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If you’d love a trip to Canada and the chance to earn and get work experience along the way, a working holiday visa could be just the ticket.
Canada offers all kinds of irresistible attractions, from beautiful natural landscapes to vibrant, diverse and culture-rich cities. It’s easy to see why so many people consider moving to Canada from the UK, drawn to the allure of the great outdoors, the mysterious Northern Lights and the country’s famously safe, clean and friendly cities.
If you’d like to sample life in Canada for more than a two-week holiday, you can apply to the country’s working holiday visa programme. This gives you the chance to get a real taste of the Canadian lifestyle.
In this essential guide, we’ll run through everything you need to know about the working holiday visa in Canada. Plus, some useful information on how you can manage your money while working and living abroad - using the powerful Wise multi-currency account.
But first, let’s look at the Canada working holiday visa in more detail.
As part of its International Experience Canada (IEC) Working Holiday programme, the Canadian government issues temporary work permits to young people from 30+ countries worldwide¹.
Also known as working holiday visas, these give you permission to legally live, work and travel for up to two years¹. You’ll have the chance to gain work experience and a taste of life in Canada.
It can also be the first step towards applying for permanent residency². After all, you may love your time in Canada so much that you want to stay on permanently.
The IEC scheme is popular, with lots of applications every year and only a limited number of available permits¹. So, it’s important to complete a good application and submit it early to boost your chances of getting selected.
There are a few different categories in the IEC Working Holiday programme, including¹:
- Working Holiday Visa - an open work permit which doesn’t require a job offer in advance.
- Young Professionals work permits - designed for foreign young people and graduates who have an employment offer with a Canadian employer
- International Co-op (Internship) - this category is for foreign young people wanting to complete a work placement or internship in Canada as part of their academic course requirements.
There are certain eligibility requirements you must meet in order to successfully apply for a Canadian working holiday visa. These include nationality/citizenship, age and other requirements such as health insurance. Let’s run through them all now.
Firstly, you must be a citizen (passport holder) of one of the 35 countries³ participating in the IEC scheme. The good news is that the UK is on this list, along with Ireland, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand and a number of European countries. You can see the full list here.
For UK residents, the Canadian working holiday visa is available to applicants who are aged between 18-30³. For some other countries, the upper age limit is 35. You must be within this age range at the time you apply.
To be eligible for the Canadian working holiday visa, you must also have the following¹:
- A valid passport for the full duration of your stay in Canada
- The equivalent of $2,500 CAD on arrival, to cover your initial expenses
- A round-trip ticket or the financial resources to cover a return ticket at the end of your stay in Canada
- A health insurance policy for the full duration of your stay - you’ll only need this when entering Canada if your application is successful.
You must also be admissible to Canada, be able to pay the appropriate application fees and not bring any dependants with you.
If you love your time in Canada, you may want to go back - or stay on after your IEC work permit ends. One route is to apply for permanent residency, but there’s also the option of applying for a second working holiday visa.
Reapplying for IEC is possible, but only for citizens of certain countries. Unfortunately, UK citizens are only permitted to apply for the working holiday visa once³.
However, there is another potential route available for getting a second working holiday visa. You may be able to get another IEC work permit through an IEC recognized organisation⁴, even if your country only permits one participation in the scheme. Bear in mind that this option can be expensive, costing around $4,000 CAD⁴ or more. You can find out more about this route here.
The maximum amount of time you can stay in Canada with the working holiday visa is 2 years, but it depends which country you’re coming from.
For UK citizens, the working holiday visa lets you stay for the full 24 months (2 years)³.
The working holiday visa is an open work permit, which means you can work for almost any employer in Canada⁵.
You don’t need to have a job or even a job offer lined up in advance, unless you’re applying for one of the other categories in the IEC scheme (i.e. the Young Professionals work permit).
The fees to apply for a Canada working holiday visa are relatively low.
You’ll pay a participation fee of $156 CAD, followed by an open work permit holder fee of $100 CAD⁶. If you need to provide biometrics, there’s an additional charge of $85 CAD⁷.
You’ll need to pay these fees at the time of submitting your application⁷. If your application is refused or you withdraw before a certain point in the process, you’ll get a refund⁶.
If you’re lucky enough to be invited to apply for a Canadian working holiday visa, you’ll need to find a cost-effective way to pay your application fees. Use your bank, and you could be charged high international transfer fees. Plus, you may get a poor exchange rate to convert your GBP to CAD.
Wise offers the ideal solution. Open a Wise multi-currency account and you can also get an international debit card. This lets you spend in multiple currencies, including online, for low fees and the mid-market exchange rate. In fact, if you already have CAD in your account, it’s free.
There are a few stages to go through to apply for a Canadian working holiday visa.
But first, a little about how the scheme works, and how candidates are chosen.
All candidates create a profile, and then draws take place at regular intervals throughout the year. These draws select candidates at random, and invite them to apply for the working holiday visa. This continues until all the places are filled¹.
This means you can apply at any time of the year. But for the best chance of success, it’s a smart idea to create your profile early, then you’ll be entered into the most draws throughout the year.
Ready to get started? You’ll need to follow these steps⁷:
- Fill out the Come to Canada questionnaire - this is an initial assessment of your suitability for the IEC scheme. If you’re a good fit, you’ll receive a personal reference code.
- Create your account on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website, using your personal reference code.
- Complete and submit your profile, including which IEC categories you’d like to be considered for. UK citizens are only eligible for the working holiday visa³.
- Wait to see if you’re selected - if so, you’ll receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA).
- Start your application within 10 days of receiving your ITA.
- Finish and submit your application, and pay the relevant application fees. You must complete your application within 20 days of starting it.
- Upload all your supporting documents - we’ll look at what you need in the next section of our guide.
- If you need to submit biometrics, you’ll be sent a letter and will have 30 days to go to a Visa Application Centre (VAC).
- Wait for your application to be assessed - this can take up to 56 days and you might need to provide additional supporting documents.
- If successful, you’ll receive an official Port of Entry Letter, which you’ll need to take with you to Canada.
The only thing left to do at this point is to start planning your move! You’ll need to choose somewhere to live, make your travel arrangements and find out more about things like jobs, healthcare and the cost of living in Canada.
Once you’ve been invited to apply for your IEC Canada work permit, you’ll need to upload a number of supporting documents. Generally you’ll need⁸:
- A valid passport
- A digital photo of yourself
- Your CV
- Police certificates for countries you’ve lived in since you turned 18 years old
- Family information form.
Once you arrive in Canada, you’ll also need to provide⁸:
- Biometrics (if applicable)
- Proof of financial support
- Health insurance policy documents
- Your Port of Entry letter
- Visitor Visa or Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA).
One of the first things you may need to do on arrival in Canada is to open a bank account. This will definitely be handy for receiving your salary and paying your bills.
But just a word of caution about using your new Canadian bank account to send money back home to the UK. Banks can charge high international transfer fees, and add a mark-up to the exchange rate when converting currency.
Wise offers a better alternative. Sign up online for a free Wise multi-currency account and you can send money all over the world for low fees and the mid-market exchange rate. Plus, you can receive CAD for free like a local with your own Canadian account details.
You can hold 50+ currencies at once, and spend in the UK, Canada and up to 200 countries worldwide using your handy Wise contactless debit card.
This means you can travel back home or head off abroad, and get the best exchange rates on your spending - all using just one card.
Sources used for this article:
- Moving2Canada - working holiday visa in Canada
- Visa First - Canada working holiday visa
- Moving2Canada - International Experience Canada program
- Moving2Canada - IEC recognised organisations
- Canada - glossary
- Canada - International Experience Canada
- Canada - International Experience Canada online application process
- Moving2Canada - documents needed for work permit
Sources checked on 19-05-2022.
This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.
We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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