So you're thinking about moving to Canada, eh? Well, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about moving to Canada from the UK! We moved to Vancouver in 2015, and it's one of the best decisions we've ever made. We're currently on our second IEC visa; we first applied in 2014 (and arrived in 2015), and applied again in late 2015 and got another 2 years.
If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know how much I rave about life here - sure, it's a bit expensive, but lifestyle-wise, I couldn't ask for anything more. You can ski, hike, scuba dive, paddleboard, kayak, shop, eat, and enjoy Vancouver's city life all in one day. For me, it's my dream place. Of course, there are many cities other than Vancouver too.
Montreal is supposed to be amazing (I hear the food & culture is great), Toronto is a major hub, and then there are plenty of amazing destinations in-between. Canada isn't all moose, maple syrup, and wilderness - contrary to popular belief - and because it's so big, there's a stark contrast between the East and West coast.
Whether you're looking to do a season in Whistler or Banff, buy a camper and make your way across the country, or live it up in cities like Vancouver or Toronto, here's all you need to know about moving to Canada from the UK. Included in this guide is how to apply for a Working Holiday Visa (aka. IEC), eligibility requirements, cost, how long it takes, and practical information such as preparing documents and what to do when you arrive. There are plenty of links highlighted in blue throughout this post that direct you to more info. Please note that age, quota, and some other information may vary for Irish applicants. Let me know if you have any questions in the comment box below, and good luck if you apply!
Key Facts About IEC 2017
First thing's first, the Canadian Working Holiday Visa for Brits is also referred to as IEC (International Experience Canada). Visas are issued by the Government of Canada. IEC provides young people aged 18-30 with the opportunity to live, travel, and work in Canada, and you don't need a job lined up. You can work in any industry, however, some industries may require an approved Canadian medical check.
In 2015, the whole application process completely changed. It moved away from first come, first serve, and towards a pool system instead. Applicants are now accepted throughout the year rather than on 2 or 3 specific dates.
Another change was that you can only get a one-off visa. Applicants are allowed up to 24 months in Canada. If you participated in IEC before 2015 for a period of 12 months, you are eligible for participation for a further 24 months (giving you a total of 3 years, like what we have). If you've already participated twice in IEC, you can not apply again. The 2017 IEC process opened on October 17, 2016.
Step 1: Become a candidate
The first step is to become a candidate. You must fill out the Come To Canada online tool and answer a series of questions to see if you are eligible to apply for the IEC visa.
TIP: Be sure to select "British Citizens" and not "United Kingdom & Colonies" under the "Country/territory of your passport" dropdown menu. Check the UK eligibility requirements for more details.
Step 2: Create your profile
If you are found eligible to apply, you will receive a personal reference code which you can then use to create a MyCIC account and create your profile. MyCIC will be your portal for your application. Make sure to keep note of all your logins as well as your reference code. Select the "GCKey" option to create an account, or sign in with your Canadian bank account if you have one. When completing your profile, you will be required to submit the following information:
Name, DOB, place of birth, passport info, country of citizenship, country of residence, contact info, student status (if it applies), and job offer (if it applies). Remember, you don't have to have a job offer to apply for an IEC visa. Even if you do have a job offer, it may be better just to leave it blank as it may only complicate the application, however, that's for you to decide.
Step 3: Submit your profile to the pool
Once you have submitted and validated all the information on your MyCIC profile, you can submit your profile to the pool. Double, triple check that all the information is correct, as you can't edit it after. Your profile must be completed within 60 days of starting it. You will remain in the pool for 1 year, unless you get an invite to submit your visa before then.
It is free to submit your profile to the pool, and you don't have to pay anything until you are invited to submit your full IEC visa application.
Step 4: Wait and see!
Now this is the hard part! Submitting your profile to the pool DOES NOT mean that you have applied for your visa. You have essentially been placed into a large pool of applicants, and at this stage, you're waiting to get picked out and invited to officially apply for your visa.
Applicants are chosen at random. This means that if you're applying with your friend or partner, you're not all guaranteed a spot. I got my invite to apply in December, and Matt got his 6 weeks later, even though we submitted our profile on the same day. You may receive your invitation to apply 3 weeks after submitting your profile, you may receive it 3 months after, or you may not get invited at all. Demand exceeds the quota, and not everyone will get invited. The rounds of invitations dates and quota information are posted on the IEC website.
In the meantime, look at the type of documents you'll need if your application is successful, such as police checks. If you've lived abroad for more than 6 months since the age of 18, you'll need a police check from each country. You will also need a police check from England. If you're going to work in a job that requires a medical exam, look into this too. There's more info on preparing documents further down.
Step 5: Receiving the invitation
If you get chosen from the pool and invited to apply for a visa, the invite will be sent to your MyCIC inbox. Check the email account that is linked to your application on a daily basis. Check your junk mail too in case the email falls past your inbox. When you receive your invitation to apply, you will then have 10 days to accept or decline the invite.
Step 6: Applying for a work permit via MyCIC
From when you accept your IEC visa invitation, you then have 20 days to complete your work permit application.
The application requires further information regarding work/education, citizenship, contact info, and other information. A lot of the info is already inputted from when you initially created your MyCIC profile. You can't edit the basic info so make sure it's correct when you first create your profile.
You will also be required to submit the following documents to MyCIC. It is all done online and submitted electronically. More information can be found on this web page. (Scroll down to #2, where it says "Get all the documents you need".)
FAMILY INFORMATION FORM - this asks for family details, including spouse, parents & siblings.
CV/RESUME- upload an updated CV, outlining your education, qualifications, and work experience.
MEDICAL EXAM- if you intend to work in healthcare, with children, or in certain other roles, you may need to submit a medical exam. This web page has more info. If you don't intend to work in these fields, you don't need a medical check.
PASSPORT - upload a copy of your passport. Your passport must be valid when you apply, when you will enter Canada, and when you will depart Canada. If you don't have your police checks or medical exam documents in time, you can upload a "Letter of Explanation" when uploading your documents and explain why. Upload any proof that you have requested for your police checks, such as a receipt. Remember, you only have 20 days to submit your application.. The 20 days start when you accept your invitation to apply.
POLICE CERTIFICATE - you must obtain police certificates from all countries that you've lived in for more than 6 months since the age of 18. For example, I lived in France for a year, so I had to obtain a police check from the UK and France. Use this web page to find information on how to get police checks from different countries. Some checks are free (such as France), some are not. For the UK, apply to ACRO online or via post. The fee is either £45/£80, for 10 day/2 day service. Since some police checks can take a few weeks to arrive, you can submit receipts confirming you have applied for a police check when submitting your application (as you only have 20 days to complete it). You will then be required to send the police check certificate to CIC when it arrives.
Step 7: Pay and submit!
When your work permit application is complete, you will pay a total of $250. The IEC participation fee is $150 CAD, and the Working Holiday permit holder fee is another $100 CAD. You can pay via Visa or Mastercard.
Step 8: Wait for your approval
This is the final step of the waiting game! Once you pay the fee and submit your application with supporting documents, CIC will begin processing it. If you only submitted proof of your police check request or medical exam (like a receipt), an officer will get in touch and request for a copy of the certificate. All communication will be through your MyCIC account. You will be notified via email of any new messages.
CIC say that it can take up to 8 weeks for your application to be approved. My visa only took 2-3 weeks to come through, but it can vary. If successful, you will then receive your Port of Entry Letter of Introduction (POE) through MyCIC. This is what you will need to take with you to the border when entering Canada. This ISN'T your actual visa. Your visa will be given to you when you enter the country. Your POE letter will clearly state an expiry date, which is usually 1 year after you receive the visa. For example, if you receive your POE letter on 1 June 2016, you will have until 1 June 2017 to enter Canada. The visa will then begin on the date that you enter the country.
For more information, visit the International Experience Canada website.
Preparing For Arrival In Canada!
Your POE letter will state the documents that you need to bring with you to enter Canada. This is normally a printed copy of your Port of Entry Letter, a copy of your travel/health insurance, and proof of funds in your bank account.
You must have health insurance for the full duration of your visa. If you only get 1 year of insurance, you will only be given a 1-year visa. I went with True Traveller who are one of the few companies that offer travel insurance for a continuous 2 year period. I paid about £500 for 2 years (this was the cheapest I found), so factor this into your budget. You can't just get regular cheap insurance, as most travel insurance only covers you for short trips up to 90 days. This article from Moving2Canada has a good overview of insurance providers that may be helpful.
Proof of funds
You will need to prove you have $2,500 CAD in your bank account. Print off a copy of your bank statement, or take a screenshot of your bank account on your phone. If you ever read on forums/websites that you don't need copies of your insurance or funds, DON'T FOLLOW THE ADVICE! We weren't asked for copies of these documents, but many people are, and the last thing you want is to get caught out as they can still refuse your visa at this point.
Entering the country
When you get off the plane/enter the country via land, sea, or air, you'll need to go to Immigration to exchange your POE letter for your visa. From experience, I highly recommend that you make a bit of effort with your appearance and make sure that all of your documents are organized and ready. I think it makes a huge difference if you appear composed and organized when dealing with the border officers. We saw quite a few other Working Holidayers getting questioned a LOT, and those were the ones who happened to look scruffy & weren't particularly organized. The officers are strict and if they suspect something is dodgy or amiss, it will raise red flags.
Arriving in Canada on a Working Holiday Visa
Aside from exploring, there are a few essential things you need to organize when you arrive in Canada, such as banking, phone contract, and housing.
It's a good idea to line up somewhere to stay for at least the first few nights after you arrive. If you're coming to Vancouver, I highly recommend House-i, which is a huge house in Downtown with many en-suite double bedrooms. You have access to the kitchen and living area and it's reasonably priced compared to hotels. There's also AirBnB and a few hostels. Apparently HI-Vancouver hostel is quite nice.
Don't ever accept a tenancy or hand over any kind of deposit or money before you've actually arrived in the country and seen the rental (in person, with your own eyes!). There are plenty of scam artists out there, so be careful. Sites like Craigslist, Rent it Furnished and Kijiji are commonly used to find rentals. I recently wrote a piece on Apartment Hunting in Vancouver which you may find useful.
Depending on the type of employment you're looking for, it's a good idea to fix up your CV and think about the type of work you want to do. Matt got his job lined up before we arrived, so consider reaching out to companies prior to getting here. There are also companies that help you find work (particularly if you're looking for resort work), such as Canago, Gap Work, & Smaller Earth. Websites like Indeed and Craigslist are good for job hunting too.
Setting up a bank account should be one of the first things you do. We're with Scotiabank, but there are others. Moving2Canada recently wrote a really good piece about the best bank accounts for newcomers that may help. Shop around, as some banks offer good perks, such as cash back or points.
SIN number is basically the equivalent of your national insurance number. Get this sorted straight away, as you'll probably need it for your phone and definitely for a job. You get your SIN number from a Service Canada Office.
Getting a phone is fairly simple. Phone contracts are generally quite pricey compared to England (especially the likes of GiffGaff), although WIND Mobile do really good SIM-only contracts. WIND is great if you're going to be mainly in the city, but if you're planning to travel a lot or live outside of the city, Rogers or Bell offer better overall reception (but are more expensive). Remember to get your phone unlocked before you arrive.
Shot With Olympus Pen