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Living in Canada: Complete guide to immigrating to Canada

Whether you’re relocating to Canada for work, retirement or to begin a new adventure, Canada is an incredible place to live.

With its booming economy, universal healthcare system, breath-taking scenery and a welcoming multicultural environment – it’s no wonder thousands choose to immigrate to the country each year.

Although the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has given way to increased caution, if it’s in your plans to move to Canada, this long-standing dream can still be fulfilled!

However, moving abroad is rarely a straightforward process, and it is easy to overlook the legal and financial intricacies involved with starting a new life overseas.

From understanding how to obtain a visa, adjust to the cost of living and ensuring healthcare and living settlements are arranged, in our complete guide to moving to Canada, we will advise you on how best to manage your finances to ensure your move is seamless.

Whether you plan on living in the country for the short-term or the long-term, with Halo Financial’s tips and hacks on the pros and cons of life in the “Great White North”, you’ll be well prepared for this new chapter in your life.

How to obtain a Canadian visa

If you’re considering relocating to Canada, it’s essential to learn the visa requirements before you move to ensure you have the legal right to stay in the country for your intended duration.

While there are several types of visas, some of the most commonly obtained are Temporary Resident Visas, which typically allow stays of up to six months, the Startup Visa, which is for those who have a qualifying business, and work permits.

Working in Canada

Working in Canada: obtaining a Canadian work visa or permit

Canada’s developing economy offers unparalleled opportunities to emigrants, and approximately 250,000 foreigners arrive in the country to work and live each year.

For expats wanting to mix their working life with the great outdoors, Canada is a desirable destination. However, depending on your first nationality and your job position, you will likely need to obtain a work permit first.

Several countries have visa-free agreements in place with Canada, which allows foreigners to work without a visa. Still, even then an individual may be mandated by Canadian officials to apply for an electronic travel authorisation (e-TA).

Check your eligibility for a work permit online via the Canadian government’s immigration website.

If you need to obtain a work permit, applications can be made online although eligibility will be assessed, providing you meet specific criteria.

Individuals who want to live and work in Canada can apply through the Express Entry path, which assesses visas on a points-based system. Officials determine eligibility based on several factors, including work experience, language, education, family members and age.

Individuals that apply will also be subjected to fees, which range from CAD 100 to CAD 2,075, the latter being the cost for the Start-up visa with permanent residence.

Most emigrants move to Canada through one of the economic immigration routes, although Canadian officials also encourage foreigners willing to invest to apply through its Startup Visa program.

However, if you’re already living in Canada or plan to relocate permanently, you may be more interested in how to go about obtaining Canadian citizenship.

While the economic immigration path allows new residents to switch their visa to citizenship, providing they meet the requirements, citizenship can also be obtained by descent.

How to acquire Canadian citizenship

Whether you plan to live in Canada permanently, are an expat currently living in the country, or have retirement plans in place, it’s essential to know the options available should you decide to switch your visa or permit for Canadian citizenship instead.

If you were born overseas, you could become a citizen by descent, providing at least one of your parents was a Canadian citizen before you were born.

Government officials will also confer citizenship if your grandparents worked in the armed forces or for the Canadian government at the time you were born.

However, if neither of these applies to you, to be eligible for Canadian citizenship, you must:

  • Be over 18 and a permanent resident in the country
  • Prove you have lived in Canada for at least three of the past five years
  • Demonstrate proficiency in English or French
  • Be tested on your understanding of Canadian culture, rights and responsibilities

While this may seem like a tedious process, once you become a Canadian citizen, you will be entitled to more rights than permanent residents, including the ability to vote or run for political office, hold high-level jobs and acquire a Canadian passport.

The Canadian passport is also one of the most powerful in the world, allowing individuals to enjoy visa-free travel to more than 150 countries around the globe!

Does Canada allow dual citizenship?

While Canada permits dual citizenship, dual status is only granted if this is also legally recognised by your home country.

Several countries, including Australia, France, Ireland, the UK and the US, let their nationals assume second citizenship.

However, those emigrating from countries such as India, Japan, China and Singapore will likely have to give up their first nationality when moving abroad.

Regardless of whether you are applying for single citizenship or dual citizenship, fees are payable for all routes to this status in Canada.

Depending on the circumstances, some individuals may find that they are exempt from having to pay any fees. That being said, an adult application for citizenship will set you back CAD 630 and CAD 100 for minors and stateless adults born to a Canadian parent.

If you’re applying from overseas and need to exchange your local currency into Canadian dollars (CAD), you may be considering using a bank to fulfil your international money transfer.

However, we advise you to take heed when using banks as they tend to overcharge customers by levying hidden costs and fees in the exchange rate.

Instead, we advise you to use foreign exchange specialists such as Halo Financial, who are authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Halo Financial can provide invaluable guidance and insight into the often-unpredictable currency market landscape to offer you maximum flexibility on your international currency transfers and safeguard your money against adverse fluctuations in exchange rates.

The cumulative costs your income and savings could be exposed to when making currency transfers can be excessive due to volatile exchange rates.

Halo Financial provides several currency options that limit downside risks and provide unlimited upside potential to ensure you maximise your currency transfer.

Unlike banks, Halo keeps costs and rates competitive to pass the reduction rate onto their clients and provide same-day transactions to facilitate immediate delivery.

Whether you’re retiring to Canada, immigrating with family or already living in the country, avoid being overcharged by using Halo, who can mitigate the risk of fluctuating exchange rates to ensure you make the most of your move to Canada.

As Canada is known to have a high cost of living, by protecting your funds, you can avoid any unnecessary financial troubles.

Pros and cons of moving to Canada

Canada’s high cost of living could come as a surprise for some; however, its universal healthcare system, unyielding politeness, nature, wildlife and picturesque landscapes make it easy to see why so many people continue to move there each year.

If you’re among those who are considering moving to Canada, we’ve outlined the pros and cons to life in “the Great White North”, including all you need to know about the cost of living in Canada to ensure you’re ready to settle down in either of its six time zones.

Canadian healthcare

Leading healthcare system in Canada

While Canada is known to have a high cost of living, according to the latest US News & Report Quality of Life sub-ranking in the 2020 Best Countries report, Canada ranks second in the world for quality of life and first for healthcare.

All permanent residents and Canadian citizens can access free, universal healthcare in Canada, known as Medicare, which is funded in the same way as the NHS is in the UK – through taxation.

However, it should be noted that each province runs its healthcare system differently, and British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta charge premiums for its public services.

That being said, all provinces provide free emergency care irrespective of status or whether you hold a health card.

Suppose you don’t have permanent residency or citizenship and plan to live in the country for an extended period, you should prioritise obtaining a health card or registering for health insurance.

Unfortunately, it can take as long as three months before you can be issued a health card in some territories, albeit once you obtain a health card, you will be able to access all basic medical services.

If you currently rely on prescription medication, it would be wise to arrange private medical cover before your move to Canada. Manulife is Canada’s largest health insurer, which offers several plans with tailored quotes for its clients.

High-quality education system in Canada

Aside from being world leaders in healthcare, Canada also boasts one of the highest-ranking education systems in the world, placing third behind the United States and the United Kingdom according to the US News & Report 2020 Best Countries for Education survey.

No matter your reason for moving to Canada, whether that be for a job opportunity or to start a new adventure, it is vital to understand how the education system works and what you can expect for your family.

Canada has a decentralised education system, meaning it is the responsibility of the individual provinces to impose laws relating to education.

While children can attend school at the age of four or five in most territories, education does not become mandatory until the age of six years old in Canada.

Depending on the province, education is usually compulsory until grade 11 or 12; however, in some regions, academic study is mandatory until 18 years old. After that children can decide whether to continue onto higher education, colleges or CEGEP, which is a pre-university public college, exclusive to Quebec.

Public education in Canada is free for all residents and citizens, but those with temporary visas can expect to pay anywhere from CAD 8,000 to CAS 14,000 per year for accompanying children.

Private schools in Canada are also costly, with tuition fees ranging from CAD 4,000 to CAD 26,000 annually.

Cost of living in Canada

While Canada is a long-sought-after location for many due to its high-quality standard of living, leading education system and outstanding healthcare, it has a relatively high cost of living.

However, when compared to the UK, the difference in cost of living in the country is relatively small. According to Numbeo, the cost of living in Canada is 0.19% higher than in the UK, while rental prices are higher by 3.11%.

However, depending on where in Canada you choose to settle, your salary could significantly differ as wages vary from city to city.

The lowest you can expect to be paid per hour is CAD 11.70; however when converting that into British pounds (GBP) that equates to GBP 6.85, which is significantly lower than the UK’s minimum wage at GBP 8.72.

That being said, in Nunavut, the national minimum wage is CAD 16.00 per hour, which is the equivalent of GBP 9.36 an hour.

Meanwhile, wages in Ontario are almost on par with the UK’s minimum wage, so those emigrating from the UK can expect to take home a similar amount if relocating to Canada’s most populous province.

Once you foot the costs of your move abroad, we advise evaluating the difference between your country’s minimum wage and the salary in Canada to budget living expenses.

If you need to exchange your income into Canadian dollars (CAD), remember that fluctuating exchange rates will have a significant impact on the value of your earnings.