Sprawling forests, epic mountains, glass lakes, tumbling rivers and sunny cities are just some of the reasons why Canada’s landscape is so fantastic. The country is sparsely populated with friendly locals and there are plenty of French speaking regions to give you a chance to flex your language skills. Canada spans 9,984,670km and is so large it has six time zones, not to mention laying claim to the world’s longest coastline with a distance of 202,080km.If you’re looking at expatriating to Canada in the near future, we’ve written a handy list of things you’ll need to know before you go.
So what’s life in Canada really like? Canada is massive and holds the title of the second largest country in the world. The Canadian population is made up of around 35 million citizens and there are both French and English speaking provinces – about 17.5% of Canadians can hold a conversation in French. The country has a varied range of weather; in winter some areas can sink to temperatures of -40C, while the summers can reach much warmer climes of up to 26C depending on where you are.
For those moving from the UK, there are some differences in Canadian lifestyle that might not even cross your mind until you get there, such as the sales tax added onto bills, the lower price of petrol, and vegetable prices that are sensitive to currency fluctuations. The Canadian dollar is a commodity currency and so the price of the nation’s biggest commodity, oil, can seriously affect the value of the currency. If oil prices rise, the Canadian dollar (also known as the Loonie) is likely to be found more favourable in the market and so businesses will get more for their buck when it comes to imports, which in turn makes vegetables and fresh produce cheaper. However, if an economic or political event develops and causes the Canadian dollar to fall, the price of imports will increase, and so will your weekly shop.
To live in Canada permanently you will need a visa and the Canadian government website has plenty of information and some handy questionnaires you can take to determine if you’re eligible to apply for citizenship. You can apply for temporary residence visas if you think your relocation may not be long-term, or permanent residence visas if you’re confident your move will be secure.
Visas come in the form of skilled workers and professionals, investors, entrepreneurs and self employed, family, provincial, Quebec selected skilled workers and Canadian experience. If granted a visa, you’ll be issued a permanent resident (PR) card which gives you proof that you live in Canada when leaving the country for any reason. At the time of writing visas cost anywhere between a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars.
Property prices have reached lofty heights in the past few years and house sales hit an all-time high in 2016. However, there have been concerns that the current housing situation could crash, and with new mortgage rules and higher mortgage rates coming into play, 2017 could be a very different market. Average house prices in Canada sit at around CA$470,861 and if you’re looking at moving to Vancouver you’ll need to save up your funds as the average property price there is CA$948,246 – and that’s 3.4% lower than the year before.
Both house sales and supply are declining, and with residents hesitant to sell homes at the moment as new rules come into play it could be worth renting a property when you first move if you can’t find something ideal in your price range. It’s also advisable to touch base with a selection of realtors in order to find out more about what the housing market’s like in your desired province and keep your options open. There are plenty of different areas and exciting cities you may want to consider moving to depending on the kind of environment you’re looking for. If you fancy a sporty city with the option to surf and ski, then you may want to consider Vancouver. There’s gorgeous places to take a stroll like Stanley Park, as well as museums, cultural attractions and outdoor markets.
The sprawling city of Toronto is another popular destination full of different cultural areas like Greektown, Little India, and Koreatown allowing you to get a taste of a well-travelled lifestyle without even leaving the country. Whereas those seeking a nature haven might want to head to the Canadian Rockies and spend their free time hiking – take a look at places like Banff. If you’d like to make the most of your French language skills, then you may want to head to Quebec City or Montreal – both beautiful cities with a hint of France.
When you’re looking at investing in a property abroad you’ll need to consult the current exchange rate to see just how much of a budget you have to spend. This can be a tricky process as if you decide to set your budget and start looking one month but find the perfect house to buy a couple of months later, the currency market may have shifted and caused the exchange rate to vary massively which could mean your initial budget doesn’t allow you to buy the house you’d like.
For instance, if you were looking at the exchange rate in January 2016, you may have found the pound sterling to Canadian dollar (GBP/CAD) exchange rate was trending in the region of 2.0000. If you kept looking for property and finally found your perfect one six months later in July, the exchange rate dropped sharply to around 1.6800. The difference is quite significant as in January you’d have received CA$600,000, and in July you’d have only been in receipt of CA$504,000. The drop in currency value was caused by the British referendum to leave the EU and the shift in the market meant many people lost thousands. If you’re looking at purchasing a property abroad it can be a good idea to speak to a currency provider like a broker who can lock-in exchange rates for you, years in advance of you using them.
During the fourth quarter of 2016 the Canadian economy noted a 108,000 increase in employment. Some areas of the Canadian labour market are performing particularly well, such as finance, insurance, and real estate. Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz recently stated that the nation’s economic future lies with services rather than manufacturing. The services sector added 1.8% of jobs in the year through to December 2016, while the goods producing sector shed 1.6% of its jobs. It’s worth doing some research to see how your employment sector is faring and decide whether you’re going to be able to attain a good income and have a decent range of prospective jobs to choose from before you move.
Some of the top jobs in Canada in 2016 were thought to be pharmacists, urban planners, pilots, software engineers, oil and gas well operators and those in management – especially in the financial, mining and forestry, engineering, marketing and telecommunications fields.
Whether you’re moving with kids or you’re looking at studying yourself, there are plenty of good institutions to apply to in Canada. The 2016-2017 QS World University Rankings saw three Canadian universities snag places in the top 50 worldwide institutions list. McGill university based in Montréal took the worldwide rank of 30th best, closely followed by the University of Toronto at number 32 and University of British Columbia at number 45.
Meanwhile, schooling in Canada starts with voluntary kindergarten for a year at age five, and goes through to grades 11 or 12 (depending on province) which sees adolescents leave at between 16-18. There are both public and private schools to choose from and Canadians put a lot of emphasis into schooling which is why their standards for student achievements are high. Following high school there are also vocational education options for students to gain practical qualifications if they don’t want to follow the traditional academic route.
So you’ve found your dream home in Canada, now you just need to buy it. Or maybe you plan on renting and want to move your life savings over to North America with you – how do you go about it? When you’re moving a large lump sum you can stand to save, or lose, thousands. As we briefly mentioned in the Buying Property section, exchange rates play a vital part in your emigration adventure, so it’s important to manage your money properly. You’ll need to have a good idea of what’s going on in the markets before you commit to moving your money overseas. What’s more, if you’re retiring abroad and need a pension transferred to you regularly you’ll need to consider the most cost-effective way to do that too.
It might have occurred to you that your local bank can transfer your funds for you, but it’s not always the best way. By using a bank, you can end up incurring additional charges and finding hidden commission costs being tagged on, not to mention you won’t get the best exchange rate either.
Unlike banks, brokers discuss your unique requirements so that they can get you the best deal, which is typically 3-4% more competitive than a bank will offer. You’ll also be able to make the most of a range of services to make your trade safe and efficient, while limiting your exposure to market risk too. For instance, if a major political event was coming up that could cause some severe market swings, you’d be able to set up a forward contract to secure an exchange rate that you’d like to use in the future, up to two years ahead of your property purchase. This gives you freedom to look around the housing market with a stable budget.
It’s easy to set up a Canadian bank account before you’ve even left the UK and by preparing your pound sterling to Canadian dollar (GBP/CAD) exchange rate trade with a broker well in advance, you’ll be sure to avoid any transfer delays and have your money ready to spend from day one.
If you’re retiring to Canada to enjoy your later years, you’ll need to arrange a way of having your pensions transferred each month quickly and cost effectively. Moving a regular payment overseas can leave you vulnerable to shifts in the market and you can be charged a host of fees by your bank for the privilege each month.
You’ll no likely want to be off adventuring in your nearby Canadian surroundings, shopping in your local city or hitting the slopes with some ski lessons, so every bit of expendable income helps. That’s why you’ll want to maximise your regular overseas payments (ROPS) so that your money can travel to you’re your account abroad safely each month without you having to worry. The difference between your bank and a broker may not seem too drastic on a single payment, but over the year it adds up to a large chunk – and that’s a chunk you could use for a holiday elsewhere!
Overall Things to Consider
Whether you’re relocating for work for a number of years, or moving to Canada permanently for a new life, making the move is a big decision with plenty of factors to consider. It’s always advisable to do your research and evaluate all your options before you commit to the big move and if possible, arrange a visit to Canada to the places you think you’d be most suited to. It’s important to make sure your finances add up before your move too, so do consider speaking to the appropriate people to get the best guidance possible. With a broker you’ll be able to discuss the timing of your move overseas and strategize as to the best time to trade – an action that could help you free up cash and save thousands to make your new life in Canada much more comfortable.