Everything You Need To Know About Moving To Canada

Moving to Canada can be both an exhilarating and overwhelming experience. A new place to call home means a new way of life and it is imperative to keep in mind that the captivating culture of a new place carries with it a new set of customs and regulations. It is quite common to experience a bit of culture shock but with these helpful tips, integrating into the Canadian community will be a breeze.

21 Things You Should Know Before You Move to Canada

keyboard with Canadian flag and red welcome key

1. Visa

If you are planning to relocate to Canada you will need a visa. With various options to choose from, the most popular path to take is the Express Entry System, which is implemented on a points-based system and scored according to the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) based on your online profile containing information about yourself such as your education, age, skills, work experience and so on. You are then ranked against other candidates and if your score is high enough, you will receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residency.

2. Is There An Age Limit?

Yes. Anyone between the ages of 18 and 55 may apply under any of the federal economic programs.

3. When Is the Best Time to Relocate

For the best selection of jobs and accommodation, as well as the best time to socialize and meet people, Spring/Summer is the best time to arrive in Canada. Companies are less likely to hire during winter and rather start the hiring process in March/April. It is also easier to acclimatize and settle into your new job and home before winter as these months can be quite harsh. However, if you are moving with your family, it is important to note that the school year starts from the first week in September and you may have to adjust your travel dates accordingly.

4. Shipping Personal Possessions - Are There Any Restrictions or Duties?

girl standing in front of wire fence with restricted sign in Canada

There are certain items that you may need to pay duties on, for example, vehicles to be used for business purposes, gifts exceeding $60, alcohol and tobacco if it exceeds the limit to name a few.

Vehicles are required to meet safety and pollution regulations of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA).

Certain prescription drugs may be restricted or have requirements. Be sure to confirm these before you immigrate to Canada.

There are no vaccinations required for Canada yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have made certain recommendations.

Pets - all animals must be declared when entering Canada and they must meet certain requirements, including having all vaccinations and a rabies certificates written in English or French issued by a licensed veterinarian, identifying the animal’s breed, colour, and weight, indicating the trade name and the serial number of the vet, and specifications about how long the immunity is good for.

Please note that certain breeds are banned in Ontario and Winnipeg.

5. Will I Need a Medical Examination?

healthcare connection device in Canada

A medical examination is necessary if you plan to stay for longer than 6 months and have lived in one of the identified countries on the Candian Government site for at least 6 consecutive months. This includes a questionnaire as well as a physical test and may only be administered by a panel physician approved by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

6. Weather

Canada has 4 short transitional seasons. Winters can be harsh and temperatures vary depending on the province you’re in. Temperatures can drop well below zero in winter and reach a balmy 30°C in summer. Prairie and interior provinces experience average temperatures between -15°C and -40°C and non-coastal regions can experience snow for up to 6 months. Provinces on the East and West coasts experience an average summer high of about 20°C whereas inland provinces can enjoy balmy temperatures of 25-30°C.

7. Transportation

adult with backpack in front of blur of speeding train in Canada

Your driver's license issued in your home country may not be valid in Canada. Individual provinces have their own procedures and rules which means you may have to have your license converted or be retested. Be sure to check your province’s requirements to ensure that you have the necessary documentation. If you don’t drive, Canada offers an array of efficient and safe public transportation systems, including rapid transit systems, light rail systems, commuter transit systems, buses, taxis, waterways and ferries as well as ride-sharing apps such as Uber.

8. Smoking

It is legally prohibited to smoke in all public areas, including restaurants, stores, offices, hospitals, places of employment, as well as public and shared areas of apartment buildings and rental complexes.

9. Education

School children in Canadian classroom

Education is of the utmost importance and schooling at public institutions is free up until Grade 12. Canada’s tertiary institutions are of the best in the world and its adult education levels are ranked in the top 3 countries in the world, making it an excellent choice to further your studies.

10. Healthcare

Although newcomers can enjoy Canada’s publicly-funded top-notch health care system, contrary to popular belief, healthcare is not completely free, for example, your trip to the doctor may be covered but your prescription may not be. It is important to note that provincial cover may only begin after a few months in some provinces and it is therefore recommended to have at least 6 months private comprehensive insurance to cover you during this period. This applies to all temporary residents, including those on working holidays and student visas.

11. Language Duality

French woman walking down street with baguettes and flowers in Canada

The official languages of Canada are French and English. It will stand you in good stead to brush up on your language proficiency not only to be able to converse with locals but it is also a prerequisite for your visa application.

12. Multicultural/Diversity

Canada is a melting pot of nationalities and cultures with over 40 sitting Members of Parliament hailing from countries abroad. This means that you can still retain your culture and values while embracing your new Canadian identity.

13. World class cities

Toronto Skyline over Lake Ontario Canada

3 Canadian cities have ranked in the top 10 on the World’s most liveable cities list, including Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary. Urban life is constantly abuzz and factors such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, environment and stability are all reasons why so many immigrants are choosing to make Canada their homes.

14. Tipping/Hospitality

Tipping is a basic part of Canadian culture. Most workers in the service industry rely on tips to earn a decent wage and usually tip out other staff members, eg. kitchen staff, from their basic salary, meaning that by not tipping a server, he/she is paying out of their own pocket to serve you. The standard tip is 15-20% of the total bill or 1$ per drink.

15. Job Search

This can be quite a time-consuming task. Resuming your professional career can be challenging, no matter how extensive your credentials and work experience is. In fact, it can take quite some time to become fully accredited. It is important not to be discouraged as it is not uncommon for it to take months to find work in your profession. It is therefore important to budget appropriately for your financial safety net. You may have to adjust your resume format, take a job outside of your scope in the interim as well as be more proactive in your job hunt by networking before immigrating.

16. Cost of living

coins in hand and cost of living in Canada

Cost of living varies from city to city and lifestyle, but the general living expenses for one person in Toronto (excluding rent), for example, is estimated at $12,465 per year. A student should budget approximately $10,560, whereas a family of 4 would need about $45,490 per year.

Rent in certain cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver are notably more expensive than, let's say, rent-controlled Montreal. As a student you may want to budget the following for accommodation:

  • On-Campus Accommodation - $3000-7500
  • Shared Accommodation - $750-2,200 per month;
  • Homestay - $750-900 per month.

Salary expectation depends on the province you’re living in; however, Canada’s average hourly rate is approximately $27,02 and the average salary is estimated at $76,570 per annum. This also depends on the industry, for example, someone employed in the forestry sector can expect an average weekly wage of $1,093 compared to someone employed in finance who would earn about $1,366 per week.

17. Safety

Canada is generally a safe haven for newcomers and locals and is ranked 8th out of the list of the safest countries in the world, which makes it one of the most popular destinations for those looking to relocate.

18. Canada Is Huge...Like Huge Huge!

Emerald Lake British Columbia Canada

Canada is the second largest country in the world. It's huge. To clarify just how huge it is, imagine being able to fit the UK into Canada more than 40 times and with the longest coastline in the world, it would take you more than 4 years to walk the length of its coastline. There are over 2 million lakes in Canada, with 561 of them spanning over 100km2. Its National Parks are vast, for example, Buffalo National Park is larger than the Netherlands. It is so big that it would essentially be quicker to travel to London from St John’s Newfoundland on the east coast than it would be to Vancouver on the west coast. So to reiterate, it’s huge...like huge huge.

19. Legal Drinking Age

The legal drinking age varies from province to province, for example in Quebec, Alberta and Manitoba, the legal drinking age is 18, whereas everywhere else, you’ll have to wait an extra year before you take a sip of your first pint.

20. Taxation

Canadians are taxed at different levels by both the federal and provincial governments.

Sales taxes vary depending on the province. Also, be aware that sales taxes are added at the point of sale and not on the price tag.

21. Know Your Rights

It is imperative that you familiarize yourself with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and know what your political and civil rights are.

Top 5 Things To Do In Your First Week In Canada

Canadian businesswoman working on laptop and cellphone

1. Getting a Cell/Internet Plan

Avoid costly roaming charges from your home provider by setting up a cell phone/data plan as soon as possible. Major phone providers in Canada are Telus, Bell, Rogers and Fido and all offer a range of discounts and special rate plans. There are also a number of new service providers offering competitive rates, including Koodo, Freedom Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile. The average price of cellphone packages can range anywhere from $40.95 to $70.70.

It is important to note that features such as voicemail and caller ID are not a standard feature, that pay-as-you-go plans are much more expensive than other countries and that most providers will charge you for receiving calls. Also, note that calling outside your city in Canada may incur “long distance” or roaming charges which can be quite costly. Be sure to shop around and clarify what is and isn’t included in your package.

The main Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Canada are Bell, Rogers, Telus and Shaw yet availability depends on your location. It is important to note that some providers charge a monthly fee for their modems and additional charges for call-outs. Be sure to ask what extras are included in your package. Rates can range anywhere from $30 to $150 per month depending on your monthly cap and line speed. Also, look at bundles offering discounted rates that include core services such as a T.V or landline. Top tip: Connect to free Wifi wherever possible to ensure that you don’t exceed your data cap.

2. Accommodation

This may be tricky considering that you won’t have any Canadian credit history or local references but some landlords are flexible. Websites to consider are Kijiji and Padmapper. Helpful tip: Landlords are far more likely to answer calls if you make enquiries from a Canadian cell phone number.

3. Familiarize Yourself With The Culture

Poutine traditional Canadian meal with fries curd cheese and sauce on the table

It may be easier to meet new people (and perhaps equally important, not to annoy the locals) by familiarizing yourself with the customs and culture associated with Canada. Here are some common customs and interesting facts to get you started:

  • Line up for the bus
  • Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October (compared to The States where it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November).
  • It’s not unusual to put cream in your coffee - A “double-double” is a coffee with 2 creams and 2 sugars.
  • Get your “double-double” at your local “Timmies” or Tim Hortons, which is the most popular coffee and doughnut chain in the country.
  • Milk comes in bags - Well, mostly Ontario and Quebec. Opening them may take a few attempts to master so no need to cry over spilt milk.
  • Sorry does not seem to be the hardest word - It is probably the most common word used in Canada. In fact, Canadians are so apologetic and polite that in 2009, Ontario passed an ‘Apology Act’. This meant that if a Canadian apologized or more specifically used the word sorry while committing a crime, it would not count as an admission of guilt but rather an expression of regret or sorrow. #sorrynotsorry to include this.
  • Poutine, which is slang for “a mess” is Canada’s national dish. It consists of chips smothered in gravy and melted cheese curds. Go on, live on the wild side and give it a try.
  • Canadians love maple syrup - a stereotype we know but it's true.
  • The moose and the beaver are the national mascots of Canada and appear on the local currency. Unfortunately, vehicle collisions are so common that Canada has resorted to building crossing bridges for their furry friends, which are most commonly found in Banff National Park, British Columbia and Alberta.
  • Beware the bears - Grizzlies, black bears and polar bears can be found in Canada. With 70% of the world’s population of polar bears located in Canada, it is not unlikely that you may experience a bear attack if they feel threatened. Residents of Churchill and Manitoba are so aware of this that they leave their car doors unlocked in case someone needs refuge.
  • Learn the lingo - By now we are all aware that Canadians add the word “eh” at the end of every sentence, but there are a few words that you may not be familiar with, such as ”biffy” (the toilet), a “toque” (a beanie), a $1 coin is a loonie, a $2 coin is a toonie, a kilometre is a klick, and Toronto is often referred to as “the 6ix”.

4. Get Your SIN

Your Social Insurance Number or SIN is a 9 digit number required to be able to work in Canada. You can apply for your SIN at any Service Canada office and don’t forget to bring the following original documents (photocopies are not accepted):

  • Birth Certificate;
  • Certificate of Canadian Citizenship issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC); and
  • Work or Study Permit issued by IRCC;

Please note that you may be required to present supporting documents, such as a marriage certificate or English/French translation and a signed affidavit from a translator if documents are in another language. The process should not take longer than 30 minutes.

5. Set up a Bank Account

Payment or POS terminal with credit card featuring flag of Canada

It is important to set up your bank account as soon as possible in order to avoid costly withdrawal charges and international conversion rates. There are many banks with different account types available. The 5 main banks are CIBC, Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal (BMO), HSBC Canada and National Bank of Canada. Your monthly cheque account fees will average at about $220 per year. If you need to make international money transfers, the 3 top choices are CIBC’s Global Money Transfer, CurrencyFair and TransferWise. Be sure to bring your passport, visa and SIN.

Ready to take the next step and move to Canada? As one of the most multicultural countries in the world with so many added benefits and a high quality of life, the immigration process can be quite competitive, not to mention complicated. But with our RCIC professionals to guide you, it doesn’t have to be! Simply sign up today for your assessment and let us assist you in a choice of over 70 programs and optimize your chances of success in applying for your Canadian visa.