If you are reading this blog post it’s probably because you have or you are thinking of applying for an IEC visa for Canada. My first piece of advice, if you haven’t applied already – do it! If you didn’t know, I am from the UK but currently living in Canada so I applied for this work permit as a UK citizen. I refer to the IEC programme as a ‘visa’ throughout this document but in fact, it is a work permit and not a visa.
My husband and I applied for this visa completely randomly whilst we were living in France as we weren’t sure what we were going to do when we returned to the UK. I should mention here, you can’t apply for this visa as a married couple, applications need to be done individually and there is no guarantee either or both people in a couple will get picked as the system works on a lottery basis. My visa took five months to come through and my husbands took five weeks, so we were really lucky to both get selected in the same year.
This post is a mammoth one and is to summarise my tips and advice for applying for an IEC visa. There were a couple of things that I struggled to find information on whilst applying so I hope this helps you and if you are lucky enough to get an IEC visa, I hope you enjoy Canada!
How to decide if you should apply
Applying for an IEC visa is quite a big decision so you may have some serious thinking to do at this stage. The way I saw it was, the first couple of stages of the application are completely free and there is also a chance you will never get picked so you really have nothing to lose in applying.
Evaluating if you can afford the trip
To apply for an IEC visa, and during the application process, you won’t need more than a couple of hundred pounds. But overall I would say we needed £2,500 for this visa in total (of which £1,800 or so is cash you will have to live on and the rest is application/travel/insurance fees), here is my breakdown of costs:
- The cost of the application itself which is CA$150 (around £90)
- Police report you will need which is £45 for the standard service from the recommended provider, ACRO (for UK applicants)
- Flights to Canada; our one-way flights were around £200 from London to Montreal
- Required funds: you are required to have a minimum of CA$2,500 (around £1,500) in your bank account at the time of entry into Canada and enough money to buy a ticket home (unless you already have one booked) which I would say would be around another CA$500 (or owning a credit card is sufficient)
- Insurance: if you intend to stay for the maximum two years you will need around £300 for your insurance (we paid for this as a couple and it cost £630.73 total from Alpha Travel)
Applying for the visa
When applying for an IEC visa, please go direct to the Government of Canada website, link here. Do not go to agencies or any other website that offer to do the paperwork for you. As the system is essentially a lottery, they have no more chance of obtaining the visa than you, and they are most likely to charge for their services.
Passport expiry dates and IEC visa entry dates
When you get issued your PoE letter you have one year from that date to enter Canada and activate your work permit. We got issued our PoE letters in June 2018 and we didn’t enter Canada until May 2019. We literally had two days left to enter the country and activate our work permits!
In that time my passport was due to expire so I had to apply for a new one. Don’t panic if your passport is due to run out after you start the application process or if it is due to run out during the two years you plan to be in Canada. When you have your new passport you will need to apply for a new eTA visa against your new passport number. An eTA visa is included as part of the application process but it will be against your old passport number. Apply for one against your new passport number here, they cost CA$7. Make sure that when you get your paperwork at the border, your work permit has your new passport number on. Take photocopies of your old passport when you travel to be safe.
Purchasing travel insurance for an IEC visa
In the weeks leading up to your departure, you should purchase your travel insurance. For an IEC visa, you are required to have two years worth of travel insurance. If you don’t you can be refused entry and if you decide to get insurance for a shorter amount of time, they may only issue your work permit for that amount of time. I left this quite last minute but I guessed that prices wouldn’t change too much and if anything happened which meant I couldn’t go on my trip I could get a refund from the insurance company. There are only a few insurance companies that offer insurance for two years and I found some of the quotes to be extortionate. We eventually bought our insurance through Alpha Travel (for £630 for a couple for two years) but some other companies that offer similar insurance are Best Quote Travel Insurance and True Traveller. This was with skiing and snowboarding added and a couple of other sports, this upped the price a little bit.
Our experience entering Canada with IEC visas
When we arrived at Toronto airport we had to have a mini-interview at the immigration office. This was after standard customs, to get our paperwork which allows us to work. We had our interviews separately. My officer checked all of my documents and it took about fifteen minutes and Tom’s officer barely checked his paperwork and he was through within five minutes! I was recommended to fold up my letter (which is A4 in size) and staple it into my passport to avoid misplacing it. We will need to show the piece of paper every time we enter the country over the duration of our work permit.
Summary of our IEC visa application process
Overall I found the process quite simple and straightforward. I wasn’t aware at the time of applying all the costs that were involved. Such as the two-year insurance cost, which would’ve been good to know. Like I said at the beginning of this post I know we are lucky to both get selected. We are really enjoying our time so far in Canada. Let me know if there are any Canada themed posts you would like to see!
Do you have any questions about applying for an IEC visa or any questions for me about living in Canada? If you have any recommendations for beautiful places to go or money-saving hacks for living in another country? please let me know in the comments below! Check out my post on ridesharing in Canada here!