Canada is a vast country, stretching across the top of the North American continent from the Pacific to the Atlantic. It’s known for its wild and spectacular scenery, wildlife, ski resorts and vibrant cities. Making it the perfect country to choose for a working holiday! In this post I will not only run through the legalities for going on a working holiday in Canada but provide information on what to do when you arrive. As well as finding a place to live and a job. Once these things are done you can get on with living, working and playing in Canada on your Canada working holiday.
Why Go to Canada on a Working Holiday
Not sure if Canada is for you! Well here are some reasons why it might be a great option. Firstly, it is an outdoor enthusiasts paradise. With impressive mountains, crystal clear blue lakes with incredible views. During the warmer months you can undertake hikes through the mountains. In the winter months there is plenty of snow to enjoy skiing, snowboarding and other winter pursuits. And the ski areas provide a heap of jobs.
There is also plenty of wildlife to see in their natural habitats. Large deer roam around but keep your distance from the Bears! Canada though, isn’t all about the outdoors, there are many vibrant cities to explore. Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal to name a few. Each offering unique sites to see and plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants to spend your time in. You could even get a job in one on your working holiday in Canada. Sound Good? Well read on.
Canada Working Holiday Visa Program
The Canada Working Holiday Visa program is managed by a section of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT). It is called International Experience Canada (IEC).
In order to be eligible for this type of visa in Canada, your home country, or place of citizenship must have an agreement that will allow you to work with an IEC work permit. If you are eligible to apply, you’ll be placed into a pool of IEC candidates. Upon completing your profile with IEC you’ll have the option to apply to one or more pools, depending on your eligibility.
When you receive an invitation to apply to one or more of the pools, you aren’t automatically granted a work permit. You’ll have 10 days to decide if you want to accept the invitation. Once you accept the invitation, you’ll have 20 days to apply. You’ll need to provide a wide range of information including proof of the information you included in your IEC profile, educational and work history and other supporting documents. Gathering some documents may take more time than anticipated. It’s suggested that you begin sourcing the documentation needed upon being placed in a pool as an IEC candidate. Certain countries will also require a medical exam, so check the list before applying!
Every year the number of visas that Canada can give out, changes. There are a quota and different rounds of invitations depending on what country you are coming from. Once approved and granted the visa you’re allowed to work and travel in Canada for up to 12 months (or 24 months for certain countries).
The Criteria of the Canada Working Holiday Visa
If you are between the age of 18 and 30 years old and from one of the following countries you can apply. Countries are Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico (the agreement is currently under review and not accepting applicants at this time), Netherlands, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom, you can apply for the IEC.
If you are between the age of 18 and 35 years old and from Australia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan and Ukraine (the agreement is currently under review and not accepting applicants at this time), you can apply for the IEC.
You can find the full list of eligible countries here.
If you’re from a country that isn’t listed as eligible for a working holiday visa, there are other ways you can work and travel in Canada! Certain countries are able to apply through an RO (registered organization). For example, the organization SWAP allows Americans to obtain a work permit in Canada.
After applying for your working holiday visa, it will take approximately 4 weeks on average to hear about a final decision. If you are approved, you’ll receive a Port of Entry Letter (POE) that you must bring with you to show to border services.
Get Prepared For Your Canadian Working Holiday
There is plenty to do before you even arrive at the airport to leave your country for your Canadian working holiday. Follow my packing list to help get you sorted. It includes paperwork, clothes and travel accessories to bring on your working holiday to Canada.
Things to do When you Arrive in Canada
When you arrive in Canada, Immigration will stamp your passport with an authorisation. Then you’ll need to complete a number of tasks before you can begin to live, work and play in Canada. These are the things I suggest you do.
- Purchase a phone. Having a phone will help you get the following sorted.
- Register for a SIN (Social Insurance Number). If you are going to work in Canada, you will need one of these to get paid. SIN stands for Social Insurance Number and is the same as the Tax File Number in Australia, Social Security Number in the USA or Numéro de Sécurité Sociale in France. Get this as soon as possible. You can download the form here and complete it before you go to Canada. Or pick one up at the airport when you arrive or in any Post Canada or Service Canada office. Then find your nearest Service Canada office to apply. Don’t forget to take along your passport and work permit. You will be asked for a permanent address – you can use your place of work or your accommodation address. You will receive your SIN on the same day which is a piece of paper. Ensure you keep it safe as it will be required to show employers so you are taxed correctly.
- Open a bank account. This is required because employers pay wages directly in to a bank account. There are 5 big banks in Canada to consider. Toronto Dominion (TD Canada Trust), Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) and the Bank of Montreal (BMO). Take to your passport, work permit, SIN or Acknowledgement of Application Letter of your SIN and Canadian address (you can use your hostel address) to your chosen bank and get your account opened.
- Find somewhere to live. This can be the hardest thing you will do on your working holiday in Canada. Depending on the city or town you choose to live and work in.
- Find a job.
Live in Canada – Accommodation Options
There are many options when it comes to accommodation in Canada. Choosing a short-term option upon arrival is suggested. It will provide you with enough time to sort out any legalities (opening a bank account, SIN, etc.). Also let you get to know the city or town you’re going to be living in, find a job and long term accommodation to suit your needs. I suggest you definitely book for one week initial stay. However, two weeks will give you more time to get over jet lag and get things sorted.
Hostels are a great place to begin your journey as they are often full of other travellers embarking on a similar experience. They offer many things including Wifi, restaurants, cafes and cooking facilities and are usually conveniently located. Some even offer job advice and may have links to potential employers. Depending on the city you are arriving in here are some suggested hostel options.
If you want something a little more upscale, consider a hotel. The advantage here is you can choose to have your own room. Use Booking.com to compare and book your hotel stay. Some suggested hotel options follow.
You can also find options somewhere in the middle such as a 2-4 week sublet or stay in someone’s room or apartment. Airbnb or Facebook groups are great to book these kinds of stays! Other great sites to consider finding long-term accommodation include My Hood, Rentboard and Apartments Canada. Ensure you bring references from previous landlords as they will help you to secure a place.
Unless you secure a sub-let, almost all rental properties in Canada are unfurnished. Not great news when you are a traveller on a working holiday in Canada because you don’t want to have to spend money on furniture. This is why many stay in long-term hostels. However, you can find cheap furniture in thrift shops and on websites like Craigslist.
Work in Canada
Canada is a very large country situated on top of the United States of America. In fact, it’s the second largest country in the world after Russia so probably large is a better word to describe Canada’s size. Despite it’s size about 90% of the population live within 200km of the American border with the rest of the countryside to the north being vast and mountainous. Within this 200km range are a number of major Canadian cities where working holiday makers base themselves. They include Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton.
Most English speakers find work in the English speaking provinces of British Columbia and Alberta on the West Coast of Canada and Ontario on the East Coast. Quebec is the only predominantly French-speaking province in the country. This doesn’t bring about much employment unless you are proficient in speaking French.
Many find work in major cities such as Toronto or Vancouver, as they offer a range of office-based and hospitality work. If you hope to find work outside busy cities, a popular option is to get a job in a ski resorts during the winter. There are also work opportunities within agricultural areas. Maybe check out WWOOF.
Get a Job in a Canadian Ski Resort
Canada is known for some of its world-famous ski resorts and you could easily find yourself working at one! Large numbers of travellers find work in the Rocky Mountain ski hills every year. In particular Alberta, in the resort towns of Banff and Jasper. Whistler and Revelstoke are also popular destinations in British Columbia.
The main ski season is from November and December to March and April but it all boils down to mother nature. Some winters and snowy days will extend as late as May each year. While other years it’s already summer weather by then! Most resorts are open year-round, as mountain biking and hiking takes over during the warmer months. This means the resorts are on the lookout for staff all year round, making it possible to find a job at almost any point in time.
The type of work available includes snow sports instructors, hospitality staff in the cafes, bars and lodges, maintenance staff, ski lift ticket sellers and child carers to name a few. Finding work at a resort is fairly easy, as most people simply turn up and ask to apply for a position. Or make friends who refer them. You can also do your own research by looking through various resorts’ websites and applying to job openings directly. Also check out websites like Natives.co.uk and JobMonkey.com.
Pick Fruits and Vegetables in Canada
The Okanagan Balley in British Columbia stretches over some 200km. It supports nearly 30,000 acres of orchards where peaches, pears, plums, cherries, apricots, apples and grapes are grown. Major growing areas are Armstrong, Vernon, Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, Okanagan Falls, Oliver, Osoyoos and Keremeos.
The harvesting dates vary from area to area but begin around June and end as late as November. So, if you don’t mind hard work, early mornings and working in a variety of outdoor conditions, then this might be the option for you! It’s also a great option if you’re planning to arrive in Canada during the summer and are having trouble picking up a job elsewhere, as it’s always in demand.
To find farm work in Canada, search online through job portals or contact growers directly. The province of Ontario offers some farm work around the Niagara area (about 2 hours from Toronto), where there are peaches, pears, plums, cherries and tomato harvest. The season is short-lived, starting mid-August and lasting about 2 months. If you’re seeking longer farm work employment, you may have better luck in other provinces.
Nanny and Au Pair Jobs in Canada
If you have experience working with children, becoming a nanny or au pair might be the right fit for you! As a nanny or Au Pair, you’d live with a Canadian family and look after the children during the week. Most often you’d have your own room within the house, taking away all stress of finding a place to live. Sometimes food and other bonuses are included with being a nanny, making it a desirable position to have during your working holiday in Canada. There are many job portals specific to nannies/au pairs, making the process of finding this type of work that much easier.
Other Work Options in Canada
Do you want to share your experience living abroad in Canada with friends and family? If so, why not start a blog about your time in Canada? You can hone in on Canada as a specific niche and see where it takes you!
Canada offers many work options for working holiday makers and many choose to work in the hostel they are staying. If you don’t mind being on reception checking in and out visitors, cleaning the bathrooms and making beds then ask at the hostel you are staying if any jobs are going? For your work you should receive a wage and a free accommodation.
Play and Travel in Canada
Once you have yourself sorted with accommodation and a job you can begin to play and travel in Canada. How you play, is up to you, but there is plenty to see and do. You can spend your time exploring the major cities, hitting the bars, cafes and restaurants to enjoy the local foods like Beaver Tails, Poutine, Tourtière and Smores. And no, I’m not telling you what they are, because they are there for you to experience first-hand while on your Canadian working holiday. Maybe enjoy the great outdoors visiting the mountains to ski, snowboard, mountain bike or hike. Or travel further afield undertaking a one month journey from one side of the country to the other.
Final Words on a Canada Working Holiday
Regardless of the type of work you find, Canada is a fantastic place to live, work, play and travel. Having the option to spend more than a few weeks in Canada allows you to truly experience the Canadian way of life. You’ll be saying ‘eh’ and drinking maple syrup by the bottle before you know it!