Moving to Canada From the UK – The Ultimate Guide (2021)

This in-depth guide is a must-read for anyone looking to move to Canada. Here we cover everything you need to know to make it happen. Topics include the pros & cons of living in Canada, how Canada compares to the UK, how to apply for your Visa, cost of living, healthcare, how to ship your belongings and much more.

Canadian Landscape - international removals to Canada

A fact you may be surprised to hear is that 50% of the population of Canada were born in other countries. What makes it such a desirable place to emigrate? Why are people moving to Canada in their droves? Let’s find out together by exploring what it’s like to move to Canada from the UK and exactly how you can go about doing so!

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Updated Travel Details to Canada (September 2021)

As of 7th September 2021, Canada is opening up its borders for foreign nationals who qualify for a fully vaccinated traveller exemption. To qualify for this, you need to have had a full series of an accepted Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the day you enter Canada, as well as being eligible to enter and meet other entry requirements such as a pre-entry test.

The accepted Covid-19 vaccinations include the Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines. Good news! For more details take a look at the Government of Canada website on Covid-19 travellers entering Canada.

How Does Living in Canada Compare to The UK?

When deciding on whether or not you should up roots and move to Canada, you will be asking yourself “Is living in the UK better than Canada?” and that really depends on your own personal circumstances and opinions.

Although Canada and the UK are similar in many ways, there are some notable differences. The main one being the sheer size of Canada compared to the UK. It is the second-largest country in the world by total area and has a whopping 274 sq km per 1,000 people compared to the UK’s 4 square metres per 1,000 people.

With this space comes some issues, as the internal transport system in Canada is not as good as the UK, getting around the country to see friends and family may be problematic. It can, however, lead to a more peaceful life and lots of open space, if that’s what you are looking for.

As detailed further down in this article, the education system in Canada is high on the government’s lists of priorities, which compares favourably to the UK. However, when it comes to university education, the UK ranks slightly higher than its Canadian counterparts.

Other factors in the favour of Canada are that the people are very welcoming and friendly, the healthcare system is very good (although you will need insurance to cover some services), property is cheaper and generally much bigger than the UK and eating out will cost you less in Canada, as well as other leisure activities such as going to the cinema.

In case you haven’t yet decided whether moving to Canada is for you, here’s a quick go-to rundown on the pros and cons of moving to Canada:

The Pros and Cons of Life in Canada

Pros

  • The public healthcare system
    We cover this in more detail below, but an obvious benefit of living in Canada is the government-funded public healthcare system! This shares many similarities with the NHS in the UK and gives you peace of mind that you’ll be in good hands in the event of any emergencies.
  • The Canadian education system
    Canada is ranked very highly for its education system (4th globally, according to a recent report). 
  • Strong employment market
    There is high demand for a wide variety of jobs in Canada and there are many thriving industries that are looking for new skilled workers. Skip to the working in Canada section to find out more.
  • Low crime rate
    Canada is the 10th safest country in the world according to the Global Peace Index. This is certainly an improvement compared to the UK, which comes in at 33rd position. The USA is currently ranking at 122nd and Australia is placed 16th.
  • Friendly people, that look out for each other
    Canada is known for its friendly culture. In combination with the low crime rate and high standard of education, it’s the perfect destination for families looking for a new life outside of the UK.
  • Beautiful scenery
    The Canadian scenery is breathtaking, to say the least. If you enjoy nature, stunning mountain ranges and picturesque lakes, Canada is the perfect place for you.

Cons

  • Very cold weather during the long winter months
    Thanks to its position in the northern hemisphere, the winter months in Canada can be extremely cold. The temperature ranges from -30 during the winter to above 30 in the summertime. If you’re used to warmer climates or if you simply don’t like cold weather, you might want to look elsewhere.
  • Expensive imported foods in the supermarkets
    Generally, the cost of food in the UK is around 18-19% cheaper when compared to Canada and certain imported products may be particularly expensive.
  • Challenging immigration process
    As we find out below, the process of immigrating to Canada can be a challenging one, which may be a factor in deciding if it’s the right place for you.
  • Annual leave from work can be as little as 10 days per year
    On average, Canadians receive 10 paid vacation days a year, compared to the average of 28 days in the UK. These figures do vary across occupations, so you could be looking at more than just 10 depending on your job.

That about sums up the main pros and cons of moving to Canada. We will leave it up to you to decide on whether or not the pros outweigh the cons, but if you can stand the cold, can get through the long immigration process and are happy to work hard with fewer holidays, then Canada would appear to be the place for you.

If that’s the case, let’s dive into how you can make moving to Canada a reality, as well as more details on how aspects of life in Canada (healthcare, education, taxes etc.) compare to the UK.

Canadian eTA’s, Visas and Express Entry

Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)

Once you have checked out whether or not you are able to travel, as your first step you will then need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA). This takes a few minutes, a valid passport, an e-mail address, a valid credit or debit card and payment of CA$7. Once approved, your eTA is valid for up to 5 years.

An eTA is simply an authorization for you to travel to Canada for short stays (up to six months at a time) as often as you like. The eTA is digitally linked to your passport, so if you get a new passport you will also need to reapply for your eTA.

How to Apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (canada.ca)

From there, you have a few options relating to your own personal requirement, as to whether or not you need a Visa or permit and which one you will require.

Do I Need a Visa?

Immigration to Canada - Visas - Guide to Moving to Canada

If you are visiting for up to 6 months, you may only need the Electronic Travel Authorisation, but if you are planning on moving to Canada to work or study you will need to apply for a work or study permit.

Check out our recent post on Canadian immigration and Visas for more info.

To check whether or not you need a visa (and if you do, which type) then there is a simple questionnaire on the Government of Canada website that can direct you with only a few simple questions.

Express Entry and How to Apply

If you work in a skilled job, you may be able to apply to live permanently in Canada using Express Entry. The first step would be to again visit the Government of Canada website and answer a few questions to find out if you are able to apply. If you are successful in this first step you will be put into a pool of candidates and possibly invited to apply for immigration. Find the questionnaire here.

Despite being a popular country to emigrate to, with a high population of people living in Canada having been born in other countries, it does have a challenging and difficult immigration process. If your aim is to move to Canada, we recommend sending your applications as early as possible to avoid any potential delays.

Working in Canada

There are many career paths available for you if you are a skilled worker and are willing to work hard (don’t expect an hour off for lunch!) Canada is looking for educated people to relocate there, and after completion of studies, 93% of graduates find a job in their chosen field of study.

Working in Canada - Moving to Canada Guide

What Jobs are in Demand in Canada?

There are a variety of roles that are in demand, ranging from general labourer and truck driver to more administrative jobs such as Human Resource manager or project manager, meaning that there is invariably something for everyone. Tech jobs are in very high demand as well, and Web Developer is amongst the most sought-after professional jobs that are required, as well as jobs in the video game industry.

Canadians also love their pets, so if you are a qualified Veterinarian looking to move to Canada, you may find your application for Express Entry is given the green light.

So, there are many diverse roles available for someone who is looking to relocate to Canada to seek gainful employment.

How do Salaries in Canada compare to the UK?

You’ll be happy to find out that the average salary in Canada is 7.6% higher than in the UK! Let’s look at a few key industries and exactly how the salaries compare.

OccupationSalary in Canada (CAD)GBPSalary in the UKCanada + or – %
Average Salary$53,625£31,869£29,600+7.6%
Electrical engineer$68,000£40,419£30,824+31%
Graphic Designer$41,760£24,822£21,600+15%
I.T.$83,800£49,810£32,500+53%
Mechanical Engineer$64,000£38,041£38,500-1.2%
Midwife$68,000£40,419£30,000+34.7%
Accountant$50,400£29,957£34,800-14%
Retail Manager$44,750£26,599£23,550+13%
Surveyor$71,000£42,202£46,000-8.2%
Teacher$58,300£34,653£28,950+19.7%
Source: www.propertyguides.com/canada/news/i-better-off-uk-canada/

Things to Do in Canada

Lake in Canada

It’s not all work, work, work, however, so if you are thinking of moving to Canada you’re probably just as interested in how you can spend your leisure time. Canada has an abundance of freshwater, with over 2 million lakes, streams and rivers. In fact, it has one-fifth of the world’s freshwater. So, if you are a fan of fishing there is plenty of opportunity for you anglers to enjoy your leisure time catching fish (if you’re lucky!)

The national winter sport is Ice Hockey, with the national summer sport being lacrosse, although soccer is becoming a lot more popular especially with children. Baseball is also popular, but the Toronto Blue Jays are Canada’s only Major League Baseball team.

Unsurprisingly, with the striking scenery, camping and hiking are both popular, so when you are planning on what to take with you when you move to Canada make sure you’ve got a sturdy pair of boots.

Education in Canada

One of the reasons for the desirability of Canada as a place to move is possibly the high ranking education system. The literacy rate in Canada is 99% with 90% of residents aged 25 to 64 having at least a high school education.

Image depicting education in Canada - Guide to Moving to Canada

Education in Canada is a high priority of the Government, they have a strong and well-funded system, which is managed provincially. This does mean though, that there are a few differences between the provinces such as the compulsory education age for example (16 in all provinces except Ontario and New Brunswick which is 18) so we would suggest you check the specific province’s information before making any decisions based on education.

Education in Canada is generally available to children the year that they turn 5 years old (again there are variations in some provinces) and international students may choose to study in either English or French, although are not required to be fluent in either to be allowed to study in Canada.

Private Schooling in Canada

There are also thousands of private schools across Canada, some religious-based, so there is some choice when it comes to how your children are educated, although both private and public schooling is at a high standard due to the level of Government funding.

Universities

Conversely, universities tend to rank higher in the UK than in Canada, although the cost of university education is lower in Canada compared to the UK, and it is usually a 4-year course rather than 3 years. 

According to topuniversities.com, the best universities in Canada are the University of Toronto, McGill University (in Montreal) and the University of British Columbia.

The Canadian Healthcare System (Medicare)

Canada’s healthcare system is in fact very similar to The UK’s, in as much as the government uses tax income to provide essential medical services for free. This is known as Medicare. Again, as with education, this is managed provincially meaning that the standard of care, and the services you receive, can vary depending on where in Canada you live.

Doctor on Canada flag background - Canadian Healthcare

Once you are a permanent resident you are able to apply for a public health insurance card, which you must show when you are using public health care services. Even if you do not have a health card, all of the provinces will provide free emergency medical services, although this could depend on your immigration status.

What Isn’t Covered by Medicare?

There are limitations to the tax-funded Medicare in Canada, and the coverage can differ depending on the province in question. In general, items not covered by Medicare include prescription drugs, dental treatment and ambulance services, and private medical insurance is available and widely used by Canadians as a top-up to the cover given via the tax-funded Medicare system.

The Cost of Living in Canada

As with the UK, the cost of living in Canada can vary depending on which province or city that you live in, although the differences aren’t as extreme between major cities and rural areas as in some parts of the UK (for example London has a very high cost of living in comparison to other regions).

Cost of Living in Canada - Moving to Canada

Wages

On average, there isn’t a huge difference in the wages that you can expect in Canada compared to the UK. On average, Canadian salaries are 12% higher, however, this figure will vary when looking at individual occupations. We cover this in more detail above

If you then manage to find employment and a home in one of the less expensive areas to live in when moving to Canada then you might find yourself with more disposable income in your bank.

Bills and Amenities

Prices for household bills and amenities are lower in Canada, which helps again with that disposable income that we’d all like to see in our bank accounts once the bills have been paid.

Going Out, Clothing & Food

Eating out is less expensive in Canada, and with the desirability of emigration to Canada comes with it a vast number of ethnic cuisines to choose from, as well as excellent local foods. 

If you want to catch a film, Canada is less expensive than the UK, as with clothes shopping. However, as Canada needs to import a lot of its foodstuffs, you will find it more expensive to stock up whilst food shopping. All the more reason to go out for meals. Saves on the washing up too (but don’t forget to tip).

In general, living in Canada is slightly more expensive than living in the UK, but this is also dependent on which area of the country you are living in, and if you get that bit right the difference can be negligible.

Taxes and Benefits in Canada

The main difference when it comes to taxes in Canada compared to the UK is that income, sales and property tax in Canada is levied at the federal level by the government as well as provincial level by the provinces, with each province having its own scale.

Person completing tax return

On average, you’ll pay approximately 3% more in income tax in Canada compared to the UK, but sales tax (VAT in the UK) is lower at between 5% and 17% depending on the province. Often the sales taxes are combined together into a single Harmonised Sales Tax (HST).

Throughout the provinces, there are various social programs to assist Canadian citizens through benefits. As well as medicare healthcare and education, there are benefits available for unemployment, low-income, disability and childcare amongst others. 

Pensions

Even if you move to Canada, if you have paid enough UK National Insurance, you should be able to still receive your state pension. You will need to bear in mind though, that your pension will be “frozen” at the time you leave the country and you will not receive the inflation increase that UK residents are given.

For more details on receiving your UK state pension whilst living overseas, you can contact the International Pension Centre.

The Government in Canada

One of the many things that the UK shares with Canada is our Queen. She is Head of State in Canada, they are a Constitutional Monarchy much like us, and they too have a Prime Minister who is generally the leader of the political party that holds the most seats in the House of Commons. Similarly to the UK, Canadians vote for the local Member of Parliament in a national election, and the 338 members of the House of Commons are elected for a maximum of four years.

The political parties currently represented in the House of Commons in Canada are the Liberal Party of Canada, Conservative Party of Canada, Bloc Quebecois (Quebec Nationalist Party), New Democratic Party and Green Party of Canada.

Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party of Canada is currently the Prime Minister. As with the UK, the Crown does not have a role in the legislative process, other than passing a bill by granting royal assent. Some Canadians do feel that the government in Canada is a little too “hands-on” though, and can reach into decisions that they make about how they live their lives, such as how much, and which types of fat they can have in their diets.

Driving in Canada

Can I drive on a UK licence in Canada?

If you are planning to visit Canada on a temporary basis, you can drive on a UK licence for 3-6 months (depending on the province) but you should also apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP). Once issued this is valid for one year. 

If you are planning on moving to Canada as a permanent resident you would need to apply for a Canadian driver’s licence, the process differs depending on the province (as usual!) but may include a written exam and up to 2 driving tests.

Driving Laws in Canada

It’s compulsory for seat belts to be worn, and if you get caught not wearing one there will be a fine. As with driving in the USA (and the majority of other countries around the world), you need to drive on the right-hand side of the road in Canada, and there are other differences to UK driving that you’d need to get used to if moving to Canada.

For example, in some provinces, headlights are required to be switched on during the day and the night, and throughout most of Canada turning right is permitted on a red light, unless a sign tells you otherwise.

Similarities with the UK include the fact that it is illegal to talk on the phone unless “hands-free”, or text when you are driving. Get caught doing this and you are looking at another fine. Speed limits are fairly similar in built-up areas (50km/h or 31mph) with some exceptions as with the UK. Motorway limits differ and can be up to 120km/h or 75mph down to 90km/h (55 mph) depending on the province.

Shipping Your Car to Canada

Car Shipping to Canada

If you’d prefer to ship your car or motorbike to Canada rather than buy one when you are there, you can do so as long as it meets the Canada Border Services Agency and Transport Canada regulations. It will need to be in excess of 15 years old and not of a “regulated class”.

For more details, visit the website of Autoshippers, a sister company of 1st Move International that has been exporting cars and other vehicles to Canada for over 20 years. 

There are details of the import requirements for Canada on the Canada Car Shipping and Import Guide or for more information, you can call on 0800 389 0784 / +44 117 982 8123 to speak with one of our experienced operators. 

Can I Take My Pet to Canada?

Moving to Canada with Pets

As long as you meet the requirements, the answer is yes. 

As the UK is considered rabies-free, so the requirements for flying your dog or cat to Canada are fairly simple and consist of needing a microchip, a rabies vaccination and a health certificate issued within 5 days of the flight. Even without a vaccination, you can have DEFRA documentation to show that you are moving from the UK, being rabies-free.

There is currently no quarantine requirement for dogs and cats that travel from the UK to Canada, although if your dog is under 8 years old there are slightly different rules for you to adhere to. Also, some provinces have banned Staffordshire Bull Terriers and their crosses from entering or transiting, so check this in advance as well.

Rabbits will need an import permit and will be subject to quarantine, and ferrets will also need an import permit. Rodents, such as mice, rats, hamsters etc, do not need a permit or health certificate to travel to Canada.

Birds will need an import permit, and some other pets such as some types of turtle, may require a CITES certificate if considered endangered. For more information check out the Government of Canada guide on bringing your pet to Canada.

Moving to Canada – International Removals

Have we sold it to you? After researching Canada for this article, some of us are even considering it ourselves! For more information on the best places to live in Canada take a look at our blog “The Top 5 Best Places for Expats Living in Canada” where we go into detail on the most popular cities that UK expats are moving to.

Once you have found somewhere to live, have gone through the Visa applications and potentially found yourself gainful employment, your next step is your move. At 1st Move International, we have been safely and securely shipping furniture and personal belongings to Canada for over 20 years. Check out our international removals services to Canada for more information on how we can make your move a reality.

If you are moving to Canada, there are a few Customs matters to contend with, forms to fill out etc, but with our expert team guiding you through the steps, the process is very straightforward.

And, with our unique palletised removals we can use commercial consolidators with regular departures, meaning that your personal effects are securely shipped from door-to-door, minimizing delays and damages. For more information, take a look at our previous article “How Does Palletising Your Personal Belongings Make Moving Overseas Safer?”

Please feel free to request a free quotation, or call us on 0117 982 8123 or 0800 389 0784.