Moving to Canada? Guide for expats for a smooth move

Looking to relocate to Canada? This guide explains the important things you need to know when moving to The Great White North.

Xe Consumer North America

October 13, 20208 min read

A young woman near False Creek in Vancouver BC, Canada

It’s easy to get excited about moving to Canada. The country has a rich history, its landscapes
are breathtaking, and its people are famous for their niceness. Canadians say “sorry” so much that a law had to be passed stating that an apology does not constitute an admission of guilt.

Canada’s liberal and relaxed reputation is well earned. The country has long been a pioneer of civil rights and was among the first to legalize same sex marriage. Canada’s multicultural and diverse spirit is evident in its immigration policy and its zero tolerance for racial abuse and hate crimes. According to The OECD, it is the best country in the world for acceptance and tolerance of minorities.

Canada is nicknamed “The Great White North.” “Great” because it’s the world’s second-largest country, “White” because it contains lots of Arctic frozen tundra and snow, and “North” because it’s north of the United States.

Canada boasts dazzling scenery and stunning cities, glorious summers and snow-swept winters, and a great quality of life. It is one of the best countries in the world for expats. If you’re considering making the country your new home, this guide will be of great help. It provides all the crucial information required for the move.

At a glance: Canada quick facts

  • Canada has two official languages: English and French.

  • Canada has a population of 37.59 million. The northern part of the country is virtually uninhabited, and the population density is among the world’s lowest.

  • The capital city of Canada is Ottawa, not Toronto. Queen Victoria chose the city because it is centrally located between Montreal and Toronto.

  • Canada has 6,775,800 expats. It is one of the top expat destinations in the world. One in five Canadians is foreign-born.

  • Canada is the world's second-largest country by total area. It covers 3.85 million square miles and sits between the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Arctic Ocean.

  • Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary are some of the world’s most livable cities and have the best healthcare, education, and infrastructure.

  • Canada is highly multicultural. More than 20% of Canadians were born in another country. There are 200 nationalities across the country and more than 250 ethnic origins.

  • The country has a good healthcare system: Medicare. The government pays for basic healthcare which is provided by the private sector. Canadians can access any essential medical services for free.

  • Winters are extremely cold. In many places, the average temperature does not exceed 0°C in wintertime. Temperatures can dip as low as -30°C or -40°C.

  • The average salary for employees across the country is $1,379.72 CAD per week. Full-time employees get an annual average salary of $71,744.76 CAD.

A step-by-step guide to moving to Canada

1. Check your eligibility

Canada has strict immigration laws and not everyone can move to the country. Before you decide to move, make sure you’re qualified. Even a minor crime can make you inadmissible.

If you have ever committed a crime in another country or have ever been convicted of a crime, the Canadian government can find you inadmissible. Offenses that can prevent you from moving to Canada include:

  • Theft

  • Assault

  • Dangerous driving

  • Manslaughter

  • Driving under the influence

  • Possession of drugs.

You may also be inadmissible if you have ties to organized crime, have a serious financial problem, suffer from a serious medical condition, have a family member who is inadmissible, or do not meet the immigration requirements.

2. Determine the visa to apply for

If you want to stay in Canada as a foreign national, there are 3 visa types you can apply for:

  • Visitor visas (Temporary resident visas)

  • Permanent Residence visas

  • Express Entry Program visas

Temporary resident visas allow expats to stay in Canada for a specific period of time
which is predetermined by the Border Services Officers or the Canadian Consulate. You must leave the country at some point unless you get permanent resident status.

Permanent residence visas allow the holders to permanently settle in Canada. They are also known as immigrant visas and are categorized into 6 different types:

  • Immigrant Investor Visa

  • Startup Visa Program

  • Self-employed Persons Visa

  • Quebec-Selected Skilled Worker Program (QSWP)

  • Family-Sponsorship Program

  • Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP)

Express Entry Visas allow people from all over the world to apply for immigration to Canada based on their specific skills. People submit their profiles for consideration as skilled immigrants. Those with the highest rankings may be invited to apply for permanent residency.

Most expats in Canada apply for a permanent residence visa. They settle in Canada and become eligible for citizenship once they complete their residency requirements. Visit the Canadian government website to check your visa eligibility. You can also use this helpful tool to find out which immigration program you’re eligible for.

You will have to answer some questions about your age, country of origin, and employment intentions. You will then be directed to the program you can apply for. Once you’ve compiled the necessary documents, you can apply for a visa at the Canadian Embassy in your home country.

3. Decide where you want to live

Canada has 10 major provinces, so it can be hard to choose the right province to live in. Some of the provinces have their own immigration requirements. For instance, Quebec has a special skilled worker visa for those planning to live and work in the province.

To ensure you choose the right province, decide if you want to live in a small town or a big city. If you have a family, choose a province with good schools and many family attractions. Do you want to live close to other cities and towns? Some of Canada’s big cities attract a lot of tourists, so if you don’t like touristic places, consider living in a remote location.

Canada has plenty of awesome locations to choose from, and every province has something unique to offer.

A few important facts about Canada for would-be expats

Canada uses a points-based immigration system for the Federal Skilled Worker Program

Canada was one of the first countries to introduce a points-based immigration system. Those who want to be eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program must earn at least 67 points out of 100 to qualify. The program is a federal economic immigration program managed under the Express Entry.

If you qualify, your profile enters the Express Entry pool, where it is assessed again and ranked-based on the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). If you fail to get a score of 67 points, you can try again after earning a higher education qualification, enhancing your language skills, or obtaining a job offer from Canada. The parameters include:

  • Language Skills (28 points maximum)

  • Education (25 points maximum)

  • Work experience (15 points maximum)

  • Age (12 points maximum)

  • Arranged Employment In Canada (10 points maximum)

  • Adaptability (10 points maximum)

The cost of living is high

Canada is one of the most expensive countries to live in globally, however, the cost of living is 5.53% lower than in the United States. Also, some of the cities are cheaper to live in than others.

If you’re moving to Canada alone and want to live in Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver, you can expect to spend C$1,228.42 (Toronto), C$1,069 (Montreal), and C$1,172.68 (Vancouver) every month. The monthly costs for a four-person family are C$4,458.70 (Toronto), C$3,918 (Montreal), C$4,317.45 (Vancouver). This is exclusive of rent.

Toronto is Canada’s most expensive city followed by Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, and Ottawa. The cheapest cities include Rimouski, Timmins, Quesnel, Abbotsford, and Lévis.

You can open a Canadian bank account before moving

One of the first things you need to sort out before moving to Canada is your finances. The transition will be much easier and you’ll avoid expensive processing costs. You’ll also find it easier to manage your bills and payments.

You can open a bank account online or over the phone. Most banks need at least two
official documents to verify your identity. You can check the full list of the requirements here. After you open the bank account, transfer some money to avoid frustrations when you arrive in Canada. Banks like Bank of Nova Scotia allow you to transfer up to C$50,000 before you move.

What are the top banks in Canada?

The five largest banks in Canada are:

  • Royal Bank of Canada

  • Bank of Montreal

  • Bank of Nova Scotia

  • Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce

  • Toronto-Dominion Bank

Royal Bank of Canada is the largest bank in Canada and has assets amounting to C$1.43 trillion. It is closely followed by the Toronto-Dominion Bank.

The “Big Five” banks in Canada all have programs for newcomers. The programs feature special incentives—like free tablets and mobile phones—so be sure to ask about them. Choose a bank based on your specific needs.

How to find a job in Canada

Once you’re in Canada (with a visa that permits you to work), it’ll be time to start looking for a job. Here are different methods you can use to find a job in Canada:

  • Check company websites for any job listings.

  • Contact employers directly and ask if they are hiring.

  • Browse job portals like Job Bank,, and to find jobs in the private or public sector.

  • Attend job fairs in your town or city. You’ll meet potential employers and discuss jobs.

  • Check the classified sections of newspapers to see who is hiring.

  • Use an employment agency to find great job opportunities.

  • Ask family and friends if they know of any job openings.

We wish you the best of luck with your upcoming move to Canada. Whether you’re sending money to your new Canadian bank account, sending money back home, or looking for the best time to make your transfers, we’re here to help. Log in or sign up to see what we can do for you.