Activating our Canadian Work Permits

Boring post alert: probably only of interest to nosey people (looking at you Mr P Slaymaker) and those wanting to go to Canada on a working holiday visa
For some reason, as the coach started to approach the Canadian border on our return from Seattle we both got quite nervous. Perhaps it was because this marked the end of our travels and the start of our journey to working and living in Canada, the holiday was over and now the hard scary stuff was about to begin or the fact that we didn’t really know what to expect – was the border officer going to take one look at us and send us packing back to England because we don’t know the ice hockey rules. We’d heard our fair share of horror stories about border staff not knowing anything about the International Experience Canada (IEC) visas and giving people incorrect expiry dates so were armed with many print screens from the official website to prove that we were allowed to be there for the next year. In reality though it was absolutely fine, even if we did end up making our coach wait ages for us and annoying the coach driver.In order to activate your IEC Working Holiday Visa you need the following things in addition to your passport:

  • Port of Entry (POE) Letter – this is what we fought hard to obtain back in December last year and is essentially our ticket to working in Canada. You have one year from the date issued to take this to the Canadian border and claim your work permit.
  • Proof of funds – to say that we could afford to live there for the first few months and to get back home again. Essentially we just needed a copy of our bank statements but they couldn’t be more than seven days old.
  • Proof of health care insurance – to make sure we were covered if anything should happen. This has to be valid for the entire 12 months.
The all important POE letter. We've been patiently waiting to use this since 12 January.
The all important POE letter we’ve been patiently waiting to use this since 12 January.
The first one was fine, we had this ready and printed back in September should we have decided to activate our visas when we first arrived (for anyone wondering, we entered Canada as tourists to start with) but the last 2 were trickier when you don’t have a printer. We thought we had a plan, we could just print it at the library – easy! Not when the machine only takes cash and you donated your very limited selection of US coins to the Center for Wooden Boats just a few hours earlier thinking that you wouldn’t need them. The library, having clearly encountered this problem before, handed us a nice list of other places we could find the internet and a printer. Unfortunately on further inspection they either also only took cash or were miles away. Gone are the days when there was an internet cafe on every corner to help lost travellers such as ourselves. Damn smartphones. Luckily for us though, when I was sorting through my bag the next morning I found an old $1 note stuffed inside my passport case! Problem solved.
Seattle Public Library
Seattle public library: home to printers and free wifi

Anyway back to the point, when you arrive at the border on a coach you are made to get off, take all of your stuff off with you and walk through. We tried to get off the bus as quick as we could, knowing that we would end up holding everyone up and headed to the queue. On reaching the front  we were questioned by a rather stern-faced officer who asked us loads of questions about where we had been, what we were doing in Canada and if we had ebola. We were then told to go and wait in immigration, which we did for what felt like forever as we watched all our fellow passengers go through and get back on the coach (apart from one unlucky guy who was detained for further questioning!). Eventually a very nice man came to serve us, asked us a few questions, processed our work permits and didn’t even ask for our documents which had caused us such a headache the day before! Woohoo, we could officially work in Canada – although not in the sex trade, with children or on a farm. Shame.We got back on the coach and off we went into Canada to start our next adventure (minus the guy still being detained for further questioning)!


The work permit is proudly sits stapled into my passport
The work permit proudly sits stapled into my passport

4 thoughts on “Activating our Canadian Work Permits

  1. Hi Emma,
    Thanks for your great unofficial post which helped me a lot more than tons of official useless threads.
    Just a quick question, the start date and expiry date of the work permit is based on the POE or the arrival date? I mean for example, if my POE is valid between 2018-07-20 to 2019-07-20, and if I reach Canada by 2018-10-05 and assume my work permit validity is a year, will my work permit expiry date will be 2019-07-20 or 2019-10-05?

    Sorry for my boring question but it will really help me if I will know the answer.



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