The Application Process
Applying for an International Experience Canada (or IEC) visa involves many steps. Every situation is different. I don’t intend for this to be a step-by-step guide as there are already many great resources out there. Rather, I want to talk about my personal experience.
Furthermore, I applied for the visa in the 2018-19 season. Not only do I not remember every small detail, I’m also not 100% sure how the process may have changed since then. Please take what I write with a pinch-of-salt and as always, do your research!
Thanks for understanding.
December 2018. I’m sitting in a bus, a cold chill in the air outside, on the way to Toronto; thinking about how life would be if I lived in Canada. I was on holiday; spending a happy Christmas with my girlfriend’s family. At the time, I had never heard of the IEC visa. I thought moving to Canada would be a case of registering a few details online, paying a fee and waiting for a response from the government, but it turns out there is a lot more to it than that! Whether dictated by fate or my own dumb luck, on that dreary bus ride, I decided to look up the process on my phone. That’s when I discovered the IEC Pools. My heart sank as it struck me an invitation from the Canadian government is required to apply for a visa. In mere moments, the dream of living in Canada fell a million miles away. There was a chance factor involved and I wasn’t that lucky.
A little bit of background is necessary here. My girlfriend is Canadian and she had moved to the United Kingdom (my home) in 2016 on a similar visa to the IEC. The UK government granted her visa on a first-come-first basis so I assumed Canada would be the same. Upon learning they used a random selection process instead, it put our entire future on the line. I raged and cussed, feeling deep down that it meant an end to our time together was nigh. Thanks to the Canadian government, we’d go back to being a long distance couple and after living together, I feared it would put too much of a strain on us. The thought was agonising. Before my partner moved to England, we only managed to see each other two or three times a year. Could you imagine having to go back to that after spending everyday sharing the same house? It wasn’t a happy thought at all. So that night, I scrambled for my passport. It was still nesting in my carry-on bag from my recent journey to Toronto Pearson. With it in hand, I clambered to enter my details on the CIC website (Canada’s immigration home), diving head first into their selection pool. I was furious about it but I’d done my part. Our future was in fates hands now.
That was the last I heard about the IEC for a while.
Christmas and New Year sped by and like all that is good in life, my holiday had ended. I was back in England; back to the gears of work, turning with nothing able to stop them. I had dismissed the IEC in my mind to but a dream never to happen. It didn’t help ease that relegation when disaster struck. I had jumped into the pool in such an over-eager manner, in doing so I didn’t quite realise what I was getting myself into. When I finally had the time to research, I realised if I was successful, my passport would expire before the visa would. I didn’t know what to do. How could Canada issue me a visa when my passport would expire before that visa did? It didn’t sound at all plausible. I immediately took to the internet, discovering quickly that it wouldn’t happen. I’d get permission to enter Canada but as soon as the border officer saw my passport, he’d give me a shorter visa. For me, that was a big no. A once in a lifetime opportunity! Why would I want it shortened? I immediately applied for a new passport via the British Government and waited the 3 or so weeks for it to come. In that time, I didn’t receive an invitation from Canada but I didn’t want to pull my old passport out of the pool either. I’m sure the CIC suggested to do so and re-enter with my new passport but I thought that would lessen my chances of selection for some reason. I know the process is random, I do. Though in the moment, when uncertainty prevails, the mind runs rampant. I’d figure out a plan of action with the new passport when and if an invitation for me arrived. Yet, I asked myself so many questions, I put myself into a panic. I had applied with one passport number, what if they tied that passport to my application? What if it was too late to accept my new passport? What if it invalidated the whole process?
I was over-thinking.
It was while this panic was on-going that my invitation from the CIC arrived. It was a plain grey English morning, the middle of January. I’d not been awake for very long. My girlfriend was still in bed and I was getting ready for work; the IEC the last thing on my mind. In fact, if I remember correctly, I was eating a bowl of cereal when the email notification on my computer crept up. It wasn’t quite the celebratory, “Congrats, you’re invited!” I’d expected but rather, an email stating a new message was available in my CIC account.
I’d. Been. Picked.
I couldn’t believe it. I must have read that email a hundred times again and again even though this was still the beginning.
I’d. Been. Picked.
Little did I know, there was still a whole minefield to cross.
One bright side, however, is that after receiving my invite, the passport issue resolved itself. It turned out, all I had to do was update my passport on the application form. Job done. Easy. Leaving it at that would have probably been fine but I remained paranoid. What if the person reviewing my application saw I’d changed my passport? What if this affected my credibility as an applicant? I wasn’t taking any chances. Digging deeper, I discovered a section on the CIC website that allowed the upload of additional, non-requested, documents. I typed an explanation letter, my fingers flying across the keyboard like thunder; “I messed up!” I included scans of my original passport, I included the number of my new passport and I hit send. That was the last I ever heard of the issue. Much later, when I got my visa, it was tied to my new passport. All the panic, all the over-thinking fell into memory. If I could go back in time and talk to myself from a year ago, I would tell him not to panic, not to stress out. It all worked out, after all. The issue with my passport proved that the key to the application is honesty and confidence. The agents reviewing the application are human, so explain to them everything. There’s no limit to the amount of information the CIC accept. Okay, I admit, the extra document section allows only one extra document to be uploaded but how long can you make it, eh? There’s some food for thought.
Anyway, one problem settled so next, I filled in the application. I’ll level with you here. It’s been a year since I did this and I can’t remember the intricate details (hence my disclaimer). To hedge around my memory a bit and reiterate the last paragraph the key is honesty. Organisation helps too. Stay on top of all the paper-work, all the documents and if you need help; use the Facebook groups. Failing that, check the Moving2Canada website and even the official IEC website! All the information is there, I promise.
Next was the Police Check. I’ve only ever lived in England so mine was quite easy; I had to go onto the Acro UK website and apply. Simple. It cost £45. The hardest part, in fact, was finding a reference. It had to be someone I’d known for two years, that wasn’t family and worked in a particular industry. All roads pointed me in the direction of asking a colleague but in doing that, I’d be telling work, “Hey, I’m leaving!” Something I wasn’t yet prepared to do. In the end, on Facebook, I got in touch with an ex-colleague of sorts who’d moved away. He was all too happy to help but as it turned out, Acro never even contacted him. I didn’t bother with the quicker, premium service and in less than ten days, the police check had arrived. About 24 or so hours later after I submitted it, I received a request from the CIC to complete my biometrics.
For me, completing my biometrics meant going to London and in this regard, I was quite lucky as my home was only a two-hour train ride from the city. I understand a lot of people have to travel further, some even having to take flights! If you’re reading this and you’re one of those people; it’s worth it. Once you’ve been living in Canada for a month or two, you won’t be thinking about the hardship you endured in getting here. Trust me. In any case, at the time the Visa Application Center accepted walk-in appointments. Yet, with my paranoid mind, I still booked an appointment for a week or so later. That’s right, another waiting game. Though when the time did come, my girlfriend and I decided to make a day of it. My appointment was first thing in the morning, so we booked a hotel in London for the night before. My partner stayed indoors watching TV as I made my way to the Application Centre. As I recall, I bought with me a print-out of everything I’d received from the CIC website so far. Though the most important documents you need are your passport and biometrics request letter. The appointment was a quick process. When I walked in, a receptionist greeted me. I handed him my passport and my biometrics letter and I was soon shepherded to a waiting room. Within, everyone was assigned a number. They prioritised appointments over walk-ins, so I was through to a small office in no time. A lady sat behind the desk and took my finger-prints and some photos of me. She printed out a receipt and five minutes later, I was taking my leave. The application centre informed the CIC I’d completed my biometrics and that was that.
Once again, I had to wait and that was the hardest part of the entire process.
Up until this point, the application process had been pretty quick. Sure, there was waiting but each stage played right into the next. There was always something happening but not any longer. Worst of all, the CIC website itself sent me no notification to say they’d received my biometrics. I had to log-on and on my dashboard, observe there was a date listed next to the biometrics listing on the front page. It didn’t help much with my paranoid mind! There was no, “Cheers for providing that pal, we’ll let you know the results soon!”
Had I made a mistake? The doubt was one of the hardest parts of the application. Especially as more time went on. I knew the CIC website listed an eight-week processing time but I found myself stalking websites like Twitter; reading comments from people who’d received their Port of Entry within mere days. It drove me crazy! I even took to the Facebook groups, scrolling down the comments section, scaring myself more and more. The hardest part to accept about the waiting though is that there is nothing that can be done about it. As the saying goes, the ball is completely within the CIC’s court and as agonising as it is, one must endure.
It was about five weeks for me. Not quite the full eight but it felt like years. I was in work. Nothing at all to state that the day had at last arrived. Like my initial invitation, an email appeared in my inbox:
“Your account has been updated“
“A new message has been received in your account.”
My wording might not be exact, I’m going off memory here but you get the gist! I walked into the hallway at work, looking around to make sure no managers were watching. On my phone, I logged in to my CIC account. I was shaking. What if they denied me? Could you imagine? In the middle of work! Having to finish the day as if no bad news had been given. Having to go home and explain to my partner I wasn’t going to Canada with her. In retrospect, I should have waited until I got home before even checking. We could have opened the email together but I was oh so eager. Like waiting for a response from the CIC about my invitation, the email took a lifetime to open. When it did it was to say my Port of Entry had arrived. Funnily enough, accompanied with it was a letter saying they’d received my biometrics. Why that took so long to come through, I don’t know! …But I did it! I was moving to Canada!
Join me in my next article of this series as I discuss the next steps! Telling my family, preparing for the big day and making the leap across the border!