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

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  • Andrey Vasilyev

    When moving to a huge city such as Vancouver, InterNations made it easy for me to find fellow expats and the network that I needed.

The relocation process to Vancouver, or anywhere Canada, is not as difficult as one might think. Vancouver is such a multicultural city and home to so many different nationalities, that entire neighborhoods are dedicated to different ethnicities. Putting aside visa requirements and work permit applications for expats, the government welcomes and cherishes diversity by offering cultural programs and community spaces. The moment you have your visa approved, no-one can stop you in this amazing city.

Diversity and a booming economy are just two factors that make Vancouver such a vibrant place. The natural landscape is what truly attracts a large number of expats. Outdoor activities are plentiful and there is never a dull moment, whether you are partying around Downtown Yaletown, shopping at the weekly Vancouver flea market, or hiking a trail on the North Shore Mountains.

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Relocating is never an easy process, but Vancouver is worth it in the end. This city has it all and expats know it. Neighborhoods are vibrant and diverse, nature is abundant, the food is out of this world, jobs are plentiful, and education and healthcare are topnotch. What else do you need to convince you?

If you are still wondering about whether to move to Vancouver, maybe our pros and cons list will help you make your final decision.

Things to Know Before Moving to Vancouver

Vancouver, constantly ranked among the top ten cities to live in, might give you the idea it is an expat wonderland. While we do not want to rain on your parade, it is always advisable to consider every pro and con before moving. The quality of life in Canada’s third-largest city is overall very high, but Vancouver also has its downsides that you need to know.

The Pros

Diverse Population

Vancouver’s population is a mix of Aboriginal people, English-Canadians, English, Scottish, Irish, Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Hispanic, Filipino, Iranians, and many more. The city embraces diversity and welcomes all nations.

Vast Nature

The beaches and North Shore mountains are not all there is to Vancouver. Stanley Park, for example, is a beautiful green space in the middle of the city and the sunsets from there are out of this world.

Booming Economy

The job opportunities are plenty. Expats will be happy to know that there are a lot of openings in healthcare, education, finance, and technology. In fact, the city even has trouble providing additional office space to fit all those skilled workers.

Good Healthcare

Public healthcare in Vancouver is subsidized by taxpayers. Everyone with a permanent residency permit has full access to healthcare that covers almost everything.

Excellent Education

The public education system in Vancouver is free and ranks high on an international level. Schools in the city have a different emphasis, some even cater to the multicultural needs of the population.

The Cons


Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities worldwide when it comes to real estate. Be prepared to either spend half of your income on rent or to have hour-long commutes to and from work because you live on the very outskirts of town.


Vancouver is situated on two Northern plates, which makes it a high-risk area for earthquakes. The city is affected by a lot of small earthquakes. However, research shows that before long, Vancouver could be hit by a devastating one.

Low Wages

Although there are a lot of employment opportunities, salaries are low if you are not a skilled worker. The minimum wage is 14 CAD (10 USD) per hour. Living in a city this expensive, it can be hard to juggle bills and have fun on a minimum to average salary.

Homelessness and Drugs

There are a lot of young homeless people in Vancouver. You will see a lot of drug use and young people on the street in East Hastings and Downtown Eastside.


Although Vancouver is a fairly safe city, crime rate is high. You can see a lot of drug use around the street and violence against women is unfortunately not uncommon.

Tips and Advice for Moving to Vancouver

Is it Hard to Move to Vancouver as an Expat?

Apart from everything you need to do to get work and residence visas in Canada, relocating can be difficult for expats who do not know the lay of the land. Finding a home in a city hit by a housing crisis is very hard. Many expats decide against moving to crowded and expensive Vancouver city itself, preferring a bigger and less expensive home in the surrounding communities like Burnaby, Surrey, and the Tri-Cities of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody.

Most suburbs are well-connected to the center by public transportation. If you can, try finding a short-term rental before deciding on a more permanent place. This way you have more time to get to know the city and find the neighborhoods that resonate with you and your budget. For more information on how to find a new home and whether or not your landlord allows pets, read the Living in Vancouver guide.

Jobs are plentiful, however, finding a well-paid and skilled job as an expat is competitive. Why? Because Canada already has highly-skilled native graduates that do not need an expensive work visa. Vancouver is currently creating a lot of new jobs, and expats with specialized skills in areas such as IT, (bio)engineering, and business and technology might just be in luck.

Do not let this discourage you from relocating to such an amazing. Expats quickly forget the hassle of moving upon arriving because they feel immediately accepted and welcomed. Being such a culturally diverse city, Vancouver is home to so many ethnicities that it is impossible to not feel the spirit of the city. And if you are shy and need a nudge meeting new people, you will find exciting and diverse communities through InterNations. There you can connect with fellow expats, local events, and community groups.

Moving with Pets

Can’t move without your furry best friend? Don’t worry. You do not need to. It is possible to bring pets into Canada, but be aware that it is a bit of a hassle. To enter the country, pets are not required to be microchipped. They also need a valid Rabies Certificate (EU Pet Passport) written in English or French, and issued by a licensed veterinarian, as well as all recommended vaccinations. If you are planning on taking your pets with you, read the detailed Moving with Pets section in our Canada Guide.

Visa and Work Permits

Although Canada is very welcoming to expats, it does have strict visa requirements. So, before your dream of living in the True North can come true, you have to check whether or not you need a visa to enter the country. And if yes, which one. Depending on your nationality, you might be in luck.

Major “sender” countries in Europe and Asia are exempt from visas and only need an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) and an approved work permit application. The best way to find what you need is to check the FAQ section about visa-related matters on the Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

If you need more information on visas and work permits for Vancouver, read our Visas & Work Permits section in our Moving to Canada guide.

Living In

What is it like living in Vancouver? For most expats it is like a dream come true. This guide repeats this phrase a lot, but it’s true: Vancouver has it all. If you like beaches, you will find secluded and peaceful stretches of sand with a view of the mountains. But a little party also never killed anybody, so if you are into beach clubs and happy hour, make sure to swing by Kitsilano beach during the summer months. Nature lovers will be able to hike lots of trails along the North Shore Mountain Range or enjoy the view from Stanley Park.

Vancouver has not consistently been ranked in the top ten cities to live in for no reason. The city is multicultural, vibrant, and full of opportunities and beauty. Yet ask any of the 2.6 million Vancouverites what it is like there, and they will tell you “amazing, but….” The hesitation in praise stems from the fact that the city is currently facing a shortage of housing, which in turn increases rents drastically. And, as in most big cities, you will have horrible traffic. So, the best advice anyone can give you before relocating is: get a well-paid job, live in the suburbs, and ditch your car.

To learn more about life in Vancouver, read our guide to Living in Vancouver.

Working In

Working life in Vancouver is just as diverse as its population. Although the city is known for its financial sector, the job market in technology and natural resources has been booming, and there’s no end in sight. Up until now, finding a job as an expat was competitive, but Vancouver is about to be hit by a skills shortage. Your time has come!

Like everywhere else in Canada, you need a work permit to be issued a visa. But to be issued one, you will need to secure a job first. Canadians are particular about specific skills, and the Canadian way of spelling, which is a mix of British English, American English, Quebéc French and some local idioms, so make sure to stand out in your CV with all of your achievements and not with spelling mistakes.

Salaries in Vancouver are decent. However, in a city in the midst of a housing crisis, decent salaries just about cover daily costs, such as rent, utilities, food, and transportation. To live comfortably, you need to earn more than 55k CAD (42K USD) a year. If you are a coder, you are in luck. Salaries in your industry are high and will continue to rise because of the lack of skilled people out there.

Entrepreneurs and self-employed expats will be happy to know that opportunities are many. Vancouver has a lot of different co-working spaces where you can mingle with like-minded individuals from your field.

For more information on how to land a job in Vancouver, read our full Working in Canada guide.

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