A Trip Around the Flagpole: Activating my second year visa

This post is now featured as a guest post with Moving2Canada:Β http://www.moving2canada.com/planning/activate-your-canadian-work-permit/

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About MarmitetoMaple

I'm originally from the UK and have been working and living the dream in Vancouver, BC, since January 2011. I am a firm believer in travel, good cheese, volunteering and community engagement.

47 responses to “A Trip Around the Flagpole: Activating my second year visa”

  1. Adrian says :

    Many, many years ago, I flew to Canada having been told by the embassy that I could get a work permit in Canada. Turns out I couldn’t, and neither could I flagpole, I had to apply from country of origin. A very expensive mistake.

  2. floridasunset says :

    Hi, I will be taking part in the Working Holiday Canada programme later this year. Just wondered how you can apply for permanent residency? Is it quite easy, or does it depend on what job you have and if they sponsor you? Thank you! πŸ™‚

    • marmitetomaple says :

      Hi there, congratulations on joining the Working Holiday Canada program…you won’t regret it! There are many ways to apply for Permanent Residency and sometimes it depends what job you have. I’ll be applying through the Provincial Nominee Program which requires you to have a skilled job and an employer who will put in an application for you, and another population is the Canadian Experience Class, which just requires you to have two full years skilled work experience (no employer support necessary). Have a look at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/index.asp.

  3. Angie says :

    Hi! Great story! I am thinking doing the same thing to get my work permit this weekend. Would you suggest we tell the US border agents that we are flag polling? Or do you think I could just say I am going across for the day (shopping) and then once I come back I can just tell the Canada border agents that I want to renew my work permit? Thanks!

    • marmitetomaple says :

      Hi Angie, I know people who just said they’re going into the States for the day and that was absolutely fine, but I also heard stories of US immigration checking your documents, seeing that your visa is expiring and then not letting you in. We didn’t want to go into Seattle so were very open about flagpoling. If you want to go shopping for the day just tell them that, but don’t mention activating a new visa on the way back or they won’t let you pass! It’s a complicated system so ignorance is bliss…if in doubt play dumb πŸ™‚

  4. Vinnie says :

    Hi, When i got my first year working holiday visa i did not need proof of return flight only that i had proof of funds to purchase a return flight. Will proof of funds be enough for my second year visa?

    • marmitetomaple says :

      Hi Vinnie, thanks for the comment! As far as I know from others’ experiences, proof of funds to pay for your flight home is still enough – you don’t need the actual return flight. I interpret the rules as having the funds for a return flight in addition to the minimum of $2,500 which is required separately to support yourself. So the total you’d need to prove you have in your bank account would be more than $2500. Hope you’re enjoying your first year!

  5. snaves says :

    Ok so the refusal of entry to the US …on each ESTA application you make to enter the USA you have to note down if you’ve ever been refused entry to the USA…so this would constitute that…which causes all sorts of hassle and potential refusal. Or does this not constitute an official refusal and so you wouldn’t declare that you have been refused entry to the US before ?
    ….. see what happened in this case…http://britishexpats.com/forum/showthread.php?t=755372

    • marmitetomaple says :

      Hi, thanks for the comment!

      This is a great question and I don’t know the ‘official’ answer. When I was handed my administrative refusal, I didn’t really look at the document and the border officer did not explain what it was or tell me that I was being refused entry to the US. The only reason I knew that this was happening as a friend who did the same thing a week earlier had the procedure explained to her by another officer. This officer told her to declare this refusal when applying for either an ESTA or a land visa, HOWEVER as my officer did not tell me that (or even use the word ‘refusal’) I decided I would play dumb. I actually crossed the border by land last week and marked NO when asked if I’d ever been refused entry to the States. I wasn’t questioned, and in fact went through border control much quicker than usual. This is NOT advice and it is up to you what you do if you’re in the same situation. I might have just been lucky and could have ended up in extra trouble by not declaring it, but as I was never officially told I was being refused entry to the US I made the decision not to declare it and it worked well for me.

  6. ces fernandez says :

    hi. your blog is so informative πŸ™‚ do you think we can also do flagpoling in case we just want to extend our stay on tourist/temporary residence visa (only that and without applying for a work permit)? my hubby’s work permit and our temporary residence visa as a family will expire by end of september and we are not sure if his work permit will be renewed (or can be renewed in a short time) by the company (is currently in business trouble and cannot decide yet on the work permit). we just want to buy more time staying here even on tourist visa before we finally decide where to head to. also do you know how long the immigration usually gives for tourist visa? thanks.

    • marmitetomaple says :

      Hi there, thank you for the comment πŸ™‚

      Unfortunately I don’t know about flagpoling for tourist/temporary residence visas. You do have to leave Canada when your visas expire, and it’s up to the Canadian Border Authorities whether they decide to let you in or not. Tourist visas are only for tourist purposes, so if they are suspicious that you’re entering Canada for any other reason you are unlikely to be allowed re-entry. Typically you have to apply 30 days before your visa expires if you want to extend/change it, so for more information definitely have a look here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/extend-stay.asp

      Best of luck with your situation!

    • Chris says :

      Hi, I’m planning on doing something similar to renew my visitors visa, just wondering how long you stayed in the states for and are you actually a US citizen? I am scottish so I’m not sure whether I have to touch base back home or if I’m okay just crossing into the states. Hope you can help, thanks!

      • marmitetomaple says :

        Hi Chris, thanks for the comment! I’m British so same position as you! Going into the States is fine to activate a new visa, you just have to re-enter Canada at any border. One option is to go into the States for the day or for a weekend, and another option is to flagpole. Flagpoling means that you literally dive/walk around the flagpole and is considered an administrative refusal to the States…so technically you’re not even entering the US as you’re led straight round to the Canadian border. If you decide to go down this route, which I did, you just let the Officers at the border know that you’re there to flagpole and they will show you where to go. It’s very common and they are used to it. If you choose to go into the States for a day or a weekend, just let the Officer at the Canadian border know when you come back in that you have a Letter of Introduction. And don’t forget all your documents! πŸ™‚

  7. Beth says :

    Hi There,
    I was just wondering if you could tell me if you apply for a Canadian working/holiday visa how long can you hold onto it for before you have to activate it by entering the country? I hear its a lot easier to get the visa in your own country but I want to travel elsewhere for around 6 months before entering Canada. Will a visa expire in that time?

    • marmitetomaple says :

      Hi Beth, thanks for the comment! For the last two years your Letter of Introduction has been valid for a year form the date you receive it, which means you have a year to enter Canada and activate it. The rules could technically change this year but it’s very unlikely, so you should be absolutely fine to do all the paperwork etc. from home (I’ve done it from Canada twice and it’s OK, but easier from home!) and then travel for at least six months. Where abouts in Canada are you hoping to move to?

      • Beth says :

        Ah that is good to hear. A travel agent tried to tell me I only had a month to enter but I have also had a girlfirend just recently complete one and she told me exactly what you just said; a year. I just wanted to seek a second opinion as I can’t find that particular piece of information anywhere!!
        I have no idea yet where I want to move to as of yet. Its more getting it organised so I have the option. My friend went to Banff so maybe there….

  8. marmitetomaple says :

    That’s strange, don’t listen to the travel agent! I haven’t made it out to Banff yet but it’s on my list of places to go next year (it was actually on my list of places to go this year but didn’t quite get there!). Canada is such an amazing country I’m pretty sure anywhere you pick you can’t go wrong! πŸ™‚

  9. Arun says :

    Hmm…any idea if a TRV can be obtained by flag poling? I have a WP but my TRV has expired. Cant apply here in Canada because I need to fly back home on christmas day…

  10. Layman says :

    Thank-you marmitetomaple. You probably helped out more than people than you can imagine by recounting your “intimidating” experience at the US-Canada border crossing. No matter how much you read about it, itΒ΄s always good to know what the actual real world experience of “flagpoling” is all about. Your blog is very informative. Fortunately, IΒ΄m from a visa-exempt country – Portugal. IΒ΄m considering the possibility of moving to Edmonton. Alberta to work as a systems engineer. A Canadian company is awaiting LMO approval and will provide me with a work contract. I will look to obtain the 1 year work permit at the port of entry. IΒ΄ve been told that to extend or renew the WP all I have to do is send my application to the case processing center in Vegreville Alberta some time beforehand. I hope this information is correct. Thanx for your wonderful blog and for sharing your experiences. Wish you the best of luck. Keep on psoting πŸ™‚

    • marmitetomaple says :

      Thank you so much for your kind words, I’m glad you found the post useful. Best of luck to you with your proposed move to Edmonton, and congratulations on the LMO in process! I’m sure the entry into the country for you will be very smooth!

  11. svetla says :

    HI , i have entered Canada at the end of December 2012 as a torist. i also have working holiday visa. I have not activated it yet. Now 5 month later i want to extend my tourist visa. I applied for the extention online . need to wait for the result 51 day. My question is if my application to extend tourist visa will be denied, will I be able to flagpoll and just activate my working holiday. The problem is that it takes too long for them to extend tourist visa , my current tourist visa will be expired by the time i will get the result

    Thank you for you help.

    • marmitetomaple says :

      Hi Svetla, thanks for the comment! If your current tourist visa is still valid, you will have absolutely no problem flagpoling at the border to activate your working holiday visa. Just make sure you have all of your paperwork with you. Good luck with the visa extension!

      • svetla says :

        Thank you. I am trying to extend my tourist visa already applied for the extension. It takes 51 day to extend. So by the time decision will be maid i will be in implied status for probably 20-30 days. Would i have problems to activate visa with implied status?

      • marmitetomaple says :

        No, you should be fine still if you’re on implied status!

  12. Laura says :

    Hi Marmitetomaple,

    Im in a bit of a muddle at the moment and wondering if you can help!
    Heres the situation, on a open work permit from March 13 2011-March 12 2013 from Australia. Applied from an extension on work permit in Feb 2013 got denied without my knowledge in April 4 2013 ( via email/ mail) in which I did not receive. Found out about the work permit denial through Ohip when I applied to renew my healthcard on June 4th. I was under the impression that I was under implied status until a week ago.
    I understand that I am now without status. I was told my option was to apply for a restoration status to change conditions as a visitor, however I am approaching the 90 day grace period for this if the clock starts ticking from the expiry date of my work visa.
    My question to you is, would flagpoling be an option to gain entry as a visitor back into Canada? To top this all off I am also 6 months pregnant to my Canadian Fiance of 1.5 years and partner of 5 years.
    We do plan to get married and submit a spousal sponsorship.
    In the meantime, what is the best option to gain status back in Canada?
    Worried and Frustrated

    • marmitetomaple says :

      Hi Laura,

      So sorry to hear about your visa issues, it does sound like a bit of a muddle! As it’s such a sensitive situation I’m afraid I don’t know the best thing for you to do, but I would definitely recommend contacting CIC, Monday to Friday from 8am – 4pm local time at 1-888-242‑2100. I have some friends who have been through some difficult situations and found talking to CIC about their options really helped. Best of luck!


      • Laura says :

        Hi Lizzie,

        Thanks for your reply. I have spoken to CIC. I think I have things sorted. I just scraped through the 90 day grace period when I applied for restoration status. Hopefully it gets approved!

        Thanks again for being an outlet.


      • marmitetomaple says :

        Phewww that’s great news, I’m so glad to hear it!! πŸ™‚

  13. Wojciech says :


    I’ve found your post very helpful! Though, I’m thinking about rather unusual activation of WP. At the moment, I’m on TRV, I’ve obtained WP by IEC program.

    My prospective employer told me that he can hire me as soon as I will have my WP activated and I will provide him with a SIN. He told me to bring my activated SIN tommorow, so he will do the paperwork and I will start my job on Tuesday.

    The problem is, is it possible to go to the border, do the flagpolling (or maybe is it better to go to the U.S. and go back? – I have U.S. VISA) and at the canadian border tell officer that I would like to have my work permit activated on Tuesday?
    Or is a situation possible that the officer would give me TRV with an expiry date after 4 days and next to this stamp there would be a WP stamp with activation date on Tuesday?
    I wonder if Service Canada would give me a SIN with future date…

    The reason for this is that I would like to maximize the working period, because several “obtain PR status”-programs are based on how long a person have been working, and achieving full one year isn’t possible when activating WP a few days before actually working at a job.
    Obtaining WP isn’t easy job and I would like to become a PR as soon as possible – Canada is such a great country πŸ™‚

    • marmitetomaple says :

      Hi there, thanks for the comment!

      My understanding is that it is not possible to ‘post-date’ a work permit, and that to do that you’d have to flagpole to enter as a TRV, and then flagpole again to activate your IEC. I could be wrong, and it’s definitely worth contacting CIC, but I’ve been in a similar situation myself (wanting to get a few extra days in!) and have always had to flagpole. Once, I flew into Canada as a tourist and then flagpoled less than a week later so I could save the extra days on the new WP!

      Good luck with your flagpoling, either way!

  14. Ana says :

    Hopefully you’ll have an answer for me. My sister has been in Canada on a tourist visa for the past 1.5 years (it was extended). She’s applied for the Working Holiday visa in January. She and her husband have been accepted this month however she is now 8 months pregnant. They want to cross the border at the USA/Canada border to activate the visa. Will she have a problem or should she wait until the baby is born and then cross? At the time of the application she was not pregnant. What should she do?

    • marmitetomaple says :

      Hi Ana, congratulations to your sister and her husband! Unfortunately I don’t have an answer for you, I’m not an immigration expert at all and don’t have any experience with this question myself. I would recommend contacting the CIC to ask them what is best. Best of luck to them both!

  15. Nicola says :

    Hello, this may sound like a stupid question but you know when you over think things you get confused. My first visa expires on 24th October. I have a letter of acceptance for my second visa. Do I flagpole on the 24th or the 25th? Hope you can help. Thanks.Nicola

    • MarmitetoMaple says :

      Hey Nicola, not a stupid question at all! So sorry for my delay in replying, I’ve just gotten back from 10 days vacation and now it’s past both the 24th and 25th! I hope that the flagpoling went well whichever day you went with!

  16. Gary says :


    I was wondering if you applied for an ESTA before flagpoling? Or did you just drive down to the border, declare that you were flagpoling, and that was all that was needed? As in the USA customs and immigration officer didn’t ask for anything else? I am planning on driving from Canada to the US border and want to make sure am not missing anything. Thanks for the info!


    • MarmitetoMaple says :

      Hi Gary, thanks for the comment. I didn’t apply for an ESTA, I just drove to the border and told the officer that I was flagpoling. They didn’t ask for anything else, and once you’ve been administratively ‘refused’ you are back in the line to get into Canada. Then once you get to the line, you let the Canadian officer know that you are activating a new visa/Permanent Residence/whatever the change in status is and go through the process there. Good luck!

  17. GR says :

    I had recieved an LMO letter for 2 years (till May 2015). I landed in canada last May 2013. Since my passport is getting expired my work Permit was only stamped till my passport expiry date ( aug 2014). Now I have renewed my passport. Can i do a flagpole with my old letter and get WP extended to orginal date which in mentioned in the initial letter

    • MarmitetoMaple says :

      Hi GR, thanks for the comment! I believe you should be able to apply to renew your work permit, though I’m unsure if you can do this at a port of entry or whether you need to apply in advance. I’d call CIC to check. Good luck!

  18. Tyska says :

    Hey!! I am aware this subject has been closed for you for years, but I so hope that your memory still keeps the picture of the whole “flag pole” process πŸ™‚ My husband (Polish) needs to “activate” his IEC Working Holiday from Tourist Visa, and since his tourist visa to USA was rejected, and we can’t really afford travel, I was wondering if you have any recent info (from friends maybe) who did it?

    He is not very “smooth and charming” guy, I am worry if they start asking questions he may panic and say sth silly. But, if I know that it’s a thing, it’s a procedure, it’s a form, I will drive him to the border myself and wait. We are also in Vancouver, I got my IEC in 2014, we couldn’t wait any longer for his, other way mine would expire. And so we are, looking for ways to activate his.. please, help!

    I would appreciate any help, tip, advice! I get back to reading everything from the beginning on your blog, hoping you’ll see that post πŸ™‚ Thanks!!!

    • MarmitetoMaple says :

      Hi there, thank you so much for your comment! I can reassure you that flagpoling is very common. I did it in 2012 and 2013 to activate two IEC visas, and again in 2013 for my Permanent Residency, and none of the border officials batted an eyelid. The IEC is also so common, I’ve never even been asked for proof of funds or insurance. Typically you just hand over your POE and then sit and wait for 15 minutes or so, then they call you back up and you’re good to go. You can also go into the building with him, which I recommend. They may ask you to sit down and wait while they ask him questions, but if you’re there he may be less nervous and less likely to panic! As long as your husband has his POE and other requirements needed to activate the visa (insurance, proof of funds, anything else Polish citizens are required to present) then you have nothing to worry about. Good luck!

  19. JC says :

    Hi, hope you or anybody reading this can help me figure out what to do. I applied for my PR already and submitted all the documents. My post-graduate work permit expires on October 10, 2015 (a month from today). I never got a LMIA as my work didn’t require one. Now, to renew online my WP, I have to give the LMIA number, which is impossible to get. I’ve been working with the same company since I finished my master. My question is, what are the chances I can get to renew my WP at the port of entry (flagpoling) if I don’t have the LMIA but everything else?

    Thanks πŸ™‚

    • MarmitetoMaple says :

      Hi JC, thanks for the comment! I don’t have any direct experience with the post-graduate work permit unfortunately, so I think your best bet is to call CIC and ask them. Best of luck with your application!

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