This guide will help you go through all the steps to immigrate to Canada. From the visa process to your finance management, it will explain all you need to know. Without forgetting the Canadian lifestyle you’re about to get in!
- Choose where your new life begins – Find a location
- Get your entry ticket to Canada – All about the visa
- Put a roof over your head – About the housing
- Move yourself in Canada – Transportation
- Know what to bring in your luggage – The weather
- Learn to like ketchup chips – The food
- Find new friends
- Discover the cost of living
- Manage your finance
- Be healthy – Sport
- Get healthcare insurance
- Pay your taxes
Choose where your new life begins – Find a location
A few weeks ago you took a decision. You move to Canada. Might be for several reasons; a great job opportunity, a better quality of life, a strong desire to go there. You may have already thought of your destination city. Join a relative there, grab a job offer, sent in the Canadian branch of your company are all reasons. Or you visited the country during your last vacation and you liked it so much! But you don’t know yet where to go. In that case, you have to know where to settle before preparing for the big move.
A little help won’t be too much. Above all, what makes a good city to live in? Most people look for a dynamic city, in expansion but still affordable. Work opportunities, nice weather, and friendly people are the key points. Did you know that the three largest immigrants destinations are Montréal, Toronto, and Vancouver? Here are some pros and cons of living in these three cities.
Montreal: big city but still affordable, not too expensive for its size. Low cost of living which is good to start a business. Cheaper rents than all other major cities. Diverse community. A cultural scene with young artists. Always seen as the funniest city in Canada. Restaurants and cafés are endless. People are great. ‘Joie de vivre’ is the watchword. But, the winter is long, cold and snowy. The city is kind of dead during this period; that is why people have adapted their activities. Also, you have to speak both english and french if you come for a job. Traffic congestion is another con of the city (if you own a car).
Toronto: great economic opportunities focused on tech. Multicultural community. Good for entrepreneurs with many startups and coworking spaces. Many restaurants with food of all kinds. Dynamic city. Many festivals during summer. Easy winter compared to most Canadian cities. Easy public transportation. By contrast, the city is expensive, especially housing. Summers are hot. It’s hard to socialize with people. Torontonians may look unfriendly and distant. Traffic congestion is also a wound.
Vancouver: different from Montreal and Toronto. Astounding landscape views with its majestic mountains, forests, and beaches. Vancouver is all about living healthy. Perfect if you like outdoors activities such as hiking, biking, climbing, sailing or skiing. Not so good if you’re not an ‘outdoor’ person. In this case, you’ll find the city boring, not fun, with a limited nightlife. An expensive city as well.
Get your entry ticket to Canada – All about the visa
Before moving,you have to go through all the boring stuff such as get a work permit or a visa. Here is what you need to know.
First, check your eligibility. You cannot go to Canada without one of the following reasons. Relatives waiting for you, a job offer, work skills usable by a Canadian company, or a business to start. See if you’re eligible here. It’s a government questionnaire about your age, nationality, language ability, education, work experience.
Once your eligibility checked, know which permit to apply for. There are numerous and depend on the job activity. And specific programs exist. Just be aware of the following:
Express entry: made for skilled workers in need to immigrate quickly. Convenient for Canadian employers to hire new talents and the process is online. To see if eligible for this program, apply to the Federal Skilled Worker. Or to the Quebec Skilled Worker (if you want to live in Quebec).
Canadian Experience Class (CEC): for people already in Canada who want to stay more (at least a year). The same exists for Quebec.
Family Class Sponsorship program: made for people who join family or relatives in Canada. You don’t need a job offer in that case. It is usually restricted to grandparents, parents, children and spouses.
Start-Up Visa program: made for entrepreneurs with a promise to create jobs in Canada. Not mandatory to have already started the business.
For permanent residency, read the immigration rules of your province. Each province has its own rules.
For citizenship you can apply after 4 to 6 years as a permanent resident there.
For both permanent residency and citizenship, a Canadian language test is mandatory. Either for english or french. Two english tests possible: the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), or the CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program). One french test available: the TEF (Test d’évaluation français).
Put a roof over your head – About the housing
Now you know where you go and you get your entry ticket. The first thing you need when arriving is a roof to put over your head, especially with the weather there!
First, you’ll need quickly a temporary place to stay when landing to Canada. You can book a hotel or hostel online it will be cheaper this way.
Then you’ll look for your own place. Canadians live in four different types of dwellings. Rent an apartment is the most common housing. A ‘Bachelor’ unit is a single room apartment that serves as a living room and a bedroom. You can rent a private room in a house. Many large houses in Canada so you should find one. If you plan to stay for a long time in Canada you can either buy a house or buy an apartment in a condominium. A condominium is a building containing several owned apartments. Famous housing option in Canada as you don’t care about the maintenance and repairs. High security and a large panel of entertainment and recreational activities.
Get more information on how to buy a house in Canada
Move yourself in Canada – Transportation
For moving from a city to another city you’ll take a plane. Due to long distances, it is a common thing to travel by air through the country. Every large city has an airport and regular connecting flights between them.
A large rail network runs across the country, safe and comfortable.
Bus are the cheapest way to move between cities. Long because of the distances. The only way to go to smaller towns if you don’t have a car. The most-used form of urban transportation.
Finally like in the United States most Canadians have a car. Not needed if you move in a big city thanks to the public transportation. Otherwise get an International Driving License (IDL) in your home country before moving.
Know what to bring in your luggage – The weather
Prepare to take your coat, scarves, gloves and boots, Canada is not the warmest country. The weather can be extreme in some areas. This is so cold there that an Igloofest is organized in Montreal each year.
“Canada’s lowest recorded temperature was -81.4 degrees Fahrenheit (-63 C) in 1947.”
Learn to like ketchup chips – The food
Every time we travel to a country we wonder: what will we eat there? Will we find our favorite products there? Food takes a large place in our life. We can be home-sick just because of the food of the destination country. More than that this is often the first thing that makes us miss our home country while arriving in a new country. How is food in Canada? What do they eat? What do they drink? And moreover what is Canadian lifestyle?
Canadians love to eat and drink. They eat beef and chicken, fruits, vegetables and cereals. A European would tell that fruits and vegetables are not so fresh there. A funny fact is that they prefer a good looking product than a good flavored one. A European would also tell that there is too much salt, fat, and sugar. An American won’t feel bad as it is similar in some ways. There’s good chance not to like the bread, especially for a French.
Each area has its own unique dishes. Their favorites ones are: smoked meat, bagels, ketchup chips, tourtière (meat pie), butter tart. And the famous poutine (who doesn’t like meat, cheese and fries in the same plate?).
About diet habits, they love to barbecue their meat during the whole year, even when it’s snowy and cold. A Canadian breakfast is a big affair. it’s about eggs, sausages, bacon, fries, toast, pancakes and the popular maple syrup. Then the lunch is quick and light as they eat at work. It’s about sandwiches, soups or noodles. Finally, the main meal of the day is the dinner. The latter is meat-focused with a side (potatoes, pasta, or vegetables).
Like their American neighbors, Canadians drink a lot of soft sodas.
“Canada consumes the most doughnuts and has the most doughnut shops per capita of any country in the world.”
Find new friends
On Facebook, you’ll find plenty of expats and students groups. You also have the indispensable applications which are Tinder, Happn and Once. It is actually a great way to meet people like you abroad.
Discover the cost of living
How fast you’ll spend your savings there? You’ll find everything you need to know on numbeo.com. Costs of housing, food, restaurants, transportation, utilities, sports, leisures, clothing, shoes and average salaries.
Manage your finance
Get a bank account: as soon as you arrive you’ll need Canadian dollars and a bank account. To get settled in Canada and to ease the transactions between your home country and Canada. To open a bank account the SIN (Insurance Social Number) is required. Yet, if you’re an expat you might don’t have a SIN yet. In that case, documents asked by the bank are a passport, a work permit and an employment contract. The famous banks in Canada are Scotiabank, BMO (Bank of Montreal) and CIBC (Banque canadienne impériale de commerce).
Manage your money transfers: as a foreigner living in Canada, you’ll need to transfer money across countries. It might be for several reasons. As an expat, send money back home, repatriate savings into Canada, pay bills abroad.
As a student, receive cash from your parents. The list is endless. Have you already thought about how to handle that to avoid being screwed up by ridiculous fees?
As you may know, transferring with banks make you lose a lot of money. Banks offer a poor exchange rate and charge huge fees. Withdrawing money at an ATM in Canada with your international card costs a lot. Finally paying in shops and restaurants with your credit card costs even more. The best solution is to use an operator specialized in sending money abroad. A wide range of these operators with each their own prices. You can compare them and find THE one on a comparison platform.
Get more information on how to send money to Canada.
Consider the Canadian dollar exchange rate: as you’ll probably transfer on a regular basis, watch the exchange rate. A favorable Canadian dollar exchange rate can help you save a lot of money.
Track the Canadian dollar exchange rate with Neomy.
Be healthy – Sport
A variety of sports are practiced in Canada. The most popular are ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, Canadian football, basketball, baseball. Ice hockey is the official winter sport while lacrosse is the official summer one.
Get healthcare insurance
All Canadian citizens and permanent residents get the public health insurance. This government health care covers basic medical services. Recommended to get an extra health plan for dental care, physiotherapy, and ophthalmology.
If you’re a non-resident expatriate your company should have a health care plan. Otherwise, get an international insurance. It is easy and the contract is online.
If you plan to work in Canada, get an Insurance Social Number (SIN) as soon as possible. An employer cannot pay you without a SIN. More information about the SIN here.
Pay your taxes
Two options: as an expat resident in Canada, you pay taxes in Canada on money earned anywhere in the world. By resident, it means living in Canada for more than 183 days. As an expat non-resident in Canada, you pay taxes on money earned only in the country.
Get more information on pay your taxes in Canada.
Now you’re all set to immigrate to Canada. I hope it was helpful, feel free to let your comments below. And enjoy! Or if you’re already there, let us know what surprised you most when arrived in the country.