Moving to Canada

The long, cold winters can deter some people from relocating to Canada. But most expats who make the move have no regrets.

Canada came 4th overall in our 2018 Expat Explorer Survey, with 68% of expats saying they’d found it easy to integrate into their local community. Getting a Canadian work permit isn’t always straightforward. But if your application is successful, you’ll receive a warm welcome from a country whose people are known for their cheerful humour and self-deprecating manner.

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Basic info

  • Population: About 36 million
  • Capital city: Ottawa
  • Largest city: Toronto
  • Main languages: English and French
  • Main religion: Christianity. Other religions include Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Judaism.
  • Political system: Federal parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
  • Time: Canada spans six time zones. Newfoundland Standard Time is GMT-3.30, Atlantic Standard Time is GMT-4, Eastern Standard Time is GMT-5, Central Standard Time is GMT-6, Mountain Standard Time is GMT-7 and Pacific Standard Time is GMT-8. In most parts of the country, clocks move forward an hour in March and back an hour in November.
  • Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz. Plugs have two flat blades or two flat blades and a round pin.
  • Currency: Canadian dollar (CAD)
  • International dialling code: +1
  • Internet domain: .ca
  • Emergency numbers: 911
  • Road Traffic: Drives on the right

Next holiday

May

20

Victoria Day

When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it moves to the first available weekday. Each Canadian province also has its own public holidays in addition to those taken across the country.

Public Holidays

2018
1 January New Year's Day
30 March Good Friday
2 April Easter Monday
21 May Victoria Day
1 July Canada Day
6 August Civic Holiday
3 September Labour Day
8 October Thanksgiving Day
11 November Remembrance Day
25 December Christmas Day
2019
1 January New Year's Day
19 April Good Friday
22 April Easter Monday
20 May Victoria Day
1 July Canada Day
5 August Civic Holiday
2 September Labour Day
14 October Thanksgiving Day
11 November Remembrance Day
25 December Christmas Day
2020
1 January New Year's Day
10 April Good Friday
13 April Easter Monday
18 May Victoria Day
1 July Canada Day
3 August Civic Holiday
7 September Labour Day
12 October Thanksgiving Day
11 November Remembrance Day
25 December Christmas Day

Your relocation checklist

Moving to a new country takes a lot of planning. To help you get started, here are some of the things you need to do before you leave home – or just after you arrive.

Key phrases in French

  • Hello Bonjour
  • Good evening Bonsoir
  • Goodbye Au revoir
  • How are you? Ça va?
  • Thank you Merci
  • Yes Oui
  • No Non
  • Do you speak English Parlez-vous anglais?
  • Can you help me Pouvez-vous m'aider?
  • I'm sorry Je suis désolé

Top tips

View a selection of tips sourced from expats about Canada:

“Everyday living involves covering a lot more in terms of distance, whether using public or private transport, so activities can take longer to accomplish.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Canada is a culturally diverse country. Be open, accepting and tolerant of others but retain your individuality. Also, learn to manage your own taxes.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Research the climatic conditions of areas throughout Canada, the cost of housing and different provincial taxes. Talk to as many people as you can in Canada before you make a decision to look for employment.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“It's not what you know, it's who you know. Meet with people personally (face-to-face rather than by email or phone) and work to build relationships. Canada runs on networking and you need to get integrated as soon as possible.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Make sure to get a letter from your insurance company (car insurance, home insurance etc.) stating the amount of years without a claim. If you don't have this letter, you'll start from zero and pay higher rates.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

View more hints and tips for Canada

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Involve yourself with your local community; be active, do volunteer work and take part in everything you can. Only then will you feel at home and have a connection with the people around you. I love Canada and its people; I have felt welcome from the very beginning.

Expat Explorer Survey respondent

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Shipping

Shipping goods to Canada is pricey. Sea freight is cheaper than air, but it’s often more cost effective to buy new furniture and other household items when you arrive.

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Customs

Navigating Canadian customs can be tricky – so it’s best to hire a reputable removals company that will handle the paperwork. Only used goods are allowed in duty free and it is recommended that you keep all paperwork pertaining to the imported goods for six years.

Banned and restricted items

There are restrictions on the amount of alcohol and tobacco you can take into Canada – these depend on the province or territory you’re moving to. Banned items include firearms and ammunition, certain types of food, plants and animal products, and even some antiques.

Medicines

You’re allowed to enter the country with a three-month supply of any prescription medicine, but it’s best to clear this with the Canadian embassy in your home country before you move.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in June 2018. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.