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

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  • Alberto Mendez

    When I started my new business in Ottawa, I found several contacts in expat circles due to the InterNations Ottawa community.

Relocating to Ottawa

The city has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ as its French residents might say. Key to Ottawa`s inexplicable air may well be the Rideau, Ottawa and Gatineau Rivers, all of which converge in front of this beautiful city. Indeed, 2007 saw the Rideau Canal become a UNESCO World Heritage site, meaning that the soothing sounds of flowing water are always close by, as are the countless stories from Ottawa’s rich history.

There are a great many things to consider before moving to Ottawa, or any new city for that matter: education, healthcare, standard of living, crime rates. Well, thankfully Ottawa scores favorably in all of these aspects, and potential future Ottawa inhabitants can look at various stats for evidence of this. The fact that forcible entries in 2013 dropped by 20% (the biggest drop in any type of crime across the city) is only one example. In addition to this, 2013 also saw crime rates in general drop by 11%.

In terms of weather, expats relocating to Ottawa can have the best of both worlds. Expatriates may already be well aware of Canada’s blistery winters, and with temperatures of -14°C (7°F) and lower, it is more than advisable to wrap up warm. With this said, the summers are extremely pleasant, with 30°C (86°F) not uncommon.

About Ottawa

Now a vibrant city with a modern day activity for everyone, Ottawa’s history is far different. The 19th century saw a large number of French-Canadians, or francophones, flock to Ottawa, setting up businesses along the Ottawa River in cities like Glengarry-Stormont and Prescott-Russell. Today, this huge French presence has also been joined by many other ethnic groups. 18% of the city’s population comprises Arabs, Black Canadians, South Asians, and Chinese Canadians to name but a few. This eclectic mix of ethnicities, as well as the French influence, means that diversity and multiculturalism run through every level of Ottawan working life.

Living in Ottawa is quite an experience. It is a capital city, and while its nightlife, restaurants and museums leave you in no doubt about this fact. However, Ottawa also has a very non-city-like charm. Vast expanses of forest and hundreds of parks mean that there is a pleasantly surprising lack of energy hungry buildings, and the city was recently named ‘the most sustainable city in Canada’ by Toronto-based Knights Magazine in 2013 – just one of many accolades bestowed upon this forward thinking capital.

Visas for Canada

For those heading to Ottawa from another Canadian city things are fairly simple, but for expats wanting to switch countries there are fees to pay and applications to be made. More in-depth Information on the visa process can be found for example on the Canadian Government’s website-section on immigration and citizenship.

January 2015 saw the introduction of a new Express Entry System, meaning that those wanting to make Ottawa their permanent home must prove that they have relevant experience and high language test scores.

The first port of call should be your nearest Canadian embassy. You will have to attend an interview to prove why you should be allowed entry and once your application has been sent, it can take from 7 – 10 working days for a decision to come back. In terms of employment, you will need to get your hands on a social insurance number once you have arrived in Ottawa.

If you are granted a visa, you should ensure that you have your up-to-date health records, as this will make any health insurance process a great deal easier. Upon arrival, pay a visit to the Newcomer Information Centre, 200 Catherine Street. Here you can get your hands on all of the information needed for a smooth transition to Ottawan life. Also be sure to apply for the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) – a publicly funded program that covers essential healthcare services.

Finding Accommodation in Ottawa

Compared to many other capitals around the world, accommodation is extremely affordable in Ottawa, and by using the right resources, you can be settled here in no time. While internet searches can always give you a good idea of what is available, there are also a number of independent agencies with the sole aim of making your property search easier.

Should you want to rent a property, websites such as UsedOttawa.com  are very good, and for those wanting to buy a property it is always useful to take a look at sites like the Ottawa Real Estate Board. In addition, browsing the classifieds of local newspapers such as the Ottawa Citizen or the Ottawa Sun may also help you with your housing search.

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