The working holiday visa process and how to get one…

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 UK IEC page, which shows the number of visas, the dates they were released and the fact they have all gone :(

The UK IEC page, which shows the number of visas, the dates they were released and the fact they have all gone 😦

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:

  1. Your personal details (including passport information)
  2. Contact details (mailing address, current address and permanent address in your country of residence -UK)
  3. 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)
  4. IEC category (for the UK, unless they add young professionals and co-op next year it will be working holiday)
  5. 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).

Kompass account with messages. Notice confirmation of submission, confirmation of payment and CAL

Kompass account with messages. Notice: confirmation of submission, confirmation and receipt of payment and CAL letter

** 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:

  1. IEC Conditional Acceptance Letter (This is your CAL from your Kompass account).
  2. Resume/CV (use the same version as uploaded in Kompass).
  3. 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!).
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. **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).
MyCIC account with documents required

MyCIC account with documents required

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.

MyCIC showing application progress table (once sent this will show as 'in progress'). When they have checked through your documents the status will change to 'closed' and LOI is received in messages section at the bottom of the page

MyCIC showing application progress table (once sent this will show as ‘in progress’). When they have checked through your documents the status will change to ‘closed’ and LOI is received in messages section at the bottom of the page

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 :).


Nice little pictorial diagram of the IEC application process

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!


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)

Official IEC page for UK



21 thoughts on “The working holiday visa process and how to get one…

  1. Bex this is so helpful! You’ve actually made it a little less daunting as the official site left me confused. I was close to paying for Bunac but think the first stage sounds simple enough and not worth that cost. My only thing is with the visa running out so quickly how did you do so well as to know when they’re being released? No-one, including Bunac, is giving any inclination of a date. Does the commission give you notice before they are released or am I having to watch the site non-stop?

    Thanks in advance for any advice.

    Jessy x

    • Hi Jessy, thank you for your lovely comment. I’m glad you have the information helpful.

      Last year they announced the date of each round a couple of days before (an out 2 days) so that how I knew when they were released.

      I woukd hope they would do the same this year but the problem is we just don’t know and especially with the new website it is anyone’s guess I am afraid.

      I know it seems like a complicated process but really it isn’t that bad and totally worth it in the end

      Best of luck!!

      Bex 🙂

      • Thanks. Any idea of when you think it could be? I’ll be keeping an eye out. My sister has already been and it only took a weeks visit and I fell in love so am planning to go back. I’ll keep a look out on your blog for any further info

        Thanks again it’s so helpful


  2. Hi! Loads of great info here so thank you!! Just a quick questions about the address for the contact details section, can you explain what you mean by ‘mailing address, current address and permanent address in your country of residence -UK’, do you have to enter your address 3 different times?


    • Hi Amie,

      Mailing address – where you would like any correspondence to do with application sent to. (Mainly not relevant as its online)

      Current address – where you are currently residing whether that be in the UK, Canada, Oz etc – as a note this would be the address you would use for your police certificate and would need two proofs of address for

      Permanent address – if you are from UK, it’s your UK address or a parents address if your mail is getng sent there.

      It will ask you for your mailing address first. It will then ask for current address and it will give you the option to select ‘same as mailing address’ or ‘same as permanent address’ so if it’s your first year and your in the UK, you enter you mailing address and then select the ‘same as mailing address for the other 2 addresses’

      If it’s your second year and your in canada then your current address will be different from your permanent address if that makes sense?

  3. Your description of the process is very detailed and I feel more prepared to take up this road! I didn’t know they would require passport scan and all stamped pages! Thanks for this detail! Thanks again!

  4. Hi Bec, great piece, very detailed and easy to follow. If you could help me with one quick question that I cant seem to find anywhere. Once you receive your LORI Letter of Introduction, how long is it valid for? I.E. how long do you have until it expires?

    Say for example if it is 12 months, when does 12months begin, the day you receive your LOI or from the day you first applied?

    Any clarification would be great.


    • Hi Craig, usually the LOI is dated from when they have looked over your application although with mine it was backdated slightly (got my LOI in February but the date was around end of January).

      Generally you have 12 months to activate the LOI

      Hopefully this helps 🙂

      Good luck

      • Hi Bec,

        I have read through your blogs and they are wonderful and positive. I am from Syd, Aus and I have applied for the IEC. I sent my second stage submission 6th April 2015 through myCIC account. I know it stated up to 6 weeks for the POE however when I went through your blog yours came within a month…..would you have any rough indication if mine may come soon…? It is 6th May in Syd, Aus….the wait is truly agonising as you rightly described….


        Vas 🙂

      • Hi Vas,

        This post was for the 2014 visas. This year I submitted to cic on March 27th and received my LOI on May 1st – so it took 5 weeks. Unfortunately you have to wait until the 6 weeks have elapsed before sending them an email but I’m sure you won’t have to wait too much longer 🙂

      • Dear Bex,

        Thank you for your timely response. Yes, I just need to be patient and hang in there 🙂 hopefully it comes really soon. Did you find when you waited for the 5 weeks, every time you checked, was your status ‘Open’?



  5. Dear Bex,

    So I am still waiting for my POE letter… 😦 and no sign….status is Open and Final Decision states Not Started….Do you think I should send CIC an email? and if so….what do I include in the email?…I am giving it until this Friday 15th May….I sent mine on 6th April….so it has been nearly the full 6 weeks and still nothing…looking forward to your suggestion.

    Thank you and Cheers 🙂

  6. Hi Christopher,

    I finally received my POE on May 22nd morning at 5:07am….the wait was agonising…checking everyday several times….I finally got it 😊

    It took around 7 weeks including 6th April week but overall not concluding 6th April week it took easily 8 weeks….

    How about you? Have you applied for your POE?



      • not yet, from what I read on the Facebook forums, the case specific enquiries seem kind of pointless… but will probably send one through tomorrow

      • Hi Christopher,

        My suggestion is to email them. I am myself was going through my forums where it was half and half…some emailing and some not…I emailed on my 43rd day and got my POE within 4 days from then on….it is worth giving it a go😊👍



  7. I am petrified to do my visa alone and have actually paid Global Travel solely for the help on the application and because they know when the release date is. However they’re so expensive and they’ve already messed me around so im thinking about cancelling it with them. But I have no idea how to find out the opening date to apply. What facebook page are you all following? I need all the help I can get 😐


    • Hi. You don’t need to pay a company, also it is doubtful that thwy know when the release date is – only CIC will know that and will update it on their webpage. You will have to do the Intial part anyway.

      There are plenty of Facebook groups to follow. Try ‘Canada IEC 2015’

      Good Luck

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