Moving to Canada

A comprehensive guide to moving to Canada

If you expect to see wilderness, forests and moose when moving to Canada, we’re afraid we have bad news for you. Your expat life may be less about Canada’s stunning scenery, and more about visa applications and finding a home. InterNations GO! helps you gather important info before your relocation!

Relocating to Canada

At a Glance:

  • Canada has a thriving economy and a very low unemployment rate of 6.3%.
  • There are big differences from region to region in Canada — Ontario is the most popular destination for expats.
  • Canada’s expat job market is extremely competitive.
  • The Young Workers Program helps professionals under 35 to gain experience.

For centuries, heading towards Canada has been a popular option for those seeking a new home abroad. Thousands of immigrants, expats and students still move to Canada every year. These days, some simply go there for several months or a couple of years while others settle in Canada in order to start a new life there.

Welcoming newcomers from abroad is a well-established tradition in this country. While historically, emigrants moving to the True North used to be mainly of European origin, most immigrants come from Asian countries nowadays. The local authorities have a broad immigration policy, and there are also specific visa programs for people who move to Canada temporarily.

Canada’s Flourishing Economy

Canada’s continuing economic success makes moving to the world’s second largest country by area an attractive option for many expats-to-be. Relocating here means nothing short of starting a new life in one of the world’s wealthiest nations.

As is to be expected from a “First World” country, the service sector is the most important part of the Canadian economy these days, with three quarters of the workforce employed in this field. But still, primary industries also play a vital role in the Canadian economy. Logging and the oil, gas and minerals industries are of particular importance, and in some cases even among the first images that might pop into mind when thinking about Canada and its workforce. The quintessential Canadian Lumberjack is not mere legend! Self-made expats coming to Canada in order to start a new job will be especially interested in the unemployment rate. Currently, the national unemployment rate is around 6.3%, with the lowest one (5.3%) in the province of British Columbia.

Economic Disparities between Regions

When planning the big step abroad, potential expats moving to Canada should consider the strong regional disparities in economic development. Chances are high that you will live in the south, within 160 km of the US border — around 90% of the population lives in this area. Consequently, most of the industries which offer opportunities for expats moving to Canada are located there, too.

The northern parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan hold a large number of oil and gas fields as well as oil sands, which contribute to the economic success of these regions. They attract investors and workers from all over the world. Other regions, such as the Atlantic Provinces, face more economic difficulties and are less frequently a destination for expats relocating to Canada.

Canada: Expat Destinations and Jobs

The Number One Destination

The most popular destination for expats is still the southern part of Ontario. The majority of expats work in the Greater Toronto Area. With more than 5.5 million people, Toronto’s greater metropolitan area on the shore of Lake Ontario is Canada’s most important commercial, financial and economic center.

Expats are also drawn to Toronto for its ethnic diversity. With a little over half of its residents born outside of Canada, Toronto is the most prominent example of the multiculturalism Canada is so famous for.

But What about the Others?

Other popular expat destinations include the metropolitan areas of the Western provinces, most notably Vancouver and Edmonton. Montréal, the largest city in Québec, Canada’s only francophone province, is in high demand among expats as well. In recent decades, the northern parts of Alberta have gained increasing importance as a destination for both workers from other parts of Canada and expats from all around the globe.

Due to Alberta’s rich natural resources, especially the massive oil reserves in the Athabasca oil sands, expats with skills in engineering are in high demand. While salaries for foreign specialists are exceptionally high, severe weather conditions and a lack of local infrastructure make the region a less than ideal place to live, especially for expats with families.

The Challenge of Job Hunting

On the one hand, Canada offers tremendous opportunities for expats. On the other hand, the market for lucrative expat jobs is very competitive: Canada continues to be one of the most popular expat destinations worldwide.

However, if you possess skills which are currently in demand and already have prior work experience, your chances of getting an expat job in Canada are very good. In general, expats should be fluent in either English or French, depending on the province where they would like to work. Speaking both languages may improve your chances, as many Canadian companies operate in both parts of the country.

Which Professions Are Sought After

As mentioned above, professional skills in engineering and natural sciences are extremely helpful, especially if you want to work in the oil sands in Northern Alberta. In addition to such jobs related to primary industries, many expats come to Canada to work in the service sector. Telecommunications, finance and insurance or next-generation technologies such as bioengineering are particularly popular. Randstad has a list of the most in demand jobs in Canada in 2017.

Due to a high shortage of healthcare personnel in Canada, the chances for applicants in this sector have also been good in recent years. No matter in which sector you would like to work, intra-company transfers are always easier than finding a job in Canada on your own: the potential employer faces fewer bureaucratic hurdles.

Visa Regulations and Programs for Canada

Step One: Obtaining Your Visa

Québec is not only the sole Canadian province where French is the main language, but it also has its own additional regulations concerning work permits. The following information applies to the English-speaking provinces only. If you are planning to settle in Québec, make sure to check for additional regulations or consult our article on moving to Montréal.

First things first: In order to enter the country, you need a valid temporary visa — unless you are from one of the countries exempt from this requirement. In the latter case, you only need a valid travel document. Those wishing to work in Canada need a work permit in addition to their temporary visa or travel document.

Highly Relevant: The Temporary Foreign Worker Program

One of the most relevant programs for expats is the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). In order to be considered under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, an applicant needs to have a confirmed job offer for a specific position from an employer in Canada.

But there’s more to it: The potential employer has to obtain a positive “Labor Market Impact Assessment” from Service Canada. This is sometimes difficult to get and causes the employer a lot of bureaucratic hassle. Therefore, not many companies are willing to go through this. Intra-company transfers are usually much easier, as they do not require a labor market opinion.

Attention, Skilled Workers!

If you want to immigrate to Canada for good, consider the Federal Skilled Worker Program. If you possess the personal and professional qualifications the Canadian authorities are currently looking for, you have the chance to be awarded permanent citizenship. During the application process, applicants are evaluated according to education, professional experience, language skills, age, adaptability criteria and the type of job offer they have in Canada. The eligibility stream of the Federal Skilled Worker Program is also open to international students pursuing or completing PhD studies at a Canadian institution.

This program is amended by the Provincial Nominee Programs, where provincial authorities select additional applicants according to their own criteria. If you are already in the country on a temporary work permit or if you have graduated in Canada, you fall under the Canadian Experience Class, which makes it easier to acquire permanent citizenship.

For Experienced Canada Lovers

Expats who have lived and worked in Canada for at least one year or have graduated from a Canadian institution, with a minimum of one year of skilled work experience, can apply for permanent residence. The permanent residence program of the Canadian Experience Class is designated for expats who have settled in Canada, speak both English and French and have gained major study and/or work experience in Canada.

Once you have submitted your application, you need to wait for a confirmation letter from the CIC and for an interview appointment. At this appointment, you will meet with an immigration officer who will try to validate that you meet the requirements for permanent residence. For more information on the Canadian Experience Class, please refer to the CIC.

Younger than 35 and Eager to Work?

In addition, there is a specific Young Workers Program for professionals under the age of 35 who would like to gain some work experience in Canada. Furthermore, Canada is one of the most popular destinations for work and travel schemes.

The Working Holiday visa category is aimed at young people planning to explore other countries while taking on odd jobs on the road. The Canadian government has entered into a number of agreements with different countries to facilitate work permits valid for up to 12 months for this group. As there are limited quotas, however, interested people should apply well in advance. Also, please take note that the duration of your stay may depend on your nationality. Citizens of some countries are allowed to participate in a working holiday for an entire year while others may only stay for shorter periods of time (e.g. six months).

InterNations GO!
by InterNations GO!
06 December 2018

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