You’ve made it through the IEC application process, paid for travel insurance and booked a flight to Vancouver. What next? Here’s everything you need to know about arriving in Vancouver for the start of your working holiday, including activating an IEC work permit.
Immigration at YVR
The first stop on arrival at Vancouver International Airport is customs and immigration.
After leaving your plane, follow the signs to Immigration. Join the ‘Visitors to Canada’ line and have your passport and work permit documents (POE, proof of funds, insurance) ready. You should also have your completed customs card to hand. On your turn, advise the Canada Border Services Officer (CBSA) that you are activating an IEC work permit. The officer will then direct you to a side waiting area. There is likely to be another queue.
Activating an IEC work permit
When the officer calls you, present your POE (Letter of Correspondence) document. The officer may ask questions about what you intend to do during your stay in Canada. The officer may also request to see your other work permit documents.
When your work permit is printed, the border officer will explain the conditions of the permit. Make sure all the details are correct – your name, expiry date and passport number. The job location section should say ‘OPEN.’ If you have had a medical, there should not be any health services or childcare work restrictions.
If ANY of the details are wrong on the permit, politely ask the officer to correct the error. Ask for a supervisor if you need to. An incorrect expiry date or passport number is the most common mistake, especially if you have changed passport since applying for the IEC program. To help with either of these situations, print and carry a copy of these three CIC advice pages with you – POE validity, IEC bilateral agreements (showing maximum work permit validity for your country) and changing a passport after application.
Leaving YVR and Travelling Downtown
Once you have left immigration with your activated IEC work permit (hooray!), proceed to pick up your bags. You must hand in your customs card before leaving the baggage area.
To get to Vancouver’s downtown area, there are two main ways to do so – taxi or SkyTrain. The SkyTrain is fast, direct and cheap. Follow the signs marked ‘Canada Line’ to use the SkyTrain. Tickets can be purchased on the platform. Trains run regularly, every 7 minutes during the day. Leave the train at ‘City Centre’ or ‘Waterfront’ stations for downtown Vancouver.
Where to stay in Vancouver
Youth hostels or AirBnBs are the most value for money arrival options in Vancouver for IEC participants.
Without a doubt, the most popular hostels are Samesun Vancouver and HI-Vancouver Central. They are located facing each other on Granville Street. The Granville area is convenient for public transport and shopping, though can be a little seedy in places. Other options include the Cambie Hostel in Gastown (known for its party atmosphere) and HI-Vancouver Jericho Beach (more laid back, outside of downtown).
Where to get your Social Insurance Number (SIN) in Vancouver
A SIN is required for working in Canada. The easiest place to get it while staying in downtown Vancouver is at the Sinclair Centre Service Canada on Hastings Street. Getting a SIN is a straightforward process. Bring your activated IEC work permit and passport to the office and join the line. The SIN takes less than 10 minutes to be issued, but there may be a long wait to be seen.
How to explore and enjoy Vancouver for less – check out my ideas
Opening a bank account
The downtown area of Vancouver is home to branches from all of the main Canadian banks. Most banks offer a newcomers deal that waives fees for at least a year. Banks will request your SIN so make sure it get it before attempting to open a bank account. Interac debit cards are given out as standard with new bank accounts. Some may offer a credit card (with or without a deposit) on the first visit.
An alternative to banks, credit unions such as Coast Capital offer free chequing accounts. Other free options include online banks like Tangerine or President’s Choice Financial. These alternatives typically require Canadian ID (drivers license, BC services card) to sign up.
Something to be aware of when choosing a bank is that there is a charge for withdrawing cash from ATMs not owned by the bank you have an account with. Luckily, most businesses in Canada accept debit (Interac) and credit cards.
Signing up to a cell phone service
All of the main cell phone service providers have a presence in the Pacific Centre mall in downtown Vancouver. Most providers have their own standalone store, while others can be found within electronic stores such as Best Buy or Wireless Wave. Before making a decision, speak to a few different providers. One important thing to be aware of is that not all cell phone companies cover everywhere in Canada – Freedom Mobile for example only provides coverage in Canada’s biggest cities.
Want to read more about working holidays in Canada? Check out my eBook “the Ultimate Guide to a Working Holiday in Canada”
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