International Experience Canada
So this is how I went about getting the Canadian Working Holiday Visa known as International Experience Canada or IEC for short.
A few things to tell you regarding the background of the IEC:
- Before 2011, you had to apply and pay for the IEC visa through BUNAC – if you haven’t heard of them they are company that sell various travel and work programs across the globe. They still sell two packages known as ‘full placement’ – where they claim to guarantee you a job before you leave and ‘self placement’ -where they will give you resources and access to their offices to job search. At £550 and £350 respectively (not including your visa, travel insurance or flight) it is rather expensive in my opinion. However you can find many threads on various expat forums where people can discuss their thoughts on BUNAC and their services.
Because the visas are no longer issued by BUNAC, they cannot assist anyone with securing the visa.
- Until 2013, the IEC visa applications were submitted by mail and the forms filled in on paper. 2012 was the first year where everything was submitted online. I did hear there were a lot of issues with payments not going through, documents not uploading and the website crashing when the application process was open. However, I can only comment on the 2014 process.
- There is only a set quota for each country that has a reciprocal agreement with Canada. That means for example the number of Canadian IEC visas for UK participants would be the same number of UK working holiday visas for Canadian participants (or that is what it is in theory but I have discovered that it isn’t quite true)!
- In 2014, the UK quota was 5,350, 1-year visas. As a UK citizen, you are entitled to two 1-year visas between the ages of 18-30.
- If your Irish, well you are just bloody lucky as in 2014 it was 10,000, 2-year visas – 7,500 for the working holiday and the rest for International Co-op (Graduate scheme) and Young Professionals (where you apply with a job offer in Canada beforehand) – all between the ages of 18-35!!! The UK are not (yet) entitled to a 2 year visa up to the age of 35 or the International Co-op/Young Professionals categories although I don’t know why not…this does annoy me though
- When the visa applications were completed on paper, the quota took several weeks to months to fill up. Since changing to online, the visas will go in minutes and I am not joking. In 2014 the visas were released in three rounds on dates in December and January. Round one went in less then 20 minutes, round two in 10 minutes and round three around 9 minutes – it is that quick!
The Application Process
Part 1 – IEC
You need to be on the ball for when they are released as not only will first years be going for the visas, those already in Canada will be applying for their second year as well – that is 5,350 visas for the whole country (including UK citizens overseas) and it is not split between first and second years.
I had two computers set up and an iPad, just in case one was to crash. I also had my passport number and expiry date close to hand.
When the time comes for the visas to be released (3pm UK time in this instant), you sign up for your Kompass account. This is where you type in an email address, password and some security questions and answers. You then activate it by clicking the link that gets sent to your email address and then every second counts…
You have 5-6 sections to go through and fill in:
- Your personal details (including passport information)
- Contact details (mailing address, current address and permanent address in your country of residence -UK)
- Previous IEC participation (if this is your first then it’s pretty simple but if you had an IEC visa before and that includes prior to 2011 – you need to put in your World Tracking Number or WTN for short)
- IEC category (for the UK, unless they add young professionals and co-op next year it will be working holiday)
- Application Declarations – (The last category is where you tick a few boxes to say you understand that everything you have said is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth etc etc…)
Once you are finished, click the summit bottom and stop the clock. You will then receive a WTN number, which is something like LDN-GB-14-WHP-000337. This was my number, which meant I was the 337th applicant out of 5,350 – not bad going. After you have your WTN and it is within the quota (5,350), you can relax (slightly) as the frantic part is over.
Just to make a point when filling in the sections, you need to make sure you put your details in as they are in your passport. This includes any middle names and expiry and birth dates in the format yyyy-mm-dd. After the first round, there must if been quite a few typing errors due to people rushing so a note was placed on the website stating that if people didn’t enter information correctly then their application would be rejected. After the third round they revoked this and starting asking people they had previously rejected for payment but that doesn’t mean they may not put this in place for next year.
You need to be quick but also check what you are typing as you are going through.
After a few hours to a week maybe, you will receive a message on your IEC account (it will also come through to the email address you signed up with so you can’t miss it) asking you to make payment and upload your resume and passport page. The resume has a set format, which you will be find on the IEC page but it isn’t anything difficult. In 2012, people had to pay by bank transfer and had to get proof of their payment and scan it in. This didn’t happen in 2013 and the process was much more simple and straightforward as you could pay by credit card.
When payment and documents have been uploaded, you then play the waiting game to find out if you have been successful or not. This is where they decide if you are eligible for the IEC visa.
If you are successful you will receive a Conditional Acceptance Letter (CAL), download this and save it to your computer, as you will need it for the next part.** The CAL is only available for 90 days from the date you receive it, after this you lose your place. If you are not successful (usually because you have had too many participations or you are not within the age restrictions), you will receive a letter informing you of this and a link to apply for a refund (please be aware refunds can take months to come through).
** I have found that when opening any messages in PDF format on my iPhone or iPad, they do not display properly. If this happens open the document on your computer and save the PDF to your desktop.
Part 2 – Work permit CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)
Congratulations, you passed the 1st stage, however it is not over yet…
This is the second stage where you apply for your work permit. You need to set up a ‘myCIC’ account by inputting your email address, password and some security questions – t is best to go through to sign in with a GCKey rather then sign in partner.
The next stage is completing the ‘Coming to Canada Wizard’, which is a questionnaire that determines what documents you need to submit with your application. Once the questionnaire is completed, you will receive a personal checklist code (write this down in a safe place) This code will last for 60 days, after this you will need to complete the ‘Coming to Canada Wizard’ again.
Generally, the documents required for an IEC visa are as follows:
- IEC Conditional Acceptance Letter (This is your CAL from your Kompass account).
- Resume/CV (use the same version as uploaded in Kompass).
- Scan of Passport pages including all pages with stamps on (you can only upload one document, so scan all pages in, input them into word document and then save as a PDF and volia!).
- Digital photo (This was a bit of a pain as they have certain requirements for the photo such as DPI, size and colour resolution but you can scan in a passport photo or use a digital photo providing it meets their standards found here).
- Police Certificate (You will need a certificate from every country, except Canada** that you have lived in for 6 months or over since you were 18). **You may be asked to submit a Canadian Police Certificate but they will ask you first. Generally they seem to complete their own checks. The CIC site will give you information on how you can apply for a certificate in each country. For the UK you apply to the ACPO Criminal Records Office. (Cost around £45 – £80 not including extra certificate and special delivery/courier postage costs). Depending on which service you select, your certificate may take up to 2 weeks from receipt of application to arrive. I used the standard service with special delivery postage and it was returned within a week of the form being sent. They also sent me an email to confirm they had received my form so it was pretty efficient.
- IMM1295 – Application for Work Permit Form (This is the main form – Fill in all the details, put ‘N/A’ or ‘Unknown’ in the employer and intended work sections, if you can not fit in all your employment history for the last 10 years on the form then upload the remaining details as a ‘Letter of Explanation’ document**, click ‘Validate’ at the top of the form when finished and some bar codes should appear. It is now ready to upload).
- IMM5707 – Family Form (Fill out all required information on spouses, family members and children whether they are travelling to Canada with you or not).
Other forms and documents that may be required:
- Medical Form (You require a medical examination if you selected that you would be working with: children, vulnerable people, in the heath profession and the agricultural field. You may also need a medical if you have been in a designated country – see list, for 6 months or over within a year or so. If you need to have a medical, you need to contact and arrange an appointment with an approved Panel Physician). As I work with children and youths in the UK and wish to do so in Canada, I had a medical exam done in Birmingham. At £400, it was by far the most expensive part of the application process. The medicals average anything between £250-£350 but if you have any tattoos (yes!) and/or piercings, you are required to pay for an extra blood test for Hepatitis B. I did try and get out of it by taking my vaccinations records along, which showed my Hep B injections but it didn’t work – fair play to anyone that does manage to blag it! I have been informed by people in Canada that the medicals are much cheaper there and as the results only lasts for one year (you need new one if you wish to apply for your second 1 year visa) I am getting mine done there next time.
- **Letter of Explanation (This is where you upload a document of explanation regarding your application. This could be the rest of your work history, reasons why you are unable to a get police certificate(s) from certain countries and explaining anything that might appear…ahem…a bit suspect on your police certificate(s).
Once you have all the documents, you are ready to submit (remember, your CAL only lasts for 90 days and they could ask you to upload further documents and re-submit) so the quicker you get it off the better.
If everything goes well you will receive a Letter of Introduction (LOI) (remember to open it on a computer rather then an smart phone or tablet if not displaying all the information) in your myCIC account. This is a very important document that you take to your Port of Entry (POE) when you arrive in Canada to receive and activate your work permit. This could be at your airport of entry or border crossing. The LOI has a validity date on it and you must enter Canada by that date, otherwise you lose your visa and work permit. If they reject your application (so far I have found it is usually because of recent or serious criminal convictions including DUI or if you have been telling porkies on your application), you will receive a letter informing you of this and a link to get a refund.
The timescales after submission for 2014 IEC varied. Some people received their LOI within a week. I myself waited 4 weeks from submission for mine, which was agonising. I think they finally looked at my application after I had sent them an email asking them if they had received my medical results but hey-ho – I got there in the end :).
Now all that is left is for me to complete my packing, tie up administration affairs (aka UK stuff), continue with the horrible job hunting and if I have time in the 20 or so days before I leave, I may look into accommodation.
Right now though I just want to relax and enjoy the time I have left in the UK by catch up with friends and family
Auf wiedersehen for now!
USEFUL WEBSITE LINKS:
Goodbye Blighty Travel Blog – information on the IEC process 2013, good screen shots of Kompass and myCIC account
Moving 2 Canada IEC Visa FAQ – This website has a lot of useful information in regards to moving to Canada in general. They also have a facebook page. (Some information is aimed more towards Irish Participants)