How to Move to Canada and Deciding if it’s Right for You
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You’re thinking about moving to Canada for a change of scenery, or a better life. But is it right for you? I don’t mean to shutter your dreams, but permanently moving to Canada isn’t the right choice for everyone. Relocation is a very big decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. So I urge you to do as much research as possible before you invest any time and money into something that might not improve your life. Hopefully, I can help you.
In this article I’ll start with an overview of the process of immigrating to Canada, then I’ll talk about life in Canada, and at the end I’ll share a pros vs. cons list for living in Canada.
Note: I am NOT an immigration specialist. Please don’t contact me with any personal issues you may be facing. When in doubt, check the government website. I did my best to provide the most important and useful links.
If you plan on moving to Canada permanently, the first thing to do is to check the Government of Canada website. There are many scammers out there who will be more than happy to steal your money! As long as you speak English or French you can go through the immigration process without third party “help”.
If you plan on going to an English-speaking part of Canada, your immigration processes will be conducted in English. If you plan on going to a French-speaking part of Canada, your immigration processes will be conducted in French. In addition to that, there are different types of immigration processes: skilled worker, family reunification, self-employed, and more. There are also some province-specific types of immigration. If you are interested in moving to Quebec, you should also take a look at Quebec’s Immigration Website.
Before you start your immigration process, I would recommend you do a very in-depth research of all qualifications, documentations, skills, and funds you need. Immigration to Canada is very expensive and I recommend you add up all the costs associated, and budget more than you think you need. In addition, you will also need proof of funds when moving to Canada, as well as relocation costs associated with moving. DO NOT start your immigration process if you do not have all the money you need. You will just waste you time and money.
Here are the options for immigrating to Canada:
Perhaps the most common way immigrants come to Canada. There are three options for express entry:
Federal Skilled Worker Program
Requires post-secondary education and work experience (Canadian or foreign) and proficiency in English and/ or French, but you do not need a job offer.
Federal Skilled Trades Program
Requires a job offer or a certificate of qualification in that skilled trade issued by a Canadian authority, must also have work experience (Canadian or foreign) and good language proficiency; does not require post-secondary education.
Canadian Experience Class
Requires Canadian work experience of at least one year in Canada in the previous 3 year period and good language proficiency; does not require a job offer or post-secondary education.
If you meet all the qualifications and are deemed a good fit, you will be invited to apply for permanent residency. The invitation is only valid for 60 days and the cost for one adult to apply is 1,325 CAD and 225 CAD per child. In addition, if you are accepted for the Federal Skilled Worker Program or the Federal Skilled Trades Program you need to provide proof of sufficient funds when moving to Canada. You can read more about it here.
Allows anyone who is at least 18 and a citizen, permanent resident or registered as an Indian under the Canadian Indian Act to sponsor a family member to move to Canada and become a permanent resident. To qualify for family sponsorship, you must have close family ties in Canada who are willing to cover all your basic needs (such as food, shelter, clothing), so you don’t require social assistance. You can read more about it here.
The specific requirements are set by each province/ territory, however you must have skills, education, and work experience to contribute to that province. You must declare you want to live in that province/ territory, and wish to become a permanent resident of Canada. Each province/ territory has different needs and looks for different skills when selecting applicants. More information can be found here.
Quebec-Selected Skilled Workers
You must be a skilled worker who intend to reside in Quebec. You must apply to the Government of Quebec to obtain a Quebec Selection Certificate, and once you have that you apply for permanent residency through the Government of Canada. Read more about the Quebec-Selected Skilled Workers here.
Atlantic Immigration Pilot
This option is aimed to help employers in Atlantic Canada hire foreign skilled workers who want to immigrate to Atlantic Canada, as well as international graduates who want to stay in Atlantic Canada after they graduate. You can find more details here.
If you want to move to Canada to become a caregiver to children, elderly or those with special needs, this option may be for you. The regulations have recently changed and are still changing, and you may be required to first work as a caregiver in Canada under a temporary worker program before you can apply for immigration. Check the website for updated information.
This is a great option if you intend to move to Canada to create jobs or support entrepreneurs. You don’t necessarily have to invest a lot of funds. If you have a great, innovative idea and can find an organization to support you, you may be able to immigrate to Canada to start your business here. More details and up-to-date requirements can be found here.
This program is aimed at people who are self-employed in cultural or athletic fields and are willing to make a significant contribution to the cultural or athletic life in Canada. You must have relevant work experience to qualify. For a complete list of requirements, check the website.
Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot
This pilot intends to introduce skilled foreign workers to small communities to help support their local economies. The bulk of the requirements are determined by the community you wish to live in, based on their specific needs. This is just a pilot program and requirements are subject to change. For up-to-date information about this pilot, click here.
Another pilot program, it is subject to run until May 2023. It was introduced to help address the needs in the Canadian agri-food sector. To qualify for permanent residency under this program, you must fulfill a few requirements such as having eligible Canadian work experience, a full-time, non-seasonal job offer, language proficiency, and more. See the complete list of requirements here.
The last immigration option is to apply for refugee status. This is only available to those who are in grave danger in their home countries. You can read more about it here, but it likely won’t be an option for you.
I would like to note that immigrating to Canada can be very challenging. To be accepted, you must have something valuable to offer to the Canadian society. Either you are skilled in an in-demand field, come to work in the agriculture field or as a caregiver, or start a business, you must demonstrate you intend to move to Canada to be a productive member of society.
Some immigration processes such as the express entry evaluate you on a points system. The higher you score, the faster/ more likely you are to be accepted for immigrating to Canada. Things that help you score higher include: English and/ or French proficiency, higher education, having close family ties in Canada, arranged employment, or you are young. You must obtain at least 67 points out of 100 to be accepted.
Other immigration processes such as family reunification do not use a points system.
You cannot immigrate to Canada if you have serious health issues and/ or disabilities. You must also submit a police certificate. If you have a criminal record you are deemed inadmissible to Canada. There are age restrictions to most immigration options.
Note: Unless you are already living and working in Canada, you will likely have to demonstrate proof of funds when landing. This means you will likely carry more than $10,000 CAD with you. As per customs regulations, you have to declare this money when entering Canada. You won’t be taxed or penalized, the government just wants to check the source of the money, to make sure it didn’t come from illegal activities.
There are limits to the number of immigrants who can move to Canada in a specific year. However, this number has been steadily increasing over the years. In 2019 a total of 313,580 immigrants moved to Canada.
If you are not sure whether immigrating to Canada is right for you, you can apply for a visitor visa, also known as a temporary resident visa. It allows you to stay in Canada for up to 6 months and there is a possibility for extension. You can obtain more information about it here. Based on your experience living in Canada, you can then decide if living here is right for you.
LIVING IN CANADA
Before choosing to permanently move to Canada, consider why you want to move. What do you wish to achieve? What do you need to be happy? What kind of lifestyle are you looking for? If you’re only thinking about having more money, think again. It is very expensive to live in Canada. And even if you do increase your disposable income, it won’t necessarily improve your quality of life. Before you make a decision, carefully consider all aspects of daily life and how they will impact your well-being. Here are some realities about life in Canada:
Cost of Living
From paying some of the highest prices for bills (such as phone, cable, and insurance) to the high cost of food, to spending a lot of money on winter gear, you can easily find yourself not making ends meet despite having a decent income. In fact, most people in Canada struggle financially. This country has one of the highest levels of personal debt.
In addition to high costs for everyday necessities, Canada has very high housing costs. Prior to the pandemic Canadians were spending an average of 46% of their incomes on living arrangements. In popular cities like Vancouver and Toronto this number jumps to over 70% of income! And that’s an average. Low income people spend even more. In addition to rent/ mortgage, you also have to consider hidden costs, such as insurance and/ or maintenance.
In addition to housing, there is also the cost of driving. In most parts of the country public transit is subpar or non-existent. Depending on where in Canada you settle, you may HAVE to drive to get anywhere. There are many costs associated with driving such as: purchasing the vehicle, insurance, gas, regular maintenance, new parts, winter tires, and more.
If you wish to travel or send anything through the post, that will also cost you a lot of money. A non-stop flight between Vancouver and Montreal can cost you anywhere between 500-1000 CAD and sending a small, light package through Canada Post can cost you 50 CAD.
Visiting the dentist or an optometrist is also quite expensive. A dental cleaning will cost around 200-300 CAD. A visit to an optometrist will be around 100 CAD, which is not too bad. Prescription glasses on the other had can cost as much as 500 CAD for a basic pair (unless you buy them online where you can find better deals).
With all these expenses, you can see how most Canadians do no make ends meet. If you are moving to Canada, I suggest you mentally prepare for this reality. Always set money aside for unexpected expenses. And in the event of a job loss, government aid may not be enough to cover you living expenses and you’ll have to dip into your savings to make ends meet.
On the other hand, if you live in a small apartment, utilities such as electricity and water will be relatively inexpensive. Gas for your vehicle is also quite inexpensive compared to other countries. If you need a life-saving surgery, you can have it anytime, regardless of you financial status or health insurance coverage. It will be covered by the province/ territory you live in. As a result, health insurance is not something most Canadians pay for.
The burden of debt can be very stressful and that will have an impact on overall well-being. Unless your life is in danger, you will certainly face more stress living in Canada than you would back home.
There are very few cities and limited opportunities for cultural enrichment such as going to the opera or ballet. There aren’t many parks where you could go take a walk. You may find yourself going shopping and spending money unnecessarily just for the sake of getting out of the house. If you don’t have a lot of disposable income, you can’t travel or go out very much, and you may begin to feel isolated.
If money won’t be an issue for you, you have a lot of options in terms of the lifestyle you wish to live. Since Canada is such a large and diverse country you have the option of choosing to live in a large metropolitan city, a suburb, a small town, or a remote community. Another positive thing is that wherever you go in Canada, nature is always close by.
Healthcare is covered by the province/ territory in which you live, which allows you to go to the doctor without paying out of pocket for each visit. This is not to say that healthcare is free. You pay for it through your taxes! But you benefit from the advantage of not having to
beg chase your insurance company to pay for your doctor’s visits. You also don’t have to worry whether a necessary treatment is covered.
If you are travelling in another province, you just show the doctor’s office you healthcare card from your home province. The province/ territory you’re in will just bill your home province/ territory. There will be no out of pocket costs for your or delays in obtaining urgent care.
Since healthcare is not covered by the federal government, you must be a current resident of a province or territory to benefit from it. Any Canadian citizen who does not reside in Canada will either pay out of pocket or have to purchase private insurance to access healthcare in Canada.
Integrating into Canadian society is just as hard as integrating into any other society. Cultural differences and language barriers will likely make it hard for anyone to integrate into a new society. But for an adult who doesn’t go to school or attend any classes, it’s even harder. You will have to make many efforts and put yourself outside of your comfort zone to meet new people and make friends.
Canada is a very diverse society with people of all cultural backgrounds. If you live in one of the few major cities, there will likely be an already established community of people from your home country. And even if there isn’t a community of people from you background, you will have an easier time integrating into society if you live in a large city. There are more events and cultural activities you could participate in and meet new people.
Living in a smaller city might make it quite difficult to integrate. For once everyone drives everywhere so you’re unlikely to run into anyone and make small talk. And secondly, there are few activities or events where you could make new friends. Most people stay home and barbecue with their families. So if you’re not making friends through work, it will be quite hard to meet new people elsewhere.
Before you immigrate to Canada you really should evaluate your current lifestyle. Do you live in a large city? Do you have your driver’s license? How do you spend your free time? Then use that information to decide where in Canada you could thrive. Are you cutout for a large city? Are you willing to spend as much as 70% of your income on rent? Will that improve your quality of life?
PROS AND CONS
Moving to a new country is a very big decision and it’s important not to romanticize the benefits while ignoring the disadvantages. While it is a great place to live, Canada isn’t a perfect fit for everyone. Here are some side by side pros and cons to living in Canada:
You don’t pay out of pocket for healthcare, so you don’t have to worry about affording necessary treatments during financial difficulties.
cost of living
Be prepared to pay a lot more money for all needs, especially accommodation.
Great laws that protect workers against discrimination. Strict safety standards and high penalties for infringements. You typically get paid twice per month.
Many unskilled, labour jobs.
Nature is always close by.
Summers with long daylight.
In many grocery stores you can get anything from food to medications, to electronics and small car parts.
Very safe society to live in; safe to drink tap water, clean unpolluted air, safety from corruption and major crimes.
Little/ no hierarchy; people don’t look down on you for “looking poor” and don’t praise you for “seeming rich”. You can dress modestly and not feel pressured to “show off”.
Personal space is valued and respected. You won’t have someone standing right behind you at checkout.
Because the country is so wide, there are few crowds (with the exception of large cities).
Long waiting lines to see a doctor or get a scan. No options for private healthcare. Extremely expensive to go to the dentist and buy glasses.
cost of living
You will likely be making a higher income in Canada than you would at home.
Depending on where you come from you may not be able to work in the same field, and if you can, you’ll likely have to start from a lower position than you held at home.
Very few high-paying jobs.
Very few cities.
Very long, frigid winters.
In most of the country, you cannot buy alcohol at the grocery store; you’ll have to go to designated liquor stores.
No options for private healthcare.
Expensive to travel (within Canada and abroad). Due to the large size of the country, it is exhausting and time-consuming to travel.
Your education may not be acknowledged here. You may have to go back to school to get reaccredited to work in you field. Sometimes you may even have to retake high school courses.
You may need to retake your driver’s licence exam.
You may have extra necessities, such as winter gear. Some items like snow boots will have to be replaced regularly due to weather damage.
This has been my comprehensive guide for moving to Canada. I hope it has given you lots of useful information on deciding if Canada is right for you and how to approach the process of immigration.