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Moving to Canada: A Guide for Expats and Digital Nomads

Discover everything expats need to know about moving to Canada, from applying for visas to finding work to embracing the local culture.

Gabriele Culot
Written by Gabriele Culot
February 16, 2024
Contents
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Key takeaways

  1. With its relatively low costs and high quality of life, Canada has emerged as a popular choice for expats.
  2. Applying for one of the many Canadian visas and finding jobs calls for thorough research and careful planning.
  3. Deel’s step-by-step guide shows you how to effortlessly navigate the Canadian visa process and settle into your new home.

Moving to Canada: A Guide for Expats and Digital Nomads

Canada, the world's second-largest country, has seen a significant increase in foreign residents attracted by its impressive landscapes, multicultural cities, and opportunities for economic growth. With remote work now widely accepted globally, expats and digital nomads searching for a welcoming and diverse living experience are further enticed to come to Canada.

Known for its Express Entry system for skilled immigrants, the country is increasingly becoming a hotspot for global talent seeking career growth while enjoying high living standards and breathtaking natural beauty. 

Migrating to Canada can be both rewarding and challenging. The key to a smooth transition is thorough preparation. Our guide will walk you through all the necessary steps for the best start in Canada.

Step 1: Prepare your documents

Before you decide to make Canada your new home country, you must ascertain that you meet the eligibility requirements to stay in the country and apply for a visa.

When visiting Canada, individuals from certain countries enjoy the privilege of visa exemption, meaning they do not require a visa to enter the country. Instead, these travelers must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) if arriving by air. The eTA is simpler and faster to acquire than a visa, involving an online application and usually being approved within minutes. Countries benefiting from this arrangement include the US (which has a unique agreement with Canada), the UK, Germany, France, Japan, and Australia, among others

This policy facilitates tourism and short visits, allowing for stays of up to six months.

However, visa exemptions cater exclusively to tourists or business visitors. When the purpose of the visit shifts towards work or study, the situation changes markedly, and the appropriate visa must be secured by anyone wishing to stay.

Visa types

The Canadian government offers an array of visas for non-citizens to enter and live in the country:

  • Visitor visa: Entitles you to stay in Canada for up to 6 months
  • Work permit: Gives you the opportunity to work in Canada for a specified period. You'll need to confirm a job before arriving
  • Study permit: Enables you to study in a recognized institution in Canada. Admission to a Canadian school is required
  • Permanent resident card: Gives you the opportunity to live and work anywhere in Canada. It requires a comprehensive application process through various programs, such as Express Entry or Provincial Nominee Programs
  • Family sponsorship: Enables Canadian citizens or permanent residents to sponsor relatives to become permanent residents

Visa sponsorship

Unless a family member in Canada is sponsoring you or you have secured a job offer from a Canadian employer, most immigrants will apply for a visa under the Express Entry system, which does not require sponsorship.

For more information about immigration programs, visas, support, and options, visit the website of the IRCC, the Government of Canada body in charge of managing Canadian immigration flows.

Essential document checklist

Having all your paperwork in order before beginning the visa application process can help you avoid unnecessary delays or complications. Depending on your visa type, these documents may include:

 Passport (plus copies): Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay and contain at least two blank pages

 Passport-sized photos: The standard dimension for a Canadian visa photo is 35mm x 45mm

 Visa application form: Complete and sign the application form, adhering to the specific requirements of your visa type

 Proof of travel: This can be a copy of your flight ticket

 Insurance documents: For a super visa, for example, you must provide evidence of at least $100,000 in medical insurance coverage

 Accommodation arrangements: Where you intend to stay during your visit

 Proof of employment: A job offer letter or employment contract is needed to apply for a work permit

 Criminal record check: Especially for long-term or permanent visas

 Educational certificates: Relevant for visa categories that favor highly skilled workers

 Financial records: To demonstrate your ability to support yourself or your family during your stay in Canada

 Marriage and birth certificates: Required for your family members' dependent visa applications


Importance of authenticating and translating documents

Canadian authorities may require you to authenticate certain documents. Your local Canadian embassy or consulate can carry out this process if your country isn't party to the Hague Convention.

Translations of crucial documents like birth and marriage certificates are needed if they are not in English or French (these are the two official languages in Canada). Ensure you use a professional service that can certify the accuracy of the translations.

Step 2: Manage your finances

Canada is known for its high standard of living, which also comes with a cost of living that is on the higher side, especially in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver. However, careful financial planning can allow expats to enjoy Canada's stunning natural beauty, multicultural cities, and quality of life. Here's what you need to consider:

Cost of living in Canada

Here are the costs you might encounter while living in Canada:

  • Renting: A one-bedroom apartment in the city center of major cities can cost between CAD 1,400 to CAD 2,200, while outside city centers prices can range from CAD 1,100 to CAD 1,800
  • Buying property: The real estate market varies significantly across the country, but be prepared for high prices in popular urban areas. Foreign buyers may face additional taxes in certain provinces
  • Food and drink: Groceries can be pricey, especially in remote areas or the northern territories. A meal at a mid-range restaurant might cost around CAD 60-80 for two people
  • Transport: Public transportation costs around CAD 100 for a monthly pass in most cities, though owning a car provides more freedom to explore the country's vast landscapes
  • Utilities: Monthly utilities for a standard apartment can range from CAD 150 to CAD 250, depending on the season

Taxation

Canada’s income tax system is progressive, with federal and provincial taxes. Tax rates range from 15% to 33% federally, with additional provincial tax depending on location.

Foreign residents are taxed on all their worldwide income, so it’s essential to understand your tax obligations. Canada has tax treaties in place with many countries to avoid double taxation.

Banking and currency exchange

Opening a bank account in Canada is an easy and straightforward process, with major banks offering accounts that can be set up with a work permit, temporary residence permit, or other identification documents. Canada’s currency is the Canadian dollar (CAD), and currency exchange is widely available at banks and dedicated exchange services.

Step 3: Arrange housing and accommodation

Securing a place to live is essential for a smooth transition to Canadian life. The country’s vast geographical diversity offers a wide range of living environments.

Renting vs. buying

Renting is a popular option for expats, offering flexibility and a chance to get to know your preferred area before making a long-term commitment. Be aware that rental markets in cities like Toronto and Vancouver are very competitive. While prices may decrease outside of cities, they can still be relatively high in provinces like Ontario and British Columbia. Other provinces like New Brunswick or Nova Scotia may be more affordable, but they may also offer fewer career opportunities.

Buying a home in Canada can be a good investment, but it's important to understand the process, which varies by province, and budget for additional costs like property transfer taxes and legal fees.

Finding suitable housing

Canada has a diverse range of housing options, from city apartments to detached suburban homes and rural properties. Popular websites for finding rentals or purchasing property include Realtor.ca, Kijiji, and Craigslist.

Canadian tenancy laws generally favor the tenant, but it's important to understand your lease agreement, which should specify:

  • The property’s address and a detailed description
  • Monthly rent and acceptable payment method,
  • The amount of the deposit (usually equivalent to one month’s rent)
  • Lease duration, which is commonly one year
  • Tenant and landlord obligations
  • Policies on pets and renovations

Canada's open and welcoming communities make it a desirable destination for expats looking to start a new chapter in their lives.

Step 4: Consider career opportunities and working arrangements

Canada’s expansive and diverse job market offers myriad opportunities, particularly for skilled workers in technology, healthcare, and natural resources. With its commitment to welcoming new immigrants, Canada provides a supportive environment for internationals seeking employment in skilled trades, entrepreneurs, and start-up leaders.

In this section, we’ll guide you through finding job opportunities and acclimating to the professional culture in Canada.

Job market overview

Canada's economy is robust, with significant demand in sectors such as technology (especially in cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal), healthcare, engineering, and energy. The country is also experiencing labour market growth in digital media, environmental sciences, and agricultural industries.

Job seekers should explore platforms like Job Bank, Indeed Canada, and LinkedIn, as well as specific provincial websites for localized opportunities. Networking is key in Canada, with many positions filled through connections and professional associations. This can be especially true for self-employed foreign workers, who will benefit from rapidly building up a solid network.

While English is the primary language of business, French language skills are an asset in bilingual regions like Quebec. For certain professions, accreditation may be required from relevant Canadian regulatory bodies.

Understanding work culture in Canada

Canadian work culture is characterized by diversity, respect, and politeness, with an emphasis on work-life balance and inclusivity. Canadians typically work around 40 hours per week, with provincial laws regulating specific conditions and entitlements.

Teamwork and communication are highly valued, and workplaces are generally informal, with a first-name basis being common. However, professionalism in interactions and punctuality for meetings is expected.

Step 5: Organize healthcare and education

Canada is renowned for its public healthcare system and quality educational institutions, providing comprehensive coverage and opportunities for residents and expats alike.

Healthcare system in Canada

Canada’s public healthcare system offers accessible and high-quality medical assistance to all Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Funded by taxes, the system allows individuals to access necessary health services without direct charges at the point of care.

Newcomers should apply for a health card in their province or territory to access healthcare services. Some opt for additional private health insurance to cover areas not fully provided by the public system, such as dental care.

Education options in Canada

The education system in Canada is among the best globally, with public, private, and international schools available for children. Education is managed provincially, ensuring high standards across public schools in all territories and provinces. 

For higher education, Canada has numerous prestigious universities and colleges offering a wide variety of programs. While tuition fees for international students are heftier than those for domestic students, many institutions provide scholarships and financial aid.

Healthcare

Step 6: Ensure your safety

Canada is known for its safety and high quality of life, with low crime rates and comprehensive public safety measures. However, as with relocating to any country, it’s wise to be aware of local safety guidelines, especially in metropolitan areas.

For emergencies, the universal number is 911. It's also recommended to keep the contact information of your country’s embassy or consulate within reach.

Step 7: Immerse yourself in Canadian culture

Canada’s culture is as diverse as its landscapes, offering a rich tapestry of experiences, from vibrant metropolitan festivals to serene natural retreats.

Social norms: Canadians are known for their politeness and inclusivity, with a strong sense of community and respect for different cultures

Outdoor activities: With its vast natural beauty, Canada offers outdoor activities year-round, from skiing and snowboarding in the Rockies to hiking and kayaking in the national parks

Cuisine: Canadian cuisine reflects the country’s multicultural population, with a wide range of culinary experiences. Don’t miss trying local specialties like poutine in Quebec, fresh seafood on the coasts, and maple syrup products

Experience a heartfelt welcome in Canada

From the lively metropolises of Toronto and Vancouver to the breathtaking views of Banff National Park or the romantic shores of Prince Edward Island, Canada presents an exceptional destination for expats and digital nomads. Benefit from a high standard of living, comprehensive healthcare, diverse employment opportunities, rich culture, and unparalleled natural splendor.

Thorough research and planning can ensure a smooth transition if you're contemplating a move to this North American country. For additional support, Deel can navigate organizations and their employees through the work permit or immigration process and assist in finding suitable insurance plans.

Discover how Deel can aid in securing the required work permit or visa, or delve into the Deel blog for more insights on relocating internationally.

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