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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Calgary

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Relocating to Calgary

At a Glance:

  • Calgary’s population growth is the highest in all of Canada, and the city has a very diverse population.
  • Flooding is a high risk in Calgary, as shown by the 2013 floods, so you can use the Flood Hazard Map to assess the safety of different areas.
  • If accepted onto the new Express Entry Program, expats could be invited for permanent residency.

Calgary has come quite far since its modest beginnings as Fort Brisebois in 1875. It was officially declared a town in 1884, and its population increased eightfold in just ten years. As a result, Calgary was granted city status in 1894. Since then, the city has enjoyed a mostly continuous growth, as well as a strong economy.

Nowadays, this Canadian city at the Bow and Elbow Rivers is Alberta’s most populous city, trumping even the province’s capital, Edmonton. The current population of Calgary is 1.2 million (2017). It also regularly ranks among the top five most livable cities in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Ranking, making it to fifth place in 2017.

A Young and Diverse Population

Expats moving to Calgary can look forward both to a city that is fairly young in history and a population that is relatively young in age: in 2016, the local median age was only 36 years. Calgary’s population growth rate is the highest in all of Canada. Admittedly, these were not all expatriates — 54% of people moving to Calgary came from international markets in 2014.

However, people from all over the world are drawn to move to Calgary in particular or Canada in general.

Hip to Residential: Calgary’s Neighborhoods

The city is divided up into four quadrants (northwest, northeast, southeast, southwest) and 14 different wards, with downtown situated fairly in the center. The wards, in turn, consist of numerous neighborhoods, so-called communities.

For expats moving to Calgary, it is advisable to avoid the northeast in order to stay clear of the airport. Similarly, most people prefer not to relocate to the northern part of the southeastern quadrant, despite its proximity to Downtown Calgary. This is because of the area’s mostly industrial character and its somewhat higher crime rate when compared to the rest of Calgary.

Popular residential neighborhoods are, for example:

  • Northwest: Arbour Lake, Varsity, Brentwood, Hillhurst, Hounsfield Heights-Briar Hill, Bridgeland-Riverside
  • Southwest: Beltline, Kelvin Grove, Elbow Park
  • Southeast: Acadia, Bowness, Lake Bonavista

However, as the severe floods of 2013 have shown, some parts of Calgary are in real danger of flooding when heavy rains in the area combine with melting snow from the Rocky Mountains. You can use the Flood Hazard Map, as provided by the Government of Alberta, to gauge the flood risk of different areas.

Finding Your Perfect Home

The majority of households in Calgary own their home, with only about one-fourth renting instead. There are no or hardly any restrictions on property purchases by foreigners. However, most expats who are moving to Calgary end up renting for the duration of their stay.

When it comes to the types of accommodation, most Calgarians live in houses. Nevertheless, there are also plenty of apartments, condos, penthouses, etc. available, especially in the more central neighborhoods and particularly in Downtown Calgary.

When looking for your new accommodation before your relocation to Calgary, check the classifieds section of local newspapers like the Calgary Herald or the Calgary Sun, or simply browse through one of the many housing portals on the internet. Alternatively, you can, of course, always look for a real estate agent to help you with your search.

When moving to Calgary and renting your new home, be prepared to pay a security deposit of typically a month’s rent. Also make sure to inform yourself early on about what is included in the rental costs, such as utilities, appliances, etc.

Visas & Permits

Your Entry Ticket: Visas for Canada

Depending on your nationality, you might not necessarily need a visa to be allowed to enter Canada. This is, for example, the case for people from a number of European countries. You can check on the website of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) whether you will need a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or not. If you do, then make sure to apply for it in a timely manner. Note, however, that a visa-less stay or a TRV does not automatically grant you the right to work in Canada!

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)

This program allows employers in Canada to hire foreign employees for a specific position, meaning that expats need a confirmed job offer. Typically, a future employer has to get in touch with the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) first, in order to get a positive Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), before their future expat employee can apply for a work permit.

The LMIA is a prerequisite to ensure that no jobs are taken away from able Canadians. Intra-company transfers, on the other hand, do not necessarily need an LMIA.

How to Obtain Your Work Permit

With the exception of some specific jobs, such as clergy or foreign representatives, most expats have to get a work permit if they are planning on taking up employment in Canada. For your work permit application through the TFW program, you need a written copy of your employer’s job offer, proof of your qualification for this job, as well as — if necessary — the positive LMIA your employer has already obtained for the position.

Also remember to check whether you need a Temporary Resident Visa for your stay in Canada. For more detailed information on employment matters, read our articles on Working in Calgary and Working in Canada.

Planning on Permanently Residing in Calgary?

There are a number of different programs which might enable you to apply for permanent residence in Canada. These include, for example, the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), a family sponsorship, provincial nominees, as well as programs for investors, entrepreneurs, and self-employed applicants. You can find more details on these on the website of the CIC or in our article on Moving to Canada.

The new, so-called Express Entry program was rolled out in January 2015. Potential candidates can complete an Express Entry profile at any time. Everyone who gets accepted into the Express Entry Pool could get an invitation to apply for permanent residency. By introducing this system, the government aims to better match immigration applicants and the demands of the Canadian economy and labor market to combat the skills shortages in certain regions and sectors.

Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP)

Independently from the federal permanent residence programs, so-called provincial nominees may also be eligible for permanent residence in Canada. In the case of Calgary, the corresponding program is the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP).

Individuals can apply to the AINP for free and may qualify for nomination based on different factors. Self-employed farmers, for example, may be eligible. Once you are nominated, your application will be passed on to the CIC, where the final decision will be made.

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