Moving to Toronto
Relocating can be challenging.
We make it easy!
What to know if you're moving to Toronto
Toronto is probably among the top three destinations for expats interested in living in Canada. And with good reason: expats and immigrants have chosen to relocate to Toronto for decades, making it one of the most diverse cities in the world. Our guide on Toronto has all the info you need.
All about Canada
Relocating to Toronto
At a Glance:
- Toronto is incredibly international and is home to nearly 3 million residents.
- Housing and rental prices in the Greater Toronto Area are vastly lower than in the city.
- If you have visa-related inquiries these can be answered through the website of Citizen and Immigration Canada (CIC).
- If you spend over two years working in Toronto and have a good understanding of the city and country, then you can apply for citizenship.
A City with a Past
Immigration to Canada has long been almost synonymous with two key options: either relocating to Canada’s west coast, or to Toronto. The steady influx of people moving to Toronto, both from abroad and from within Canada, has given the city its reputation as a very international, cosmopolitan place. Since its founding in 1834, the city has repeatedly grown — not only due to newcomers making Toronto their home, but also by amalgamation with its surrounding municipalities and suburbs, most recently in 1998, when East York, North York, Etobicoke, Scarborough, and York were merged with the former city of Toronto.
Toronto’s Multicultural Population
The city proper is home to about 2.8 million residents, many of which came to Toronto from abroad. The population of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA, see below) even exceeds six million. Almost half the city’s residents are foreign born. Foreigners moving to Toronto have helped make the city one of the most ethnically diverse municipalities on earth, surpassing even the famed diversity of New York City.
This impacts not only the cityscape and its neighborhoods — see the section on Toronto’s neighborhoods below — but also the languages spoken around town. As Toronto is a popular destination among people from all around the globe, there are sizeable ethnic communities with many different languages and backgrounds. Foreign languages spoken by a considerable part of Toronto’s population include Chinese, Portuguese, Urdu, Tamil, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, and many more. English, however, obviously remains the official language, and anyone moving to Toronto should make sure they have a good command of English.
Go Big: The Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
Those who, for whichever reason, are not interested in moving to Toronto proper might want to look into Toronto’s neighboring municipalities: Durham, Halton, Peel, and York constitute the Greater Toronto Area. Not only are rental prices often considerably lower than in the city itself, but the GTA is also home to some of the best expat employment opportunities in the region, making Toronto’s “outskirts” an attractive option for expats. We have taken a closer look at the GTA’s economic performance in our article on working in Toronto.
Moving to Toronto’s metro area does not mean you will be unable to enjoy the unique cultural spirit that Toronto radiates: all regional public transportation services are linked to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). There is also an additional network of suburban trains, the GO Transit.
If you insist (or are dependent) on using a car in Toronto, you will quickly make the acquaintance of the King’s highways, the busiest and largest highway network in Canada. Highway 401 is one of the main traffic arteries in the GTA and among the busiest highways in the world. Seeing how traffic is often less than relaxed, to put it mildly, you might want to consider making ample use of the various public transportation options Toronto offers.
Toronto aka the City of Neighborhoods
Within the first few days of living in Toronto, you will surely see a very clear pattern arise in the design of most street signs. Most of them do not indicate only the street you are on (obviously), but also the neighborhood. And neighborhoods are aplenty in the city: some claim that there are upwards of 240 distinctly identifiable parts of town. Some only extend for a couple of blocks, others are much larger; however, their sheer number (which has also gotten bigger over time, see above) has earned Toronto the nickname “City of Neighborhoods”.
Many of the various social and ethnic groups in Toronto have claimed specific neighborhoods for themselves. Sure, Chinatown and Little Italy are North American city staples, but the large variety of neighborhoods with very distinct feels and atmospheres still makes being an expat in Toronto a special experience. Distinct architecture, ornamentation, sights, smells, and sounds — many neighborhoods perfectly encapsulate what Toronto is all about: “Diversity Our Strength” is the city’s motto. On moving to Toronto, any newcomer should take their first week off just to explore the countless neighborhoods. It’s well worth it!
Toronto: Accommodation and Visas
Ways of Finding Your Perfect Home
The “classic” ways of looking for a new home also work in Toronto. You can browse the housing ads in the major local newspapers — and the free papers which are available at newsstands and subway stations — or go online and search the many internet housing portals. There is also the option of simply picking a neighborhood and strolling through, looking for “for rent” signs, although the probability of success will be rather low this way. Most landlords expect a security deposit equal to one month’s rent in advance, so be sure to include this in your budget calculations.
A very popular portal, not only for rentals, is realtor.com. However, at times you cannot be quite sure in advance whether the offer you view comes from a reputable source, so browse with caution. If you are just looking for a room to rent for a few weeks while you go looking for apartments, browsing craigslist might be a good idea.
Some more well-to-do expats and those with plans of settling permanently in Toronto or the GTA might opt for buying a house. Again, realtors will be glad to help. Expat newcomers should, however, get acquainted with the rules and regulations for buying and owning a house in Ontario first. The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants has set up a very informative portal for all matters and questions that might arise after relocating, including those concerning home ownership.
Get Your Visa Right
One of the very first steps of any trip abroad is, of course, reading up on the respective visa legislation. Canada has long realized its appeal to expats and immigrants from all over the world and offers exceptionally detailed and easy-to-browse info on most government websites.
Citizen and Immigration Canada (CIC), for example, offers an in-depth FAQ section on all visa-related questions and matters on their homepage. Many future expats reading this will be happy to hear that a number of large “expat sender” countries in Europe and Asia are exempt from visas for visits to the country. Again, a complete list can be found on the CIC page.
You couldn’t find your country on the list? That is absolutely no problem. The Canadian representation in your country will gladly help you with any visa-related inquiries and applications. The visitor visa regulations for Canada are generally very straightforward and uncomplicated — as long as you fulfill all criteria listed under the link above, you should have your visa in no time.
If you plan on not simply visiting Canada but relocating there — be it permanently or temporarily — getting a visa is just the beginning. A valid work permit is the prerequisite for any kind of relocation to Canada. However, the task of acquiring a work visa might consume a larger amount of time. We have devoted a section of our articles on working in Canada and working in Toronto to this matter.
Planning on Staying Possibly Forever?
You will probably meet colleagues or new acquaintances who came to Toronto as expats but enjoyed their lives there so much they wanted to stay permanently. Once again, the immigrant-friendly Canadian government has taken this possibility into consideration: there are various categories for immigration and permanent settlement, catering to groups with different backgrounds and various kinds of experience with living in Canada.
If you have already spent more than two years working in Toronto, have a good understanding of the city, the country, and its people and culture, you can apply for citizenship under the category of the Canadian Experience Class. The CIC has compiled detailed info on the application process, fees, and requirements at the page linked above.
If you are sure you want to permanently live in Toronto prior to having even set foot there, you can make use of the Skilled Workers and Professionals category. However, the requirements are a lot stricter for this category. Again, additional info can be found via the above link.