Get a Japanese Working Holiday Visa as a Canadian

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In this post, we will share with you how we got our Japanese working holiday visas for FREE on our own, rather than going through a company like SWAP, which charges you $450 CAD.  

What is a Working Holiday Visa?

Canada has a program called the “International Experience Canada” or IEC. If you’re a Canadian citizen aged 18 to 35, International Experience Canada (IEC) offers you the opportunity to work and travel abroad in another country for up to one year.  

In our particular case, we decided that we wanted to go to Japan. As such, we were able to obtain a one-time, free, single entry visa for Canadians age 18-30 to travel in Japan for a period of one year. During which, the visa holder is able to work temporary jobs to support his/her travel.  

All of the information required is available online through the Consulate-General of Japan in Vancouver, or other major cities in Canada. However, we will run through our experience, as we were not required to submit everything listed on their website. 

The eligibility is pretty straight forward. No surprises here. 


  • Be a Canadian citizen residing in Canada, have valid Canadian Passport
  • Be between 18-30 years of age at the time of application
  • Possess reasonable funds to support travel and medical expenses
  • Be in good health
  • Not have a criminal record
  • Have never previously obtained a Japanese working holiday visa

How to Apply

The visas are to be applied in person at the Consulate office. There are 5 offices across Canada each with its own provincial jurisdiction:

We applied for our visas in person at the Vancouver Consulate General of Japan (1177 W Hastings St #900, Vancouver, BC V6E 2K9).  We prepared all the required documents (see below for info) and was able to successfully get our visas 7 days after submission!

What we needed

- Passport Photo

45mm x 45mm is not your regular passport photo size. When Chris went to get his taken, the photographer was confused about the size. That said, the photo was just trimmed to the right size. We also don’t think the consulate is too picky about the photo size, as mine was taken at a different shop, and they cut it to a slightly different size. Both were accepted by the consulate. 

- Doctor’s Note

The application calls for a doctor’s note stating that you are in “good health”. This may seem rather straightforward but the statement is quite vague. After calling the embassy and speaking with clinics, we clarified that a simple note is sufficient.

Chris was able to get his family doctor to provide a “sick note” stating that he was in good health for $20 CAD. Where as I don’t have a regular family doctor had to visit a walk-in clinic for the note.

The doctor was able to provide the note upon examining my physical conditions and asking about my health history. I was able to retain a doctor’s note with physical examination for $40 CAD. Both notes were accepted.

- Application Form (pdf)

The application form is fairly straightforward. The only tricky section would be the section where it asks for a reference in Japan. Thankfully for us, we knew a few people in Japan and was able to put them down for reference. If you are planning on working in Japan, and have some form of employment lined up, you would likely be able to use your employer as a reference. 

- Travel Itinerary (pdf)

Even when you are visiting Japan for a short vacation, they make you fill out paperwork stating where you are staying. This formality is no different with the working holiday visa. We wrote which cities we planned to be staying in at different times of the year. When we were submitting the application, the consulate worker just skimmed the itinerary and put a check mark on it. 

- Resume

You gotta have a resume when you apply for jobs, right? But seriously, we aren’t really sure why you need to submit a resume to the Consulate-General as part of the application. Maybe they use it as a character reference to see if you can hold down a job, or screen out applicants they don’t want for some reason. 

- Letter of Intent 

We were required to write a letter stating why we wanted to go to Japan for a working holiday. We kept this to a short one page letter, very much like a cover letter for a job application. 

- Bank Statement

Money money money. The website says that you need to have $2,500USD equivalent (gosh, we are Canadian and use Canadian dollars. Why couldn’t they just specify a Canadian dollar value?). If you are a married couple, you are required to have $3,500USD. You can apparently submit a bank statement or travellers cheques. We did bank statements. Can you even get travellers cheques anymore? I remember my family using them 20 years ago, when I was a kid. 

- Return Airline Ticket

This probably worried us the most. Our adventure started with buying a one way ticket to Thailand, and was followed up by purchasing a one way ticket to Japan. We really aren’t sure what we are going to do after being in Japan for a year. As such, we didn’t really want to purchase a ticket back to Canada, if we didn’t have any intention of returning to Canada (we are thinking that New Zealand might be our next stop).

We called the Consulate-General in Vancouver asking if it was actually required to have a return ticket, and they said “no”. While this was not required for a submission at the Vancouver Consulate-General, we can’t say what would be required at other locations. It is probably best to call ahead and find out.

I hope the above information is helpful. Comment below if you've had different experiences getting your Japanese working holiday visa or if you have any questions!

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