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Moving to and Living in Canada – a Complete How-To Guide

Plan a fantastic new life in Canada with help from our latest guide

Canada is very often the first choice destinations for those professionals who consider working and living abroad, as they look at immigrating to Canada as the best way to improve their quality of life and career opportunities. What’s more, Canadian cities regularly grace the top 10 places in global ‘best places to live’ indices – so could moving to and living in Canada be the right choice for you too?

The Pros and Cons of Moving to and Living in Canada

Knowing the main pros and cons of moving to and living in Canada will help you decide whether the nation ticks all your relocation list boxes.

The Pros

For Britons, one of the biggest advantages of moving to and living in Canada is the lack of a language barrier across the vast majority of the nation – give or take the odd French-speaking province of course!  This means that integration can be much easier to achieve because there is a lack of a communication obstacle.  This advantage should not be underestimated – and certainly won’t be by anyone who has relocated abroad to a nation where they have struggled to learn the local language.

Canada is progressive in terms of its environmental policies, it is considered to be a peaceful, peace–keeping, relatively neutral nation too.  I.e., it doesn’t face the same level of external or even home-grown terrorist threat as nations such as the US and the UK which are seen as having aggressively entered other countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya for example.

Canadians are generally genuinely courteous, polite and accepting – which means that foreign residents are less likely to face immigrant related prejudice for example.  Politically Canada is relatively central – which adds to the sense of balance.

The healthcare and education systems in place nationally are generally of a very high standard, with many Britons commenting that the state of medical services and facilities is better than in the UK at the current time.  Another very strong pro when it comes to immigration is the fact that Canadian authorities promote the benefits of entire family relocation with their visa policies.  It’s a fact that the expats who integrate most successfully anywhere in the world are those who move abroad and settle with as much of their extended family within reach as possible.

The Canadian economy has not been as impacted by the global economic fallout as economies in Europe, the UK and America for example – what’s more, the Canadian dollar remains strong, the jobs market remains relatively buoyant and there is still a feeling of optimism in Canada.

Public facilities – from libraries to parks to recreational amenities – are in abundance, generally well-maintained and are very welcome resources for all citizens of Canada.  Britons may take some of the facilities for granted as they also enjoy them in the UK…but many other nations are not blessed with such an array of free or subsidised attractions and amenities.

There are four very distinct seasons in Canada, and there are outdoor activities and sporting events designed to make the most of each season.  This means that you can always enjoy life in Canada no matter what the weather – in theory anyway!  We would be lying if we said the winters were anything but long and harsh in some provinces though…which brings us neatly on to the cons and disadvantages of moving to and living in Canada.

The Cons

The weather has to be the number one downside of Canadian life – the long, exceptionally harsh winters endured across most Canadian provinces are something to be dreaded by many expats.  However, you can find a more temperate place to live if you head south and west – with Vancouver’s climate rated among the best in the nation for example.

A downside of a more temperate climate, however, are mosquitoes!  These are another aspect of Canadian life to be dreaded!

In terms of paperwork moving to and living in Canada involves a very weighty visa process, with all expats restricted by red tape from just moving to live, work or retire in Canada.  As anyone who has been through the process knows, it can be stressful, it is time consuming, it does require patience. Yet when it’s all done and dusted there is a real feeling of achievement, and most successful applicants do go on to emigrate to Canada – i.e., as long and as hard as it is, the visa process does not put off applicants from moving to and living in Canada.

Taxation in Canada can be high – however, there are many aspects of one’s working life that can be offset against income tax for example.  Expats who are new to understanding the Canadian tax system are highly recommended to employ an accountant, and to carefully research everything that can be offset against their tax bill.

Worry surrounds the nation’s dependence on its petroleum based economy and the long-term viability of this model.  Jobs, exports and overall tax revenues are all heavily reliant upon this single sector…

Canada is not cheap. It has a strong dollar, its real estate economy remains strong which equates to high housing costs in some of the most popular areas. Hence anyone moving to and living in Canada needs to be aware that they will face similar living costs to the UK.  A good, well-paying job is therefore important!

For Britons the physical geographical distance between Canada and the UK can mean that they find it harder to keep in touch with and regularly catch up with friends and family ‘back home’ too – and this is something that really needs to be considered carefully before deciding whether emigration to Canada is really right for you and your family.

Canadian Visa

There are five general visa types that you can apply for if you want to live permanently in Canada depending on your status.

The first one is the most popular and it’s the skilled worker and professionals class.  Under this visa class you can apply for a visa if you have a job offer already or if you want to move to work in Canada.

The other visa types are investors, entrepreneurs and self-employed persons – this category is for people who will start a business in Canada, employ people and generate revenue for the nation.

Family sponsor – this category is ideal for those who already have family in Canada, they can sponsor your relocation.

Provincial nominees – provinces’ own visas for skilled migrants needed in Canada regions.

The Quebec-selected skilled workers visa – visa specifically for Quebec where those with French language skills are highly in demand.

The key to a successful Canada visa application is deciding what kind of visa suits you best. It’s well worth examining all the Canada visa categories closely to see which one you will rank best under.  The better you rank and score, the higher your chance of acceptance and ultimately, the better your chance of moving to live in Canada!

When is the Best Time to Move to Canada?

Moving to Canada in the winter months can throw up a number of problems.  Canada is prone to spells of severe weather and during the winter it is normal for it to snow for months at a time, with temperatures falling and remaining well below zero.  Arriving at this time of year, unless absolutely necessary, is best avoided as it will just add further stress to an already stressful time.

Where to Live in Canada

Researching your possible destinations online and by visiting them is a key to your successful moving to Canada. Make a list of what is important for you in your future home location: infrastructure, employment opportunities, amenities, schools, healthcare, connection to nature, proximity to a big city, accessibility, community, etc. Go on forums and chat to other expats, find all the information possible and make your own list of the preferred locations. To start with use our 5 Best Places to Live in Canada Guide to help you.

Buying Property in Canada

Becoming a home owner in Canada is not more complicated than in the UK. However, the countries are different, and the process might differ. Add to this the fact that you are an expat, which might complicate the situation. If you need a mortgage what mortgage are you going to opt for: from local Canadian lender or from an international lender? How are you going to manage fund transfers and exchange rates? What are the additional costs? You need to think and plan in advance when buying a home in Canada.

Tax and Money Matters in Canada

Moving to a new country involves getting to know another taxation system and your tax liabilities. Canada taxes are complicated, so to make sure you comply but also do not overpay, you need to consult an accountant who understands cross-border taxation.

For the first few months it can make sense to leave all your existing UK bank accounts open and work through them when you need access to cash.  This will give you time to familiarise yourself with the Canadian banking system before switching over to it for the day-to-day management of your money.

When you are settled, visit your preferred local bank and introduce yourself to the manager, explain the situation that you’re a newly arrived expat and establish a banking relationship.  Opening a new account should be trouble-free; after you have opened a bank account you may want to apply for a credit card as well.

Adapting to Life in Canada

Canada will not be like England in many fundamental ways – and it is likely that you may feel a little homesick after a period of time when you begin to realise that you will have a lot of adjusting to do to settle in.  Don’t worry, these feelings are natural and normal.  To help yourself, make a conscious decision to talk to people, make conversation, and join groups you’re interested in, (in fact, join them even if you aren’t that interested), and start meeting new people and making new friends.

Making a new life in a new country won’t happen overnight, and it’s important that you make a conscious decision to try and make new friends on an ongoing basis.  Canadians are generally very friendly and your new neighbours and colleagues will probably be very happy to talk to you and help you settle in.  Whilst it is critical that you also maintain ties with your old friends and your family back home, it is as critical that you make a real effort to make new friends.

Staying Healthy With Medical Insurance in Canada

In order to get health care in Canada you must have a health insurance plan card, also known as a Health Card.  This is very important and should be arranged as soon as you arrive.  Each province in Canada administers its own health insurance plan so there are variations from province to province.  In most cases, you pay a monthly fee for the insurance.  It is worth noting that just like in the UK you will have to pay for dental care, prescription drugs and prescription glasses.

Surviving With No Credit History

When you arrive in Canada you may wish to purchase items such as a car or furniture on credit, and as a newcomer to the country you will find that you have no credit-score!  You can use your cards from the UK while you arrange for a new credit card in Canada – and whilst this is not ideal, you basically have to start from scratch and build up your credit history – i.e., your record of borrowing and repayment, in Canada

Life Satisfaction

Canada is rated very highly by those expatriates who already live there – and according to NatWest Bank International’s survey 92% of British expats praised their working environment as “very good” or “excellent” in Canada – and 90% rated their financial security as meeting the same criteria.  As stated, Canada always ranks highly as a desirable place to emigrate to with would-be expatriate Britons, and the likes of Mercer’s Quality of Living Index always has Canadian cities dominating its top 10 best places in the world to live.

All of these facts stack up very heavily in Canada’s favour as a great place to potentially call home – however, because there are downsides such as tax, cost of living, inflation and weather woes, anyone would be well advised to spend time getting to know the nation up close and personal, before applying for a visa to live permanently in Canada.

In Conclusion

Moving to a new country is not an easy decision to make and it is not an easy transition to adjust to either – but it can really and truly be more than worth the hassle.  While adjusting to any change is strange, hopefully this guide will help to make the transition for you faster and easier.  Canada is a friendly, hospitable country and your move is likely to offer you many new and exciting opportunities.

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