So you’re thinking about moving to Canada? Great idea! Canada is a country of contrasts – amazing landscapes, vibrant cities, delicious food, and of course the distinct French- and English-speaking cultures. There’s so much to do and see here!
We lived in Vancouver for three months, and so we are very familiar with the process of moving to Canada. Here are some pointers to make the process easier for you! We also share why we ended our working holiday in Canada after just three months in this post.
1. Apply for a working holiday visa.
The working holiday visa for Canada (officially called the International Experience Canada visa) is available to people from a number of countries (see the list here). Generally you have to be between 18 and 35, but this varies by country so make sure to check the list.
It’s easy to apply for – go on the IEC website for your country (click the link to your country on this page) and the left sidebar has links to all the information that you need. The process can take up to six weeks, although it took less than a week for us! You just go through the process online, and submit scanned documents such as a copy of your passport, criminal record, and resume. There is no interview so it’s super easy!
The fee for the visa is $150 Canadian dollars.
As New Zealanders we can live and work in Canada for up to one year, but it varies for citizens of other countries – for example Australians can live and work here for two years. You can work in any job, for any employer while you are in Canada.
Once you have your Letter of Introduction, that’s all you need to do visa-wise until you enter Canada!
2. Choose where you want to go first, and book your flights!
Depending on what you want to do in Canada, you may choose to head to different parts of the country. Most New Zealanders head to Vancouver (primarily because this is the cheapest city to fly into with direct flights from Auckland), and it’s the closest major city to the ski resorts in the Rockies, where a lot of Kiwis choose to work. We chose to move to Vancouver because we’d heard it was an amazing city to live in with great scenery and a fun vibe!
3. Organise travel insurance.
One of the requirements of the visa is that you have valid insurance for the duration of your stay in Canada. This can be pretty expensive but is a necessary evil! We paid about $1600 NZD each for our insurance that covers 12 months in Canada. This covers health expenses, theft, loss of baggage etc. A good insurance company (for New Zealanders) is Southern Cross Travel Insurance. Others recommend World Nomads, who are cheaper, but unfortunately they don’t cover pre-existing medical conditions (Shaun has a history of back issues) or high value items (my engagement ring). We actually ended up going through a private broker because of these extra things we needed covered (Southern Cross wouldn’t cover my ring!).
You’ll need to have proof of insurance at immigration when you enter Canada, so make sure you have the Certificate of Insurance printed out (we had to go to an internet cafe in Mexico to print ours as we had left it till the last minute!).
4. What happens at immigration.
When you enter Canada, whether it’s via an air, land, or sea port, you’ll need these things:
- Letter of Introduction (the proof you’re eligible for the working holiday visa, sent to you via email after you’ve gone through the process in Step 1).
- Certificate of Insurance for the duration you want to be in Canada for.
- Proof of funds of over $2500 CAD (a bank statement or similar).
- An exit ticket from Canada (we had a train ticket from Vancouver to Seattle which we got refunded as soon as we got into Canada!).
- Your passport.
You’ll get asked by the officer at passport control to go into a separate room for immigration to actually get your working holiday visa. Evidently the lines can get quite long so it’s a good idea to allow lots of time, especially if you have a connecting flight to somewhere else in Canada! We flew via Toronto to Vancouver and only had 1.5 hours of layover – we were stressing that we wouldn’t have enough time, but it was super quiet when we went through – thank goodness!
5. Finding a place to live.
This is one of the hardest things to figure out when moving to a new place. The best part of a city to live in, whether you want to be in a flat with strangers or in your own apartment, and your budget, are all decisions you have to make when looking for a place to live. As a couple, we wanted to have our own apartment, and we wanted to be in downtown Vancouver. We also needed a short-term lease of three months. We looked on Craigslist and contacted numerous owners and landlords, and very few came back to us. It’s especially hard trying to find a place before arriving in Canada as you can’t view properties and meet the people doing the advertising, and also you don’t have Canadian credit – which is quite often necessary to secure a rental property.
Fortunately, with a couple of weeks to go, we managed to secure a lease on a cute little studio/bachelor apartment in downtown Vancouver. It’s costing us $1450/month, and includes all the utilities (power, water, internet, and heating). It’s pretty expensive but it is worth it for us as we didn’t have to spend time in an expensive hotel before finding something once arriving in Canada!
6. Getting a Social Insurance Number (SIN).
A SIN is the equivalent of an IRD number, tax number, or Social Security number. You’ll need it to set up a bank account, get a job, and do just about anything official in Canada.
You can get a SIN at any Service Canada office, and we actually got ours at Toronto airport just after getting our visas at immigration (we had that much time!). It doesn’t take very long, about ten minutes once you sit down with the person behind the desk. You’ll need your passport with the working visa attached, and a mailing address for your SIN card to be posted to (this can be a bit tricky if you don’t have accommodation sorted yet!). It doesn’t cost anything to get which is cool!
7. Opening a bank account.
This is pretty straightforward if you already have your SIN. Choose a bank (there’s a number of different ones – Scotiabank, RBC, CIBC, and TD Canada Trust are the biggest). We went with Scotiabank after a recommendation from a friend. It was easy to set up an account – we’ve got one that has no monthly fees if you have a balance of over $3000 in the account, and you get Visa Debit cards so you can do online shopping. We have a joint account which is easier for us! All you need to open an account is your passport with working visa attached, SIN, a mailing address, and cash to deposit into the new account. Easy!
8. Finding a job.
This can be a challenge! It really depends what kind of work you want to do as to how you go about finding a job. If you want to work at a ski resort for the winter, you’ll need to be looking for jobs around September each year. You can find snow job ads on Craigslist etc., but quite often they’re so popular that they’re only advertised on the ski resort websites themselves. Google the different options and take a look!
We didn’t really know what jobs we were looking for, so we started looking on Craigslist and Indeed once we arrived in Canada. We applied for some work through a temping agency and managed to get two days work only three days after arriving in Vancouver! This is a good option if you’re not fussy about what you do, and if you’re after one-off casual work (we were putting security tags on clothes at a department store which was seriously boring, but good to have some money in the door!). Temping agencies are also good to approach if you have office admin experience – the pay for temp jobs is pretty good and flexible too.
9. Experience Canadian life!
There are heaps of awesome things to do in this wonderful country, so get going! Hiking, camping, eating, skiing, animal-watching… the list goes on. Once all the stuff above is sorted out you can really begin to enjoy what Canada has to offer. So go and have a blast!