How To Get a Canadian Working Holiday Visa

This will be mainly aimed at people applying from the UK, but the process is almost the same for other countries on the IEC programme (some of the rules are just slightly different).

And that brings us to the first question: what’s the IEC?

IEC: International Experience Canada

Who you apply through for your working holiday visa if your country has a youth mobility agreement with Canada.

Who is part of the IEC agreement and what does it mean?

Different countries have different rules, which you can see here. Weirdly, US citizens aren’t part of IEC and it’s actually a bit more difficult for them to get to Canada.

For UK citizens, you can participate once in the IEC and stay for up to 2 years – it used to be one year with a second participation, but this changed in 2015. You can stay in the same job throughout your time there (it’s not like Australia’s working holiday visa where you have to change employer after 6 months).


Important things to know about a Canadian Working Holiday Visa for UK Citizens

  • You can have up to 2 years in Canada
  • You must be 18-30 years old to qualify
  • You can stay in a job for however little or long you like throughout this time
  • The visas come out once a year in rounds (this year there were two rounds) – usually Dec-Jan time, but in 2015 it wasn’t until March – note: Australians can apply throughout the year until visas run out (they have larger quota)
  • There’s a quota/limit on visas – this year it was 5,000 (2,500 for Round 1 and Round 2)
  • You have to be prepared and quick off the mark to get your place in either round

How to Apply for the Canadian Working Holiday Visa

So, this process is pretty tedious. In the grand scheme of things, it’s incredibly easy in terms of getting it all done – the difficult part is waiting, the rules you have to remember and the looming fear that you might get rejected over a simple mistake.

The initial things to watch out for before beginning the process:

The working holiday visa applications only come around once a year on a first come first serve basis – i.e. you’re given a spot in the quota depending how quick you are.

IEC will give you 72 hours warning before the date of your country releases its visas, and 48 hours beforehand it will inform you of what time it will open. To know this, you can keep a beady eye on the website at all times.

Or, like me, you can join this Facebook group or this one – there are some committed people out there, and they’re sure to alert you to the opening time. I actually found these Facebook groups incredibly helpful through the whole process (and infuriating at others!) so I really recommend joining them.

Stage One

Step 1: Apply for a Kompass account

  • Sign up for a Kompass account through this link the moment the quota opens
  • Once you receive the confirmation email, follow the link to activate the account
  • Fill out your personal details

I created a Word document with all the necessary information I needed with the idea I’d copy and paste into the online form, but found that typing was quicker most of the time. I’m still really glad I got it all together first though.

You’ll need your street address, email address, phone number, passport information and the answers to some security questions. I have no idea if these will be the same next year, but I checked the Facebook groups I mentioned earlier so I could prepare which questions I’d select to use.

This sounds absolutely like I was overthinking things and mental, but time really is everything at this stage!

  • Submit as quickly as you can

You’ll know if you got through as you’ll receive a World Tracking Number (WTN) with a number that’s within the quota. I think I was number 700 out of 2,500 in the first round, and I was at work while I was applying and shaking throughout – so if I can do it so can you!

I cannot stress enough, though: make sure you enter your details correctly! People have been rejected in the past because of silly typos at this initial stage.

  • Notice of Submission and request for payment and required documents

Within 48 hours you’ll get a message in your Kompass account: the Notice of Submission and a request for you to pay the first part of the visa ($150 CAD) and upload some documents.

Step 2: Getting your CAL (Conditional Acceptance Letter)

You have 10 days to pay and upload the required documents to get your CAL. The CAL is important. It’s your first official gateway to Canada.

Required documents:

  • Photo/info page of your passport (must be valid for the whole time you’ll be in Canada)
  • Resume (CV) – see this link for the template IEC want you to use. It’s super simple

You can pay the $150 by credit or debit card. You’ll get another message into your Kompass account, the Notice of Receipt. From this point, you can wait up to 14 days to get your CAL.

Stage Two

Stage 2 – once you’ve received your CAL and saved it on your computer – is all about filling in documents. It’s pretty straight forward, but your mind can easily trick you into thinking you’ve done something wrong – if you’re anything like me, anyway.

Your CAL is only valid for SEVEN DAYS so really, the moment you submit your first lot of documents from Stage One or once you receive your Notice of Receipt, you should be preparing the documents for Stage Two.

  • Complete the “Come to Canada” questionnaire so you know which documents you’ll now need to provide for the next stage. You’ll get a number (a “personal checklist code”) – keep it safe as you’ll need it when creating a MyCIC account

Note: you can actually do this questionnaire anytime before getting your CAL as well if you want to be super ahead.

  • Create your MyCIC account – this is where you’ll be uploading documents. Forget Kompass. Use the GCKey option, not the bank option (that’ll make sense when you see it) and enter your number from the questionnaire – this will bring your required documents into the account so you can just click on them to download them
  • Fill out and retrieve the documents. ALL people will need:

– IMM5707E: Family form. Basically, fill out yours and your family’s details as they ask

– IMM1295E: More detailed document on your details and your intentions in Canada

– Police Certificate: for any country you’ve lived in for more than 6 months (excluding Canada), you’ll need to obtain a police certificate. A UK police certificate can take up to 10 days, so leave a fair bit of time for this. Costs £45. You can apply via post or more recently, online.

– Conditional Acceptance Letter (CAL): This is why it’s so important to download it – you’ll need it for this stage. It’s only valid for 7 days – do not let it expire

– Passport pages: now, you’ll need to upload not only the first photo page of your passport, but every page with a stamp on it. What a tedious walk down memory lane!

– Travel Itinerary: I think they actually scrapped this halfway through the application, but I had to upload a document explaining when I’d go to Canada and where I’ll be. This is a bit silly as people haven’t necessarily got their exact movements sorted, especially when they haven’t been accepted yet…

– Photo: you need to upload a photo of yourself. Most people seem to just use the photo they used for their passport but I just took one myself and it was fine.

– CV/Resume: Yep, you’ll need to upload this again.

  • Submit documents and pay the second fee of $100 CAD (a total of $250 for a 2-year working holiday visa is actually pretty good. I don’t even want to remember what I had to pay for my 6-month student visa for Australia!)

Now, you wait up to 6 weeks for your Letter of Introduction for POE (Point of Entry). Your POE is the magical document that allows you to work and live in Canada for 2 years. Remember: you have a year to activate it, aka begin your adventure in Canada. Congratulations!

A Canada WHV Summary:

  • Kompass account to get your place in the quota, upload documents and pay the first fee ($150) within 10 days of Notice of Submission
  • Do “Come to Canada” questionnaire so you have a list of documents you’ll need for Stage 2 – start on longer processes like police certificate
  • Get your CAL, which is valid for 7 days
  • Make MyCIC account and upload all documents
  • Submit and wait for 6 weeks for POE

Tips for the process:

  • Preparation is key: have all details ready for Kompass when the quota opens. This is the most stressful part of the whole application and you want to be quick but not make mistakes
  • Rounds are bound to open after 2pm because of the time difference in Ontario
  • Make a list of all the documents you’ll need for each stage and the amount of time it can take to get them. Don’t be part of the backlog!
  • Use the Facebook groups to ask questions if you’re not sure. People are actually super friendly and they made these groups to help you. It’s better to ask than stew in worry
  • Patience – try not to make any firm arrangements before you get your POE… some people had to wait over 6 weeks to get theirs (mine took 6 weeks exactly) and it causes a bit of a panic when you’ve quit your job or booked your flight for before your visa arrives
  • If you can, have as much ready as possible to submit for the moment you can – the speedier you are, the more likely you’ll beat the backlog and get your POE quicker (no guarantees though, the IEC works in mysterious ways)
  • Whatever you do, don’t let your CAL expire before submitting Stage 2: you’ll get automatically rejected

Costs for visa:

  • $150 CAD at Kompass stage = roughly £80
  • £45 for police certificate (this will be more if you’ve lived in more countries – luckily I just missed 6 months of living in Australia so didn’t have to do this one)
  • $100 CAD MyCIC stage = roughly £54
  • One-way flight: luckily found one (with stopover in New York) for £435 with Virgin
  • Future cost: around £400/£500 for backpacker travel insurance. This is a requirement for the IEC so it has to be done!

Total: while the actual visa only costs $250 CAD (£131-£133), the realistic total with everything else associated is more like up to £1,114.

You’re also required to have at least $2500 CAD (a bit more than £1300) in savings to prove you can live/afford a flight back (though they’re being nice here: you’ll need way more than this).

I hope this is helpful to anyone considering applying for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa, and if there’s anything else you need to know (or if you’ve been through this process and think there’s something I forgot to mention) leave a comment below!

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