The Ultimate Guide to Moving to Canada
Thousands of Britons are choosing to move abroad every year
, in search of new opportunities and a different work/life balance. As a largely English-speaking country and with strong European roots, Canada is one of the most popular destinations.
On average 200,000 people migrate to Canada every year and immigration is a key factor in the growth of the Canadian economy. There are many jobs available to professionals and skilled workers, as well as opportunities for businessmen and investors to contribute to Canada’s burgeoning economy.
The country offers low housing costs, high incomes and an excellent quality of life. Add to these beautiful urban settings, dramatic outdoor scenery and a diverse and vibrant culture, and it is easy to see why Canada is the first choice for so many families and individuals looking to leave the UK.
Moving to Canada
Choosing somewhere to live
Canada is a vast country, with huge differences from one part to another in culture, language and geography. If you are considering relocating to Canada it is important to do your research thoroughly and make sure you choose the best place for you.
Of course if you are relocating for work, you may have no choice about where you go. But if you are relocating under your own steam, try to plan an extended visit to help you find the best location. Make a list of the things that are most important to you and weigh up your options before committing to a particular city or region.
You may choose to buy immediately, or to rent while you find your feet. Either way, the Internet is a great source of information about property options and prices. You can arrange viewings or secure a rental before you even set foot on Canadian soil.
Moving your possessions
There’s nothing quite like having your favourite things around you to make a place feel like home. Britannia Movers International specialises in helping families and individuals to move their belongings quickly and safely from Great Britain to destinations all over Canada. We offer decades of experience in relocation services combined with the local knowledge to tailor your move to your individual requirements.
Your belongings can be sent to Canada using a variety of methods. Your choice will usually be based on cost and the urgency with which you need them. Container shipments often take several weeks door to door, while air transport is much quicker but comes with a higher price tag.
Depending on how much stuff you need shipping, you can choose between a 20ft or 40ft container or add your belongings to a shared container. Whichever you choose, you can rest assured that your shipment will be cost effective and expertly handled, with every effort made to ensure your goods arrive in excellent condition in Canada.
When moving to Canada you are permitted to bring your personal and household goods without paying duty on them, as long as they are not brand new. This includes antiques, appliances, books, clothes, furniture, hobby tools and items, jewellery, linens and musical instruments. It also includes private collections of items such as coins, stamps or art, silverware, and gifts under the value of CDN $60 or received as wedding presents.
Prohibitions and restrictions
Duty is payable on:
Items you have leased or rented
Items you have purchased en route to Canada
Vehicles for business use
Construction, contracting or manufacturing equipment
Alcohol and tobacco
Firearms (subject to restrictions)
Packing and delivery
Our trained removers can pack and wrap all your items to ensure their safe transportation. Opting for a full door-to-door service to Canada means you will be able to relax and get started in your new life as soon as you arrive, leaving Britannia to deliver your belongings all the way to your new home.
You should allow a minimum of eight weeks if you are sending your consignment via container shipment, and much less for anything you send by air.
Leaving the UK doesn’t have to mean leaving your family pet(s). You are allowed to transport dogs, cats and other domestic animals to Canada, subject to the necessary paperwork and veterinary procedures. Britannia can coordinate this process for you, with a specialised and experienced shipper. For more information on moving with pets, please see Britannia’s Pet Transport
You may import your motor vehicle to Canada duty free as long as it is for your personal use. Restrictions may apply and cars must meet current Canadian safety and pollution control standards. For more information on importing your vehicle, please see Britannia’s AutoSource
Britannia can recommend reputable foreign currency exchange services. This can help protect you from exchange rate fluctuations and save you time and money on international payments before and after you move. For more advice on exchanging your money, please see Britannia’s Currency Transfer
Travelling to Canada from the UK
It takes around six hours to fly to the east coast of Canada and approximately 10 hours to reach the west. There are major airports located in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Calgary and Edmonton, opening up an excellent domestic flight network.
Visa options and work permits
Federal Skilled Workers
One of the most popular routes to Canadian immigration is as a Federal Skilled Worker (FSW). Federal Skilled Workers can achieve permanent residency in Canada if they meet criteria relating to their English and/or French skills, education, work experience and other factors. Rules for Federal Skilled Worker applications are changed and updated from time to time so do check that you are armed with the latest information before you apply.
Skilled worker status is available for settlers in any province other than Quebec.
Certificat de Sélection du Québec
Skilled workers wishing to live in Quebec must apply under a separate category as Quebec has its own immigration requirements. A Certificat de Sélection du Québec (CSQ) can be applied for from the Quebec government and is of particular interest for applicants with a strong command of the French language.
Provincial Nominee Program
Most Canadian provinces and territories can nominate people for immigration to Canada. To apply under the program you must apply to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), demonstrate the skills, education and work experience needed to contribute to that province or territory’s economy, and secure nomination.
Additional visa options apply for individuals such as students, business people, live-in caregivers and temporary workers. Check with CIC for up-to-date information relating your individual circumstances.
Immigration and Citizenship
The two largest and most popular schemes for migrants looking to live and work in Canada include the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). To be eligible to become a permanent resident under this scheme (apart from the Province of Quebec), there is a minimum language requirement, as well as the completion of a minimum of one year’s skilled work experience in Canada.
The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) enables specific provinces or territories to nominate an applicant where it has been identified that certain skills and work experience is needed to benefit the economy. Prospective applicants for this scheme must apply for eligibility in the first instance, as each province or territory has its own guidelines which are subject to change without notice.
The addition of the Start-Up Visa Program, launched on 1st April 2013 for a five-year trial. Immigrant entrepreneurs must apply for eligibility via Program Partner organisations, including the National Angel Capital Organisation or Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association. Foreign applicants must get support from one of these organisations or a business incubator in order to be eligible for the Start-Up Visa Program. Other criteria include language proficiency and educational qualifications, as well as adequate personal funds.
Living in Canada
Canada has recognised that skilled immigrants are important to its long-term economic growth. The Canadian government-sponsored websites are a useful source of information. This includes current skills shortages, what documentation employers will require, how to get your skills or qualifications officially recognised and how to find jobs in your field.
The Canadian working week, holidays and business etiquette are very similar to Great Britain, making it a popular choice for British immigrants.
The following is a guide to average weekly salaries in Canada by sector:
Forestry, logging and support
Mining and quarrying, and oil and gas extraction
Transportation and warehousing
Information and cultural industries
Finance and insurance
Real estate, rental and leasing
Professional, scientific and technical services
Management of companies and enterprises
Administrative and support, waste management and remediation services
Health care and social assistance
Arts, entertainment and recreation
Accommodation and food services
Other services (excluding public administration)
Finding a job in Canada
Job boards are an excellent place to start your Canadian job search. They provide a snapshot of available positions, salaries and locations. However, Canadians tend to use a variety of additional tools to access the best opportunities.
Private employment agencies are highly established and are a good source of jobs in specialist fields. Newspapers also remain popular for advertising and finding jobs, and graduates find many opportunities at career fairs organised by universities or the professional societies for each industry sector.
Speculative approaches are also very common in Canada, so don’t be afraid to apply directly to organisations that you would like to work for.
The local currency is the Canadian Dollar. It is usually written as C$ or simply $, and its currency code is CAD. Exchange rates fluctuate but as a rule of thumb it is usually around $1.6 to the pound.
Cost of everyday items
Ground beef, regular
Baked beans, canned
Soft drinks, cola type
Paper towels (rolls)
Bathroom tissue (rolls)
Meal for two, mid range
Meal for one, inexpensive
McDonalds combo meal
Fitness club monthly membership
Eating and drinking out
Expect to pay around $45 for a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant. A typical McDonalds combo meal will cost approximately $7 per head and a low-cost restaurant should see you with change from $10 per head.
Transport in Canada is mostly by air, bus, train and car. A one-way local bus ticket will cost around $3, or expect to pay around $85 for a monthly pass. Typical taxi costs are $3.50 to start and $1.84 per km, although prices vary by city and province.
Rental prices vary from location to location. As a rule of thumb, expect to pay $1000 for a one-bedroom city centre apartment, rising to $1675 for three bedrooms. Prices are 20 – 25% lower outside the city centre.
Canada’s official languages are English and French. A wide variety of indigenous languages are also spoken here. French as a mother tongue is in decline, with only around 20% of the population having it as their first language. Most of the population has a working knowledge of English or speaks it as their first language, making Canada a compelling option for immigration from the UK.
Education in Canada is compulsory up to the age of 16, and to 18 in the provinces of Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. The school year runs from September to the end of June and in most provinces involves 190 days of study.
The Canadian government spends more on education per capita than any other country and the public education system is one of the best in the world. It is no wonder then that over 95% of Canadians educate their children in the public sector. Canadian qualifications from both school and university are recognised worldwide. Most public schools are co-educational, from kindergarten right through to senior.
Canada National Holidays
Statutory public holidays in Canada are New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Canada Day, Labour Day and Christmas Day. Most employees also get Easter Monday, Victoria Day, Thanksgiving and Boxing Day off.
Each province and territory also has its own holidays.
Vancouver enjoys one of the most beautiful natural settings of any major city in the world. It is an exciting city to visit and an equally exciting one in which to build a new life.
Vancouver offers a thrilling mix of cosmopolitan urban chic and rugged outdoor charm. The Vancouver landscape offers a bit of everything, from lush green parkland and ocean views, to majestic skyscrapers and towering snow capped peaks.
Art and culture are at the heart of the Vancouver urban scene. Visitors and residents can while away their time wandering through the outdoor markets, shopping in the sophisticated Yaletown district and browsing the galleries that line the city streets. And yet just a short hop away a world of adventure awaits. Whether you want to spend your weekends skiing, fishing, caving, whale watching, skydiving or bungee jumping, your next adrenaline-filled activity lies right around the corner.
Toronto has evolved in recent years into one of the most exciting cities on the North American continent. While many places are still feeling the brunt of a brutal economic downturn, Toronto is bucking the trend and continues to grow apace.
From its conservative roots, Toronto has grown into a sophisticated, multicultural metropolis with a notably upmarket feel. Toronto residents enjoy world-class shopping, high-end restaurants and upmarket accommodation, without waving goodbye to lush greenery, wide-open spaces and the serene backdrop of Lake Ontario.
With plenty of commercial opportunities and English as its first language, Toronto is a popular location for British families and individuals looking to relocate.
Quebec city may be the political capital of Quebec province, but there is no doubt that Montreal is its economic and cultural heart. Canada’s second-largest city is a sprawling metropolis, inhabited by nearly two million with a further four million living within its metropolitan area.
Like Canada’s other leading cities, Montreal enjoys a beautiful waterfront location. It sits on an island in the St. Lawrence River, providing a stunning backdrop to the modern skyscrapers and traditional townhouses that line its well-established streets. Montreal is an important hub for arts, architecture and culture. Despite Toronto’s rise to the fore, Montreal is also an important commercial centre.
Quebec’s official language is French, and Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking city in the world, behind Paris. There are plenty of opportunities within the retail, manufacturing and engineering fields, and it is known for the strength of its aeronautical industry. Canadian law requires employees working with the public in Quebec to be able to speak French competently, and in practice most people speak both French and English to a good standard.
Canada is the world’s second-largest country. It stretches from the US border to the North Pole, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. It is no surprise then that the climate in Canada varies hugely depending on where you are in the country.
In winter, temperatures fall below freezing point throughout most of the country. Average temperatures along the Arctic Circle usually remain below freezing for more than half the year. However, the southwest coast is considerably milder.
The southern provinces enjoy warm summers, with temperatures often reaching over 30 degrees Celsius. The west and southeast see higher rainfall than other areas, while the Prairies are considerably drier.
Where Canadians go on holiday
Nestled between the Prairies and the majestic Canadian Rockies, Calgary is the largest city in Alberta. It is a booming metropolitan area and thriving commercial hub, but is equally known for its world-famous Calgary Stampede Rodeo Festival, which takes place every year. As the gateway to the Rockies and close to the Banff national park, Calgary is a popular destination for adventure seekers and families all year round.
Quebec City is the political capital of Quebec Province and makes a delightful destination for urban exploration. Despite its importance in Canadian politics and history, in many ways Quebec resembles a traditional European village. Its French heritage, architecture and language combine to create a unique oasis in the middle of the North American continent. It is even the last remaining city on the continent to retain its original city walls.
Take a stroll through the cobblestone streets of the old town, explore the historic buildings and monuments such as the Citadel and the Place Royale and stop for a relaxing drink in one of the many bars and cafes. If budget permits, book a stay at the Chateau Frontenac, the most photographed and most distinctive hotel on the continent.
It may not be the first city one thinks of when planning where to visit in Canada, but Edmonton has something no other city can boast – the largest shopping mall in the Americas. Built in 1981, the West Edmonton Mall was the largest in the world until 2004, earning it a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
A standard shopping this is certainly not. Visitors to Edmonton can spend their entire stay discovering the mall’s many attractions, including Galaxyland with its rides and rollercoasters; the enormous World Waterpark; the Sea Life Caverns; the Ice Palace; Adventure Golf; the movie theatres; the shooting range and of course hundreds of shops, bars and restaurants.
Whistler is the mountain destination that ski and snowboarders speak of in hushed, reverential terms. It is the largest and probably the best-known winter sports destination on the North American continent, comprising the two majestic peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Whistler is a two-hour drive from Vancouver along the famous Sea-to-Sky Highway, one of the most scenic drives in the country.
Over two million people flock to Whistler every year to enjoy its manicured pistes, mountain bike park, brewery, spas, golf courses and numerous mountain adventure sports.
No self-respecting Canadian or expat could last for long without a visit to the most famous waterfalls in the world. The Niagara Falls is a series of three breathtaking waterfalls located right on the Canadian/US border. Popular with honeymooners, families and adventure sport enthusiasts, the Niagara Falls is a burgeoning tourist spot. Observation towers, restaurants, museums, hotels and casinos line the immediate area around the falls, with a wide range of theme parks, museums, wineries, water parks and adventure sport centres dotted throughout the surrounding area. Visit in the summer and enjoy the illuminations and fireworks which are displayed nightly throughout the season.
Banff National Park
The Banff National Park is the largest and most visited in the country. The park comprises mile after mile of dense forest, mountain peaks, rivers, lakes and glaciers, much of which remains untouched. Take a trip along the Trans-Canada Highway which runs right through its heart, to admire the park’s rugged beauty at its best. Watch out for grizzly bears, bison, moose, wolves and cougars as well as hundreds of species of bird. Adventure enthusiasts will love the wide mix of summer and winter activities on offer.
Popular holiday destinations outside Canada
Canadians are keen travellers. Whether overland, by air or by water, Canadians are determined to get about. The USA accounts for the vast majority of international vacations, with New York and Washington proving particularly popular because of their proximity to the Canadian border.
Florida, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean are also popular destinations for Canadians, offering relatively easy flights, a small time difference and a lovely warm climate awaiting them.
Despite the proximity of the Americas, lots of Canadians feel a strong affinity with Europe, with many heading back to explore the land of their heritage during their precious time off.
Canadian cuisine could be summed up by the typical crispy bacon and maple syrup combo, but there is much more to discover besides. Canada has a wide variety of home-grown foods to choose from, many of which are available all year round.
Montreal is famous for its smoked deli meat, while Prince Edward Island is often hailed as the potato-growing capital of the Americas. Other dishes have been ‘adopted’ into Canadian gastronomy, such as spaghetti bolognaise and chicken curry, which are hailed as ‘typically British’. With this in mind, don’t miss the chance to head to Toronto for ‘typically Canadian’ sushi pizza.
Dinner is usually the main meal of the day and Canadians eat early – often around 6pm.
Television launched in Canada in 1952 with TV stations in Montreal and Toronto, although many areas were receiving US-based broadcasts beforehand. Given the countries’ shared border and (largely) shared language, it is unsurprising that much of the programming is aimed at a broad North American audience. While this is of benefit to the largely English-speaking population, efforts are made to encourage French-language programming across the country and in particular in Quebec province.
National broadcasters compete strongly with satellite and cable channels for their share of audience and thanks to digital technology many Canadians continue to receive direct broadcasts from a variety of US channels.
Thanks to its broad mix of roots, Canadian culture is very diverse. Over time the cultures of its immigrant populations have met and merged to form a unique style of art, cuisine, literature, comedy and music. English and French influences are strong and American culture has had its own impact on the culture of its near neighbour.
Each of Canada’s major urban centres offers plenty to entertain, from comedy and drama to art and design. Montreal plays host to a major film festival every year, while the Vancouver Fringe Festival and Toronto’s burgeoning theatre district are the places to go for the latest live productions.
Canada is home to the longest highway in the world. The Trans-Canada Highway is over 7,604 kilometres long.
The longest street in the world, Yonge Street, is also located in Canada. Covering a distance of almost 2,000 kilometres, it starts at Lake Ontario and runs north all the way to the Minnesota border.
Continuing the ‘long’ theme, Canada has the longest coastline in the world, at 202,080km.
The Canada/US border, known as the International Boundary, is the longest between any two world nations.
At 3,855,103 square miles, Canada is one of the largest countries in the world, second only to Russia.
Canada earned its name by error. Explorer Jacques Cartier met local natives who invited him to their ‘kanata’. Not realising that kanata was the indigenous word for a village, he thought it was the name of the country – Kanata, or Canada.
Canada has two official languages – French and English. But Canadian geese have their own language, which includes more than thirteen different calls to communicate greetings, warnings and happiness.
Canada is the ninth most sparsely populated nation in the world, with just 8.6 people per square mile.
Canada is home to some 55,000 different species of insect.
The average life expectancy for a Canadian is 81.16 years – one of the highest in the world…
…And this is despite Canadians eating more macaroni cheese than any other nation
And finally… Such is the proliferation of delicious foods on offer, Canada is the only country in which customers of a well-known fast-food chain can order a deluxe McLobster as an alternative to a common-or-garden burger