If you have been on my blog recently you may have seen a tour of our basement apartment here in Toronto, Ontario and I promised I would do an in-depth blog post on our two year working holiday visa in Canada. I am deciding to write this blog now as many people I have spoken to have advised it takes at least one year to feel fully settled into your new life and I did not want to start giving advise to anyone considering immigrating to Canada without having gone through it myself and being able to relay information that I know for sure will benefit anyone reading this. Before we get started I want to remind everyone considering moving abroad for an extended period of time that it is a serious life changing decision and not something to be taken lightly. Myself and my partner Ricky sat together carefully researching for two years before making any decisions and starting to put plans into action, we then waited a further year before actually moving away. One of the most common questions I get asked in Toronto is ‘why did you decide to move here’ and the typical response is: ‘because I wanted an adventure.’ Which typically throws people off, but I wanted to travel to another country to experience life through a different culture and perspective to *cheesy answer* broaden my horizon. Everyone travels for different reasons and if you are considering it I wish you the best of luck! The information in this blog is regarding our two year working holiday visa in Canada and is from our own experience, it might be slightly different for you and your situation.
International Experience Canada Visa
We are on the two year working holiday visa, which is also known as International Experience Canada (IEC Visa.) There is honestly so many different types and variations of visas you can apply for but we chose this one as we are both skilled workers under the age of 35, with no dependants and no family or spouse in Canada. To read up more on the IEC Working Holiday Visa click the link and it will take you to the official Government of Canada website where you can read further into the requirements, jobs available under the visa and fill out a questionnaire to see if you are eligible for this or another visa before creating an account to register into the entry pool and be officially invited to apply for your work visa.
Once you accept your invitation to apply for the Working Holiday Visa you only have 30 days to gather your documents (including a criminal background check and present biometrics) and send your application off. There are several travel agencies that will complete your application for you at a set price but myself and Ricky choose to do it ourselves and it was relatively straightforward – if anything it was more annoying photocopying our passport, waiting for our documents to come through the mail and have an official sign off on our documents. Once you send everything off the typical wait time is five weeks, however mine came back approved within a week and Ricky’s took only ten days. Once you are approved you receive a Port of Entry letter and have one year to enter Canada or your visa will become void. It is important to remember that at this stage it is only a conditional acceptance and a final decision will be made by an officer at the border when you arrive at Canada.
Preparing To Arrive In Canada
When you first arrive in Canada, whether you arrive by air, sea or car you will be greeted by a Canadian Border Services Agent. For ourselves landing in Toronto Pearson Airport we were among five international planes that landed around the same time and once we cleared customs and explained we were here for a Working Holiday we were then sent to another room to have our visa reviewed. Once you are called for review you need to provide the following documents, including your passport, so please have them with you in your hand luggage. Do not place these items in your checked baggage or you will not have the required documents.
- Port Of Entry Letter
- Proof Of Funds
- Proof Of Health Insurance
Your Port of Entry Letter is the document you receive to the Government Of Canada website when you visa application is conditionally accepted. Print it out and have it ready to show the Border Agent.
No more than one week (7 days) of immigrating to Canada you will need to go into your bank branch and request a statement of your bank account(s) to prove you have enough money to support yourself while you settle into Canada. This includes finding accommodation and a job. The International Experience Canada recommend the equivalent of $2,500 CAD – but let me be the first to advice more is better. If you arrive in Canada with more than $10,000 CAD you will need to declare it to an officer or risk heavy fines.
You may be refused entry into Canada if you can not provide proof of Health Insurance. Your insurance must cover: medical care, hospitalization and repatriation (which is returning to your home country in the event of severe injury, illness or death.) How morbid right?
Your insurance must cover you for the two year duration of your working holiday visa. If you arrive with anything less, even by a day, your visa will be set to expire on that day also. Even if you are unsure how long you intend to stay it is best to have the option because you will not be able to extend your visa – even if you buy new or extend your current health insurance.
Deciding Where To Live
Canada is the second largest country in the world. People really underestimate the size of the country and it offers such a diverse mix of culture, diversity and climate. When deciding where to live it is important to remember the huge impact this will have on your experience.
Most newcomers to Canada settle into one of the three largest cities:
Vancouver, British Columbia
Medium Sized Cities:
St. Johns, Newfoundland and Labrador
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Quebec City, Quebec
Victoria, British Columbia
It is important to remember the province of Quebec can trace its ancestors back as early as 17th century French colonists who settled in Canada. The majority of people from Quebec speak French, identify as French Canadian and are formally known as Québécois.
Arriving In Canada
When you first arrive in Canada on your working holiday visa there are several things you need to do. Within the first few days it is extremely important to get a Social Insurance Number (SIN) which is a 9-digit code that you need in order to work in Canada and have access to government programs and benefits. It is the equivalent to a National Insurance Number (UK), Personal Public Service Number (IRL), Social Security Number (USA), etc.
You get this at your nearest Service Canada Office.
Another extremely important step is setting up a Canadian bank account. When doing this remember to bring all of your identification and your newly issued Working Holiday Visa because many banks offer incentives for newcomers to join (such as one year free of monthly bank charges, etc.) There are five main banks within Canada, to choose the one best suited to you research the banks below.
- Royal Bank Of Canada (RBC)
- Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD)
- Bank Of Nova Scotia (ScotiaBank)
- Bank Of Montreal (BMO)
- Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)
Finally, you need a sim card to get a Canadian phone number and data plan so you can let everyone back home know you are alive and well. There are three main phone companies within Canada and other smaller brands and subdivisions, but be aware many of these ‘smaller brand’ options only allow phone calls to be made within the province you live in. Take some time to research into the sim plan is right for you, be aware it may be a little bit of a shock in price jump from what you are use to in your home country.
Smaller brands and subdivisions:
You may need to visit a Service Centre during your stay within Canada.
As the services that are provided here (vehicle registration, birth and death certificates, health coverage, etc) are carried out within the province they vary depending where you choose to stay in Canada.
Drivers License – a great form of Government Issued Identification. If you are providing ID that has been issued outside the province you live in you may be required to show a secondary piece. UK drivers licenses can be surrendered in exchange for a Canadian drivers license.
Health Card – After six months in Canada you are entitled to get the medical coverage. For ourselves we qualified for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) which pays for many health services; such as appointments with your family doctor, visits to walk-in clinics, visits to an emergency room and medical test and surgeries.
Alberta: You can find the nearest Service Alberta Office here.
British Columbia: You can review the Province of British Columbia here.
Manitoba: You can review the Province of Manitoba here.
New Brunswick: You can review the Service New Brunswick here.
Newfoundland & Labrador: You can review the Service NL website here.
North West Territories: You can review the Government of Northwest here.
Nova Scotia: You can review the Service Nova Scotia website here.
Nunavut: You can review the Government of Nunavut here.
Ontario: You can find the nearest Service Ontario Office here.
Prince Edward Island: You can review the Government website here.
Quebec: Vous pouvez consulter le site Web de Service Québec.
Saskatchewan: You can review the Government of Saskatchewan here.
Yukon: You can review the Government of Yukon here.
I hope you find this information helpful and has given you some insight into what is involved with immigrating to Canada on a working holiday visa. If you have any questions please leave a comment in the section below.