Canada is world-renowned as one of the bastions of international immigration. The country's immigration services, administered through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), have over 80 programs and streams designed to attract the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who flock to Canada’s shores annually.
Each member of Canada’s large prospective immigrant population has their expectations of what they should know before moving to Canada, the bulk of which run contrary to what Canada is like. To settle prospective immigrants’ expectations of life in Canada, we compiled a list of the top 11 things they should know before moving to Canada.
Making preparations to immigrate to Canada? If you are, join us in discovering the 11 things to know before moving to Canada!
Top 11 Things to Know Before Moving to Canada
Below is a detailed description of the top 11 things to know before moving to Canada.
Canadian Education and Healthcare Are not Universally Free
One of the common misconceptions about Canada is that education and healthcare are completely free for all permanent residents and citizens.
In most provinces, primary and secondary education is publicly funded, meaning that Canadian citizens and permanent residents do not have to pay tuition fees. However, international students and temporary residents must pay tuition fees, which can vary depending on the institution and program.
Furthermore, Canadian tertiary/post-secondary institutions charge tuition fees for their programs regardless of your official status in Canada as a citizen, permanent or temporary resident. For example, tuition fees for Canadian temporary residents or citizens are estimated between 3 373,30 CAD and 15 384,13 CAD, according to the Canadian government website.
Learn more about Canada’s Education system.
Similarly, while Canada's healthcare system, known as Medicare, provides essential medical services to all Canadian citizens and permanent residents, it does not cover all medical expenses.
Medical expenses not covered under the Medicare system include:
- Prescription drugs
- Dental care
- Vision care
- Ambulance services
- Independent living (home care)
You should obtain health insurance to cover this additional cost. Out-of-pocket payments and private health insurance plans are common methods Canadians use to access the supplementary benefits Canada’s Medicare system doesn’t cover.
Find out more about healthcare in Canada.
Credit Scores Are Highly Valued in Canada
In Canada, credit scores play a crucial role in:
- Obtaining loans
- Renting an apartment
- Applying for a job
- Debt collection, and
- Insurance applications.
Your credit score in Canada is a three-digit numerical representation of your creditworthiness reflected in your credit report. Building and maintaining a good credit score is essential in Canada, as it demonstrates your financial responsibility.
To establish a credit history in Canada, you must open a bank account and apply for a credit card. The organizations in Canada responsible for creating your credit report and issuing your credit score are TransUnion and Equifax. These organizations are private companies whose duties include collecting, storing, and sharing information about how you use credit.
Canada Permits Foreign Driving License Exchanges
If you have a valid driving license from another country, you may be able to exchange it for a Canadian driving license in the transportation department of the province or territory you chose to settle in. Each province and territory has rules and requirements for exchanging foreign driving licenses.
Some provinces or territories may require you to take a written exam on the rules of the road or one or two driving tests before enabling you to exchange your driver's license. Contact the licensing authority in your destination province or territory to understand the steps needed to exchange your driving license. Once you’ve received your Canadian driving license, you can drive anywhere in Canada.
If you’re unable to exchange your foreign driver’s license or plan to use it to drive in Canada, you must get an International Driving Permit (IDP) from your home country.
Learn more about Driver’s licenses in Canada.
Canada Has A Tiered Tax Collection System
Canada operates on a tiered tax collection system in line with its decentralized federal system of government. This means that Canadian businesses, permanent residents, and citizens are taxed at the federal/national level and the provincial or territorial level. The most common types of taxes in Canada include:
- Income taxes
- Sales taxes
- Property taxes
- Health services taxes
The amount of tax you owe will depend on your income level and the province or territory you choose to reside in. As a resident of Canada, you will be required to file an income tax return with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) each year.
Seek the assistance of an Association of Tax and Accounting Professionals Canada (ATAP Canada) tax professional or use tax software to ensure accurate and timely filing of your tax returns.
Learn more about Canada’s Taxation system.
Canada is Officially Bilingual, With English Being the Predominant Language
Canada is officially a bilingual country, with both English and French recognized as official languages at the federal level. However, English is the predominant language spoken and understood by most Canadians. Quebec is the only majority French-speaking population. This is crucial because of the persistent foreign misconception that French-Canadian culture pervades all of Canada.
Being bilingual in English and French can be valuable, especially if you plan to work in certain industries or regions where French is more prevalent. To improve your language skills, take courses or immerse yourself in your local Canadian language community.
You need to pass language tests to fulfill the eligibility requirements for most PR immigration programs, e.g. Federal Skilled Worker Program, Atlantic High Skilled Program and Start-Up Visa Program. Canada takes their languages seriously and you will need to be fluent in at least one of it’s two official languages to be eligible to move to Canada.
Learn more about how to test your language skills in Canada using the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB).
Immigrants need a Social Insurance Number (SIN) for Canada’s PR Benefits
If you plan to immigrate to Canada, obtaining a Social Insurance Number (SIN) is crucial. A SIN is a nine-digit number issued by the Canadian government and is a unique identifier for individuals accessing various government programs, benefits, and services. The services include
- Employment Insurance (EI) benefits
- Filing taxes
- Housing Benefits
- Family and Caregiving Benefits
- Retirement planning, Canada Pension Plan and other government benefits
You can apply for a SIN using Service Canada’s online portal or at your local office. You must provide valid identification documents, proof of your immigration status, and a completed application form.
Find out more about Canada’s Social Insurance Number.
Canada’s Transportation Network is Car-Oriented
Canada's vast size and often remote geography make the country's transportation network heavily reliant on cars. While public transportation options such as buses, subways, and light rail systems are available in major cities, having a car greatly enhances mobility and ability to explore the country.
Major Canadian cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver have suburban and peri-urban residential areas that can only be accessed via dedicated road networks. Furthermore, Canada’s Public Transportation system extends to very few of its rural areas, especially Native American communities whose roads are paved with gravel and therefore fit for certain types of cars i.e. SUVs, Flatbed trucks etc.
The Cost of Living in Canada Differs based on Where You Live
The cost of living in Canada can vary significantly depending on the province, city, or neighborhood you choose to live in. Generally, major cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal have higher living cost than smaller towns and rural areas. The table below shows how Ontario’s largest city, Toronto, is significantly more expensive than Kitchener, one of Ontario’s many small towns. Figures are obtained from numbeo.com.
|Ontario City or Town||Estimated Monthly Costs of Living for a Family (CAD)||Average Monthly Rent (3 bedroom apartment) (CAD)|
Canada’s Curriculum Vitae (CV) and Resume Format May Differ From Your Country
When applying for jobs in Canada, it is crucial to understand that the format and content of your Canadian curriculum vitae (CV) or resume may differ from your home country’s. Canadian employers have specific expectations and preferences regarding CVs and resumes. Tailoring your application materials to meet Canadian employees’ expectations can increase your chances of securing employment.
Learn more about how to write the perfect CV for work in Canada.
Canada Is Highly Multicultural
Canada is known for its multiculturalism and diversity, with people from all over the world calling it home. As a newcomer to Canada, you will have the opportunity to experience a rich tapestry of cultures, traditions, and cuisines.
The country's commitment to multiculturalism ensures that immigrants from different backgrounds are warmly welcomed, embraced, and celebrated. With over 200 ethnolinguistic groups, including indigenous communities, you’re almost guaranteed to find a distinct community in Canada offering a sense of belonging for you.
To capitalize on the opportunity to enrich your cultural perspectives and worldly knowledge in Canada, we recommend engaging with different ethnic communities and attending cultural events or festivals i.e. Toronto Caribbean Carnival.
Find out how to get started in Canada’s most multicultural cities.
Foreigners Need an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) if They Have Studied Outside Canada
If you have a degree or diploma from a foreign educational institution and plan to use it for employment or further education in Canada, you must have your credentials assessed via an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). An ECA report assesses whether or not your educational qualifications are equivalent to Canadian standards.
ECAs are typically required for immigration purposes, professional licensing, and admission to designated learning institutions (DLIs).
Learn more about how to get accreditations for your qualifications in Canada.
How to Move to Canada
Canada offers several immigration programs to skilled workers, entrepreneurs, and family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. The immigration programs are:
Express Entry System
The Express Entry system is the primary pathway for eligible skilled workers to immigrate to Canada. It manages applications for three federal economic immigration programs, which are:
- Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)
- Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP)
- Canadian Experience Class (CEC)
Find out more about Canada’s Express Entry System.
Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)
Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) allow Canadian provinces and territories, except Quebec and Nanuvut, to nominate individuals who meet specific criteria and have the skills and experience required by the in-demand occupations in their local labor markets.
Each province and territory has its own PNP, with unique eligibility requirements and selection criteria. Successful applicants receive a provincial nomination, allowing them to apply for permanent residency through the federal government.
Receiving a provincial nomination also grants an additional 600 Comprehensive Ranking Score (CRS) points, which greatly increases your chances of being selected via an Express Entry draw if you registered an Express Entry profile.
Find out more about Canada’s PNPs.
Business Immigration to Canada
Canada offers several immigration programs for entrepreneurs, investors, and self-employed individuals who wish to start or invest in a business in the country. These programs include:
Start-up Visa Program
The Start-Up Visa program allows foreign entrepreneurs to either purchase or establish their businesses in Canada and contribute to the country’s overall employment and economic growth. Individuals whose businesses are not incorporated in Canada, have less than 50% equity in the business and have no letter of support from a designated organization in Canada may not apply.
Self-Employed Persons Program
The Self-Employed program enables immigrant applicants with the relevant artistic or athletic experience to support themselves and contribute to Canadian athletics and art to apply for permanent residency.
Businesspeople who want to visit Canada temporarily to attend a business conference, convention, meeting or capitalize on business opportunities can do so by applying for the Business Visitor Visa.
Canada Pilot Programs
IRCC has several Canada pilot programs to address specific labor market needs in certain industries or communities. Canadian immigration pilots include:
- Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP)
- Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP)
- Agri-Food Immigration Pilot (AFP)
- Home Care Provider Pilots (HCPP)
Find out more about Canada’s Pilot Programs.
Family Sponsorship in Canada
If you have a close family member who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and over 18, they may be able to sponsor you for immigration to Canada using Family Sponsorship immigration streams. Individuals eligible to be sponsored using this program include:
- Spouse or common-law partner
- Dependent or adopted children
- Parents and grandparents
- Close relatives such as an uncle, aunt, niece or nephew
Learn more about Family Sponsorship in Canada.
Canada Work Permits
If you aren’t yet eligible for permanent residency in Canada but want to work in Canada’s booming job market, you can apply for a Canada work permit. There are primarily two different types of work permits:
- Employer-specific work permit
- Allows you to work for a sole Canadian employer for a certain period at a single location.
- Open work permit
- Allows the recipient to work for any employer in Canada for a specific period and change jobs anytime.
Work permits allow one to receive the work experience required to apply for permanent residency in Canada through programs such as the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).
Learn more about the types of work permits in Canada.
Your Moving to Canada Checklist
Moving to a new country is a daunting task that can be made more difficult if you’re unprepared. Before moving to Canada, it is essential to have a checklist to ensure a smooth settlement process. Ensure to:
- Gather all required documents
- Make the necessary preparations for the move
- Ensure Financial Readiness
- Plan and conduct research for your new life in Canada
Find out more about the ultimate checklist before moving to Canada.
Is it Easy to Find a Job in Canada?
Finding a job in Canada can be competitive, depending on your industry and location. While Canada offers diverse job opportunities, it's important to conduct thorough online research, network with professionals in your field, and be prepared to invest time and effort into your job search.
Learn more about how to find a job in Canada.
Does Canada Have Immigrant Settlement Services?
Yes, Canada has immigrant settlement services that are designed to help newcomers integrate into Canadian society. Immigrant settlement services offered by IRCC include:
- Grants and Contributions in Support of Resettlement Assistance Program
- Interim Housing Assistance Program
- International Migration Capacity Building Program
- Settlement Program
We recommend reaching out to these services as soon as you arrive in Canada to make the most of the available support.