By Michaela Deane
When I decided to move to Vancouver, I didn’t know anyone else who’d done it before. We were having pre-drinks in our house in college when I overheard a friend from work talking about moving to Toronto next year. I’d had my fair share of wine at this point, and I’d been going through one of those “What am I going to do with my life after I graduate?” stages. I didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do my masters in, or if I even wanted to do one. I didn’t know what area of Journalism I wanted to go into, or if I even wanted to be a Journalist at all.
All I knew was that I was bored of Limerick and bored of waitress-ing. My housemate Cora was in a similar position, so I turned to her and drunkenly said;
“Will we just move to Canada?”
“Ah yeah!” she replied.
The next morning I asked her the same question, and just like that we decided we were moving to Canada. Next thing you know we’d plunged straight into applying for our visas without doing a smidge of research, which made the process a lot more stressful than it needed to be. So please, do your research beforehand (or at least read this post) and don’t end up bawling crying over your visa on more than one occasion like me and Cora.
The first thing you should do when you decide to move to Canada is join the Facebook group Irish and New in Vancouver (there’s also a page for Toronto). It’s a group with 23,000 members, most of which have made the move to Canada before. If you have any questions, just post on the page and someone will get back to you super quickly. I can assure you that someone before you has had the exact same problem you’re experiencing now, and they’ll be more than happy to give you some advice.
Make sure your passport is in date for at least three years when you’re applying. Once your application is accepted, you have a year to get into the country. The IEC working holiday visa which is what you’ll be applying for, is valid for two years once you enter the country but only if your passport is also valid for two years. If not, the immigration officer will only issue you a visa and work permit for the same amount of time as the expiry date on your passport.
Because applying for my Canadian visa was a spur of the moment thing, I didn’t stop and think about the expiry date on my passport. My application was accepted in February 2018, I planned on moving over in January 2019 and my passport was only in date until July 2019.
My ETA (electronic travel authorisation) that came with my acceptance letter said it was only
valid until July 2019, and because I hadn’t researched this I thought I was stuck with a six month visa. Naturally, I panicked, but if you’re in the same situation you don’t need to. All you have to do is apply for a new passport before you travel and once you have a passport, register for a new ETA on the same website you used to apply for your visa. A new ETA only costs about €5, and after that all you have to do is bring both passports to the airport with you (or a copy of your old one) when travelling. Make sure you let the immigration officer know that you applied with a different passport and you won’t have any problems.
You’ll need a police certificate to apply for the IEC visa. You can get this at the Garda Station but it can take two weeks to come back once you’ve sent it off, so send your police certificate off the day you start your application. Once you’ve started your visa application you have 20 days to have all your forms submitted. Be polite to the Garda you’re dealing with, let them know the date you need to submit your forms by and ask if this will be possible. It’s nice to be nice and they’ll get the forms back to you as soon as they can. Sometimes they’ll ask for proof that you applied for the visa, so have an email confirmation
Be smart when booking flights. If possible avoid coming over at the start of summer, we were told that the high influx of J1 students can make it more difficult to find accommodation at this time. Rentals start on the 1st and 15th of every month, so it’s a good idea to book a flight around the 15th and give yourself two weeks to find a place.
Start looking for accommodation before you leave. This will help you get an idea of what your budget is, the type of house/apartment you want and how far out from Downtown you’re willing to live. Padmapper, Kijiji and Craigslist are all good for finding accommodation but be careful of scams. Don’t ever transfer money before you’ve physically stepped foot in the house, and if it sounds dodgy it probably is. We stayed on an old friend from school’s couch for the first week; we found our house within three days but needed to wait until the 1st to move in. I don’t have any advice about hostels or Air B&B since we didn’t stay in one, so Irish and New in Vancouver is probably your best bet for that.
Bring more money than the required. $2500. $2500/€1656 won’t get you very far here, you need to factor in the cost of temporary accommodation, phone bills, first months rent, deposit, and you want to be able to live comfortably for at least a month before you find a job. It can be stressful enough without having to worry about running out of money. Oh, and most houses and apartments come unfurnished so you’ll need to factor that in too. I’d recommend bringing about €4000 if possible, especially if you’re not moving into a room/house that’s already furnished by the current tenants. You might not get a job straight away and it could take anywhere from 2-4 weeks to get your first pay cheque.
Sign up for a Revolut card. There’s been a bit of controversy with Revolut lately, so do your research and see what you think, but I still think they’re great. You link your account up to your bank card and top it up as you need to, and you don’t get any foreign bank charges when you use the Revolut card abroad. It doubles as a credit card (some places won’t accept debit) and you can transfer money to and from other friends with Revolut cards super easily. You just need their phone number and they receive the money in about 30 seconds, whatever country they’re in. This was especially handy for us because two of our friends are coming over in a week and it made transferring money for deposits and rent really easy. I set one up for my Mum before I left too, so that we can transfer money quickly in case of any emergencies. For transferring money from your Irish bank account, you can use an app called Transferwise.
You need two years of travel insurance to get your two year visa. Like the passport issue, if you only buy one year of travel insurance you’ll only get a one year visa so make sure you get two because you can’t extend it. We went for go4less.ie as it’s the one most people recommended, the two years insurance was €299 and winter sports cover was an extra €45. If you have any medical conditions, make sure you let them know. Some are included in the fee and for some you need to pay a little extra, it cost me around €16 to cover my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome for the two years.
Keep a folder with all your documents in your carry on luggage. Immigration can ask you
for different documents so it’s a good idea to keep them in your hand luggage in case your
checked bags get lost. You’ll need to have your passport, Port of Entry (POE) letter, a bank
statement from the last week, proof of insurance, police certificate and the address you’ll be staying at. Make sure you bring previous work and landlord references to make life easier when you get there and start job/house hunting.
If you’re carrying a lot of medication, bring a letter from your doctor. Bring six months
worth of it with you so you don’t have to deal with medical bills for a while. Photocopy your passport, you’d be surprised at how many people lose theirs on nights out and it’s good to have a copy in case of this.
And some extra tips: stock up on bedsheets, underwear and socks before you get here. Canada doesn’t have the equivalent of a Penneys and this stuff can be expensive. Bring an extension lead from home for your room, and don’t bother bringing your hairdryer; it more than likely won’t work for very long.