Working Holiday Comparison Guide:
North American Visa
Canada vs. The USA
Got the North American adventure bug? Join the club.
On a global scale, these two North American countries appear to be very similar. They're located right next to each other, and are separated by the longest international border between two countries in the world. For many years, Canada was seen as America's nicer, slightly less popular, younger sibling. Now, times have changed - and Canada is most definitely on the come up. Although it can be hard for outsiders to tell the difference between the two countries, both places have unique differences that make them popular destinations for travellers from around the world.
To help you make your decision on where to travel next, we’ve put together a comparative guide to walk you through what to expect from each visa. We'll break it all down and help give some clarity. Without further ado, let's get to it.
The Working Holiday Contenders
We're comparing the two most popular types of North American working holiday visas. There are many different types of visas, but they may be specific to an activity such as studying abroad. However, if you're looking to work abroad in Canada or the USA, these two visa types should work for you, and will likely be the easiest and cheapest to obtain.
Both visas are different types of North American working holiday visas, and each is intended for visitors looking to benefit from cultural exchange.
Most Popular Canadian Working Holiday Visa: The IEC Visa. 'IEC' stands for International Experience Canada visa.
The Case for Travelling on a Canadian Working Holiday Visa:
Canada might just be the world's best-kept secret for all kinds of travellers. It's recognized for being one of the most inclusive countries in the world, but is still a relative unknown on a global travel level. With a unique mix of culture, cuisine, and flat-out adventure, the world's second largest country provides an incredible rustic outdoor adventure for travellers. It's major cities are definitely worth a look, too.
Canada has an incredible range of temperatures, so while it can be cold in the winter, it can reach up to 40 degrees celsius in the summer months.
Most Popular American Working Holiday Visa: The J1 Visa. The J1 is a working holiday visa meant for cultural exchange experiences.
The Case for Travelling on an American Working Holiday Visa:
America is one of the world's most easily recognizable countries, which also makes it one of the world's most popular travel destinations. It's full of interesting people, from a wonderful mix of cultures. Iconic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge (among many others) make the ‘Land of the Free’ a must-see for travellers of all backgrounds.
America is a land of fierce independence and individualism, so travellers who find themselves in America have a good chance of finding themselves in America.
It really comes down to what you're hoping to get out of your travel experience - but we're pretty sure there's no wrong choice here.
Canadian Weather: the "Great White Lie"
Canada's icy reputation has thawed since the arrival of the internet, and travellers have begun to see what they're missing - as cold as Canadian winters can be, the summer months are downright tropical.
With up to 40 degree weather in the summer, you can forget the parka. But don't forget the sunscreen.
The Canadian IEC Visa
- Be 18-30 years old.
- Have a valid passport
- Be a passport-holding citizen of one of the 33 countries eligible for the IEC visa.
- Be able to provide proof of having the equivalent of CAD$2,500 upon landing
- Have full medical coverage during stay
- No dependants
These may change, depending on your country of citizenship. However, this is what you can expect for most countries.
The American J1 Visa
- J1 Summer Work Travel Visa Eligibility
- Enrolled in full-time, post-secondary education outside of the US
- Have proficient English language skills
- Must be sponsored by an approved organisation (and meet their requirements)
- Attend an orientation day relative to program
- Medical check
- Show sufficient funds to support yourself
This one will depend on your situation, as well as your country of citizenship, so we can't choose which one will be better for you.
Cost & Visa Length
Cost of Canadian IEC:
It costs $250 ($150 for the IEC participation fee, and $100 for your work permit). There may also be a cost of CAD$85 incurred for your biometric work permit, also dependent on your country of residence.
The IEC visa lasts for either 12 or 24 months, depending on your country of citizenship. In this time, you are allowed to leave and enter freely, and can work for most employers.
Cost of American J1:
The cost of the J1 visa currently comes in at $160. The $160 covers your appointment at the embassy, but not the accompanying paperwork.
Because the J1 requires you to have a job already lined up before you arrive, there is no specified length for each J1 visa. Instead, each visa is valid for the length of your work permit, plus an additional 30 days for travel.
You might feel differently, but the cost of America's J1 visa is easier to swallow than the Canadian IEC visa, with less pressure to find work for a 2-year stay.
Advantage: U.S.A. +1
Canadian IEC Visa Availability
While there are quite a few Canadian IEC visas available each year, a few factors can impact their availability. The total number of IEC visas available are spread unevenly through 33 eligible countries, and are typically allotted on a first-come first-serve basis.
Depending on your country of citizenship, and how early you apply, you may not be selected for an IEC visa. For example, in 2018, the quota set by the Canadian government for visitors from the UK was 5,000, despite there being twice as many applicants in the pool. However, there are other options for work in Canada.
American J1 Visa Availability
There are more J1 visas available than in Canada, but they're a little more complicated. There are many different work and travel programs under the J1 visa category, but in general, your best bet is to go for a Summer Work Travel visa, or find work at a summer camp or as an au pair.
Depending on what you want to do, a J1 visa should work out for you. It's most commonly used for summer work and travel, which makes it ideal for university students who are hoping to travel, but not take a full year off of school. However, unlike in Canada, there is no age limit - so the U.S. is a better option for some.
Each visa is competitive, but Canada gets the edge because of a little-known loophole.
Advantage: Canada +1
Work in Canada Without a Visa
The lack of IEC visas available may come as a disappointment, but many travellers are ultimately able to take advantage of a loophole in the Canadian visa system: you don't always need a visa to work in Canada.
This loophole allows you to spend a few months in Canada, instead of committing to a 2-year IEC visa, and get the most out of the warm Canadian summer.
North American Working Holiday Visas
Applying for an IEC Visa
If your eligibility checks out, you'll be entered into a pool with all the other applicants. From there, candidates are chosen at random, and sent an invitation to apply. Typically, you'll have 10 days to accept the invitation if your application is chosen.
For many applicants, it's simply a matter of waiting until their application may be eventually chosen. For this reason, many applicants tend to apply for summer work and travel programs, thereby guaranteeing they'll be able to travel in Canada and make the most of the summer heat, even if their IEC visa is not approved. Perhaps more important, they guarantee themselves an all-important job upon arrival.
Applying for a J1 Visa
The U.S. Department of State requires applicants to have a sponsor, and requires applicants to the J1 visa program to participate in an approved J1 visa work program. Sponsors will also help organise your paperwork and embassy interview, and fully support your application.
While there are different approved visa programs, the most popular and straightforward is the summer camp program, with a 2-4 month J1 visa. This option provides a short working period for around 2-3 months, as well as travel for a month afterward. Your eligibility for the J1 visa will depend on your home country, age, background and the outcome of your interview with your sponsor.
Overall, bureaucracy is no fun. It can put a damper on things, but if you've got travel dreams, all the bureaucracy in the world shouldn't stop you.
The Final Tally
Working Holiday Visa Canada: 1
Working Holiday Visa America: 1
After an incredibly even contest, that's one vote apiece for both countries. We were floored when we discovered that there's no inherent advantage between either country's most popular visa. It may not help you make your decision, but at least you know you've got options.