Landing in Canada and going through immigration to activate your Working Holiday permit can be stressful and we get a lot of questions about this step. What should you absolutely not forget? What does the Working Holiday permit activation process involve, exactly? What does the work permit look like?
Here are a few tips to help you avoid mistakes and get your Working Holiday permit without a hitch.
1. Have all the necessary documents handy
The first step for a smooth landing is to make sure you have all the documents needed to activate your Working Holiday permit:
- Your port of entry (POE) letter (make sure to check the permit validity date!)
- Your Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), required for travel to Canada by air. The number and expiry date are on your port of entry (POE) letter. You don’t need to apply for an eTA unless you’ve renewed your passport since applying for your Working Holiday permit (the eTA is linked to your passport number). If in doubt, check your eTA status.
- Your passport, which must be valid for the duration of your stay. Your Working Holiday permit cannot go beyond the expiry date of your passport. If your passport expires during your Working Holiday permit, you can renew it in Canada and apply for a Working Holiday permit extension. However, whenever possible, it’s best to renew your passport in your home country, to avoid the extra hassle.
- Your mandatory proof of insurance for the entire duration of your stay in Canada. You will be asked for it when landing in Canada. If you have a 12-month Working Holiday permit, you must have coverage for these 12 months—and of course, you need a 24-month coverage for a 2-year Working Holiday permit. If you only buy insurance coverage for six months, for instance, you will be issued a six-month Working Holiday permit and you won’t be able to extend it later on. Conversely, if you buy insurance coverage for 24 months but go home after six months, Globe WHV will refund the remaining months on your policy as long as there are at least two months left on it.
- Proof of funds with at least CAD2,500 (or this amount in your local currency). A bank statement or a screenshot (less than 7 days old) of your banking app is accepted. If you’re travelling to Canada on a one-way ticket, aim for the mandatory CAD 2,500 plus the price of a return ticket (basically the amount paid for your outward journey).
- Other supporting documents, such as your police certificate(s), proof of a medical exam, etc. It’s unlikely you will be asked to show them but carrying them with you will provide greater peace of mind.
Here’s another comprehensive checklist as well!
2. Check the expiry date of your medical exam results
You will only have to take a medical exam in a few specific cases, for instance, if you stated you want to work with children, if you’re from a country Canada designated as high risk for tuberculosis, if you have a specific health condition, etc.
If you weren’t asked to take a medical exam during the Working Holiday application process, don’t worry, you don’t need it to land in Canada!
The medical exam results are valid for 12 months. Make sure you took the exam less than a year ago when landing in Canada.
For example, if you went for your medical exam on February 1, 2023, and received your port of entry (POE) letter on April 1, 2023, you can travel to Canada anytime before February 1, 2024. On the other hand, after February 1, 2024, your medical exam is no longer valid, so you’ll need to take another one before coming to Canada.
The Government of Canada states the following:
“Your medical exam results are good for 12 months only. If you’re a student or worker, your letter of introduction shows the date your results expire (if you received it after November 30, 2021).
If you don’t come to Canada as a visitor, student or worker within that time, you may need to do another exam.”
3. Don’t fly to Canada just before your port of entry (POE) letter expires
Don’t book a flight landing on the day or the day before your port of entry (POE) letter expires. Flight cancellations or delays do happen, and so do strikes, last-minute health issues… and, ahem, global pandemics.
It would be a shame to miss out on your Working Holiday adventure because your port of entry (POE) letter has just expired!
4. Plan for a long enough stopover
Your Working Holiday permit will be activated at the first port of entry in Canada. For instance, if you’re flying from Sydney to Los Angeles, and then from Los Angeles to Winnipeg with a stopover in Toronto (… bring snacks and load your device with movies!), you will go through immigration and have your Working Holiday permit activated in Toronto.
Technically, a two-hour stopover is enough time to catch your flight to Winnipeg. But since you will spend more time at immigration than the average traveller, plan for a longer stopover.
This is particularly true if you’re travelling to Canada on a weekend or during holidays (check the calendar for Canadian holidays, airports can be packed around Thanksgiving or on the Labour Day long weekend!)
5. Understand the travel declaration process
When you arrive in Canada, you will be directed to a primary inspection kiosk to fill out your travel declaration. All travellers go through this step, Canadian citizens and tourists alike.
Scan your passport, have your picture taken, verify your fingerprints and complete your declaration. It will be printed right away—bring it to the border services officer. For more info on the process, read How to use the kiosks.
You can also use the Advance Declaration in the ArriveCAN app and (possibly) save time.
6. Make sure to go through immigration
After getting your travel declaration from the primary inspection kiosk, you will join the passport check lineup where border services officers usually just ask a few basic questions and stamp passports. Explicitly state you’re coming on a Working Holiday permit and that you would like to activate it.
You will then be directed to another border services officer (often in a separate office behind the booths) who will take the time to review your documents and activate your Working Holiday permit. Don’t skip this step and go straight to the luggage carrousel!
7. Read your Working Holiday permit carefully before leaving the airport
Congrats, a border services officer has just issued your Working Holiday permit! It’s tempting to say “have a good day” and head straight to the luggage carrousel but you should take a few minutes to review your permit and make sure all the info is correct before leaving the immigration area.
Pay attention to:
- Your personal info, i.e. date of birth, spelling, etc. If you spot a mistake, it’s not a big deal to have it corrected right away with the border services officer right in front of you.
- The expiry date. If you provided all the necessary documents (including a passport and proof of insurance coverage valid for the entire duration of the work permit), you should get a 12-month or 24-month Working Holiday permit.
- The conditions. If you did take a medical exam to work in healthcare or with children, make sure the condition “not authorized to work in childcare, primary/secondary school teachings, health service field occupations” has been removed. If not, speak up!
Don’t stress out too much about landing in Canada, the process is usually very smooth, especially when you know what to expect—and now you do!