skillsets and to boost your resume.

Unlike Canadians who only need to search for an internship, international students have a little more work on their hands. Aside from searching for an internship in Canada, they also need to secure a work permit.

We’ve seen cases before where future interns would like to do an internship but are unaware that they also need a work permit. Sometimes one thing (finding an internship) goes before the other (getting a permit) and sometimes it’s reverse.

Depending on your nationality, you can be eligible for one or for two permit categories under the International Experience Canada (IEC) scheme. In this post we will try to explain what is the main difference between the two permits and recommend which one to go with depending on your situation.

Internship in Canada with a Working Holiday Permit

This is probably the most popular category. Everybody heard about it and many young people are ‘aiming’ for it. From the list of eligible countries, there are only a few European nationals that don’t qualify for this permit e.g. Switzerland.

The benefits of this permit is that it’s an open work permit. This means that under this permit you can work for as many employers as you want. It’s also important to note that this permit is usually valid for one or maybe two years.

Internship in Canada with an International Co-op Permit

This is the second, lesser known IEC category. Just like the name suggests, it’s intended for Co-op placements i.e. internships. Unlike the Working Holiday permit, this is an employer-specific permit. This means that it’s only valid if you’re working with the employer listed on the permit. Also, this permit is valid for the duration of your internship, not longer.

Which one to apply for and why?

If you’re from a country that is eligible only for one of these permits, there aren’t many choices go to with; you’ll have to apply for the permit for which you are eligible. Now for those that can apply for both, things are bit different, and easier.

The main questions to focus on are “Do you just want to complete an internship in Canada as part of your studies? Do you plan on returning and working in Canada in the future with an International Experience Canada permit?”. In case you only want to complete an internship in Canada then we recommend you to go with Working Holiday permit. But if you want to return to Canada in the future, we recommend to go with the Co-op permit. Here is why:

  1. Less ‘crowded’ pools – easier to get an invitation to apply
  2. Fast application processing
  3. You need to have a confirmed internship before getting the permit
  4. You can “save” your Working Holiday permit for the future

The last point there, and probably most important benefit of doing it this way, is that it will still leave the Working Holiday option open for you in the future, perhaps when you are no longer a student. This means that you can return to Canada to work and travel at a later date, anytime before age 30 or 35 (depending on your nationality). And even if you’re not sure now, it is best to leave this option open.

This way (with the Co-op permit) you will gain additional work experience, return to your home country to complete your studies and in a year (or two or more) you could potentially return to Canada, find a job in your area of expertise and gain additional experience or just have casual adventure across Canada working while you travel and sight-see.

Keep in mind that the Co-op category is only open for you while you’re a registered post-secondary student. So if you use the Working Holiday option first, you won’t be able to apply for the Co-op permit once you’ve completed your studies.

So to quickly summarize:

If you’re eligible for only one IEC category – Go with that one

If you’re eligible for both and you are a registered student – first go with the Co-op category and save your Working Holiday option for later

When to apply for an IEC work permit?

To put it simple…the sooner the better! Why? The International Experience Canada programs are growing in popularity and demand. The number of applicants for the Working Holiday permits is increasing with far more people applying than permits available. So if you enter the pools sooner, you may have a better chance of getting an invitation to apply. Once you go through the process and have the permit, you have up to one year to enter Canada and activate it. So, whether you’re going for the Working Holiday or Co-op permit, it’s best to start planning and arranging everything on time.

work permit guide internship in canada