Monday, July 8, 2019

Planning for the Move to Canada, my perspective

Changing country of residence is a big decision and for moving to Canada there are so many things that need to happen as part of the application, invitation to apply and confirmation of permanent residence processes. This is all an objective process but there are subjective elements, for example the question of whether you should even move in the first place. My last post was objective, factual and process based. This will be more subjective and coloured by my own personal experience.

There was one question, personally, that drove my decision: Will moving improve the quality of life for my family?

Thinking about it to answer that question I had to consider three broad areas:
  • Transportation
    • How long will be the commute to work?
    • How long will be the commute to family/friends?
  • Housing
    • Rent or buy?
    • School district?
  • Career opportunities
    • Will I have more opportunities to grow in my career path?
    • Will I have opportunities to discover a potential new path?
I personally suggest deciding which of those three is the most important and plan the others around it. I assume the following exists somewhere on the internet, I tried to find it so I could attribute credit but didn't, so I created the simple illustration below. Where you live, how much you earn and how much those impact your commute to/from work and to/from personal and family activities, to me, strongly determines quality of life. 

What I'm trying to illustrate here is that improving your commute can come at the cost being able to afford a home with a back yard or going for a great paying job while living in a very affordable neighborhood can make for a very long commute. There are definitely more elements that drive one's quality of life but I think these are huge and things you can plan for.


I suggest looking at Glassdoor, Linkedin, or maybe your own company if they have a footprint in Canada to understand what salary range you can expect. In my mind you should have a clear idea of the jobs you can potentially obtain and how much they can pay both in the short and long term. Feeling fulfilled at work is important however that's hard to plan for and earning power is going to be a big factor; if you need to take an entry level position to move you may not be able to maintain your quality of life. A number of things can cause you to take a step back career wise, such as your certifications or work experience not being valid where you are planning to go. It's also a good idea to talk to recruiters to get some ideas around this topic.

A good resource is Express Entry Job Match, it's a way to let companies search for you after you've setup your Express Entry profile, you need the language test (but not an ECA) to create a profile and you can read more about the specific policies on the IRCC web page.

On the topic of salary, factor in income tax, here is a good calculator (in my opinion) but feel free to search and find others. Knowing your potential net salary is important if you're going to make a serious estimate of what you can afford month to month.


Finding a place to live in Canada can be a trying process for many. Research is also your friend here, look at Kijiji, and Realtor and do some web searches to get an idea of what rent will be like in the area you want to live in. The Kijiji link will route to Toronto but Canada is a big place and I'd suggest looking at the various provinces because the weather, taxes, real estate market etc. all are hugely different.

If you're looking to purchase a home when you migrate, overall the housing market in many parts of Canada is very expensive, especially Vancouver and Toronto; Canada also currently has stringent rules on qualifying for a Mortgage. To summarize you should typically need 5-10% as a deposit but 20% is best. Also you need to qualify for 2% higher than the Mortgage rate you're applying for because of the Mortgage Stress Test. I'm not qualified to go much deeper on this, do the research and understand if buying or renting makes sense for your financial situation.

Lastly the cost everything from Gas to Groceries will be different moving to new country and varies by city as well. I created a pretty big spreadsheet with my expenses in Barbados and compared them to potential expenses in Canada to get an idea of what I could spend on housing. The goal was to understand where I could live to at least maintain my then (perceived) quality of life with the least commute given that I already knew what I would be making. I used Numbeo to help gather those figures to make the comparison.

If you are a parent then you'll need to factor in child care, compared to Barbados child care in Toronto (for example) is very expensive. This is more an issue for children under four years old however where you live also determines your school district which in turn determines the quality of education your child(ren) could potentially receive; here is a site that provides rankings of schools across Canada. It's also worth researching and considering if things like French immersion are important to you and if they are offered by schools in the area you want to live in.


I'll talk about the Greater Toronto Area because that is where I live, the basic ideas around being 'downtown' should apply to most major cities. If Ontario is your preferred destination I recommend learning the difference between Downtown Toronto, Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area.

Toronto has it's own transportation organization called the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and one trade off that you can make is living downtown with it's high rent cost but low transit time and cost. If you're going to be downtown every weekend and don't have kids then living Downtown has serious merit. Conversely if that isn't your lifestyle then living outside of Toronto but in the Greater Toronto Area has strong merit.

If, for example, you're living far from a bus or train line you can spend less on rent however that savings could be offset by needing to purchase a car. Cars are cheaper in Canada than in the Caribbean, especially Barbados with the crazy high import duty. Insurance however is not and I strongly suggest talking to someone you know in Canada or looking at some insurance quotesKijiji and Autotrader are good places to look for cars (new and used) to get an idea of how owning a car could impact your finances.

To wrap up, it's hard to summarize everything I've covered but essentially if you plan to work in specific region then it's a good idea to plan around transportation to and from where you can afford to live based on the salary you think you'll be making (keeping in mind your social life). Overall it's a good idea to have a high degree of confidence whether the jobs you can obtain will allow you the salary and commute to maintain or improve your quality of life. Some people have 1.5 to 2 hour commutes each way and they are fine with it. I personally am coming around to the idea of a longer commute but if thirty minutes of traffic makes your skin itch then this is something you need to plan for when moving to a new country.

With the exception of a fete after a few drinks I am a very risk averse person so I, perhaps, over think things. Still, I think to some degree this is the sort of thinking people do when they have a big decision to make and I hope was helpful.

Here are a few other things that came to mind but I couldn't really fit them in:

Tax planning, do it. Seriously, call a specialist or spend some time on a website like Turbo tax to understand the things you can claim on so you can don't get caught flat footed maximizing your tax return. Moving is expensive and leaving money on the table is not a good idea for most of us.

Car rental and micro rental services like Avis, Enterprise and Zipcar along with ride sharing apps are great ways to get around if you're not going to buy a car immediately. Getting your drivers license in Canada is probably better saved for a follow up but suffice to say, plan to get an license in the province you choose.

1 comment:

Steve Smith said...

I appreciate your information, but I don't think so we need to start the moving process before several months. Because Nowadays if you want to shift your office or home you can go with Moving companies. Especially in Canada BC Alberts Movers provides the best facility to move your property from one place to another without causing any extra charges and they can move your office in a limited time of period.