The complete guide to moving to Canada

Updated: May 12, 2017

Whether it’s the maple syrup, Justin Bieber or the brown bears that first made you want to move to Canada, you’re in for an adventure. If you’re looking to get out and ski, hike or lounge over endless cups of coffee in Vancouver, get some culture in Ottawa or work hard and play hard in Montreal, Canada has a lot to offer. Plus it’s similar in size and uniqueness to Australia, and it’s an English-speaking country – for the most part. Our complete guide will have you organised faster than you can learn the rules of ice hockey.

Getting through customs

Organise a visa

Thanks to the visa agreement, Australians don’t need a pre-entry visa in to Canada, but you’ll still be subject to the usual rules surrounding immigration and airport security. If you’re arriving without a job, you’ll probably want to apply for a Temporary Work Permit, which basically gives you the right to short-term work in Canada. Don’t worry, though, one you’re settled with a permanent job, you’ll be able to apply for residence permits. Residency basically gives you and your family the same rights and luxuries it does to a Canadian citizen.

The visa process also takes in to account skilled professions, and those in short supply in Canada. This means that for certain professions you can be ‘fast-tracked’ through the visa system – and come you won’t need a work permit for at all. This basically means that for some skilled professions you can be granted permanent residency before you even arrive in the country. This is also true for the more rural provinces where labour markets are actively seeking workers. It’s called Express Entry and the Canadian government website has some information based on your profession to tell you whether you’re eligible. Rather helpfully, if you’re not, they’ll tell you what you can apply for instead. Visit their website:

TIP: If you want to work, remember you need to register free, for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) to get enrolled on the taxation system – and health care.

Customs Clearance Process

TIP: Unfortunately the customs clearance in Canada isn’t the most straight forward process and normally requires the physical presence of the shipper, however there are exceptions to this, please check with your King & Wilson moving expert for more details. 

Have a valid passport

It goes without saying really, but don’t think you can turn up in Canada without valid documents, plus it’s a fair old flight from Australia. If you’re worried your passport is due to run out, don’t leave it until the last minute, head over to the Australian Government Passport Authority for all the details you’ll need about renewing – or applying for – a passport.

TIP: Have at least six months’ validity on your passport before you travel. You don’t want to have to leave quickly – or arrange for an emergency replacement.


We all know our furry friends are part of the family, and it’s understandable you’ll want to bring your pooch or kitty over to Canada if it looks like this is a long-term move. The good news, though, is that there are no real quarantine rules in Canada, so there’s one less thing to worry about organising. Obviously, we’d always recommend your favourite four-legged friend has a microchipped and is fully-vaccinated, but for entry purposes to Canada, both dogs and cats just require a rabies vaccination if over six months old. You’ll need to have a certificate accompanying this, stating your pet’s vital statistics – breed, sex, colour, and when the vaccination was issued and how long it’s valid for. This will need to be signed by your vet.

While you’re there, as them for a veterinary certificate stating the animal’s age, where it’s been living since birth – or the last 6 months’ minimum, and again stating the breed, sex and colour of the animal. It’s a good idea to make sure that these documents are in both English and French, specifically if you’re entering Canada in a French-speaking state. Be aware that not all airlines allow pets in the cabin, so you might want to shop around before booking a flight if you don’t want them in the cargo hold. And one last thing, you’re not allowed to bring your own pet food in to Canada, so if you’re feeding en-route, remember to hand any leftovers to staff on the airplane.

TIP: Contact King & Wilson who can arrange all the pet paperwork and transportation for you.

Money, money, money


In Canada, they use the dollar $. Hurrah. However, when the currency has the same name as at home, this can sometimes make it more difficult to work out what you’re paying as you’ll automatically think Australian dollars – at least at first. The big maple leaf on each bill should act as a helpful reminder.

TIP: Download an exchange rate mobile app for the early days of your arrival so you know exactly how much things really cost.


There are over 20 domestic Canadian banks to choose from, offering an array of services from everyday transactions and savings accounts to mortgages and credit cards. Due to the competition, shop around, as you’ll often find banks want to ‘get one up’ on their competitors, through incentives to open an account to waiving fees. And speaking of fees, there can be a confusing amount involved in running a bank account in Canada. They range from transaction fees each time you use your card, cash withdrawal fees and monthly account running costs. Many of these can be overcome by keeping a minimum balance in your account. Though institutions vary, you’ll usually only need to bring your social insurance card plus further ID, such as a passport to open an account. If you’re a non-resident, you’ll also need a letter of financial reference from your bank in Australia.

Some of the main banks are:

Bank of Montreal           

Canadian Western Bank

Royal Bank of Canada  

Scotiabank                    ,,2,00.html



In terms of income tax, you’ll need to complete an annual tax return as this doesn’t come directly out of your salary, and while it’s true the more you earn, the more tax you’ll pay, each territory has its own thresholds, so you’ll need to double check what you’re liable to pay depending on where you live and work. Chances are, you won’t necessarily be liable for mega bucks if your employer has been correctly deducting other taxes from your payslip. These are taxable benefits such as employment insurance, federal tax and Canada Pension Plan should help reduce your income tax bill each year.

If you own a home, you’ll also be subject to annual taxation to help pay for public services like schools and roads. This tax is calculated annually, based on the estimated ‘fair cost’ of your property.

In addition, you’ll be subject to sales taxes on certain goods including food and clothing – plus a big tax on booze.

TIP: Make sure you set aside some money each month to help cover your first tax return, as you don’t want to get a nasty – or expensive – shock when the bill comes through.


All permanent residents can apply for public health insurance, but note that this can sometimes take up to three months to process, so it’s strongly advisable to sign-up as soon as you can – and have a comprehensive travel policy for your first few weeks. Each province has its own provider, and the cover they offer does vary, so make sure you read the small print. Once you have public health insurance, provided you show your card, you won’t need to pay for medical treatment, as this healthcare is paid through the tax system. Also check what the rules are regarding medical treatment in other districts, as in some places you may be given the equivalent health care provided you can show a valid health card; and others you may be asked to pay for treatment upfront. It’s worth investing in an ‘extended health plan’ which will cover you for things like prescription medicines and dental care. Depending on your employer, they may either offer this directly as an employee benefit, or have a discounted rate with a provider – ask your HR department for some information.

TIP: Make sure you have valid, comprehensive medical insurance for your initial few months, as public health care can take a while to come in to effect.

Setting up home

East or West?

Canada is huge. Okay, it’s of similar size to Australia, so you’ve got a vague idea of the vast differences between the two coasts, and the mix of rural and city life. Like Australia, each province, state, or territory has its own unique feel. Head west to Vancouver, for a laid-back, cosmopolitan city with the backdrop of beautiful mountains and winter ski resorts. The cost of living is reasonable and with a great quality of life. Residents here are typically outdoorsy, well, when the scenery is that beautiful, you wouldn’t want to be cooped up inside all the time. If you’re thinking a faster pace of life might suit you, then maybe you might want to consider the east coast. Montreal has quite a party reputation, and is home to Latin music festivals, jazz festivals, in fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a year-round party.  Nearby capital Ottawa has a distinctly European feel, with ornate architecture, waterways, and a thriving cultural scene of museums, galleries and events. Quebec is a francophone city, so obviously, it’s effortlessly cool and stylish with great food to boot. Toronto is perhaps the most cosmopolitan city in Canada, and the most populated. So, if you like your cities big and bustling, this is where you’ll want to be, with its ultra-modern skyline against the backdrop of Lake Ontario.

TIP: Research the province or city you are thinking of heading for, and check it matches your personality, family needs or work industry.

To rent or buy:

This all depends on whether you know your move is ‘forever’ straight away, or whether you live in the heart of a city. Even as a non-citizen, you’re eligible to buy a home in Canada, however, check with any potential lender if they have any specific requirements. Most inner cities are rental apartments, and if you’re looking for something a bit more spacious, or with a garden, you’ll need to think outside the city limits. Rental agreements are usually initially for a year, and are quite comprehensive – as a tenant you’ll know exactly where you stand. Also, worth considering is your lifestyle, sure it’s lovely to have a private gym onsite, but if you’re too busy working, or out socialising with friends, is it worth the extra hundreds of dollars in rent? Renting also means your landlord, or building manager is responsible for the maintenance of the property and for replacing any defective appliances – of course double-check your rental agreement.


When you’re renting, you’ll often find that heating and hot water are included in your rent, and in some modern blocks, even cable and internet is included. Electricity is not usually included, and depending on your lease agreement, you may be responsible for setting up the new connection. Many condo blocks will also have communal laundry facilities – newer buildings will not have coin machines and the running costs will be included in your annual service charge.

TIP: If you rely on a car to commute, check whether your proposed new home has parking facilities and if they’re free of charge – some cost upwards of $1,000 per month.


Given how huge Canada is, it’s hardly surprising there are few national internet providers. Don’t let that panic you, though, being online is big in Canada, with some of the highest web usage in the world. And as with most places, the best value for money might be a combined package that includes internet, phone and TV. Prices do vary across the country, as does internet speed. The best thing to do is to use a comparison service to highlight the options you have depending on your location.

TIP: Try using a comparison site such as Compare My Rates to find the best internet package in your state:

Mobile phones

Surprisingly, running a mobile phone in Canada isn’t cheap. There’s not a lot of competitive pricing, and you’ll find things like accessing your voicemail or even using caller ID won’t be included in your tariff. Oh, and some pre-paid, pay-as-you-go services even charge you for receiving calls! As with internet providers, it’s worth doing your homework depending on the state you’re moving to – and the kind of usage you want from your device – do you call or text more? The major providers include:




Though it’s also worth checking out smaller, cheaper providers such as:




TIP: There’s no guarantee that your unlocked Australian handset will work if you bring it over, check first with


There’s no TV licence in Canada. CBC is the main public broadcaster, and they offer a French and English-language service. However, most of their shows are domestic, so if you’re looking to catch-up with your favourite international shows, you might want to consider a cable or satellite provider, which, as in many countries, is a really popular option – plus, shop around as some packages will even give you access to Australia’s network TEN.  The most well-known name providers are:



Shaw Direct

Getting around

Public transport

We’re guessing by now you’ve realised that Canada is massive, and each of the states can feel much like autonomous countries given their sometimes massive differences. One example of this is public transport. There is no real national public transportation system that operates in all the major cities. There is a national rail service, VIA Rail, which does run between cities across the country, and they offer a selection of discounted passes if you’re likely to be travelling a lot. Check out their website:

Some of the major cities have what’s known as the rapid transport system – similar to metro or subway lines. Nearly all have smartcards to save money on regular or multiple journeys. The Toronto subway has four lines and nearly 70 stations throughout the city. Their smartcard is known as PRESTO, and it enables you to pre-load funds on to the card. These passes can be used on the public transport network across Greater Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa.

Fun fact – Montreal is home to the third busiest metro in North America. Their system is integrated with public busses, and many of the tickets can be used for both forms of transport. If you’re using the system regularly, get an OPUS card. This smartcard is quite clever because you can ‘store’ you most used ticket types on the card, and it can be used with nearly all the transport systems in Greater Montreal and Quebec areas.

On the west coast, Vancouver thrives on rapid transport, partly because there isn’t actually a major highway in to the city centre. Their SkyTrain system has just over 50 stations over 3 lines and the Compass card can be used across the entire system.

Vancouver relies heavily on rapid transport, as there is no major highway into the city centre.  Its SkyTrain service has three lines and 53 stations.  Their smart card option is the Compass card, which you can use on the entire Vancouver metro system.

TIP: If you don’t drive, or don’t want to get stuck in Vancouver rush hour, make sure you find out where your nearest bus or metro station is before signing a lease on a home.

Getting a driving licence

Again, there’s no clear-cut, one rule policy when it comes to using – or exchanging – your Australian driving licence. The rules vary per state, and they are varied. For example, in Quebec, there’s no licence exchange agreement with Australia, so if you’re living there, you won’t be able to use your Australian licence and you’ll need to sit the driving exams. Other territories do have agreements, and it can be as straightforward as filling out an application form to exchange your licence. These are usually time-restricted though, so don’t assume you’ll have all the time in the world to do it.

TIP: Make sure you know exactly what you’ll need to do to be able to drive in Canada by checking this website

What will the kids do all day?

School options

All kids from 6 years old are required to be in school, and free, state-run education is provided up to the age of 18, regardless whether you’re a Canadian-born citizen, a temporary resident or permanent expat. Many primary schools also have a kindergarten attached, meaning younger children from 4 years old can start to acclimatise to education. At 11 students will move on to secondary school, where they’ll stay until they are 18 usually.

Although technically the Ministry of Education sets the curriculum, the contents can vary depending on the territory – and also the school. This means students could be taught in French, English or a mix of both. They may work towards one overall high school diploma, or study towards the international baccalaureate.

School admission often falls under catchment areas for students living close to the school, so it’s worth looking at what local schools are in your potential new neighbourhood. You’ll need to provide transcripts copies and birth certificates for enrolment, and some school districts will wish to assess your child first. This may also happen if you arrive mid-way through the school year, which runs September to June, until the school can determine your child’s academic ability.

There are private schools available, but you’re looking at upwards of AUD $12,000 a year, not including uniforms or school supplies.

Under 5s

In addition to school based kindergartens and community nurseries, you’ve also got the option of home care, where your little one will be looked after in someone’s home, alongside other children. This is generally under two categories: licenced and licence not required (LNR). The main difference between the two is the number of children they can accommodate. A licenced caregiver can have up to 7 children in their care up to age 12, meaning it’s also a viable option for older children after school. LNR offer a smaller service, able to take care of two children in addition to their own – these are often stay at home parents. A good childcare provider will always be registered with the authorities, which means they’ve undergone strict home and character checks, taken first aid courses and have passed criminal record checks. It’s not legal to register though, so keep that in mind when selecting potential care.

Work stuff

You’re not going to be able to work at all without having your paperwork in order. Whether you’re hoping to land a job before you arrive or are wanting to scope out the market when you’re here, use this time to polish your CV.

If you’re recruited from Australia, you may find you’ll be offered a generous relocation package, but these are not as commonplace as they used to be. Plus, if you’re already in Canada, there’s not the same incentive from potential employers to try and lure you across the globe.

Think about your language skills, too. Canada has two official languages: English and French, with English being a minority in Quebec and some parts of Ontario. So, to get ahead of the game, you might want to start brushing up on your languages while you’re still in Oz. Once you arrive in Canada, you can keep this up, with some companies offering language classes, in addition to government-run initiatives. Plus, depending on where you end up living, you may need to be able to help the kids with their school work.

Most expats arrive with a job, if only because it’s the easiest way to get other essentials like a house, utilities, and in some cases, a bank account. Plus, as with many countries, Canada is keen on employing Canadian citizens first, and so you’re going to need to demonstrate what an asset you’ll be, and this usually means having a trade or skilled profession to work in.

TIP: Ensure you have certified copies of your essential documents and qualifications in both English and French.

Pack up and close up shop

Book your flight

The earlier you can book your international flight the better price-wise. If you can travel outside the school holiday peak season, you’ll save money too. This usually means travelling around February to March, May to June, late July to mid-September, or mid-October to mid-December. The sooner that you can lock down your moving date the better so you can plan ahead and save. Check out this Australian Government education resource for school holiday dates.

Check out Skyscanner or Webjet, a couple of the handy air travel aggregators to help get you the best ticket prices possible. Especially if you are not fussy about which airline you fly with.

Cull the clutter

Packing up your life and starting a new one is a good chance to cleanse. Don’t stick everything you own into boxes and transport the lot to your new home. Take the time to cull! There are a few good reasons for this.

You may have been hanging on to old heirlooms from a previous life that don’t need to make the journey across the world. If the planned move is unlikely to be forever, then consider storing a few old boxes with a friend or relative or utilising King & Wilson’s long term storage services. You can revisit your old university text books again one day when you resettle back home. Or if the move to Canada might be indefinite, ask yourself whether you need eight boxes of old cassette tapes from the early 90s before you realised that CDs weren’t a passing fad… and while you’re there, how about that CD collection?

For more on minimalist packing check out this interesting perspective from

Tip: Cull unnecessary belongings and possessions before packing boxes.

10 Weeks Before Moving Day

Give yourself plenty of time to plan the logistics of packing. A good international removalist, like King & Wilson will be your best friend in this regard – they won’t want you leaving this to the last minute either. A few things to think about 2-3 months out from the big day: 

  • Put together a folder or box for all documents and receipts relevant to the move.
  • Start a conversation with an international shipping company such as King & Wilson to get an estimate.
  • Create a floor plan for your new home to get a sense of how many of your large sized furniture or appliances you may need to get rid of.
  • Your belongings will be arriving by sea; however, it only takes a couple of weeks for your boxed-up life to arrive in Canada. You may therefore only need to pack some additional clothing, linen, towels and key crockery and key kitchen utensils in your flight luggage. You may also consider pre-arranging excess baggage as it is much cheaper to book in advance than turning up on departure day with more than your baggage allowance. King & Wilson offers a smaller air shipment service to cover off this need as well.
  • If you haven’t done so already, and you’re able to, get yourself a Canadian bank account, and if possible start to pay a little in to it so you have a cushion when you arrive.
Tip: Start a conversation with international movers now rather than later

6 Weeks Before Moving Day

Now you are edging closer to the big move, you want to start ticking off what will and won’t make it on the journey. For example:

  • Take an inventory list of all items around your home that will need to come with you.
  • Start selling off large or redundant items via Gumtree or ebay that you don’t want to take with you.
  • Hold a garage sale or take advantage of any local market stalls or jumble sales
  • If you are not wanting to ship your car across, then start the process of selling your vehicle on Carsales or a similar online classifieds service
  • Begin getting any paperwork you need for bringing your pet, make any necessary vet appointments and have any vaccinations your animal needs.
  • Start to compile your paperwork: things like CV copies, letters of recommendation, health certificates, medication lists. Basically, anything you might need to register for a service, or secure a house/job.

4 Weeks Before Moving Day

With less than a month to the move, you need to start getting your hands dirty and actually packing a few things away, particularly items you are not using day to day:

  • Collect moving boxes and packing supplies. Or if you move your home with King & Wilson, simply use the international shipping cartons provided.
  • Start by packing things you don't use much currently like extra dining or kitchen utensils and seasonal clothing. Visit this resource from Energy Australia on the right way to pack when moving house or this interesting blog post on the subject by Frugal Mama.
  • Donate the things you don't need (or that you haven’t been able to sell off).
  • Think about consuming your pantry stocks and frozen goods as well as home cleaning products, shampoos and soaps.
Tip: Start by packing the things you do not use day to day

1-2 Weeks Before Moving Day

Eek! You are merely days away from the move now and need to be thinking about leaving behind a clean, empty home for a new inhabitant. You also need to think about tying up loose ends at home, the flight and what you need for your first days in Canada:

  • Confirm all your travel arrangements.
  • Finish packing your essentials.
  • Clean and defrost your refrigerator 24 hours before you move, turn off all the pipes and make sure you didn't leave any appliances on.
  • Cancel the newspaper subscription, contact Australia Post to redirect your mail to your new address in Canada, disconnect your utilities like the electricity, gas and internet.
  • If you know your new address in Canada, you may wish to pre-arrange your utilities connection. A specialist international moving company like King & Wilson can arrange this for you.
  • Say your goodbyes, provide your new contact details and travel itinerary to your family and friends.
Tip: Don’t forget to redirect the mail to your Canadian address.

On Moving Day

You’ve made it to the big day. The job now is mainly to get out of the way of the professionals and focus on your breathing:

  • Let the professionals do their thing. A good removalist will take care of packing your belongings carefully and thoroughly.
  • A good international shipping mover will also cover off all the necessary shipping documentation to facilitate prompt customs clearance and quarantine inspection once your belongings arrive in Canada.