Moving to Canada – A Guide for Expats

From the magnificent Rocky Mountains to slick, modern cities, and the snowy winters, sun-blushed summers and friendly charm of the locals, Canada has long been listed by expats as one of their favourite places to live.

The world’s second-largest country has more than just blockbuster scenery to offer, it is vibrant and multicultural, offering a high quality of life and good wages and is often held up as an example for its ability to attract talented workers from around the world. If you are considering joining them, then take a look at our guide to expat life in Canada for some hints and tips…

Obtaining a Visa to Emigrate to Canada

Canadian Work VisaFamed for its open attitude, Canada is always looking to attract skilled workers to its shores to contribute to the economy. So how do you get a work visa for Canada?The first step is to check the website which outlines the main options available.

Canadian Worker Programs

If you are transfering with your company, then everything should be relatively straightforward, but if you are looking for another way to enter the country, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is a way employers look for foreign workers. However they have to prove the role cannot be filled locally by taking part in a Labour Market Impact Assessment.

The Federal Skilled Worker Program is another way for professionals to apply for a visa and works on a points-based system, taking into account your experience, English and French fluency (the two national languages of Canada) and your education – the current pass mark is 67 out of 100. You will need a job offer and be able to prove you have adequate funds to live in Canada.

What is Express Entry?

The Canadian Express Entry system is the online portal you use to apply to the “pool”, from which you could then be invited to submit your full application for whichever programme suits you best.

Keep in mind that if you want to live and work in Quebec, you will need the Quebec Skilled Worker programme, which has its own separate points system and requirements, such as a French language test.

Another option for relocation is through Provincial Nominee Programs, which look for skilled workers for specific provinces or territories and can fast-track the visa process at a federal level.

Finally, UK citizens aged between 18 and 30 can enter the pool for the chance to become a candidate in the International Experience Canada visa programme, which allows you to work and travel in Canada for up to two years.

Unfortunately, there is no specific visa for retirees, therefore those who do end up in Canada have normally done so through a sponsorship visa provided by a relative.

Education in Canada for Expats


If you are moving with your children, you will be pleased to know that the level of education in Canada is high, with more than 90 per cent of students attending state school and just a minimal number attending international or religious schools.

The system is very similar to the US, with kindergarten for very young children, elementary school from age six to 14 and high school until 18. In Quebec, the system is slightly different and children finish school aged 17 and can take a two-year pre-university programme at college (university).

There is no nationwide standard as each province runs its own schools and in Quebec, the primary language of education is French (as a result there are more international schools here and stiff competition to get into them).

Study Abroad (Canadian Universities)

Universities in Canada are state-run and more similar to the UK, with tuition fees that are often substantially lower than in the USA. While you will need a high school diploma to be able to study at a college or university, each one will have its own criteria for admissions. Keep in mind that a college generally refers to an institution offering applied Bachelor’s degrees and more specialist arts and technology programmes, while universities are more similar to universities in the UK.

Finances in Canada

Canadian money

How to open a bank account in Canada?

There are always so many things to take into account when choosing to live in a different country. Fortunately, it is quite straight-forward in Canada. Each of the big five banks offers accounts to recent arrivals, although they do tend to charge monthly fees, and some will even let you set up your Canadian bank account from abroad, meaning you just have to activate it when you arrive in-country.

How to declare your taxes in Canada?

Residents in Canada are taxed on their worldwide income, however if you are receiving an income from abroad that has already been taxed, generally foreign tax credit relief will be provided so you aren’t double taxed. Other than that, your income taxes are tied to your earnings and are slightly lower than in the UK despite the fact a provincial income tax is added to the federal (often it will be deducted as one amount on your pay slip). For more details on taxation, the Canada Revenue Agency website is useful.

How much is healthcare in Canada?

One other area where Canada stands out against its southern neighbour is with healthcare. In Canada, the universal healthcare system is publically funded and everyone has access to low-cost universal public health insurance. It should cover most things and give you access to private or public hospitals, although the exact areas covered differs from province to province – and sometimes one province won’t honour another’s agreement.

As a temporary resident you may not qualify and it can take time to register, so expats can also opt for private health insurance to ensure they are covered for every eventuality. If you can, make sure you register for your medical card as soon as possible to see if you can qualify for the universal Medicare insurance system.

Canadian Lifestyle/Culture

Canada Landscape

If you love the Great Outdoors, you will be spoilt in Canada. This is after all the home of the Rocky Mountains, glaciers and lakes, rainforests and thundering rivers, dramatic coastline and rolling prairies.

General Costs

Of course, it takes a vast country to house such diversity, so you will probably be in need of a car if you want to travel around. Within cities, there is generally good public transport, but if you want to get around easily, it is better to have a car both within and outside of cities. That said, housing is often cheaper than at home and the cost of living in general is lower, although, of course, it is more expensive if you are living in a city.


The Great White North doesn’t have that name for nothing and although warm summers on the beach or at lake houses are idyllic, they are followed by long, harsh winters. However, this is a country that is prepared for snow, there are underground malls, endless caravans of snow ploughs, plug-in points in car parks to stop engines freezing and generally a very high quality of construction and insulation.

Another thing to take into consideration is where exactly you want to live. Vancouver, on the west coast, is famed for its mild winters and great outdoor lifestyle, but has a high rainfall (it is rainier than London), while Quebec – including cities such as Montreal and Quebec City – is French-speaking and you will expected to have a high level of French if you want to live and work there.


One thing everyone agrees on though, is that Canadians are friendly and famously polite. In fact, According to the 2017 Internations study of expats living in Canada, 45 per cent said they were considering staying forever and Canada ranked 13th out of 65 for quality of life, particularly for peacefulness, health and wellbeing and its clean environment.