O, CANADA, HERE I AM!
Landing in Canada
The “classic” landing experience at the airport
You ran out of movies halfway through the long flight and now you’ve been staring at the Sky Map for the past hour. The plane lands—it’s finally time for you to land as well, i.e. go through immigration and customs.
This is the final red tape before discovering your destination city. Don’t be nervous, it’s fairly straightforward.
If you arrive at one of Canada’s busiest international airports (Vancouver International Airport, Edmonton International Airport, Winnipeg Richardson International Airport, Terminal 3 of Toronto Pearson International Airport, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, Ottawa International Airport, Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport, Halifax Stanfield International Airport), you will be directed to one of the primary inspection kiosks to verify your identity and make an on-screen declaration. At the kiosk, scan your passport, take your picture and answer a few questions to complete your declaration.
Then you have to take your kiosk receipt to a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer. This is where you can expect a lineup because every traveller (Canadian and foreign) has to go through this step.
The CBSA officer will examine your Declaration Card and passport, then you’ll be sent to another CBSA booth a few metres further to have your WHP activated.
The border officer may ask to see five documents:
- Your passport
- Your Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction
- Your proof of funds (a recent bank statement showing you have at least $2,500)
- Your proof of insurance for the entire duration of your stay. Important: If your insurance policy is valid for less time than your expected stay in Canada, you may be issued a work permit that expires at the same time as your insurance and you won’t be able to renew it even if you extend your insurance coverage.
- Your return ticket (or if you only have a one-way ticket, proof of additional funds)
The government of Canada recommends you bring the original documents you provided when you applied for your WHP.
The CBSA officer will review all your documents carefully and may ask you a few questions about your plans. Answer truthfully and politely—no joking around!
At the end of the process, the officer will staple your WHP work permit into your passport.
Congrats, you made it! Now you can go pick up your checked luggage and go through customs.
The WHP is a multi-entry visa. The “This does not authorize re-entry/Ceci n’autorise pas la rentrée” statement on your WHP simply means that you can’t cross the border with just the paper—you need your passport too.
As we explained in The landing process and your first steps in Canada, it’s important to travel with the right documents otherwise you won’t be allowed into Canada.
Finally, don’t forget that even with a valid passport and all the required documents, it’s up to you to demonstrate that you meet the requirements to enter Canada and CBSA officers can deny entry. Always be polite and respectful and take border crossing matters seriously.
Flagpoling and activating your WHP at a land border
Most WHP holders fly to Canada and activate their work permit at the airport. However, some may arrive to Canada at land ports of entry after travelling in the US. Occasionally, some are already in Canada with a visitor status or work permit and need to exit Canada briefly and re-enter to activate their WHP.
Leaving Canada for a few hours or… ahem, minutes, just to turn around and re-enter the country again is called “flagpoling,” which symbolizes travellers making a quick U-turn at flagpoles. This is how it works: First, you exit Canada and drive or walk to US immigration services. You will have to go through the regular process—passport check, questions, fingerprints, photograph. Then, tell the American border officer you just want to go back to Canada and they will issue a Refusal of Admission form. After that, just go back to the Canadian immigration station and go through the same process as if you were arriving at the airport. You must show your passport and all the documents related to your WHP application.
If you need to flagpole, try to spend a couple of days in the US, it’s a more rewarding experience than just “visiting” the immigration station!
Good to know: If you travel to the US again later, you will have to answer the following question on Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record: “Have you ever been denied entry into the United States?” The answer will be “no,” because you voluntarily refused entry to the US, this isn’t an official denial of entry.
Main articles about the WHV to Canada
Step-By-Step Guide to International Experience Canada Work Permits
Introduction to the Canada Working Holiday permit
Guide to Working Holiday in Canada (free download)
16 Good Reasons to Apply for a Working Holiday Visa
Globe WHV insurance policy highlights
The duration of your insurance coverage directly impacts your WHV
15 Tips for a Successful WHV Experience
The Working Holiday Visa Adventure as a Solo Traveller