Are you preparing to leave China to live in Canada? Welcome! Here’s everything you need to know, from finding the right school to working and living in a new country.
China continues to be one of the top three most important sources of new permanent residents to Canada. Based on past immigration patterns, Canada is expected to welcome another 35,538 immigrants from China in 2021.
Why are so many immigrants choosing to live in Canada? Canada has a global reputation for being a welcoming and accepting country. In 2019, it was named one of the top 10 most diverse countries and ranked high in criteria such as “religious, sexual and personal freedom, and topped the charts for overall personal freedom.” It is a cultural mosaic.
It’s okay if you are nervous about moving to a new country. To make this major life change easier, we put together this ultimate guide so you’ll be ready to pack your bags and start your new life in Canada.
Section 1: Overview of Canada
The Canadian Lifestyle
You may have heard Canadian stereotypes—that we all play hockey, that we eat tons of maple syrup and poutine, that it’s always snowing—but what is living in Canada really like?
For one, it’s important to note that Canada is a vast country and different regions have their own unique identity, culture, and even languages and accents.
Many Canadian cities are accessible by public transport, and you can travel around pretty affordably with a transit pass. Many people also cycle or use rideshare apps like Uber or Lyft to get around.
While most of Canada does get cold during the winter months (November – February), from ice skating and skiing to snowboarding, there are many ways to enjoy Canada’s winter. In the summer, cities often put on free festivals, street markets, and music events.
If you’re hoping to explore more of the country, you can find affordable accommodation through websites like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Homestay, or cabin, cottage rentals, and campsites to get away from the city.
Canada’s Banking System
There are a variety of financial institutions that newcomers can choose from. These include traditional banks, online banks, and credit unions. Here’s what you need to consider when you are opening a bank account:
- Monthly Fees: Traditional banks usually offer a promotional period (approximately 1 year) where you are not required to pay a monthly account fee. After this time is up, a regular fee might apply.
- Transaction Fees: Be aware of transactional and service fees or limitations such as ATM withdrawals, e-Transfers, and online bill payments.
- Access: Can you easily access your bank from where you live? Is there a branch nearby or is it all online?
Additionally, it is important to be aware of the terms of your bank account. Therefore, make sure that you understand what you are agreeing to when you choose a company to start banking with.
Consider Your Banking Needs
Before opening an account, think carefully about your banking needs:
- Do you need to access services in your native language?
- Do you need to send money back home or process transactions in your home currency?
- How many transactions will you conduct every month?
- Do you prefer online banking?
- Are you interested in opening other accounts?
- Do you just need a basic chequing account, which would allow you to withdraw and deposit money, or do you need a savings account too so you can keep some money separate?
Once you have a solid idea of what you would need from a bank, you can start researching your options.
For a more outside-the-box solution to affording all your expenses, consider a giveaway like Canada’s Luckiest Newcomer, which has a life-changing grand prize bundle of cash, groceries, and more. It is open exclusively to newcomers to Canada.
Most likely, you will need a work permit to find a job in Canada. This immigration status allows immigrants to come to Canada and work for a specified period of time. When applying, do your research to understand what sort of work permit you are eligible to receive.
A work permit immigration status is temporary; however, it can help you to gain permanent status. Moreover, a work permit can make you an attractive candidate for the Provincial Nominee Programs and Express Entry. These will be discussed in more detail in Section 2.
Also, you may be eligible to apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit known as PGWP. PGWP allows you to work anywhere in Canada for any employer for up to three years after you graduate from a post-secondary school in Canada. However, if you’re eligible for the permit, you will need to apply within 180 days of receiving written confirmation that you’ve finished your study program.
Canada’s Education System
Canada is the world’s second-largest country, and with over 280 post-secondary institutions to choose from, figuring out where you want to study can be a tough decision.
Studying in Canada comes with many benefits. For example, it can accelerate the immigration and permanent residence process so you can live here post-graduation. You can also bring your spouse or common-law partner with you on an open work permit, and your kids can attend public elementary or secondary school here without needing a study permit.
As an international student, you will also need to make sure that your institution is a Designated Learning Institution (DLI), meaning it’s approved by a provincial or territorial government to host international students. You can visit the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website to learn more about DLIs and find a list of institutions.
Use websites such as Campus Guides to compare various colleges and universities in Canada and get inside details from students who already go there.
Application rules vary across institutions, so you’ll need to check out your preferred school’s website for their application requirements. This can include your eligibility, required documents, language requirements, the application process, and application deadlines.
If you’re not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, you will also need a study permit. This is typically valid for the entire length of your studies plus an extra 90 days, so you can prepare to leave or extend your stay in Canada.
The Canadian embassy or consulate in China will have the most up-to-date information about study permit requirements. However, Quebec has different study permit requirements than the rest of Canada, so be sure to visit the Quebec Immigration website if you plan to study in this province.
According to Statistics Canada, the average tuition fees for undergraduate international students in 2019/20 were CA$29,714 per year. Humanities courses tend to be cheaper at an average cost of $5,542, while Engineering and Medicine subjects are among the more expensive.
The average living expenses for a typical Canadian post-secondary student are roughly $12,869 a year. In other words, if you were planning to study the Humanities in Canada, you would need to prove that you could cover roughly $18,411 in tuition fees and living expenses, plus the cost of a return ticket back home, to be eligible for a study permit.
As an international student, you have access to a wide range of financial aid options that can help cover the costs of studying in Canada, including:
- Scholarships. While you don’t have to pay this money back, most scholarships have an application process, and eligibility criteria can differ widely.
- Bursaries. Many colleges and universities in Canada offer bursaries to students who meet specific requirements.
- Loans. This is another needs-based type of financial aid, but you are required to pay the money back plus interest once you finish your studies.
Student Awards is a great hub to find top scholarships, bursaries, and awards from across Canada in one place.
Section 2: Immigration to Canada
There are more than 100 different pathways when it comes to immigrating to Canada. Therefore, we will only be focusing on the most popular options when immigrating from China.
This immigration status allows immigrants to come to Canada and work for a specified period of time. Additionally, some work permits allow immigrants to change employers and move around the country. However, others are tied to a certain employer in one location. When applying for a work permit in Canada, do your research to understand what sort of work permit you will receive. Here is a quick list of the most popular work permits:
- Intra-Company Transfer: If you work for a multinational company that has an office in Canada, your company can transfer you to a Canadian location.
- International Experience Canada (IEC): For youth between the ages of 18-35. This is the simplest work permit option for those who are eligible to apply.
- Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA): You must obtain a job offer from a Canadian employer first, which can be difficult as the Canadian employer must prove that they couldn’t find a Canadian to fulfill the role.
Even though a work permit immigration status is temporary, it can act as a stepping-stone towards a permanent status.
Canada is home to some of the world’s top-ranked universities, so it is ideal for post-secondary education. Therefore, coming to Canada as an international student offers many benefits. It allows you to work while studying, and it can make you eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).
Please note that the expense associated with this type of immigration status is high. International students pay more than their Canadian counterparts. Tuition fees and costs of living can differ depending on where you are in Canada; however, international students must consider their finances when considering this option.
This is one of the few types of immigration status that offers permanent residence to skilled workers with the knowledge to contribute to the Canadian economy. Three immigration programs align with the Express Entry Canadian immigration system:
- Canadian Experience Class: If you have Canadian work experience.
- Federal Skilled Trades: If you are a skilled tradesperson with employment or licensing in Canada.
- Federal Skilled Worker: If you have foreign work experience.
However, this is highly competitive. If you meet the eligibility requirements, you are provided a score out of 1,200 points due to your level of education, language ability, work experience, connections to Canada, etc. Candidates with the highest scores are invited to submit their applications.
This type of immigration status is available to family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. This includes a spouse or common-law/conjugal partner, dependent child, parents, and grandparents. There may be circumstances where family members outside of these categories are sponsored. For example, if you have no eligible relatives to sponsor, then you may sponsor an orphaned brother or sister, orphaned nephew or niece, or an orphaned grandchild.
Provincial Nominee Programs
These mini-immigration programs are organized by Canada’s provinces and territories. Provinces can implement immigration programs that meet their specific needs such as:
- Business/Entrepreneur: Demonstrate business management experience, have a high personal net worth and want to invest in entrepreneurial ventures in the province.
- Connection to the Province: Through previous work experience and/or education.
- In-Demand Occupations: Have work experience in a priority occupation.
- Job Offer: Receive a job offer from an employer in the province.
Humanitarian and Refugee Immigration
Lastly, Canada’s international reputation for accepting new refugees and other immigrants for compassionate and humanitarian reasons means a large portion of Canada’s annual immigration target is committed to admitting refugees. Therefore, it is worth mentioning in this article.
If these options are not available to you, then do further research. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are over 100 ways to immigrate to Canada.
Section 3: Your Moving Checklist
Leaving home is never easy, especially when you are choosing to settle in a new country. To make the transition easier, we have developed a list of moving to Canada essentials. These items should be gathered weeks (or months!) before your departure date.
Gather the original copies of documents that you and your family are going to need as you transition into Canada. These documents relate to your education, health, profession, and more, including:
- Valid Passport
- Birth Certificate
- Marriage or Divorce Certificate; Death Certificate for a deceased spouse
- Adoption records for adopted children
- All Official Vaccination Records
- Medical Records (test results, allergies, prescriptions, x-rays, dental records, etc.)
- Educational Diplomas and/or Certificates
- Detailed Resume or Curriculum Vitae (using the Canadian format)
- Contact Details of Reference and Reference Letters
- Driver’s License and/or International Driving Permit
- Driving Experience Letter or Certification (lowers the cost of your auto insurance)
- Records of Income (earnings a year prior to moving to Canada)
- Visa or Work Permit
- Any additional Immigration Documentation
If you do not have these documents, start applying for them as soon as possible. Some of these require time to process. Additionally, it is important to note that applying for these documents after landing in Canada can be much more costly and time-consuming. So do this before your arrival date!
These documents should be in both English and French as these are Canada’s official languages. If they are not, then you are required to translate them and get an affidavit that confirms that the translation is accurate.
Also, if you are bringing a pet with you, review the airline’s specific rules and guidelines for travelling with a pet. They may be required to have certain shots, documents, and even their own airline ticket!
Please note: When travelling, it is wise to keep copies of your important documents because you may need extra copies for various applications. You do NOT want to lose the originals.
Funds and Finances
Get your finances in order. How much do you need to bring in settlement funds from China? This amount depends on your immigration pathway and family size. Research Canada’s rules about the amount of money you can bring as well as the currency rules.
You will be required to declare bringing more than CAD $10,000. Therefore, you will need to use the cross-border currency or monetary instruments report form to complete this. The Canadian Border Service Agency (CSBA) can seize undeclared money that is over CAD $10,000 and you will have to pay a fine and face penalties for failing to report this information.
Have you heard of pre-departure seminars such as the Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA), Active Engagement and Integration Project (AEIP), or the Canadian Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP)? Well, these are great for anyone moving to Canada. Seminars such as these provide essential information regarding housing, health, employment, settlement services, as well as the culture and life in Canada. Most importantly, they help to prepare and plan your next steps and connect you to settlement supports once you enter Canada.
If you’re looking for more information, then explore the Settlement Online Pre-Arrival (SOPA). This is a free program that works to prepare you for employment in Canada through one-on-one information sessions, courses, and employment counselling.
Canada’s Official Languages
If English is not your first language, then dedicate time to improving your language skills. English is important because it is the official language across Canada. Therefore, practice speaking and writing in English because this can affect who hires you. You may also consider picking up a bit of French as it is Canada’s second official language.
Do you have travel insurance? This may seem like an unnecessary cost, but it can be a lifesaver if anything does go wrong. Don’t forget to look into health insurance for medical coverage when you arrive!
When it comes to driving/auto insurance, make sure you have a “no claims” letter that can serve as proof of driving history and reduce your insurance premium costs.
Have a place pre-booked for the first few nights when you arrive. You will be required to provide this information when your plane lands. Moreover, having accommodations ready will also remove the added stress of trying to locate a place to stay when you are tired from travelling.
Emergency Contact List
This is always important to have. In case anything goes wrong, make sure the right people will be notified. Therefore, create a list of emergency contacts. This can be your parents, siblings, local friends, relatives, etc. Email this list to yourself and print out a physical copy for reference. Don’t simply rely on your phone.
Yes, this is an important one for anyone who is moving to Canada. You will need a pair of gloves, a scarf, and a warm hat if you are arriving outside of the Greater Vancouver Area during Canada’s winter months. After you arrive, purchase a good winter coat that is suitable for the weather conditions. You will need it! We will discuss the necessity of winter clothes in more detail below.
Section 4: Key Items to Bring With You
Before you leave China, you’ll find yourself wondering, What do I need? What clothes do I bring? What can I buy when I arrive? This is your one-stop to locate the 25 key items you will need to bring with you when you make the move to Canada.
1. Essential Documents
As we mentioned earlier, there are a ton of documents to present in Canada. These essential documents include your passport, birth certificate, marriage or divorce certificate, adoption records for adopted children, official vaccination records, medical records, educational diplomas or certificates, student transcripts, records of income, visa or work permit, and any applicable travel or immigration documentation. It is important to research what you will need to bring with you, depending on your situation.
2. Travel Case
When you are travelling, there are many documents to account for. You have your passport, your boarding passes, and maybe a map or a list of directions. Having a travel case will allow you to carry those items in one place. Keep it in your pocket or in a backpack for easy access to your documents. You can even store a charger and emergency cash in there as well.
Of course, you should not go anywhere without your wallet. It is where you hold your credit and debit cards, licenses, and money. However, when coming to Canada, you should also obtain a health card. If you are staying in a big city (i.e. Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver), then it is wise to invest in a transit pass such as a Presto Card, OPUS, or U-Pass. This can be stored in your wallet too.
Different countries use different outlets. Adapters are key for anyone who is hoping to use the electronics they bring from home. After all, what good are they if you can’t plug them in anywhere? Therefore, whether you want to charge your phone or plug in your computer, an adapter is a necessary item to pack.
5. Power Bar or Extension Cord
This might not seem essential now, but owning a power bar or extension cord will allow you to run multiple devices from home by using one Canadian adaptor. This can make a difference when you are trying to work or study.
Whether you need a laptop for school work or your day job, everyone should have access to a computer. Make sure you are bringing a laptop as well as any electronics that you will use while you are in Canada. There is free wifi in some coffee shops and restaurants. However, if you prefer to purchase a laptop when you arrive to avoid requiring an adapter, that is fine too. Just keep in mind however long you plan to stay in the country and what makes sense for your situation.
7. Laptop Case
If you are travelling with a laptop, you will need a case to protect it. Don’t chance breaking expensive technology. Invest in a good-quality case to go with it, so you know it will be safe.
Don’t forget to pack chargers for your phone, camera, laptop, kindle, and any electronic devices that you plan to use while you are away from home. Forgetting a charger that is unavailable in Canada will render your device useless.
9. Everyday Bag
What do you use on a regular basis? Whether you prefer a purse, a backpack, or a messenger bag, make sure you have something that you can use while you are out and about in Canada. This will be necessary for dropping off resumes or carrying your laptop around, so invest in a good quality bag that will last.
10. Reusable Water Bottle
Most people don’t go anywhere without a reusable water bottle because it can keep you hydrated and save you money. Instead of purchasing one-use plastic bottles from a convenience store, buy a reusable water bottle. Keep an eye out for the refillable stations or ask a coffee shop such as Starbucks to fill it up for you.
11. File Folder
Keep your documents organized, so that you can access whatever you need when you need them. This includes the copies of documents that you will be asked to submit for certain applications.
12. Funds and Finances
Get your finances in order. For example, if you are coming to live in Canada, do you know how much you need to bring in settlement funds? This amount will depend on your immigration pathway as well as your family’s size. Bring the amount you need and prepare to declare bringing more than CAD $10,000, if this applies to you.
13. Canadian Currency
You can convert your money when you arrive, but it is best and easiest to do it before you step on the plane. This way you have access to the correct currency the moment you land in Canada. This is also necessary if you are expected to bring a settlement fund.
14. Language App or Book
If English is not your first language, then download an app to improve your language skills. It is important to know English in Canada, regardless if you are studying, searching for a job, or travelling around the country. A language app would also work for Canada’s second official language, French.
If you require prescriptions, research Canada’s laws to understand how you are allowed to travel with them. If you have the refill prescription papers, keep them with you so you can have access to those prescriptions while you are in another country. This is especially important if they are life-saving medications.
16. Seasonal Allergy Medications
Canada’s weather can change quickly and dramatically. Seasonal allergies are no joke. Your eyes get watery and itchy, and your nose is runny. Therefore, it is best to carry seasonal allergy medication in case there is something in the air that affects you.
17. Hygiene Products and Toiletries
Deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, hairbrush, etc. Whatever you use to stay clean and fresh should be in your travel bag because while you’re traveling, you may want to use these products. Especially if you have been sitting on a plane for hours.
18. Lip Balm
Speaking of Canada’s weather changes, bring items that will take care of your skin during the colder seasons. For example, it is common to deal with dry and cracked lips in the fall and winter months. Therefore, bringing a small, important item (lip balm) can protect your lips against the cold.
19. Winter Jacket
If you are coming to Canada, know one thing: Canada can be cold! As exciting as snow is, you will need a winter jacket to get through Canada’s freezing temperatures. Prepare yourself by obtaining the essentials.
20. Winter Boots
Yup, you need these too. The snow can get pretty high in Canada, and half of the time the snow feels like wet and dirty slush. So, find a pair of boots that are tall, water resistant, and warm.
21. Winter Hats
While we are on the topic, a chilly breeze can be the cause of an earache if you don’t protect your ears and head properly. Buy a hat! The more warmth you can add to yourself, the better. If you really want to blend in, don’t forget to call it a “toque”.
22. Winter Gloves
Let’s finish the winter ensemble with gloves. In the winter, it can feel like your fingers might fall off. Therefore, pick up a pair of gloves that have touch screen accessibility. This means that you can use your phone without freezing your fingers off.
23. Canadian Travel Book
Even if you are choosing to stay in one place when you arrive, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with a new culture and what to expect beforehand. A travel book about Canada can help with that.
24. Travel Insurance
Travel insurance may seem like an unnecessary cost, but it can be a lifesaver if anything does go wrong. Whether you are planning a visit to Canada or you are in possession of a temporary work permit, there are many companies that you can turn to in order to purchase travel insurance for Canada.
25. Flight Necessities
This includes your passport, flight number, gate number, departure time, boarding ticket, accommodations for when you arrive, and anything else that you have booked in advance. Keep paper copies of this information on you when you travel so that it is easy to access.
Section 5: Preparing For Your Move to Canada
Are your permits approved and your flights booked from China? There is still a lot to do when preparing for your move to Canada. Now it’s time to learn what to expect!
How does Canada differ from China? While Canada has four seasons with temperatures that can vary from a freezing -40 degrees in the winter to a hot and humid 40 degrees in the summer, there is more to keep in mind than what to wear. For example, things in Canada will cost more than what most immigrants from China are used to paying. Yes, the health care is free. You can see a doctor without charge, however, if they give you a prescription and you don’t have insurance to cover the bill, that payment comes out of your pocket. In addition, phone companies will charge you through the nose, and banks will expect you to pay them so they can hold onto your money.
Research what to expect before boarding your flight from China to Canada, so there are fewer surprises when you arrive.
Canada’s weather may not be something that you have experienced before. If you want both sun and snow, then you can have both (with the exception of the BC coast). Most of Canada promises you snowy winters and hot summers with spring and fall seasons in between.
However, if you have not experienced the bitter cold of Canadian winter before, it may surprise you. Come with the right expectations and purchase winter attire that will keep you warm.
It is important to note that workers in the service and hospitality sectors in Canada rely on tips. In fact, most bartenders and servers earn minimum wage or lower because there is an expectation that they will earn their money through tips. Also, many times in the service industry, staff are required to “tip out” other staff, so they don’t get to keep all the money they earn through tips.
Please be aware that by choosing not to tip, you are asking the server to pay out of their own pocket to serve you. Tipping is important in Canada!
In addition, it is important to note that the sticker tag price is often the starting point. There is also a sales tax you must calculate on top of this price that can take newcomers by surprise when they are ready to pay. Don’t forget to factor this in when you are making a purchase.
Prepare yourself for the cost of living in Canada, including rent, taxes, and household expenses. Estimate how much it will cost to live where you are planning to settle in Canada because this can vary depending on the city and location.
Before you leave, find out if your home country has a limit on how much money you are able to bring with you. You can find out this information by checking with your banker, financial advisor, and/or lawyer. Also, it is important to find out how much money you need, how much money you can bring, and items that you are able to import both duty-free and tax-free.
Moreover, you will be required to provide proof of funds. This means that you will have to prove that you have the money to support yourself and your family when you land in Canada if you are immigrating as a skilled worker or self-employed person.
Job Search Cushion
Finding a job in Canada can be a lengthy process, especially if you are establishing connections in a new country. It can take months before you land a professional position, so give yourself a financial cushion. You can do this by bringing enough funds to get you through those first few months of job searching and expect to take on a non-career job while you wait.
Tip: Consider thinking and acting like a typical Canadian before you arrive in Canada. This means adopting a Canadian-format resume and being proactive about finding opportunities. For more information about job searching in Canada, read How to Find a Job in Canada.
In Canada, it is illegal to smoke in public places. This includes stores, offices, restaurants, shared areas of apartment buildings, etc. If you wish to smoke, you can do so in your own living space (if this is allowed by your landlord), your vehicle (unless a minor is in the car with you), in designated smoking spaces, or outside.
The driver’s license that you hold may not be valid in Canada. Since licenses are awarded by individual provinces and territories, each province and territory has its own rules and testing procedures. Various countries have agreements with the provinces regarding driver’s licenses, so research the rules in your chosen province or territory to ensure that you bring the correct information with you.
Get in the habit of saying, “please,” “thank you,” “may I,” and “excuse me” because it is more than a nicety in Canada. It is a social standard. Canadians use this terminology because they view each other as their equals and expect the same respect in return.
In the end, Canada offers everyone the same rights and freedoms regardless of race, faith, or sexual orientation. Even though everything in Canada might cost more and the weather can be all over the place, you will learn to expect these differences. Therefore, have patience as you acclimate to the land of genuine politeness and cultural mosaic of acceptance. It is worth the trip.
From the world-class schools to the breathtaking natural sites, there is a lot to experience in Canada. Be prepared to do your research before you leave China to make the most of your time in the Great White North. Enjoy!
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.