Working in Canada | How to Get a Canadian Working Holiday Visa (IEC)
Updated: Nov 4, 2018
A working holiday is a great way to travel for an extended period of time and great opportunity to experience living and working in a foreign country. I'm currently one month into my working holiday in Canada and loving it! Whilst the process of applying for a work visa in a different country may seem daunting, it's not actually that difficult for Canada - I share my experience in applying for, receiving and activating my Canadian working holiday visa (IEC).
There are many agencies that (for a fee) will help organise you apply for a work visa in Canada but I believe that with a bit of effort it is relatively easy, there's no reason why you can't do it yourself!
Australian citizens under the age of 30 are eligible to apply for a 2 year work permit under the International Experience Canada program (IEC). You don't need to have a job lined up in advance and under the IEC you are able to receive an open work permit - meaning you can work anywhere pretty much unrestricted. However, as an Australian citizen, we can only get this working holiday visa once and there is an annual quota as to how many places are made available in the program each year.
Documents You'll Need
It's important that as soon as you begin to apply for the IEC, you begin gathering your supporting documentation as once you are invited to begin your application you have a limited amount of time to submit this documentation - sometimes police checks and medical exams can take longer than expected.
You'll also need to bring hard copies of these required documents to the border to activate you IEC.
Scanned copy of your passport
Digital photo of yourself
Australian police check - cost me $42. I applied online and received a hard copy in the mail
Family information form
Queensland traffic history report - I got this from my local Department of Transport and Main Road (think it cost roughly $25)
Medical exam (see note)
A note on medical exams: the terms of the IEC stipulate that if you plan to work in a job that requires a medical exam (e.g. nurse, working as a teacher/with children) or have recently lived or travelled in certain countries (e.g. Boliva, Cameroon etc) you must undergo a medical exam with a doctor that has been approved by the Canadian department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC). I chose not to do the medical exam as it cost over $600 to get in done in Brisbane and I didn't require it for my job I had lined up in Canada. I was lucky enough that at the border the customs didn't check I had done a medical exam and they gave me an open and unrestricted work permit - but this doesn't happen to everyone!
The Process of Applying
Applying for an IEC work permit involves a four step process. It's important to note that the timeframe between each step can vary depending on a number of factors, like the time of year you apply and whether quotas have been reached.
1. Entering a pool of candidates
If you are eligible to apply for the IEC you can create a profile on the IRCC's website (here) and once you submit your profile, you are entered into a pool of candidates also applying for the IEC working holiday visa. The pools open and close throughout the year at different dates and you may have to wait until the pool opens again to apply.
2. Receiving an invitation to apply
The IRCC will regularly randomly select candidates from the pool and invite them to apply for the work visa. An invite may take a week, a month or six months to receive depending on the time of year you apply and the demand. You must then choose if you wish to accept or decline your invitation to apply. You need to accept your invite within 10 days or it expires.
I was lucky enough to receive and invitation to apply pretty much instantly:
3. Submitting your application
You now must submit your application for the working holiday online. This involves submitting all the required documents e.g. police check, scan of passport etc. You have 20 days once accepting your invitation to submit your application. There is also a section to upload 'a letter of explanation' if you need to provide additional documentation e.g. you can upload a receipt for your police check if you don't happen to receive it in time to prove you've applied for one.
4. Receiving a port of entry letter
Your port of entry letter of introduction (POE) is the final approval that your work visa has been approved. I was super lucky and submitted my application on the 23rd October and received my port of entry (POE) letter three days later on the 26th October! The whole process took me less than a month from start to finish, but obviously this is different for everyone.
Once you receive your POE letter you have12 months to activate your work visa - e.g I needed to enter Canada by the 26th October 2018.
In total it cost me just under $300 for my Canadian working visa:
Police check: $42.00
Traffic history check: $25.00
Visa fee: $230.00
Arriving in Canada
My arrival at Canadian immigration in Toronto went really smoothly. I was lucky as the whole process took me around 20mins to get everything sorted - other people I've talked to told me that they waited in line for hours! I had hard copies of all my supporting documentation with me but the border officer was only interested in checking that I had appropriate travel insurance and looking at my bank statement to show proof of funds. It is also necessary that you bring a print out of your POE letter with you.
Proof of Insurance
A requirement of the IEC is that you need to be able to show that you have insurance that covers you for medical expenses and emergency evacuation for the duration of your intended stay. Supposedly, the length of your insurance dictates how long your work visa will be granted for. E.g. if you only have 6 months of insurance cover, you will only be granted a 6 month work visa. The issue with this is that many Australian travel insurers tend to only issue 1 year-long policies - technically meaning you wouldn't be able to show 2 years of insurance coverage and consequently wouldn't be able to be grated a 2 year work permit. Of course, this can all vary depending on the border officers decision on arrival. I purchased a one year policy with Fast Cover as they were relatively competitive price-wise and gave me a letter to go with my one year policy saying that I had the option to extend the insurance for a second year, which was enough to satisfy the border officer.
Proof of Funds
You need to show the border that you have a minimum of CAN$2,500 to help cover your initial expenses in Canada. You also need to show that you have the money to purchase a ticket home at the end of your working holiday. I did this with a print-out of my bank statement, but if you don't have the extra funds you may be required to show a pre-purchased return flight out of Canada.
I was lucky at the border to be approved with an full 2-year open work permit, free to work and travel in Canada wherever I wanted!
This was just an account of my personal experience and you should always do your own research before applying. For more detailed information and advice you should visit the Canadian Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship's IEC website here.
I also found the Facebook group International Experience Canada (IEC) - Ask Us Anything! helpful for troubleshooting questions and this blog post helpful.
Check out my blog articles on my adventures in Canada so far here!