Moving to Canada

It’s easy to see why the country has such a pull to those who want to move to Canada. Its vastness is home to a huge diversity of landscapes and climates: from the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, forests, rolling tundra, glacial fields, fertile prairies, and the Great Lakes. Aside from its natural beauty, those moving to Canada will find that the cities offer a high standard of living, excellent healthcare, and high standards of education from Montreal to Vancouver.

Living in Canada

The Canadian people are religiously diverse and very tolerant. The Canadian economy is strong, riding high on an energy boom which creates employment opportunities for increasing numbers of foreign workers.

Despite being sparsely populated - it is larger than the United States by area but has a population of about 35 million, barely more than a tenth of the US population - Canada is an incredibly attractive proposition for global movers. The highest per capita immigration rate in the world is testament to that, as is the fact that only 32% of the population refer to themselves as of Canadian ethnic origin.

Not to forget culture and cuisine, which is as diverse as the population itself, and a relish for sport and the great outdoors, which can be indulged almost anywhere between the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

Visas and becoming a citizen

Before boarding a plane to Canada, you’ll have to do a little homework. There are a few important steps to take in order to get the right visas and permits.

First, you need to determine if you need a visa to enter Canada, and if you will likely need a work permit. If you’re looking to move to Canada for a longer period of time, you’ll need to apply to immigrate. For international students, there are also study visas, valid for the duration of their program.

Finally, if you have successfully immigrated to Canada, you might be considering becoming a Canadian citizen. Those successfully obtaining a permanent residency status will be able to apply for citizenship after just three years. They will enjoy universal publicly funded health care, a Canadian pension plan, access to student loans and civil liberties which are rated as among the best in the world.

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The Canadian health care system was ranked 30th in the world by the World Health Organization (WHO). Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals are well educated. Although it offers quality care, the system is sometimes criticized for its wait times for non-emergency services.

In Canada, health care is publicly funded. Every permanent resident and citizen has access to care. It is necessary to apply for a health card, which is done with the provincial or territorial government. With this card, residents receive insurance so they don’t need to spend out-of-pocket to visit a doctor, go to the hospital or undergo an operation.

Before your big move to Canada, it's wise to think about medical cover for when you're out there.

That's why we've partnered with Cigna for private medical insurance in Canada. With four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for more flexibility, Cigna will sort you out with a plan that suits your needs.

Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.

Job market

Job hunting in Canada is tough. Good English skills (or French if moving to Quebec or parts of Ontario) will help you get a great job in Canada. Canadian employers also expect workers to have a good education. The strongest industries in the country include financials, energy, science and technology, health and natural resources. International trades are a major part of the Canadian economy, as resources are exported around the world.

But not all high paying jobs require a degree. Oil Sands workers, for example, are high earners. These jobs may require certain technical courses, but since the work is so specialised, many employers also offer on the job training.

Currently, Canada’s unemployment rate is at 6.8 percent. For immigrants, it’s easier to find good jobs in Canada’s larger, more multicultural metropolises. Toronto is well known as a financial and economic hub. High tech jobs are numerous in Vancouver and Victoria on the West coast, and in Ottawa, the country’s capital.

Essential info for Canada:

Official languages:English and French
Capital city:Ottawa
Currency:Canadian dollar $ (CAD)
Timezone:UTC-3.5 to -8
International dialling code:+1
Emergency numbers:911
Electricity:110-120 volts
Drives on the:right
Unusual fact:Yonge Street in Canada is the longest street in the world at 1,896 km (1,178 mi).

Property information

Like in most countries around the world, property prices in Canada are very location dependent. One million dollars can get you anything from a waterfront mansion to a shack: it all depends where it is.

Generally speaking, the larger metropolises are the most expensive spots in the country. In city centres like Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria, it’s nearly impossible to enter the housing market; fixer-uppers and townhouses there can easily cost one million dollars or more.

Where to rent in Canada

In these expensive areas, renting is a much more affordable option. A two-bedroom condo can be rented for about $2,000 per month in Toronto or Vancouver. Apartments are usually a little less. The experience isn’t the same as living in a townhouse or detached home, but it’s much more economical. It also gives you easy access to the cities’ downtown cores and the lifestyle that comes with it.

Calgary is another expensive housing market. However, with the recent dive in oil prices, the local real estate market is in a state of unease. Rent and house prices haven’t changed much, yet, but everyone seems to be holding their breath, waiting to see what happens next. For those looking to move to Calgary for the first time, renting might be a wise idea.

Where to buy a house in Canada

Ottawa and Montreal are the exception to larger cities in Canada being unaffordable. In both cities, it’s possible to find affordable real estate, when comparing to family income. Rentals and duplexes are popular in Montreal, while outside of the core in Ottawa, many townhomes, semi-detached, and single family homes are reasonably priced.

Cost of moving to Canada

As the second largest country in the world, moving your belongings can be quite the adventure. Moving across the country can cost as much as moving from overseas, sometimes more! Here are a few estimates to give you an idea how much your move to Canada might cost. Estimates are based on a 20 foot container, enough for an average family move.

Sydney to Vancouver

1,776 ()

London to Vancouver

2,600 ()

Paris to Vancouver

3,052 ()

Beijing to Toronto

3,457 ()

Dubai to Toronto

5,787 ()

Obviously there might be things you want to bring with you that won't go in your new home straight away. Check out Canada-based services such as for easy storage options.

Living costs

Living in Canada’s largest cities is relatively expensive compared to its smaller cities and towns. However, it’s still not as costly as living in Europe or the United States’ big cities.

Toronto and Vancouver have the highest costs of living. It takes the same amount of money in these cities to have a similar standard of life. The biggest difference is rent is a little higher in Vancouver (by about 6 percent), but consumer prices are a bit higher in Toronto, which makes it a draw. The city of Victoria is the third most expensive city to live in Canada.

Using Vancouver as our example, a meal costs about $13.25 per person at an inexpensive restaurant, $30 for a three-course meal at a mid-range spot. A domestic beer is about $5.50. As for groceries, food costs are pretty high in Canada. Bread costs approximately $3.11 in Vancouver, one litre of milk is $1.91. One kilo of oranges costs $3.04, one kilo of chicken breasts about $13.15. These food costs are fairly typical throughout the country.

When it comes to rent, prices vary wildly throughout the country. Here are a few numbers to get an idea of the average cost of renting a three bedroom apartment in different downtown cores:

CityAverage rent

School and education

In Canada, each province is in charge of setting its curriculum and educational system. Although similar in nature, each has its slight differences. There are a number of private schools throughout the country, but since the Canadian education system is so highly regarded, few parents choose that option.

There are English and French language schools in Canada, so parents can send their children to study in their mother tongue. Students earn their high school diploma at the end of grade 12 if they have accumulated enough credits and met provincial requirements.

The province of Quebec divides its schools in a different manner than the rest. Students there graduate from high school around 16 years of age (after secondary V) then move onto two or three years of CEGEP.

After high school, students can choose to attend college or university. In Canada, college programs tend to be shorter, and are often more technical or hands-on.

Universities in Canada

Good news is that if you're planning on studying at a university in Canada, you'll have plenty of choice. There are almost 100 universities in Canada. Amongst the most well-known is the University of Toronto. It ranked 20thin the world and is recognised for its Faculty of Arts and Science as well as its Medical School.

Driving in Canada

In Canada, each province and territory issues its own driver’s licences. If you don’t yet have a licence, you’ll generally need to pass a written test, then a road test. The process takes up to a year in some provinces. For those moving to Canada, your current driver’s licence is likely valid.

It’s important to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) from your country before arriving. You should also verify with your provincial or territorial government to verify if you need to apply for a local licence.

Car insurance for Canada

Car insurance is mandatory in Canada. It’s important to note that drivers are responsible for knowing the rules of the road – ignorance of the law is no defence. The consequences of breaking driving laws can be steep.

Ranking against the world

Canada is ranked amongst the best countries in the world to live. It had less pollution and more green space that most industrialised nations. It’s known as a very tolerant country, and one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Multiculturalism is an official federal policy in Canada, and was the first in the world to adopt such a law!

When compared to countries around the world, Canada holds its own. It took 5th place in an international prosperity index, carried out by the Legatum Institute of London. This index took into account factors such as opportunity, economic progress, health and personal freedom. As for cost of living, it comes in 20th place, making it more affordable than many European countries.

Some Canadian cities regularly show up in the rankings of “Most Liveable City” in the world. In The Economist's latest study, Vancouver took 3rdplace, Toronto 4th and Calgary tied for 5th. Although it slipped a bit this year, Vancouver has taken the top spot eight times in the past 13 years. The study evaluates the living conditions of cities based on five factors: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.