Moving to Canada from the UK

Moving to Canada from the UK: A Guide

I may be a little biased having lived in Canada previously, but it’s truly one of the most beautiful and welcoming countries I’ve ever had the privilege to visit. From iconic cityscapes to snowy mountains, to the little known desert of its very own wine country, you could say Canada truly has it all! Perhaps you’re looking to book a one way flight, or are simply dipping your toe in the water – either way, moving across the pond can be a little intimidating. There’s a whole plethora of information out there, each source with its own opinion, but take it from someone who’s already done it! Here’s my guide to moving to Canada from the UK. As a bonus, here’s a checklist for moving overseas to help you prepare for your big (and super exciting) adventure.

Apply for a Canadian visa

Luckily for you, Canada actually has one of the most relaxed immigration policies going. It’s also an incredibly welcoming country, and I’ve long admired not only its own celebration of its heritage and First Nations, but how accepting it is of immigrants and refugees alike. In my opinion, it’s one of the best things about the country, and more often than not, you’re greeted in the airport by a chirpy ‘welcome to Canada!’ by customs staff. The perfect arrival to your new home!

When it comes to moving to Canada from the UK, you have a few different options for staying in Canada:

  • International Experience Canada Program. This is a global scheme, and when moving to Canada from the UK, you must be between 18 and 30 (you can apply right up until the day before your 31st birthday). 65,000 lucky people get granted one of these golden tickets, and 5,000 of them are allocated to Brits. It’s directed mainly at skilled workers, looking to work, live, and experience Canada at its finest.
  • Start-Up Visa Program. This is targeted at business people and entrepreneurs looking to move to Canada from the UK. With this program, you can move to perhaps open a business, create jobs, and look to boost the Canadian economy by investing in the country.
  • Family Reunification. Perhaps your reason for moving to Canada is because you have a member of family living there because they’re a citizen or permanent resident. I’m lucky enough to be half Canadian and therefore a citizen, so this was how I was lucky enough to be able to live in the country.
Moving to Canada from the UK: securing a visa

Choose where to live in Canada

This is a tricky one, but also perhaps the most fun part! Moving to Canada from the UK is no mean feat, so ideally make sure you’ve visited where you’d ultimately like to live in Canada. Often, this can depend on several factors:

Climate in Canada

Ski bunny? Somewhere near Montblanc or Whistler is likely for you. Hate the cold? Vancouver or Vancouver Island is probably best! There’s no denying the Canadian climate is most often a lot cooler than the UK, but some places offer a similar climate. One thing you’ll notice wherever you pick in Canada is that the weather is much more extreme – this means colder winters and warmer summers. You’ll also be pleased to discover that generally, Canada is a lot less grey and overcast! Here’s a general roundup for some popular cities:

  • Toronto: very warm and humid through the summer months, and cold (~-7°C) and windy in the winter with regular snow.
  • Montreal: mild in the spring and summer months, but very cold (~-12°C) and snowy in the winter months.
  • Calgary: typically dry and mild through the summer months, and extremely cold and clear thanks to Chinook winds in the winter months.
  • Vancouver: the warmest part of Canada, but it’s nicknamed Raincouver for a reason! It has warm, dry summers and mild, rainy winters.

Moving to Canada from the UK can be a surprise weather-wise, but one thing to remember is that Canadians embrace the seasons. Unlike us Brits who love to complain about the weather, Canadians dress for the weather and simply get on with it! Enjoy the snowy mountains and the winter sports that come with it, and by summer get out and about to explore the great outdoors of the True North.

Moving to Canada from the UK: Lake Louise, Alberta

Quality of life in Canada

It’s no secret that quality of life in Canada is pretty awesome. In fact, Vancouver regularly tops the Quality of Living City Ranking, and for good reason too. This is all based on various factors including education quality, health services, political stability, and how it is to raise a family in a country.

Check out my guide to the reality of living in Vancouver.

It’s also important to consider what kind of lifestyle you want to have when moving to Canada from the UK. Perhaps it’s to bring up a family; to meet new people; to pursue a career; for a ski-bum lifestyle; or to explore the great outdoors. Make sure you’re clear on exactly what it is you want to achieve when considering where to live in Canada.

Cost of living in Canada

Cost of living is an extremely important factor when it comes to moving to Canada from the UK. Make sure you’re aware of the salaries for your potential job, or indeed that you’re able to afford your new life in Canada. Many things are a lot more affordable, including rent and gas.

It goes without saying that rent will vary depending on where you’re headed. Toronto and Vancouver are notoriously expensive when it comes to rent, but arguably your money will get you much further than it would in say, London. In Toronto or Vancouver, an average 1-bedroom furnished apartment will set you back around $2,000 CAD. Moving out to the suburbs or in Canada’s smaller cities, this cost would likely reduce dramatically and for a lot more square footage for your money.

Fuel for your car is much cheaper, as is car rental and accommodation for Canadian getaways. On the other hand, I would say groceries are more expensive (with less choice) than in the UK, along with the fact you will likely have to contribute to healthcare.

Book your flight to Canada

Of course, it’s always a good idea when moving to Canada from the UK to wait until your visa has been approved. Then it’s time to get excited! One-way flights can be surprisingly expensive, but here are some of my top tips for securing the best deal on a flight to Canada:

  • Check out no-frills airlines like Air Transat. I’ve flown with them a bunch of times and it’s always been a relatively pleasant and comfortable flight.
  • Always search for flights in Incognito mode, and check out open ended dates on Google Flights or Skyscanner for the best deals out there.
  • Sign up to Jack’s Flight Club – they plug the most amazing deals, which most often you’ll need to book a month or so in advance.
  • Use a plugin like Honey or simply have a cheeky Google for ‘[airline] discount code’ once you’ve found your flights, just in case you can snag some more money off.

Get your Canadian healthcare

If you’re arriving in Canada as part of the IEC (International Experience Canada), you’ll require suitable health insurance for the entire time you’re in Canada. You’ll need to ensure this covers everything from medical care to hospitalisation, and repatriation. I’d only recommend buying this insurance once you’ve had your port of entry letter through, just in case!

Generally speaking, moving to Canada from the UK, you’ll notice a marked improvement in healthcare (although I can’t knock our NHS!) Doctor surgeries are generally clean and efficient, and I was lucky enough to regularly walk-in and be seen by a doctor immediately. For me, this was quite different to the lengthy waiting list of my GP surgery back in Cheltenham.

If you’re a permanent resident or a Canadian citizen, you’re able to apply for public health insurance. Do note there is a waiting period for this, of around 3 months, before you’re entitled to your healthcare card. This means you’ll likely have to get some private healthcare insurance in the meantime to cover any possible incidents in the interim. These healthcare cards are free, with the Medical Services Plan fee now expired if you live in British Columbia. Instead, the healthcare system is paid for through your taxes, and you’ll simply need to show your card when going to the hospital or to a clinic.

Montreal, Canada

Sort your accommodation

When moving to Canada from the UK, it’s a good idea to find some temporary lodging before you dive right into a 12 month contract on a rental. I was pretty bold here (as I was lucky enough to find a job before moving) so found a furnished apartment with a flexible lease, and thankfully it worked out fine!

I would recommend finding an AirBnB for a few weeks to take off the pressure. Perhaps you could pick somewhere fairly central within the city or town you’re planning to move to, and you can use it as an opportunity to explore a number of different areas. Private rooms in AirBnBs are a great way to find an impressive spot for an affordable rate. Staying with others also means you’ll be often be exposed to locals, and can get a whole bunch of recommendations on the area.

Other options when moving to Canada from the UK of course include staying at a hostel. This is a super popular option, usually with younger people and backpackers. It’s also an amazing way to meet people during your first few weeks in Canada, and you’ll likely find plenty of people in a similar position to you. Hostels often run a number of activities for newcomers like pub quizzes, which adds a social element to your new home from the get-go.

Find work in Canada

Canada has a healthy economy, and the job opportunities are far and wide. When moving to Canada from the UK, it’s a good idea to research your industry as much as possible before you head out. I applied to several marketing agency roles before I left, and was lucky enough to interview via phone and secured a role before I moved. I’d recommend looking at Canada’s most in-demand occupations before you move to get familiar with the market. Salespeople, labourers, and administrators regularly top this list. Networking through LinkedIn will never do you any harm either, and Canadians are often friendly and willing to meet for coffee.

With a bountiful range of job prospects, you’ll find a decent quality of life to go along with it! Perhaps I lucked out, but my work/life balance was never better. I didn’t work past 5pm, had a full lunch hour to enjoy, frequent business travel, team social activities, and I was lucky enough to have a boss who pushed us to maintain our own lives outside of work. I heard similar things from my friends too.

One thing you’ll discover when moving to Canada from the UK is that the holiday isn’t quite as good! Typically you’ll get between 2 to 3 weeks annual leave allowance (or ‘PTO/paid time off’) per year. That said, you’ll be blown away by the amount of public holidays there are each year. On a country level, there are ten public holidays, but on top of this, the province in which you’ll reside will offer more holidays on top. This means you essentially get a public holiday once a month. It’s perfect for long weekends for exploring all the amazing things Canada has to offer.

Moving to Canada from the UK: Toronto, Ontario

Open a Canadian bank account

Canada has a whole host of banks to choose from. The ‘big 5’ banks include the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of Montreal, and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. As you can imagine, they are all fairly similar, but it’s worth exploring their different rates to suit your unique needs. One of the most competitive elements of banking in Canada is often the reward scheme on your credit card. Some offer AirMiles; others offer cashback, and I essentially chose based on this!

You may need a letter from your employer in order to open an account. For this reason, I recommend taking plenty of savings with you when moving to Canada from the UK to see you through most eventualities and possibly unemployment for some time. When I first opened my account, you have to ‘build trust’ for a credit card, meaning I could only use debit (or ‘chequing’ account) initially, then had to build up my credit over time.

You’ll likely have to transfer money throughout your time in Canada – I highly recommend Transferwise for doing so. I’ve certainly learnt about paying bank fees the hard way, so be sure to take my advice!

Be prepared to do your own taxes

This was the biggest shocker for me when moving to Canada from the UK – actually having to be responsible and do my own taxes! The Canadian tax system is similar to the British in the sense of being charged different amounts on each section of your earnings. There are five federal tax brackets, as follows:

  • $0 – $47630 = 15%
  • $47630 – $95259 = 20.5%
  • $95259 – $147667 = 26%
  • $147667 – $210371 = 29%
  • $210371 + = 33%

One thing to note also is that my wages in Canada also varied month on month based on varying tax rates! It’s all a little tricky to get your head around to start with. As well as GST (government state tax), there’s also PST (provincial state tax). PST varies based on the province in which you live, and it also comes in incremental brackets.

Each year, you’ll need to provide a tax return. This was tasty in my first year after moving to Canada from the UK – I received quite a hefty return, which is common for expats in their first year! There are a number of cheap (or free) resources you can use to file your return, or choose an accountant to help you and fill it out for you instead.

Moving to Canada from the UK: Alberta

Inform Student Finance

If you went to university and took out student finance with the Student Loans Company, you’ll need to inform them that you’ll no longer be living in the UK. I learnt this the hard way, and received a number of letters to my parents’ house after I had moved to Canada! By letting them know, it essentially pauses the payments you owe. Otherwise, you could find your interest racks up over time.

Once you’re employed, you’ll need to inform them again. These payments will then need to be taken from a UK account, so make sure you factor this in when you’re sorting out your finances. All you really need to do is provide 3 months of pay slips as well as information on your new salary and what your job will be.

Meet new people in Canada

Whenever you leave your native country for a new one, it can always be a little intimidating having to reach out, meet new people, and make new friends. Moving to Canada from the UK is usually fairly straightforward, however! Despite Canada being a bilingual country, there’s no language barrier. Canadians are also notoriously friendly and welcoming, and there will be tons of people in your position.

Canada is actually the second most popular destination for British expats to move to, and Brits make up a whopping 650,000 of the expat community in Canada. That’s almost 1% of the entire UK population, which is testament to what a truly wonderful country Canada really is.

Once you’ve finished moving to Canada from the UK, get settled into your new neighbourhood. My advice for meeting new people is pretty much to put yourself out there. Get onto Meetup groups for similar people who have just moved to your city or town. Find Facebook groups, and join social events. Get involved in the local community; get chatting even to the concierge in your apartment building! Work can also be a magical place for meeting new people, and my colleagues truly became some of my closest friends. Embrace it, be open-minded, and you’ll be amazed at who comes into your life.

Canadians love Brits, and will likely be so interested into your past and your new life in Canada. What’s more, there’s also a huge community of expats in Canada, so you’ll never be far from someone who makes you feel familiar in your new surroundings.

Enjoy your new life in Canada!

Because this is really what it’s all about. You’ve picked a wonderful place, now to enjoy! Moving overseas enriches your life in so many ways. Here’s a quote I really love about living overseas:

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place”

I hope you’ve found my guide to moving to Canada from the UK helpful! Are there any other tips you’d share for anyone reading this guide? Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. Canada sounds like paradise! I have relatives who live there, but it’s been almost 14 years since I last went to visit! What I wouldn’t give to move over there due to the cesspool that the US is these days…one day I’ll have to return, hopefully soon!

  2. Glad you chose our wonderful country to live!! I wanted to correct a couple of your points. Chinook winds in Calgary bring warm weather – temperatures can increase as much as 20 C during a Chinook.It can be cold between Chinooks, but not as cold as the prairies. Also, GST (Goods and Services Tax), PST (Provincial Sales Tax) are on purchases, Income Tax is both Federal and Provincial. You’re correct, the PST and Provincial IT vary in each province.

    1. I appreciate your comments so much! Thank you for helping me to make my guides better. And yes, what a wonderful country it is

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