WORKING HOLIDAY VISA AND CANADA 101
Why should you apply for a WHP?
The Working Holiday Visa is a temporary visa for young people who want to discover Canada and work to fund their travel plans.
There are tons of reasons to plan a few months or a year in Canada. Some want to add a new work experience abroad to their resume, others want to learn French or English or improve their language skills, and many want to meet people in a different culture and a different environment. The key words? Experiencing something new!
Leaving your old life behind to embrace a new culture and a new way of life for a year or two is a chance to get to know yourself better, to develop strong adaptation skills and to put your sense of initiative to the test. Whether you chose to focus on the “working” or the “holiday” part of your visa, you’ll live a rewarding experience and gain personal and professional skills you’ll be able to leverage long after coming back from Canada.
After all, there’s a reason why taking a “gap year” is known as a great way to get ahead in a few countries—you can learn a lot when you step into an entirely different culture.
Are you convinced yet? Good. Now let’s go through the basic eligibility requirements.
What are the basic requirements?
Depending on your country of citizenship, you must be between the ages of 18 and 35 or 18 and 30 (inclusive). You must be at least 18 but not yet 36 or 31 when you send your application (after being selected, not the initial profile you create to enter the pool of candidates).
Country of citizenship and country of permanent residence
You must be a citizen (with a valid passport) of one of the 32 countries that signed a WHP agreement with Canada. Being a resident in one of these countries doesn’t qualify you, you must be a citizen. So first, check the Government of Canada International Experience Canada: Who can apply page and select your country/territory of citizenship to see which visa category is available to you.
Depending on your country of citizenship, you could be able to apply for a WHP no matter where you currently live or you could have to apply for the visa in your country of citizenship only.
If no specific requirements apply to your country of citizenship, you could apply for a WHP to Canada and already be in Canada as a visitor, a student or on a work visa permit. Once your WHP is issued, you still have to leave Canada and re-enter to activate the visa. Most people take a short trip across the US border—it’s often referred to as “flagpoling.”
The Government of Canada specifies that: “You must provide a clear, readable copy of your passport. Your passport must be valid when you apply to the International Experience Canada program, and when you enter and depart from Canada. Your work permit will not be issued for longer than the validity of your passport. Your passport must include a blank page other than the last page.”
So far, you can enter Canada with either a standard passport or a biometric passport. However, if you’re planning to visit the US during your stay in Canada, you’ll need a biometric passport.
Proof of funds
You must provide proof of financial resources for the amount of $2,500 to cover your initial living expenses in Canada. You may be asked for a proof of funds (e.g. a recent bank statement or a letter from your financial institution) upon landing in Canada.
If you’re flying with a one-way ticket, the border officer may ask to see proof of additional funds (on top of the initial $2,500 amount) to make sure you’ll be able to buy a return ticket.
Proof of health insurance
Once your Working Holiday permit is issued, you must buy a health insurance policy covering medical care, hospitalization and repatriation. Your insurance policy must be valid for the entire duration of your stay in Canada. You’ll find more information on the topic in “How can I find the best health insurance policy?” further in this guide.
You may be refused entry if you do not have insurance coverage. 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 as of late 2013, the Government of Canada warns that “If this happens, you will not be able to apply to change the conditions of your work permit at a later date.” In other words, if you buy insurance coverage for a six month’s stay, you’ll be issued a six-month WHP.
It’s okay if you were a WHP holder in other countries, but you won’t be eligible if you have already had a WHP for Canada.
Canada’s new biometric rules requires you to submit your fingerprints and photo (biometrics) when you apply for a visitor visa, study or work permit, or permanent residence.
How does it work?
The keyword is “flexibility.”
First, the WHP is an open work permit, which means it isn’t tied to a specific employer. Not only can you work for several employers, but you don’t even need to find a job before your trip to Canada. You can switch jobs anytime, work in any province or territory in Canada, and even work several jobs at the same time, in your field or not.
Second, you don’t even have to work if you don’t feel like it. You can travel around the country, settle down somewhere, explore Canada until you find your dream place… it’s all up to you!
Third, the WHP is also one of the easiest work permits to get. Eligibility requirements are fairly basic and the application process is straightforward. Your education, work experience, travel experience and language skills are irrelevant—all the applicants have the same chance to be selected.
However, there’s something you’ll need—luck. Not just for your future travel plans, but because since 2016, a computerized system draws applicants at random over several rounds of invitation. You could be waiting for a few days or a few months to receive an Invitation to Apply—and you may not receive an invitation at all. WHPs to Canada are popular and demand often exceeds supply.
So getting a WHP to Canada is a chance… and you need a bit of luck!
When should I apply for my WHP?
Since the process switched to several random draws (called “rounds of invitations”), you’re only able to submit your profile to a pool of candidates when the IEC starts, which is usually in the fall. The exact date changes every year, so stay tuned to make sure you don’t miss it.
How do I apply for a WHP?
You’ll find detailed information in the “Applying for a WHP” section of this guide.
Keep in mind that while the process is fairly straightforward, it’s important to follow the instructions and to provide all the information and documents needed. Pay attention, otherwise your application could be denied!
How long does it take for my WHP to be processed?
You can check processing times online. Currently, for IEC visas it’s 8 weeks. Candidates who do get an Invitation to Apply often report their application was processed in 2, 3 or 4 weeks.
However, remember that before you can apply, your profile must be drawn from a pool of candidates. It can take over 6 months to be drawn—and you could very well not be invited to submit an application. In this case, you’ll have to wait for a new IEC season the following year.
Occasionally, a few applicants don’t hear back from the Government of Canada even though no medical exam is required and the official eight-week processing times are exceeded. In this case, follow up with the Government of Canada.
Can my WHP application be rejected?
It does happen. The most common reasons for rejection are entering the wrong information when filling out the application or not completing the application (i.e. submitting requested documents and paying the fees) by the deadline.
Health conditions and legal issues can also be grounds for refusal.
In Canada, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (“DUI” and “DWI”) is considered a crime. If you’ve been convicted of a DUI or a DWI, you are criminally inadmissible to Canada and you will be denied a visa, a work permit or refused entry to Canada. Court documents or some other kind of proof of conviction will help the embassy check what decision would have been made in Canada in a similar case and the WHP application will be assessed accordingly.
You have to take a medical exam if you stated you want to work with children, in healthcare or as a caregiver in Canada; if in the past twelve months you lived for at least six months in one or more countries Canada designed as having risk factors for tuberculosis; if you or someone in your family has or had TB; or if you have a physical or mental condition requiring ongoing treatment in Canada. Your application will be assessed after the medical exam—don’t worry, for most applicants it’s just a routine physical and extra red tape.
If you don’t take a medical exam, your work permit will have the following mention: “Not authorized to work in 1) child care 2) primary or secondary school teaching 3) health services field occupations.” If you took a medical exam, this condition is removed.
You will find more information in the “Applying for a WHP” further in the Guide.
When can I travel to Canada?
WHP holders can go to Canada as soon as they receive the Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction. Normally, it’s valid for 12 months—there is a box titled “Permit validity” on your Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction, you must come to Canada prior to that date. For instance, if the POE Letter of Introduction is issued on February 15, you can go to Canada anytime to activate your visa until February 14 the following year.
It’s not advisable to travel to Canada while your application is being processed. The border officer will be aware of it as soon as your passport is swiped—it probably won’t surprise you to learn that nowadays, databases are connected…—and you can be denied entry. In 2013, the Government of Canada warned impatient applicants that they could be banned from Canada for a year if they travel to Canada while the application is being processed. Note that this only applies if you submitted your application after receiving an Invitation to Apply. If you’re only in the pool of candidates, you can still travel to Canada.
And this was just a basic overview of the technical aspect of the WHP. Now, let’s see what you could do with the visa! Are you supposed to roam around the country? To settle down? Do both? So many options!
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