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Working Holiday Visa for Canada: Experience Report and Tips
You should know that about the Working Holiday Visa for Canada!
A working holiday visa is a great way to discover a new country when you are young! There is nothing like an international work and travel experience for your personal development and résumé.
At Penguin and Pia we have some experience with it! Lisa was able to come to Canada for a year thanks to the Working Holiday Visa - so we could live and travel together.
She applied for her Canadian Working Holiday Visa and just months later headed to Toronto, Canada.
We lived in Toronto and had a chance to explore a few other places (Montreal, Kingston) but there is definitely more to see!
We thought it might be useful to write down Lisa's experience with the Canadian Work and Travel Visa! Starting with the application form for entering Canada and the first few weeks in the new country - here are our experiences and tips!
Hopefully they are helpful. And if you're still looking for a packing list for Canada, we recommend this article.
** Disclaimer: This post provides general information on the Canadian Working Holiday Visa application process.
We do our best to keep the information up to date, but we cannot accept any liability for its accuracy. You should address specific questions about your application to the Immigration Service of Canada. **
What is the Canada Working Holiday Visa?
The Working Holiday Visa for Canada is part of the International Experience Canada (IEC) program. Similar to many other Working Holiday Visas, this visa gives you an open work permit.
This means that you can work for different employers while living in Canada. Besides, you need no job offer before you apply for the visa can.
This is an important difference from the other two visas that are part of the International Experience Canada program.
For the Young Professionals and the International Co-op Internship Visa you need a job offer before you can apply.
Since Germany has an agreement with Canada, Lisa was entitled to register in the application pool for the Working Holiday Visa.
Many other countries also have agreements with Canada - some of the most important are: Australia, Austria, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
If you are of another nationality, you can check this page to see if you are eligible.
The application criteria can differ depending on your nationality. In general, the Working Holiday Visa is for Valid for 12 months (23 months for former Commonwealth countries).
You can too not older than 30 years (35 in some cases) be old when you apply. To see the exact criteria for your citizenship, you can click on the link we mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Applying for the Working Holiday Visa Canada
Applying for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa is not too difficult compared to some other visas. However, you should make sure that you are reasonably well organized (i.e. have all the required documents).
And admittedly, you need a bit of luck too. We'll briefly walk you through the steps Lisa went through to give you an idea of what the process entails.
Create a profile
After making sure that you can actually apply, you can create and submit a profile. You can follow these steps. The questions are actually pretty simple and shouldn't take too long to fill out.
You will also likely need to create a GCKey (a specific type of login) if you don't have a Canadian bank account. Lisa didn't have one as she had never been to Canada before, so she used the GCKey to log into the portal.
Make sure you remember the password and the answers to the security questions, as you will be using this login more often over the next few months!
It is important to know that creating and submitting a profile does not mean that you have applied for a Working Holiday Visa. It just means that you are now in a selection pool with other candidates.
Wait and hope for a bit of luck
As mentioned at the end of the last section: You are now in a pool with other candidates. If you come from a country in the former Commonwealth (e.g. Great Britain, New Zealand or Australia), you are in luck.
There is no upper limit for these nationalities and every candidate can apply. Since Lisa is from Germany, the process looked a little different for her.
For other citizenships (including Germans and Austrians) there is only a limited number of visas that can be issued. You can check here how many places are available for your citizenship.
For the Working Holiday Visa for Germans, there are around 4500 places per application cycle, which starts once a year in November.
Every week or sometimes every two weeks (there are no set times) a few candidates are drawn at random and then given the chance to apply for the Working Holiday Visa.
Our tip: Submit your profile as early as possible! The first round of invitations is usually sent out in November. The earlier you are in the pool, the higher your chances of being selected.
You won't get "special treatment" if you submit your profile early compared to someone who doesn't do so until March.
However, you can take part in multiple invitation rounds, which gives you more opportunities to be selected.
Lisa didn't submit her profile until February as she didn't know Eric that well in November. In the end everything worked out and she received an invitation to apply in April.
But if you know sooner that you want to go to Canada, please register as soon as possible!
If selected, apply for your visa
After checking the invite round page way too often, you may receive a somewhat unexpected email from the Canadian government that your status on the portal has changed. At least that was the case with Lisa.
It's an important step because it usually means you've received an invitation to apply!
Check your emails regularly because once you have received this message, you only have a certain amount of time to submit your application.
The steps in the application portal are pretty easy to follow. Make sure that you are very thorough and that you are taking the time to fill out everything in English.
You have to upload a biometric photo and provide police clearance certificates from all countries in which you have spent more than 6 months since your 18th birthday.
If the certificates are not in English, you will need to have them translated as well.
Since this was more than just a country for Lisa (she had also lived in Denmark for three years during her studies), she tried to arrange these documents before receiving an invitation to apply. Just in case.
That was probably a smart move as it took a while to arrange all of this. So, if you want to be on the safe side, you may be able to do something similar.
When Lisa applied for the Working Holiday Visa for Canada, she didn't have to give her fingerprints. However, this changed on July 31, 2018.
Unfortunately, we cannot give you any more detailed information about this part of the application, as we did not experience it ourselves. Usually the Canadian government is pretty good at providing information.
So if you need to provide fingerprints, they will let you know during the application process.
Wait for approval / rejection
As soon as you have submitted your application, the waiting starts all over again. Once you've submitted a complete application, it shouldn't take too long to get feedback.
If you haven't submitted all of the required documents, someone may contact you to request them.
Fortunately, Lisa was able to provide all the documents we needed immediately, so we're not sure what the next steps would be in such a case.
Lisa received a positive response about four weeks after submitting her application.
Bring your documents with you to Canada
After your visa has been approved and you have received the online confirmation, you have 12 months to enter Canada before your Working Holiday Visa expires.
You need to make sure you bring some very important documents with you because you will need them at the border.
One of these documents is the printed oneConfirmation letter. You can find this in one of the e-mails or the online portal.
We don't know about other airports, but Lisa arrived at Toronto Pearson Airport and that was the process she went through:
- Like any other person landing in Canada, you'll need to fill out an immigration card. Machines are now often used for this. You have to keep the printed out immigration card - you will need it later.
- You come to the border control and tell the officials at the counter that you are here to start your working holiday visa. At Lisa's passport they wrote a note in her passport, gave her a special piece of paper and told her to go to another room.
- Where others would normally leave the airport, you will be directed to an office on the side and asked to queue. When Lisa was there, she didn't have to wait long and was taken to two officers at a desk after about 10 minutes.
- Show your Confirmation of the visathat you received at the end of your application, your Travel insurance (must be valid for the entire duration of the visa!) and one Financial statement (e.g. bank statement). In Lisa's case, they didn't want to see many other documents, but make sure you bring all the documents listed on the government's official website (e.g. original copies of police clearance certificates). You can check here what to bring with you.
- After a few minutes of checking Lisa's documents and entering data into the computer, she received her official work permit and was able to leave.
Tip for Toronto Pearson Airport: There is a Service Canada counter at the airport - very close to where you can get your work permit.
If you have the time, you should apply for your social security number (SIN) right there. You need it to open a bank account / if you have a job - more on this below.
This saves you having to go to a Service Canada counter later. You should know the address of the place where you will be spending the first few days. Lisa applied for her SIN number there and the woman was super nice and helpful.
Tips for getting started in Canada
Before you get started and apply for the Working Holiday Visa, you should consider whether moving to Canada for a year is right for you.
In addition to the actual steps involved in applying for a visa, there are a few other things that need to be done when you come to Canada.
Canada is a big country and can be expensive - depending on where you want to live and what you want to do there!
Start here: setting up accounts + dealing with authorities
Once you get to Canada there are some things that you should arrange early enough to make your life easier.
That way, instead of saying, "I have a few things to do first," you can start accepting job offers right away.
Apply for your SIN number
SIN stands for Social Insurance Number. In many countries there is a similar number that is assigned to you as a citizen.
You need them to work and pay taxes. A SIN number is also important if you want to open a bank account.
Lisa flew to Toronto and was informed by the nice border guards that she could apply for her SIN number at a Service Canada Desk at the airport. So she did that.
It only took a few minutes - they need some personal information and the address of where they would be staying for the first few days.
She then got her number right there. If you also have the option of doing this directly at the airport, we would recommend that!
Buy a SIM card with mobile internet
It's a bit controversial that we recommend this as Lisa never had a Canadian SIM card for the 7 months she lived in Canada.
But our situation was also unique and she could usually use Eric's cell phone mobile internet when she really needed it.
So unless you have someone with a Canadian SIM card next to you all the time, you should probably get your own. Often you have to give a phone number when you log in somewhere.
If you are from Germany, the high monthly prices could be a bit of a shock for you. There is simply not enough competition in Canada, which leads to the high prices.
Eric would recommend that you check out Koodo's deals as they are one of the cheaper ones.
Open a bank account
There are a few different banks in Canada. Lisa opened her account with TD because Eric was with TD and we had a branch near our apartment.
Often times, banks have special offers for newcomers to Canada, such as no monthly account fee, etc.
Have a look around if you want to make sure you are getting the best deal. The most popular banks are: TD Canada Trust, Scotiabank, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), and The Bank of Montreal (BMO).
We can't say how opening a bank account with other banks works, but at TD we made an appointment beforehand with an advisor in a branch near our house.
On the day of the meeting, Lisa brought her passport, SIN number, and other documents she thought she might need.
Everything went pretty quickly and was relatively easy - the consultant simply typed Lisa's personal details into her computer, printed out some forms that Lisa had to sign and gave her the bank card on site. Then Lisa could change her PIN code in one of the card machines in the office.
This was a very different process than opening a bank account in Europe - it was a positive surprise for Lisa.
In Germany and other European countries, you will usually receive your bank card and PIN code in separate envelopes by post on different days. So it can be a pretty tedious process.
Getting the bank card and pin right there was great as it basically bypassed the waiting game. If you plan to never be in one place for long, this can come in very handy.
Living in Canada
We can't really speak for other cities, but finding an apartment in Toronto can be a hassle.
You should make sure that you either have a place for the first few weeks or that you have enough emergency money in case the house / room search does not go as well as planned. It is quite common to live in shared apartments as real estate prices are quite high in large cities.
You can search for apartments for the city you want to live in in Facebook groups or on Kijiji. Another good app is PadMapper. Be aware, however, that there are spammers everywhere - if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Prices vary depending on the location and city. Toronto and Vancouver are now very expensive and there is a lack of affordable housing. Some smaller student cities often offer rental apartments for a shorter period of time.
There are really many different options, but Eric, as a Canadian, would advise: Stay away from Toronto as the competition can be fierce and you may not find anything.
Sometimes you also need to have an employment contract and credit check, which can be difficult for non-Canadians.
Means of transport in Canada
Are you planning to stay in Canada for more than a few months? You have a few different ways of getting around.
If you're in a big city like Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver, you can use public transport or bike to get to most places.
If you want to see a lot of the country or end up in a rural area, you should consider buying or renting a car.
As we wrote in our blog post about things you should know before traveling to Canada, regional transport options are not always well developed.
There are long-distance buses like Greyhound, but the rail network is not as well developed as in Europe.This is mainly because the distances are so great and it doesn't always make sense.
In any case, having a car makes life in Canada a lot easier. Buying a used car can be done from a used car dealer or online. You can have a look at Kijiji.ca or Autotrader.ca.
Find work in Canada
If you have a working holiday visa, seasonal work is often an option. In the summer months, many internationals work in summer camps in Ontario or in the large outdoor resorts.
There are also many opportunities in ski resorts as a waiter: to work in. The autumn harvest of fruit is very high in Ontario and other areas. It could be that local farms with smaller orchards are looking for help.
In winter, the resorts open their ski slopes and become a mecca for activities. Vacationers ski, visit the restaurants or take part in other winter activities. There are usually many options for working holiday travelers.
Meet people in canada
Canada is a very social country. You are bound to get to know other travelers or locals through your work!
You could also get involved in social clubs or sports teams in your city. There will definitely be a few that you can join.
Big cities like Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver have very active and social populations. When jogging, in the gym or in a bar - there are like-minded people everywhere.
The university cities in many provinces also offer some activities to meet new people.
Do you want to learn more about Canada and get some recommendations? Then check out these articles that are full of Canadian knowledge:
And there you have it - our experience with the Working Holiday Visa for Canada and tips for the first few weeks. In the end, the process wasn't really difficult.
Admittedly, it was a little easier as Eric is a Canadian who knows his country well.
We hope this guide can help you as much as Eric helped Lisa! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us - we will be happy to help you discover more of Canada!
As always, happy waddling!
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