How to get a Canadian Working Holiday Visa 2013

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on Feb 19, 13 • by • with 17 Comments

How to get a Canadian Working Holiday Visa 2013

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Mount Washington pre-season snow (BC)

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.

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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.

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Camping in Main Lake Provincial Park, Quadra Island, BC

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.

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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……!

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On Sandy Island, looking towards Vancouver Island, BC

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17 Responses to: How to get a Canadian Working Holiday...

  1. Alice says:

    Hi! Me and my boyfriend have applied for a Canadian working holiday visa, in March and we are still waiting to hear from them, is it normal for them to take so long ? And should we contact them? And do you have any idea on why they would refuse someone a visa? We would appreciate a answer :) Thank you.

    • Hey Alice, which stage of the process are you at? If you sent your information to CIC in March, then I would definitely follow it up! It’s been taking approx 2 weeks recently for CIC to process applications. I know that the CIC were having technical issues back in March – the final emails were not being sent out properly, even though they had actually been ‘issued.’ You can follow up your application using the Case Specific Enquiry here –
      Regarding visa refusals, for the IEC it is very unlikely unless you have a criminal record, have taken part in the scheme too many times before or you miss the original payment window for the visa itself.
      Good luck with your Canadian working holiday!

  2. Alice says:

    Hi! Thank you very much for replying :) really appreciate it. We have sent all the paper work required and also paid, we are only waiting for a reply now. We will get in contact with them as soon as we can, would you suggest ringing them or emailing? Thank you for explaining the reasons why a visa would get refused. We have been waiting for so long now, we just want to go :D!! Thanks again.

  3. Andy says:

    Hi, I’m wanting to go to Canada but I’ve seen from the website that there are no places left for 2013, so this means I’d have to wait until at the earliest December this year to apply and then wait for possibly months until they were to accept my application. So realistically the earliest I could get a visa for would be January 2014? Thanks for any help you can provide!

    • Hey Andy, it’s all a bit unknown to be honest. The UK 2012/13 visa cycle opened in Feb 2013, while the 2011/12 cycle opened in December 2011. The year before was in January. It was particularly late this year due to the change to online applications, I believe, so it may be earlier next year, or possibly a similar time (or later!) if they change the program and offer 2 year visas to Brits like they did to Irish applicants this year. The application can sometimes take months, but it is certainly now a lot faster than in previous years due to the online system, so be glad for that!

      – Gemma

  4. Tracey says:

    Hiya just wondering if anyone can HELP please my son is in Canada now his holiday working visa runs out in May 2014 he has re-applied for his second year visa and they had there number they where letting threw so he got refused is there anything he can do he is gutted as he wants to stay and this is looking very doubtful now …….

    • Gemma Gemma says:

      Hi Tracey
      Sorry to hear that your son was unable to secure his second IEC visa. From here, there are a few options, but they only apply if your son is working in specific job roles. His employer could apply for a LMO (Labour Market Opinion) and then later a TWP (temporary work permit). He could also be sponsored by his province – the program in BC for example is called BC PNP. I don’t personally know too much about these options since I used my two IECs and am now in the middle of a common law residency application (my boyfriend is Canadian), so I’d recommend having a look on and .
      I hope he finds a solution!

  5. Jose Barrera says:

    Hello guys, this site rocks!!! you’re awesome…
    Hey my question is this. I am pursuing to get into the working holiday program with my wife. And I know that we must present 2 separate applications.
    Once we pay the fee, what is the criteria to determine if we will be accepted or not.


  6. lucy says:

    Hey I have been approved for my for my second working holiday permit was wondering how long do I have before I have to activate it at the broader. Thanks

    • Gemma Gemma says:

      Hi Lucy,

      You have a year from the issue date to activate your working holiday visa. Happy travels!

      • lucy says:

        Hey sorry I forgot to say that I renewed it while in canda and was wondering if there is a time limit to get it activated been searching the internet and can’t seem to find anything

        • Gemma Gemma says:

          As far as I understand, IEC visas cannot be ‘renewed’ – you have to apply for a new one each time. Therefore you still have a year to activate it from the issue date. It wouldn’t matter whether you were in Canada or not. I applied for my first IEC from the UK, and then applied for my second from Canada and it was the same process.

          • lucy says:

            So as long as I’m not working I have until the expire date to get it activated at the uas broader thats right?

          • Gemma Gemma says:

            Yep, you can choose when to activate it before the expiry date. If your first IEC has finished and you are waiting a while for the second, you do need to have valid visitor status which you can get by flagpoling (crossing the border) or applying online/mail.

          • lucy says:

            Thanks mate this stuff is so confusing cheers

          • Gemma Gemma says:

            They definitely don’t make it easy!

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