Everyone has a different experience regarding the IEC working holiday visa, and as I am about to share my own experience I cannot speak for anyone else’s but perhaps it can provide a little guidance and consolidation even as I found it to be quite a worrisome and eye-twitching long moment in my case.
I started to think about the IEC visa October of 2011 but it wasn’t until July of 2014 that I decided to apply for the 2015 working holiday visa. I’d heard that it was tough and wanted to make sure I was committed to the hard work i’d need to put into it.
My case was already a little complicated as if approved, I’d need to get police checks from Spain and Taiwan as well as the UK. I was told to wait until November before keeping an eye on the IEC UK website for updates. I actually went through Bunac as I thought it would help my process but eventually found that I could receive all the information myself before Bunac sent out an email informing me of the updates.
Bunac and other companies are probably best if you take on their full-time programs where they get you interviews before you set out and group flights etc, but I personally think that if you have your own plans you don’t necessarily need them.
I found stepwest on twitter very useful as the time was coming closer to applying, I found them to be the fastest company for the updates and they update often.
I also looked at some Facebook groups for certain Q&A topics, etc.
I actually used offtracktravel.ca as my primary information gathering. This is a very interesting blog with lots of advice on the IEC working holiday visa (Including a step by step guide of the process!) which I look at religiously leading up to the visa handout dates. http://www.offtracktravel.ca
I have a feeling that the IEC process and stages have changed for 2016 so not sure how relevant my experience was but I’ll still talk about it incase (and to rant a little as it wasn’t easy yet some hiccups could have been avoided!)
So starting November 2015 I kept checking websites and info as in the previous years visas tended to be released around christmas time.
Christmas came and went.
Visas for France and Germany had been released and filled.
In February I received the news that visas for the UK would not be released until mid march or later.. By this point I had already sent out for my police checks internationally as I had been told it may all take a while with a deadline from the IEC people of two weeks (I was being extra careful and hopeful).
Mid march was the first round. I was there sweaty palms and heart beating really fast alongside thousands of other UK hopefuls ready for the visa-portal to open. And then it’s you against the clock. Within 8 minutes the first round was filled. I had not even completed the form to send off. But luckily, once you have started you can complete all the forms so that for the second round all you have to do is type in your password, agree to the information and click send.
Again, there is me and thousands of other people in the same predicament.
I think it was a week or two later that the second round opened.
Same story again, sweaty palms and heart beating, I felt that my computer was taking too long to log in. I had pressed enter into my account yet nothing was moving! One minute had gone by and nothing… I clicked enter again (although had been recommended not to incase it resent everything) and got into my account, pressed send and done.
Two minutes in and round two had been filled. I had a world tracking number! I was over the moon! I had got in! Then as I read the information from the Facebook bloggers, some people had different numbers to others. Basically, some were on a waiting list. As was I.
That is all you were told.
The only way I survived the waiting period was by randomly checking blogs and Facebook groups where some people were able to find how many people from the waiting list had gotten through. I think there was 5000 places admitted in round two and i was number 5700 (or something) so that meant there were 700 people before me in the queue.
I found a job in London for the summer and later a job in Spain until finally mid November I got a letter from the IEC people asking my to apply. I think the rule was that if you weren’t invited by Mid-october you wouldn’t be invited at all. I’m not sure on all of the details though.
My first hiccup was with my police checks as they had run out because they needed to be within 6 months of application. So I had to send off for three different ones all over again. That was my own fault since I had done it back in February.
However, I was only given two weeks to get the documents together I started panicking… I emailed the IEC people and asked for an extension which they immediately accepted (within the hour) and gave me 6 more weeks to apply with my police checks.
Once I had all the documents, I sent my application and waited.
Less than a week later I received my POE!!
The second hiccup (If you ignore all of the where do I go? and What do I do? Issues) was on arrival in Canada.
And this is what made me a little twitchy.
The flight was delayed by three hours and our teeny airplane arrived at 1:30 am at the airport. I’m sure everyone working there was tired, so were all the passengers. I was literally the last person to get through to security as I had been hauling my massive banjo case and heavy rucksack with most of my belongings all day.
I handed my documents to the guards all smiley and probably smelly from all the travelling. All was good, sent to the room, not too many questions, heard a stamp. Was given the work permit WOOOHOOO.
I checked the permit. Only valid for 6 months. What? I asked the officer (who was packing up to go home). It turned out that they had read my letter giving my deadline to come INTO Canada to START the work permit as my deadline to LEAVE. Hence the 6 months.
I tried to explain my case but there was no chance. I was told “well, we’ve never heard of it and the only date we can see it this one. Just call the number on the back”.
Dragged my stuff and got to my Airbnb.
After a very frustrating morning of trying to speak to people on “this number” when I should have been all excited and relieved to finally be here. Someone on “the number” seemed unsympathetic and unsure of what to do said to send some documents to an address applying for an extension and within three months I’d here back.
The mind went a little cloudy to be honest.
Thoughts of “after all this time, effort and money??!!” etc. (And worse).
Eventually a wise friend who hates telephones and wifi said why didn’t I just go back to the airport and speak to the officers explaining their mistake. After a day of thinking I agreed it was a longs shot but better than a three month wait.
I went back on Sunday (having arrived the Friday morning) to explain my case. No-one around for about an hour until a lovely lady who worked at the airport helped me out, waited with me outside the ‘Immigration doors’ and eventually a guard came outside on their lunch break. I was told to call the next morning to speak to the supervisor.
I called at 8am and was at the airport by 9am.
I had my official two-year work permit by 10am.
It was very scary and I couldn’t help thinking that they could be mad at me for bothering them and send me back home on the next flight!
But I remained calm and polite. Those guys are quite intimidating and they know they have all the power.
But I was lucky, they were nice, they listened to me and eventually sorted it all out. At the end they said “right, you’re happy and she’s happy, we’re all happy” everyone laughed and I said “I promise never to bother you again”.
Having said that, there’s obviously a glitch in the system is there not? And I’ve heard of other people having the same problem. To avoid all of this there should either A) be better more thorough training OR B) Have a more detailed POE to avoid any confusion.
A thing I have learned though is that if you know you are in the right and you have done your research. You should calmly state your claim.
You should fight for something and not let yourself be intimidated if you are in the right.
I am not a very confrontational person but I do believe in fairness.
And after all the work and money I’d put into this visa, I wasn’t going to let some tired officers create more obstacles for me.
I was lucky, and they were understanding. I just hope that in the future there is better organization and knowledge in the process.