Moving to Canada

Are you one of the many people contemplating or perhaps, planning on, moving to Canada?
In the last 20 years over 5 million people have moved to Canada so
what makes the world’s second largest country so popular?

What is Canada like & how easy is it moving there?

So how do you prepare for a move to Canada? Is it an easy place to repatriate to? How is moving to Canada as a migrant? Well the reality is, whilst Canada is relatively selective in terms of who it allows to immigrate, more than 250,000 people per year are calling it home.

Our guide provides everything you need to know about visas, moving documentation, cost of living, taxes and finance, in addition to help with children and information regarding healthcare. Let’s get started by looking at the pros and cons.

What are the Visas and permits required for Canada?

When moving to Canada, it is vital to ensure you have your documentation in order. The most important visas and permits required for Canada are listed below with a short explanation.

  • Social Insurance Number (SIN)

A 9 digit number which allows access to government benefits, schemes and initiatives.

  • PR (Permanent Residence) Card

This signifies permanent residency status enabling social benefits including Healthcare and is the precursor to Canadian Citizenship. Check your eligibility for a PR card.

  • Health Insurance Card

This takes 90 days so start the process early. Your HIC allows you to access Medicare and can be applied for from doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies and hospitals.

  • Driving License

Your Canadian driving license will be issued by the province you reside in. The authorities permit you to drive on a foreign license for the first 60 days of your arrival.

Canada has strict immigration laws, however the process is transparent

What types of visas are there in Canada?

Employment Visas
In order to be eligible for a work permit you must meet the Canadian points based system. For more information check the Immigration & Citizenship Help Centre

Visitor Visa
Canada is an extremely popular country to visit with over 35 million people arriving last year. The vast majority of these people are tourists, but also includes a large number of students and seasonal/temporary workers – if this category better defines your circumstances, you can check your eligibility here.

Student Visa
Canada is an incredibly popular place to study with well over 100,000 people arriving each year. Students planning to move to Canada for longer than 6 months will require a Study permit.

Family Visa
Children, common law partners and spouses of temporary workers can accompany them provided they comply with the preconditions for a temporary resident. They must not have a criminal record. The worker must be capable of providing for the family for the duration of stay.

Self-employment Visa
Anyone applying for a Self-employed visa is evaluated on qualifications, age, expertise, proficiency in language and flexibility. This is a list of documents required. Applicants also require at least CDN 100,000 in assets.  

What Moving Documents are required for Canada?

Anyone moving personal effects to Canada will require the following documents

  • Passport Copy (photo page)
  • Personal effects form (BSF186)
  • Detailed Packing list (in English or French)
    • Valued inventory may be required
  • Receipts for any new items
  • Bill of lading / AWB
  • Proof of residence abroad (rent contract, utility bills, bank statements) for a minimum of 12 months (month 1 and 12 required) – for returning citizen only
  • Work permit / Immigration papers (if applicable)

For more information and a more extensive list of items visit IAM – moving to Canada

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Cost of living, Taxes & Banking

The cost of living index for the top 20 Canadian cities can be viewed opposite, as well as a rent index.

The figures are made up of a number of indices and data provided by thousands of individuals who provide data on food, clothing, utilities, public transport and entertainment.

For a more detailed breakdown visit Numbeo.

By way of comparison, the cost of living index in the following major cities is

New York: 100.00
Los Angeles: 75.10
London: 80.34
Sydney: 73.98
Dubai: 65.82

Income tax on worldwide earnings are applicable for anyone who spends at least 183 days per year in Canada. Federal income tax is also applied depending on the state within which you reside (figures below are rounded up/down).


Opening a bank account in Canada is easier than many people anticipate. There are certain documents you will require;which include but are not limited to:

  • Social Security Number
  • Passport
  • Driving License (or document confirming ID)

In addition the following may be required:

  • Letter of reference from a previous bank
  • Work permit/ proof of Permanent Residence

Moving with Children

What are public schools like in Canada?
Canada’s public education system is de-centralised with each province’s culture and language creating a somewhat unique curriculum. Places like Quebec primarily conduct tuition in French. Whereas New Brunswick operates a dual language syllabus (English & French). The majority of provinces teach mainly in English.

Another example of this is in Edmonton, Alberta parents are able to select any school in the city, or the province of Manitoba where a child may attend any school within the province (provided there is sufficient space of course).

A student is entitled to a free education between the ages of 6 to 16 years, provided they have a Canadian residence permit. Naturally, levels and standards vary from school to school, but generally, even at public schools, education standards are very high.

New terms begin in early September running through until the end of June. Schools generally operate from 08:30 – 15:30, with an hour for lunch and two 15 minute breaks.

In order to enroll your child the following documentation may be required.


  • Enrollment form
  • Birth certificate
  • Proof of custody/guardianship
  • Residence Permit
  • Record of vaccines
  • Contact forms
  • Previous school records

What are Private & International schools like in Canada?
Despite the high standards of free public schooling there are numerous private and international schools operating throughout Canada. Annual fees can range from CND 5,000 – in excess of CND 30,000.

Expats moving to Canada may feel attracted to the flexibility these schools, for example; smaller classes, alternative curriculum, they can be military colleges, or cater to people with special needs. Schools catering to specific religions or languages are also readily available. So the choice is pretty much limitless, assuming of course you can afford it. Schools tend to be more selective of their students by way of placement tests.  

A student can legally drop out of school at the age of 16

Preschool in Canada is generally available from the ages of 2-5. This tends to precede Elementary/Primary school. Enrolling your child at his age is optional. Many working parents choose “Daycare” as an alternative, which caters to the development and socialising of the child rather than the slightly more curriculum based Preschool model.

Preschool in Canada can cost anything from CDN 5,000 – CND 20,000 +, and like private schools, the options are plentiful enabling for specific language, curriculum and religious beliefs to be catered to.

Leisure & activities

Canada has a host of activities and pastimes which can be enjoyed by children and families alike. The outdoor life is celebrated in Canada with activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, kayaking and numerous sports available throughout most of the country. Similarly there are a host of indoor activities in most Canadian cities in addition to theme parks, festivals, carnivals, zoos, and stunning national parks in every province. Here are a list of hundreds of activities throughout Canada.

Healthcare in Canada

Canada invests almost 12% of the GDP on healthcare and provides its citizens and permanent residents with a universal public health insurance called Medicare. This provides people with flexibility when it comes to private or public care and which doctor or specialist they choose to consult with.

Expats moving to Canada should make applying for medical card an absolute priority. This can be done online.

Whilst healthcare in Canada might seem idyllic, it is not perfect. Medicare insurance does not cover vision or dental care, which can be expensive. Waiting times are longer than many developed countries.  Certain types of mental health and some areas of therapy and are also not covered by provincial health plans. As a result many Canadians opt to take out additional/supplementary health insurance either personally funded or increasingly paid for and provided through their employer.

Pharmacies are abundant and in addition to being located next to hospitals and clinics, pharmacies can also be found within grocery stores and inside shopping malls. A wide range of prescription medication is readily available, though it is essential to retain your receipts in order to reclaim your expenses. Prices are regulated in Canada, so cost considerably less than in the US for example.

Final Thoughts

Anyone moving to Canada can look forward to a tolerant, respectful and diverse society which is globally oriented and well informed. Canada ranks as one of the best educated countries in the world.

It is important to understand that whether it is a short term or permanent move to Canada, forward planning is vital in order to avoid any problems with visas and permits. So start the process early. Also, you need to be physically present in Canada at the time your goods arrive in order to clear customs.

However, with a high level of infrastructure, great public transport, excellent social services/care, and a safe, stable society Canada is a wonderful country to start a new chapter of your life. It is perhaps why many immigrants consider it to be the ‘promised land’.