Here’s How to Apply for the Working Holiday Visa For Canada!
Taking advantage of working holiday visas are a great way to explore and discover a new country if you are still young! There’s nothing like international work and travel experience to boost a resume, and give you some long-lasting memories.
At Penguin and Pia, we have lots of experience on the matter! Lisa, being German, was able to come to Canada for the better part of a year so that we could live and travel together. As such, she applied for her Canada working holiday visa and was accepted in the summer of 2017. We lived in Toronto and had the chance to explore a few other places (Montreal, Kingston) but definitely have more to see!
So, we thought it may be useful to recount her experience of applying, packing, moving, and settling in Canada! We guide you through the Canadian working holiday visa application form as well as other details like working holiday age limit. We also briefly chat about how the process may differ from country to country.
**As a disclaimer, this post is intended to provide general information about the process of applying for the Canadian Working Holiday Visa. It is in no way meant to replicate/replace the legal or immigration-related advice and specific questions about your application should be directed to the Department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship in Canada.
What is the Canadian Working Holiday Visa?
The Working Holiday Visa for Canada is part of the International Experience Canada (IEC) program. Similarly to many other working holiday programs, with this visa you get an open work permit. This means that you work for different employers while living in Canada and you don’t need to have a job offer before applying for the visa.
This is an important differentiation from the other two visas that are part of the International Experience Canada program. For both the Young Professionals and the International Co-op Internship you need to have a job offer before you are eligible for applying.
Since Germany has an agreement with Canada, Lisa was eligible to join the application pool for the Working Holiday Visa. Many other countries also have agreements with Canada – some of the most relevant are: Australia, Austria, France, Ireland, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. If you have a different nationality you can check whether you are eligible at the bottom of this page.
While the criteria to apply can differ slightly depending on your nationality, generally the Working Holiday Visa is valid for 12 months (23 months for former Commonwealth countries). You also can’t be over 30 years (35 in some cases) old when applying. To see the exact criteria to apply for your citizenship, click on the link we mentioned in the paragraph above.
Applying for the Working Holiday Visa Canada
Compared to some visas, applying for a Canadian Working Holiday Visa is not overly difficult. However, you should make sure that you are well organized (i.e. have all the necessary documents). And admittedly, you also need a little bit of luck. We’ll walk you through the steps that Lisa went through to give you an idea of what the process entails.
Create A Profile
After you have made sure that you are indeed eligible to apply you can create and submit a profile. To do so, you can follow these steps. The questions are actually pretty easy and it shouldn’t take you too long to fill out. You probably have to get a GCKey (a certain type of login) if you don’t have a Canadian Bank Account.
Lisa didn’t have one since she had never been to Canada before so she used the GCKey to log into the portal. Just make sure you remember the password and the answers to the security questions since you’ll be using it frequently over the next few months!
It is important to remember that creating and submitting a profile does not mean that you applied for a working holiday visa. It only means that you are now in a pool with other candidates.
Wait and Hope for a Little Bit of Luck
As mentioned at the end of the last section: You are now in a pool with other candidates. If you are from former Commonwealth countries (e.g. UK, New Zealand and Australia) you are in luck – since there is no cap on the amounts of Working Holiday Visas for these nationalities, you’ll most likely receive an Email very soon inviting you to apply for the Working Holiday Visa. Since Lisa is not from any of these countries she doesn’t know exactly what the process would be for these nationalities.
For other citizenships, there is only a limited amount of visa spots available. You can check here how many spots are available for your citizenship.
For the Working Holiday Visa for Germans, there are approximately 4500 spots per application cycle which starts once a year in November. Every week or sometimes every two weeks (it is not always like clockwork) a few candidates will be drawn at random and then get the chance to apply for the Working Holiday Visa.
Our Tip: Submit your profile as early as possible! The first round of invitations generally gets sent out in November so the earlier you are in the pool, the higher your chances to be selected.
You won’t get any “special treatment” by submitting your profile early compared to someone who submitted their profile in March for example. However, you’ll get to participate in more rounds of invitations, thus giving you more chances to be selected.
Lisa only submitted her profile in February since she didn’t even really know Eric that well in November. In the end, it all worked out and she got an invitation to apply in April, but if you know earlier that you want to go to Canada, please submit your profile as soon as you can!
If Selected, Apply for Your Visa
After having checked the page for the invitation rounds way too frequently, you might receive a somewhat unexpected Email from the Canadian Government that your status in the portal has changed. At least this was what happened to Lisa – and it is an important step because it usually means that you received an invitation to apply! Make sure to check your E-Mails regularly, because once you receive that message you only have a certain amount of time to actually submit your application.
The steps in the application portal are pretty easy to follow. Just make sure that you are very thorough and take your time filling everything out. You are required to upload a photograph and provide police certificates from all the countries you have lived in for more than 6 months since your 18th birthday. If they are not in English, you’ll have to get them translated as well.
Since for Lisa, this was more than just one country (she had also lived in Denmark for three years during her studies), so she tried to arrange these documents before getting an invitation to apply. This was probably a smart move since it did take a while to get everything in order. So, if you want to be one the save side, maybe try to arrange some things in advance as well.
When Lisa applied for the Working Holiday Visa for Canada she didn’t need to provide fingerprints. However, this changed on July 31, 2018. We can’t give you any more details about this part of the application since we haven’t experienced it ourselves.
Usually, the Canadian Government is pretty good at providing information. So, if you are required to provide fingerprints and biometrics they will tell you during the application process.
Wait for Approval/Rejection
Once you submitted your application you’ll have to play the waiting game again. If you submitted your complete application it shouldn’t take too long until you hear back.
If you didn’t provide all the required documents, someone might get in touch with you to request them (or worst case your application gets rejected). Fortunately, Lisa was able to provide all the required documents right away, so we aren’t sure what the next steps would be in that case. She heard back with a positive reply approximately 4 weeks after submitting her application.
Bring Your Documents to Canada
Now that you have received your visa (the online confirmation that it has been granted), you have 12 months to enter Canada before your Working Holiday Visa expires. You have to make sure that you bring a few very important documents with you because you will need them at the border.
ONE OF these documents is the Print Out of the Visa Confirmation Letter. This is in your online profile when you were accepted. We don’t know how it works at other airports, but Lisa flew into the Toronto Pearson Airport and this was the process she went through:
- Like every other person landing in Canada, she had to fill out the entry card. You then use machines to get a print out of the landing card.
- You get in line for border control and tell the officer at the desk that you are here to start your Working Holiday Visa. They wrote a note in Lisa’s passport, gave her a special piece of paper, and told her to get in another line in a different room.
- Where others usually leave the airport, you get redirected to this office to the side and are told to get in line. When Lisa was there the waiting period was pretty quick and she was brought to two officers at a desk after about 10 minutes.
- Show your visa letter that you received at the end of your application, your travel insurance (must be valid for the whole duration of your visa!) and proof of funds. In Lisa’s case, they didn’t want to see lots of other documents, but make sure to bring all the documents that are stated on the official government website (such as original copies of the police certificates). You can check what you are required to bring here.
- After a few minutes of checking documents and entering data into the computer, Lisa received her official work permit and was free to go.
Tip for Toronto Pearson Airport: There is a Service Canada desk in the airport very close to where you will receive your work permit. If you have the time, get your Social Insurance Number (SIN) (you’ll need it for opening a bank account/when you have a job – read more below) right then and there.
It will save you going to another office at a later date and only takes a few minutes. You should know the address of the place you are spending the first few days. Lisa got her SIN Number there and the woman was super nice and helpful.
Getting Settled in Canada
Before you go ahead and start applying for the Working Holiday Visa, you should consider if moving to Canada for a year is the right things for you. Besides the actual steps of applying for the visa, there are lots of logistics to consider for when you land in Canada. Canada is a big country and can be expensive depending on where you intend to live and what you intend to do while there!
Start Here: Setting Up Accounts
Once you get to Canada, there are some things that you should arrange early on to make your life easier down the line. That way, you’ll be able to accept job offers right away instead of saying “I just have to get these things in order”.
Get Your SIN Number
SIN stands for Social Insurance Number. It’s the same in many countries – it’s a number that is linked to you as a citizen. You’ll need it to work and pay taxes. A SIN number is also important because you need it to open a bank account. Lisa flew into Toronto and was told by the nice border guards that she could apply for her SIN number at a Service Canada Desk right at the airport.
So that was what she did. It only took a few minutes – they need some personal information and the address you are staying at for the first few days – and she got the number right then and there. So if you get the chance to get it sorted out right away, we would recommend that you do it!
Get a SIM Card and Data
This is kind of controversial for us to recommend since Lisa never even got a Canadian sim card when living in Canada for 7 months. But our situation was also kind of unique and she could usually get data from Eric’s phone if she really needed it.
So if you’re not constantly around someone who has a Canadian phone number and data you should probably get your own early on. You’ll often need to give a phone number when you sign up for things as well.
If you’re from Europe the high monthly prices might come as a bit of a shock for you – this is because the competition is quite low. Eric would recommend that you look into a Koodo phone plan since that is one of the cheaper options.
Open a Bank Account
There are a few different banks in Canada. Lisa opened her bank account with TD since Eric was with TD and we had a branch close to our apartment. Often times banks have special offers for newcomers to Canada, such as waving the monthly account fee etc. So have a look around if you want to make sure to get the best deal. The most popular banks are: TD Canada Trust, Scotiabank, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), and The Bank of Montreal (BMO).
We can’t say how opening a bank account works with other banks but for TD we made an appointment with an adviser at a branch office close to our house beforehand. On the day of the meeting, Lisa brought her passport, SIN number and other documents she thought she might need.
The appointment was pretty quick and simple – the adviser basically just typed Lisa’s personal information into her computer, printed out some forms that Lisa had to sign and gave her the bank card on the spot. Then Lisa was able to change her PIN Code in one of the card machines at the office.
This was a very different process compared to opening a bank account in Europe – for Lisa, it was a positive surprise. In Germany and other countries of Europe, you usually get your bank card and PIN code via post in separate envelops on separate days. So it can be quite a lengthy process.
Getting the bank card and the pin on the spot was very nice since it basically eliminated the waiting game. If you plan on moving from one place to another without staying in a specific city for a long time, in the beginning, this can be very convenient.
Housing in Canada
We can’t really speak for other cities, but finding a place to live in Toronto can be a hassle. Make sure you either have a place lined up for the first couple of weeks or have enough emergency money in case your house search doesn’t go as well as planned. It is quite common for people to live with roommates since housing prices in big cities are pretty high.
You can start looking in Facebook Groups for the city you are planning to live in or on Kijiji. Another good app is PadMapper. Just be aware of spammers – if something sounds too good to be true it very well might be!
As for locations and prices, that is going to vary depending on the city and the accommodation. Toronto and Vancouver are now very expensive and lack affordable housing. Some smaller student towns/cities often cater to short-term apartment rentals or internationals/young people coming and going.
It’s really a mixed bag of options but general advice (Eric’s Canadian advice) is staying away from Toronto since the competition can be fierce and you might not get a place (even renting a shared accommodation) unless you have employment and a credit check, among other pieces of evidence.
Transportation in Canada
Are you new to Canada and planning on staying for more than a few months? You’ll have a few different options for getting around. If you stick to a major urban centre like Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver, you will be able to bike and use public transportation to get most places. If you want to go between places – or you end up in a more rural area – you will almost definitely need to buy or rent a car.
As we mention in our post on travelling to Canada for the first time, the regional transportation options aren’t very good. We do have long distance buses like Greyhound but regional trains aren’t a thing yet. This is mainly because the distances are legitimately too great for it to make sense – but some are being built around the areas north of Toronto as we speak! In any case, a car makes life in Canada far easier. Buying a used car can be done at a used car dealership or inline. You can use Kijiji.ca or Autotrader.ca.
Finding Work in Canada
If you are on a working holiday visa, there is lots of seasonal work to be done in different regions. In the summers, many internationals work in summer camps in Ontario or at the large outdoor resorts that cater to guests for summer activities. There are also lots of opportunities at ski hills as wait staff and running other activities. In the fall, there is massive harvesting going on in Ontario and other areas with heavy fruit growing industries. There might be opening at local farms with smaller orchards.
In the winter, these same resorts open their ski hills and become a mecca for activities. Vacationers look to ski, drink, and do other snow-related activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Ski resorts can also offer a working holiday traveller seasonal work.
Meeting People in Canada
Canada is a very social country. Through work, you are bound to find other travellers your age and even from your country! You might consider getting involved in social clubs or sports teams in your town or city. There is bound to be a few for you to join.
The urban centres like Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, or Vancouver have very active and social populations. From going for a run to joining a fitness class or just heading to the bar, there are like-minded people everywhere you go. The university towns in many of the provinces also have lots of things going to support the student populations.
Want to learn more about Canada and get recommendations for places you should visit? Check out these articles packed full of Canadian-knowledge:
- 13 Must-Knows Before Heading to Canada for the First Time
- Here Are the Best Times to Visit ALL Parts of Canada!
- Canada Sightseeing: 26 Things and Places You Should Probably Check Out!
- Check Out Top Sights in Vancouver – as Told by a Local!
- Here are some Great Weekend Trips in Ontario.
- Some of the Best Wine Comes from Niagara on the Lake, Ontario!