I get a lot of questions via Vogue Forums, Formspring, this blog, Twitter and email about my experience in moving to Canada. I know you all have a lot of questions and I would like to help you all because I really had an awesome experience in moving here. I would recommend it to everybody!
I’m going to try to address the common questions you have here. Please post in the comments any questions you have and I will have you a reply to the best of my ability! :)
What visa do you have when you moved to Canada and was it easy to obtain?
I obtained a Working Holiday Permit (WHP) from the Government of Canada at this website: http://www.whpcanada.org.au/ and filled out the application online. It didn’t take me long to get (approx 2 weeks!) after I submitted my application. It was quite the breeze :)
The WHP is really good as it is a 2 year open work permit which allows you to work anywhere except for in the Health industry and in Child Care and you don’t need to have a job before you are eligible. As long as you’re Australian with a valid passport (that expires more than 3 years away), no criminal record, $5,000 in your bank, and are aged between 18-30 years old.
As long as you are under 30 and still meet the previous mention requirements, you can continue to re-apply. I moved to Canada in February 2009, so my work permit is about to expire shortly. I just re-applied for my visa and got it very quickly. I just need to exit and re-enter the country for my new work permit to take effect.
How did you go about getting a job in Toronto?
Before you start applying for jobs, first and foremost you need to get a SIN card. SIN stands for Social Insurance Number and it is a bit like your TFN (Tax File Number) in Australia. Basically you have to provide this to your employer or any financial insitutions such as your bank when you sign up. It also counts as piece of Canadian identity so make sure you keep it safe! Getting a SIN card is as easy as walking into any Service Canada with your passport and approved work permit. I didn’t go to a very busy office, so it didn’t have to wait long nor did it take long at all. They will provide you with a temporary number and send you the official card in the mail in a few weeks.
Once I had that all sorted, I applied online at various websites until I was able to find a good recruiter that would really help me. Some good websites are Career Builder (http://www.careerbuilder.ca/), Monster (http://www.monster.ca/) and Workopolis (http://www.workopolis.com/). I also applied direct to companies online but I found networking was the key. So if you have any contacts, make the most of them!
I came here in the midst of the Financial Crisis, so it was difficult! The economy is a lot better than it was, but be mindful that it has not fully recovered. Please make sure you allow yourself enough time to find work and don’t let it get to you. There are still a lot of people without work and many will tell you that it will be difficult to get a job without “Canadian” experience or a credit history. They may also tell you that you won’t be able to find full-time permanent work if you’re only on a temporary work permit, but I managed to find something and so I hope you will too!
Is it easy to get Permanent Residency?
I’m not sure about this one because I don’t have it yet. From what I hear is that as long as you have worked for 2 years, as an Australian you will have enough points to qualify for PR status. I had a look at the requirements and it was enough to make my head spin so I didn’t look much further. I heard from a friend who is Japanese, it took her over a year to get after she applied and all the paperwork was so much of a hassle she hired a lawyer to file all her paperwork. I have a feeling it wouldn’t be that difficult as an Australian but then I cannot say for sure! I’m sorry!
For additional information, please go to Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.
How did you find a place to live? Where do you recommend?
Without a Canadian credit history, it was difficult to secure a lease agreement. I initially found a short term place via Craigslist. It was sure risky but I discussed with the landlord over several months to ensure they were legit. It was just a small basement apartment located in North York which is a nice safe area and very close to TTC (Toronto Transit Commission – the Toronto subway, streetcar and bus system). I was lucky enough to go on a month-to-month basis and so I could leave at any time.
It is important to secure some sort of credit card and bank account when you first arrive. HSBC made this process easy for new immigrants as they have a “New to Canada” program that you can set up with just your passport and some ID as many other Canadian banks will not accept your Australian ID. Also make sure you have a good Australian credit history. While most landlords or apartment rentals wouldn’t accept this in lieu of a Canadian history) but if you have a decent job I think you can sway them to accept this. I had a very good Australian credit history and a good job (permanent, full-time, with good future prospects) and found a more permanent place to live once I had a job. You can get a free copy of your Australian credit history at D&B. I also got my employer to write a reference and you also need two other personal Canadian references. Because I kept a good rapport with my old landlord, they provided a good reference and then I had two other friends who were my references. This really helps.
You can continue to search for a place on Craigslist but I also use MLS to find a condo downtown at Harbourfront. I love this area because it’s full of young professionals and I always feel safe. That’s the main thing. Also even though it’s close to the city, it’s residential and quiet enough. It reminds me of a much more planned out and developed Docklands in Melbourne. There is a festival every weekend at Harboufront Centre in the summer. An average 1 bedroom goes for $1,350-$1,650 a month depending on the size of the unit, location and the building facilities. An average 2 bedroom goes for about $1,850-$2,250. I love that I can walk to the lake and watch the boats or go ice skating, King West (for eating, drinking and late night dancing), Queen West (for shopping), Chinatown, Financial District, Eaton Centre, Rogers Centre (where the Blue Jays play baseball and the Toronto Bills play football), the ACC (Air Canada Centre, where the Toronto Maple Leafs play), Haha! Even the Toronto City Centre Airport is about a 15 minute walk.
Do you need a car in Toronto?
When you live downtown, you hardly need a car. In fact, having a car is super pricey in Toronto because parking is so damn expensive! There’s no such thing as in Melbourne where after 7pm is free and parking on the street is not recommend.. unless you want to risk yourself getting a ticket (which is highly likely that you will get one). To have a parking spot in a condo downtown costs about $130-150 in rent per month in addition to your rent. Streetcars are pretty good for getting around and cabs can be found pretty quickly if you’re in need.
There are certain times where I feel it would be easier if I had a car, such as when I want to go visit Ikea all the way in the ‘burbs! Or if I wanna go visit Niagara Falls or something.. It sure would make me go and explore more. Haha. But having said that, my condo is pretty good because we have Zipcar in my underground parking lot. Rent it online and off you go! Really easy. :)
If you decide to live in the suburbs, I found that there was much more of a need for a car which is why I wanted to move downtown.
How is the cost of living in Toronto compared to Melbourne?
I find that it is pretty comparable. Where Toronto is more expensive (food, transit, taxes, etc) it makes up in shopping (clothes, electronics, etc). I think rent is pretty comparable, but to buy a condo in the city of Toronto is cheaper than buying one in the city of Melbourne. What really aggravates me is that Canada likes to charge for everything. I just learnt the other day that I have to pay $20 to transfer money from my account to another person’s account whereas in Australia it’s free.
While that might seem like a small things, there are things like this ALL THE TIME. Such as for a cell phone – in Australia you pay a monthly fee and you’re allowed a certain amount of call credit. Services are usually all included except if you want data. In Canada, you pay a monthly fee, then you pay plus taxes, plus some government charge, plus a charge for voice mail, caller ID, etc and if people call/text you – you have to pay for that too. Then if you want data you have to sign up for a 3 year contract, and if you cancel your plan before the end of contract – not only do you have to pay for a cancellation fee on your voice plan but on your data plan too! Double the cancellation costs – that’s absolutely ridiculous.
The other day I bought a TV, and in addition to the 13% HST (Harmonized Sales Tax), they wacked on an “Environmental Fee” of $29.95. I bought some speakers to go with it and the Environmental Fee was $9.95. Also when you go to the restaurant, get a massage, get your haircut, etc – you have to pay a 15% tip in addition to the 13% tax. That comes to an additional 28% on top of the price you initially saw. So take your $20 dinner comes to approx $30 and take your haircut of $50 comes to $65. This little additions add up and frustrate me over time!
Are you eligible for the free Public Healthcare in Canada?
I moved to Toronto, Ontario so I can only speak for the way it works in Ontario. There was a new law passed in April 2009, whereby foreign work permit holders can be eligible for OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan).
OHIP is a bit like Medicare in Australia and your card should be carried with you at all times. To be eligible, your work permit needs to be valid for at least 6 months and allows you to work in Canada. You need to a formal agreement to work full-time with an employer situated in Ontario for longer than 6 consecutive months. The last thing to be eligible is that your primary place of residence needs to be in Ontario.
I went to a Service Ontario OHIP office along with my passport, work permit, SIN card, a letter from my employer stating their name, my employment status (full-time, longer than 6 months), employer address in Ontario and my address in Ontario. Then I also had to provide them with a secondary proof that I live in Ontario, and this I provided my credit card bill. They then snapped a photo of me and sent me my official card in the mail.
Although, you may think you can use this photo ID in Canada – you actually can’t. A healthcare card is not a proper form of identification in Canada and people who are not healthcare workers are not allowed to ask for this nor can they accept it as a form of ID. So don’t think you can put away your passport and show your healthcare card at the club when you want to enter. They won’t allow it! I still use my Australian Drivers Licence and sometimes when they won’t accept that.. I still need my passport. Bah! Passports DO NOT fit in pretty clutches! Haha.
Sounds annoying, hey? Well, it was but well worth it because it provides you with free healthcare, which I can imagine to be quite costly without!. I got sick pretty often in Canada because I wasn’t used to the drastic change in weather so it made seeing a doctor painless. I mean how is anyone supposed to get used to -15C and windchill that brings it down to -25C?
For more details of what OHIP covers, please see the OHIP Health Services.
Please post below in the comments to have your questions about moving to Canada answered.