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Getting ready to move to Canada

Canada is a great place to live. But to ensure a smooth transition, you'll want to research ahead of time what life is like for newcomers.

By Kelly Dilworth with insights from Munsif Sheraly

If you're moving to Canada, you have a lot to look forward to, including stunning scenery, diverse cities, a highly regarded education and healthcare system, friendly residents, and passionate sports fans. However, it's also a big country, with vastly different landscapes, living costs, and lifestyles throughout its 10 provinces and three territories.

To ensure a smooth transition, it's crucial to research as much as possible ahead of your arrival. That way, you can avoid unwanted surprises and be sure you’re living in the right place. There are plenty of free online resources to help you plan from a distance.

“Taking time now to research what it's like to live in Canada will also help prepare you, emotionally and financially, for an exciting but stressful move.”
- Munsif Sheraly, Director, Multicultural Banking, Scotiabank

Here are some key areas to focus on as you research life in Canada.

1. The local job market.
The first thing you should do before committing to a specific region is to research the area's job market and economy.

You can learn more about a region's labour market using the Government of Canada's Job Bank site. This is a rich source of information that will help you get a quick snapshot of different communities across Canada. For example, you can use the site's trend analysis tool to learn more about job openings in a specific area. You can also look up common skill requirements and median wages for the positions you are seeking.

If you're changing occupations, the site also provides helpful job summaries you can use to consider different options. It's also a good tool for setting long-term goals for developing your skills or education.

Another quick way to learn more about the local job market is to use Google's job search tool. Just type in a keyword such as “data analyst" or “personal support worker" and the city, county, or regional district you are researching. Google will then pull relevant job ads from across the web.

If you're interested in a particular company, it's also a good idea to check whether you can join a talent pool database for those companies and get notified by email of new openings.

Questions to ask yourself as you research jobs in Canada include:

  • Is there demand for your skills and professional background? If there aren't many jobs being advertised in your field, you may need to pick another region.
  • Are there rules or regulations for your profession? If so, you may need specific licenses, certificates, or professional registrations to get hired. Requirements for regulated and unregulated positions may also vary between provinces. Use the Government of Canada's National Occupation Classification tool to look up job titles and requirements. Or check out the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials' Directory of Occupational Profiles. It offers comprehensive information about provincial laws and occupation regulations.
  • Will your job and education credentials be recognized in Canada? For example, if your profession is regulated, your credentials must be assessed by a specific regulatory body. An employer in an unregulated industry may also ask for a third-party review of your credentials to ensure they meet Canadian standards. Visit Canada.ca to learn more about assessment requirements for your profession.
  • How will your immigration status affect your employment opportunities? Check the Government of Canada's Immigration and Citizenship page for more information on work permits, expedited processing and special programs, such as express entry.

2. Lifestyle, culture, and climate.
The community, province, or territory you choose to live in will also have a major impact on your way of life.

Living in a farm community in the Canadian Prairies in western Canada, for example, will be a vastly different experience culturally and financially than living in a major city, such as Vancouver or Toronto.

Similarly, life in rural Quebec, where French is the official language, could feel similar to areas of bilingual New Brunswick, but very different from nearby communities in Ontario.

Climate also differs dramatically across the country, with fierce winters in landlocked provinces, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan, and milder winters on the coasts.

The geography of where you move can also significantly affect your quality of life. If you're a marine engineer or scientist, for example, or you just simply love sailing, then you may be happier settling in British Columbia, or the Maritime Provinces in eastern Canada.

Similarly, if you're a software engineer who dreads long commutes, you may prefer a tech hub city like Waterloo, Ontario over Greater Toronto.

Your lifestyle preferences and budget are also important to consider. For example, if you enjoy city life, but can't afford Canada's priciest urban centres, you might find happiness in a smaller city with a booming culture scene, such as Saskatoon or Halifax.

It's also important to consider other factors, such as healthcare and education. If you have kids, for example, you'll want to look for family-friendly neighbourhoods. Or if you have a chronic health condition, you will want to consider areas with plenty of family doctors and hospitals nearby.

You can learn more about different provinces and territories on Canada.ca.

Once you've narrowed your options, look up different municipalities' government websites and visitor guides to get more local information.

A province or territory may also offer its own website for newcomers. Ontario, for example, helps fund Settlement.org, which answers common questions on everything from finding a family doctor in Ontario to school procedures and enrolment.

3. Free resources for newcomers.
Canada also offers a strong support system for newcomers, including a wide variety of social services and resources.

Once you arrive in Canada, you'll find government-funded settlement agencies throughout the country, including in small towns and remote territories. These centres typically offer approved permanent residents a variety of free services, such as:

  • Free job searching and resume help.
  • Mentoring and workshops.
  • Paperwork and translation assistance.
  • Community referrals.
  • Government-funded language training.

You can use the Government of Canada's newcomer services tool to see what services are offered in your target region.

In addition, you may be able to take advantage of free in-person and online pre-arrival services before you land in Canada.

To qualify, you will either need to be an approved permanent resident or have a letter from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada notifying you of your eligibility. You should receive this letter once your permanent residency application is close to being approved.

You can use these free pre-arrival services to help you plan your transition and wrap up crucial tasks, such as getting your job and education credentials recognized by an appropriate authority.

Some pre-arrival services include:

  • Free one-on-one counselling and personal planning sessions.
  • Employment assessments and mentoring.
  • Online and in-person workshops and orientations.
  • Skill-building e-tools and other educational services.

For more information and a list of participating organizations, check out the Government of Canada's pre-arrival services page.

The Canadian government's free e-book, Welcome to Canada, is also a good resource for planning your move.

4. Rules and safety guidelines in the age of COVID-19.
Finally, make sure you educate yourself about new rules and procedures – as well as documentation delays – that have been put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For example, as of the date this article was published, all visitors and new residents must now isolate themselves for a mandatory 14-day quarantine period as soon as they arrive in Canada.

You will need to find a safe place to stay that is fully isolated from others. You will also need to plan for the delivery of food and supplies while you are quarantined.

Once you arrive in Canada, you will be required to travel directly to the location where you are self-quarantining without any food, supply, or rest stops along the way. You will also have to wear a mask or face covering until you reach your destination.

It's also a good idea to check for new rules and regulations before your trip. With such a fluid situation, rules related to the coronavirus may change right before you travel. Check the Government of Canada's Travel Restrictions and Exemptions page before you head to the airport or border.

An exciting experience

Moving to a new country is an exhilarating experience, full of hope and possibility. But to keep that dream alive, you'll need to make sure you know what to expect when you arrive. Otherwise you could spoil your enjoyment if you come to Canada unprepared or choose a region that's not the right fit for your skills or personality.

The more prep-work you do now, the more time you'll also save when you arrive. Researching your new country will also help ensure a smoother and more confident move and save you stress and money once you're finally settled.

Stay connected to Scotiabank to better prepare yourself for your upcoming move

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