How To Move to Canada or Die Trying

So You Want to Immigrate to Canada, Eh?

Joe Tobin

|August 2, 2019

Joe is a proud Michigander that finds himself in unusual, beautiful, and faraway places. He enjoys getting lost, drinking with strangers, and worshipping at the church of rock ‘n’ roll.

Maybe you’re a hockey fanatic, or perhaps you have an insatiable craving for poutine? Whatever your reason, you want to move to Canada.

Home to a worldly, diverse population and vast, wide-open spaces — Canada is a lovely country full of opportunity, Tim Bits, colorful characters, government-sponsored healthcare, and trees… so many trees.

Head north and find your peace under the maple leaf.

How to Survive Immigration

Immigration is still high in Canada. According to a 2011 census, over 20% of Canada is foreign-born. Most immigrants hail from South Asia, China or the Caribbean. 

But like most countries, you can’t just buy a ticket, cross the border, and start living and working in Canada. You are going to need a visa in order to stay for an extended period of time.

First things first, you’re going to need to decide what type of visa you are most qualified for. Start by asking yourself, “why do I want to move to Canada and what is it that I want to do there?”

Feel free to narrow down your options and check your eligibility with this questionnaire provided by the Government of Canada. Just do it — this quick test will tell you if your Canadian future is well within reach or if it’s more “not a chance in hell, bud.”

Hockey fans will fit right in

Canadian Visas and Permits

Gone are the days of boarding a boat with nothing more than a few pennies and your dreams stuffed in your pockets. Nowadays, the only two ways to immigrate to Canada are through applying for either temporary or permanent residence.

Temporary Residence

Work Permit

Want to work in Canada? You'll need a work permit. Already got a job lined up? Still, need a work permit. Going to dig ditches in the Northwest Territories? Work permit.

Get a work permit by first receiving a job offer from a Canadian company. The company you will be working for should be able to help you out with the whole process. 

There are several different types of work permits, but generally, you'll need:

  • a job contract or intent to hire
  • proof you'll leave when your permit expires
  • have enough money to provide for yourself during your stay
  • have a clean criminal record
  • be in good health
  • and not be hired into an unreputable or ‘ineligible’ company.

Paperwork - A Necessary Evil

Student Permit

Quick question, how much is an education worth? Tons of loans? Maybe in the States — but not in Canada. Forget a lifetime in debt, stay and study in Canada where schools are more reasonably priced and lectures are still in English, or French.

Your school should be able to assist you with all of the student permit requirements once you get accepted and arrive in Canada.

Permits can be issued for primary, secondary, post-secondary (university), language schools, and some learning institutions. While studying you may be able to work while attending your program, but check with your school on the details. 

Student Visas are one of the simpler ways to immigrate

Visitor’s Visa or Temporary Resident Visa (TRV)

Just want to visit Canada for a short time to check it out and see if it’s the right fit for you?

Applying for a TRV isn’t very difficult and may or may not be necessary depending on your situation. You'll need:

  • proof of ties to your homeland
  • proof you have enough funds for the duration of your visit
  • passport
  • a letter of invitation
  • and proof you will only be in Canada for a temporary period of time.

Visitors from the US do not need a TRV to visit for up to 90 days. All you have to do is show up at the nearest border crossing, say “howdy,” and present a valid passport.

Entry visas

Permanent Residence

You’re all in. You’ve bought your flannels and you’ve started making your own maple syrup. You are moving to Canada for good — but how? There are a few options, including Express Entry, family sponsorship, self-employment and special visas for certain skill levels and work experience.

Canada also wants nice people! Visas are available for caregivers of children, the elderly, and for those with disabilities. Check with your local embassy on all the details. 

You made it!

Living in Canada

Ok, you’ve got a visa — time for the good stuff! Now all you need to do is build a life, find a place of residence, a job, get covered by health insurance, and figure out what Canada is all about. No problem.

So what's legal up North, anyway?

The Canadian law system is pretty similar to the United States aside for a few more, for lack of a better term, socially progressive differences. New Canadians, especially from the States, should be aware of a few notable cases:

  • Employment ‘at will’ is not really a thing in Canada, employers must inform employees of termination well in advance or give a very clear reason for letting go of their employees.
  • Same-sex marriage is legal throughout all Canada.
  • Abortion is legal and widely available.
  • Gun ownership is strictly regulated.
  • Hate speech is against the law and is not considered protected.
  • The criminal code federal in Canada, this means all provinces and territories abide by the same criminal laws.
  • The drinking age is 19 (18 in Quebec and Alberta) and recreational marijuana is now legal in Canada for those old enough to drink in their province.

Privacy still exists in Canada! An art installation on unnecessary surveillance

Currency and Banking

Canada has its own currency cleverly called the Canadian Dollar. At the moment of writing this, one Canadian Dollar is equal to about 77 cents American. Canadian currency comes in the same denominations as US currency except that Canada has gotten rid of its pennies. Plus its $1 and $2 denominations are coins rather than paper bills.

A one-dollar coin is called a loonie, because it depicts a common loon. A two-dollar coin is known as a toonie, a combo of 'two' and 'loonie'. Know that Loons and Toons are as good as gold doubloons.

Don’t expect too many places in Canada, outside some border areas, to accept US currency. Do yourself a favor and get an account with a Canadian bank to use if you're staying for a longer period of time. And yes, it is international. Exchange rates and fees apply. Get a local account to avoid unnecessary fees for ATM and card transactions — you may think its only “funny money” until the day you don’t have any.

money money moooney

Health Care

Don’t knock it ‘til you try it — it's really, actually, truly, mostly free — and it’s swell! Canadian citizens and permanent residents can apply for public health services meaning they do not pay for most health care services.

Canada has a universal health care system and it is not free but rather it’s paid for by taxes. Each province or territory has its own plan and they differ slightly from one another. 

Emergency medical services are free for everyone, visitors included. In case of an emergency, please don’t worry about how you're going to afford it and go to the nearest hospital.

And yes haters, there is a waiting period from application to receiving public insurance that typically takes around three months. It is also true that wait time may be longer, depending on province or territory, for general medical care — but not for emergency care.

Doc's got your back


If you’ve never ridden a train, you're missing out! All cities and most major towns in Canada have some form of public transportation. You will typically find city or town bussing and most larger cities are connected by rail and by bus.

It’s also extremely common to travel by car, just be wary of your speed as the distance is measured in kilometers and gas is measured in liters. Distances are long in Canada so be sure to plan more time for traveling between towns.

Take a look at some local transportation maps before settling down. If you're lucky, you may not actually need a car — and we can save the planet together!

Bussing in Canada is a Breeze


It can get a little chilly up in Canada and you're going to need a roof over your head. Depending on where you live, expect to pay around $350 a month to rent a room. It can be upwards of at least $2,000 a month to rent a large house or family-sized apartment.

Those prices will be larger if you decide to live in one of the major cities, especially Toronto and Vancouver. For example, renting a small apartment in Toronto will average around $1,100 monthly, where Montreal would be near $640 and Calgary close to $890 a month. About 50% of your income will likely go to housing expenses — sorry about that.

Ever inclusive, Canada offers tons of resources for immigrants looking to find housing such as the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) housing information for newcomers.

Next step: Roof

Canadian Immigration Quick Tips

Just a few little quick tips from me, a friendly immigrant, to you, a soon-to-be one...

✔ Lawyer Up

It can’t be stressed enough — hire an immigration lawyer! It'll be more expensive, but the visa and immigration process is complicated and in the end, hiring will save you time, money, and a lot of hair-pulling.

✔ Create an Account on

If you’re really serious about laying down some roots in Canada, you should create an account on the Canadian government’s webpage. With the account, you can apply to visas, submit documents, pay fees, and check your application status from pretty much any device with an internet connection.

✔ Remember… Immigration Is a Process

You will not get everything done and right in one try. You will get angry and frustrated. Focus on the good and do your best to go with the flow. It will be worth it.

✔ Try it Before You Buy It

It may sound silly, but I wouldn’t just move to Canada without getting to know it first. You wouldn’t normally shack up with a stranger right away. Take a long trip or a vacation — may I recommend a groovy road trip or maybe a Canadian Rockies hike in Banff?


Have you or someone close to you recently taken the great Canadian plunge? Post any immigration tips, tricks, observations, or frustrations you have below!