A working holiday is a great way to immerse yourself into another country, while also earning money to fund your stay. Some participants choose to settle down in Vancouver or Toronto and live a big city lifestyle, while others work their way across the country, enjoying a constantly changing landscape. Whatever you decide to do, you’re sure to enjoy new experiences and have a one-of-a-kind year in Canada.
The Canadian Working Holiday program is called International Experience Canada (IEC) and provides the opportunity for a one year work/travel visa generally available for citizens aged between 18-35 (for some countries it’s 30). I’m writing this from a British perspective, so if you’re from elsewhere then please visit the IEC’s website here to see whether your country has a similar program. The IEC program is a lot more country specific than similar programs elsewhere (such as in NZ and Australia) and has been changing quite a lot in recent years so I can’t provide accurate information for anyone other than British participants.
The 2013 cycle has already opened, with 1,000 visas released on 14th February at 5pm British time, 9am Pacific time. These 1,000 were taken within just three hours!!2,000 more visas will be released on 25th February, and a final 2,350 allocation on 7th March. It is likely that these visas will be taken just as quickly.
As a British citizen, you can take part in the IEC scheme twice. If you had taken part in the BUNAC ‘Work Canada’ scheme before 2011, you can still take part twice.
Until December 2010, the only way to go to Canada to work temporarily was through BUNAC’s ‘Work Canada’ scheme. From the 2011 onwards, anyone eligible could apply direct to the Canadian government rather than having to apply through BUNAC as the middle-man. BUNAC does not have any special allocation of visas. It is likely that the BUNAC part in the IEC scheme will be phrased out entirely over the next few years. They shut their Montreal SWAP help centre for BUNAC participants in 2011, and now only have centres in Toronto and Vancouver left. Please see the FAQ if you’re trying to decide whether to go through BUNAC or not.
If you want to go to Canada on a Working Holiday you do need to unfortunately plan a bit in advance. There are a limited number of visas (just over 5000 in recent years) and they are taken FAST. They are released at a similar time every year – for the 2011 scheme it was January 2011 while for 2012 cycle it was December 2011. The dates of these ‘cycles’ might seem a bit odd to you, but once you receive your visa (the processing time is 8 weeks or less) you have up to a year to enter Canada and activate it, and then a year’s use from this activation date.
The timing of the IEC visa release in December/January does make it especially tricky if you want to arrive in Canada from September-April i.e. anytime that isn’t summer! If you want to go in autumn or early winter you have to really think ahead since the visas will most likely have run out by then, and if you want to go in late winter or spring your application might not have been approved yet.
How to apply
The application for IEC Canada is now online, which is a huge difference from the 2012 program.
1. First phase: You will need to sign up for a Kompass account. Since the quota has run out (at the time of writing) you cannot do this until the next batch of visas opens on 25th February.
2. Once you have a Kompass account (and the quota hasn’t run out yet) you will be able to apply for the IEC visa. This is a pretty standard application, designed to prove your eligibility for the visa. It takes approx 15 minutes to complete this stage. The application requires your personal details (address, date of birth etc). Aside from this, you will need a scanned copy of the photo page of your passport and details of your employment history if you have had more than three employers in the last five years.
3. After you have submitted this information, you will receive your World Tracking Number (WTN). Now you effectively have a visa ‘reserved’ as long as you pay the fee on time and fulfill all other criteria.
4. The IEC will send you details on how to pay the £100 fee. The only method of payment allowed is bank transfer. You must pay this fee within 10 days or you will lose your ‘reserved’ visa. Once you have paid, you need to submit evidence to prove you have paid i.e. print-screen/screen-shot of confirmation, or transfer receipt. Your WTN must be on the receipt somewhere (handwritten or as a reference) so that the IEC can match up your payment with your application. The payment proof is sent via your Kompass account messages.
5. After you have sent your payment proof you will receive verification. This can take anything from a few hours to a few days.
6. Second phase: This part of the application uses MyCIC, you will be directed to create a MyCIC account after verification. For this stage you will need an ACRO police certificate. The ACRO must be dated within the last year and is different to the usual CRB check you might have had for a job or work experience. While you’re waiting for the visas for be released, send off for your ACRO, it can take ten days/two weeks! If you’re in a hurry it’s definitely worth paying for the extra so you can get it back within a few days. It is likely that you will also need a passport photo. I have not heard of many British participants getting to this stage yet so this is a ‘to be continued’ post……!