We are Cam and Kristina, a couple in our twenties who decided to go against the grain and change up our life a wee bit, we left our beloved country of New Zealand for Canada in 2018 and so far we have loved almost every minute of it! We wanted something that wasn’t the usual forty hour week 52 times a year so we applied for a working/HOLIDAY visa to Canada, sold our sh*t, left our friends and families, and embarked on an adventurous and unexpected move half way around the world!
So far we have been living and working in Canada for just over 5 months. We moved here with absolutely no plan or idea of what we were going to do, just that we wanted to do something different with our lives.
Before moving here we searched for blogs from people in similar positions to help us with our planning. What we were seeking from these blogs was how to move across the world the easiest way while keeping as much money saved for travel as possible. One of the most important things for us was finding stories and people from our edge of the world who have experienced a similar move… but we found none.
Here’s our story of how we moved from New Zealand to Canada. We hope this helps others that are planning on leaving NZ for a working holiday visa in the land of Tim Hortons, maple syrup, and ice hockey!
Step 1: Realisation.
It’s easy to grow up in your hometown, go to school there, go to Uni, get a 9-5 job, and live out the rest of your life in the same place. For some this is what gets them up in the morning and that is amazing, full credit to these people. For us, we were looking for something different so we said no and flipped our lives upside down. If you are living that life and think ‘why’ then change. Thats what we did and it was the best relisation we could’ve made. There is so much out there for us, so many cultures, so many countries, and endless working holiday visas for people in their twenties and early thirties. You can basically go on a 2 year holiday and earn money while doing it. If the opportunities there then why don’t you take it?
Step 2: Commitment to doing this.
To cut the to the chase – its not easy. We didn’t just decide one day that we wanted to move to Canada and the next day rock up here. To work here you need a visa and a visa means a lot of paperwork. You need to be committed to doing what it takes and getting the work done.
Step 3: Getting the ball rolling – you need a visa.
Getting a visa can be done two ways. The first way is you can do it all yourself online (what we did) or the second is you can pay a company to do it for you. There are companies out there that will do all the paperwork for you, but they charge upwards of $500 for this. Honestly with some patience and commitment you can do it all yourself and use the $500 for a plane ticket.
Here’s how we did it online:
- The visa you want to get is the IEC visa. This is the visa that gives you 23 months to work and live in Canada. You can read up and begin your application here https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/work-canada/iec.html
- The first thing to do is complete the ten minute online questionnaire which is used to determine if you are eligible to apply. If the answer comes back as yes, this does not mean you have a visa! What this means is that you are eligible to be considered for an invitation to apply for the visa. You will then need to create your online profile.
- Once you have submitted your profile, you will be placed into a ‘waiting pool.’ The pools consists of other applicants that are also interested in getting the same visa.
All of the steps are easy to understand on the website. It’s a pretty simple visa to apply for yourself and the website is awesome. However if there are parts that you don’t understand, there’s an amazing facebook group that we would highly recommend: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ocanada.iec.discussion.support/
This group is full of people applying for the same visa, everyone is super helpful and are happy to help with any questions that you have. We used this page more times than we can count. Otherwise feel free to email us, we are happy to help out.
This is a handy timeline which explains the visa process (ignore 6&7, this is for a different visa category)
Step 4: Waiting game.
‘Waiting in the pool’ can take anywhere from a day to 6+ months. The Canadian government will issue you an invitation to apply, and once they give you an invitation you only have 10 days to accept it, so make sure to log into your account regularly during this time to see if your application has progressed to this stage. We were lucky and got invited pretty fast but we have heard from others that they have had to wait months and months.
During this time just chill and try not to worry too much, if they need anything from you then they will ask. We both applied at the same time, however Kristina’s application was accepted first and Cam’s came a few days later.
Step 5: Invitation for the visa.
When you are invited to apply for the IEC visa, you only have 10 days to accept the invitation. Once you accept the invitation, you then have 20 days to submit all the paperwork. A list of this paperwork can be found on the website we linked earlier, it will also be clearly listed after you receive an invitation. Make sure you meet these deadlines!
Make sure you fill out all of the paperwork carefully and double check everything before you submit it. If there are errors in your paperwork it will just delay your application.
Step 6: You’ve been approved! Have a beer.. and get some insurance 😦
Seriously have one, two or a 12 pack of Speights gold medal ale (Cam could really go for one of those right now). It’s a lot of work but you got there in the end!
The approval is called a POE (point of entry) letter. This is the document you will need to show the visa officer when you arrive at immigration in Canada to receive your work permit. Now the not so fun part..
You need insurance. As a requirement of the working holiday visa you need to have full health/travel insurance for the duration of your time here. The price for two years of worldwide coverage was $2300NZD per person. The company we went through was Downunder Insurance, here is the link: https://www.duinsure.co.nz/policies/international-experience-canada/
There are cheaper companies, but do your research. The reason these companies are cheap is because the cover that they give you will barely pay for a nights stay in a hospital – let alone if you get mauled by a bear. There are a lot of helpful threads in the facebook group we mentioned earlier regarding insurance options.
Step 7: Where in Canada do you want to move to?
Location is a big step. What motivates you? Do you enjoy sun, rain, snow, blue lakes or all of that! Canada is huge.. we had no idea and there are so many places to move to. Do your research about locations!
We came to Vancouver. We had no idea what we were coming to and what the next couple of years entailed. Vancouver is like Wellington – you can’t beat it on a good summers day! You are surrounded by mountains, beaches, hikes, it’s a lot like New Zealand. Between April-September they honestly call it Beautiful British Columbia for a reason. But as soon as the grey clouds roll in they don’t leave for months… seriously it rains here so much in the winter that some people have vitamin D lamps because they haven’t seen the sun in months. In saying that, it is also very cheap to get to other places from Vancouver. We can take a train to Seattle and back for under $100 and flights to LA are around $200 return so it’s a great city to base yourself.
An hour outside of Vancouver is Whistler. If you can ski or snowboard, this is your place! There are endless seasonal jobs working on the mountain and in the village. With that comes a lot of other seasonal workers. Whistler is basically a party town of Kiwis, Aussies and Irish. Personally we weren’t looking to move to the other side of the world just to hang out with more of our kind (lol) so we decided against moving there but if you are coming by yourself it’s a very popular spot.
Calgary and Banff are other places to look into. Banff is the most beautiful place we’ve ever been. We loved it so much we have decided to move there for summer 2019! We will for sure put up a blog for Banff when we get there. For now, all you need to do is google Banff and you will see what we mean.
Definitely spend some time looking into the different parts of Canada and figuring out where to start your journey. Remember the visa is for 23 months, you don’t need to stay in the first city you pick the whole time. There is a whole east side of Canada (Toronto, Montreal etc) that we are yet to explore!
Once you have figured out where to go – book a flight. We booked our flight to Vancouver with the STA $99 deposit laybuy and paid the flight off slowly. This is a really cool feature they have that means when North America flights are on sale you can go into STA and essentially price lock a flight for $99. We got our flight here for around $750 each on sale and just paid it off in portions. Keep an eye out for sales! The laybuy made paying for the flight really easy and no stress.
Step 8: Tell your friends and family if you haven’t already.
Not everyone is going to understand why you want to move to the other side of the world. Some of our family and friends weren’t fond of the idea at first. We can’t tell you how many times we heard “But what if it doesn’t work.” Our response: “What if it does?”
The people closest to you only want the best for you, it took a while for some of them but eventually everyone was really supportive and excited for us.
One of our favourite quotes is:
“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life”
You can keep living the same year in New Zealand because it’s comfortable, or you can chuck it all in and try something different. If for some reason it doesn’t work out, at least you tried and that’s more than a lot of people can say.
Step 9: Fit your life into a suitcase.
Sell anything you will not need when you return home (if you do).
If it’s between your Kathmandu jacket and your collection of Bintang tank tops you got on your boys trip to Bali then for sure go for the tank tops, they’re legendary and iconic and the only people wearing Kathmandu here are middle aged families on holiday.
Bring photos – don’t kid yourself you’ll get homesick.
Pack some kiwi essentials. Onion dip and reduced cream YEAH, marmite YEAH, pineapple lumps YEAH, Bunnings Snag YEAH NAH.
Step 10 – Book at least your first week accommodation!
Renting a room/house will start on the 1st of the month so rent is paid monthly not weekly, for example if you are moving on the 14th – you won’t be able to sign a lease until the 1st of the next month.
We stayed in an air bnb for the first two weeks while we scouted out the city and figured out where we wanted to live. If you are solo travelling a hostel would be a great option as it’s an awesome way to meet people who are doing the same thing as you. Samesun Hostel is on the main street of downtown Vancouver so if you’re looking for something super central and easy walking distance to shops/pubs etc this is a great spot.
Having accommodation pre-booked took so much stress away for us. Being able to get off a 13 hour flight, grab a cab and go straight to an air bnb to chill out was amazing. We remember getting to our air bnb and being exhausted. There’s so much build up to moving overseas, planning everything, saying goodbye to people. We can’t imagine having to then find a place to sleep the night while running on no sleep and a couple of red bulls. Sort something before you come, you will thank us!
Step 11: Make the most of your friends, family and RTD’s!!
If it goes well, its going to be a long time before you see your mates again. Everyone says they will come and see you but lets be real here everyone is either broke or can’t get time off work so spend time with them while you can.
Savour the last of being able to drink RTD’s. RTD’s aren’t a thing in Canada. Honestly, the only way you’re going to have a CC & dry is if you buy a bottle of Canadian Club and some ginger ale. No cans of diesel, park lane gins, nothing. We are still yet to figure out how Canadians pre game before town..
And thats it! Hopefully we were a little help to anyone needing it. We have loved living in Canada and it’s one of the best decisions we have ever made. Feel free to follow us on instagram for some subpar photography and daily adventures 🙂
-Cam and Kristina