Moving to Canada from the UK: A starter guide (2024)

Emma-Jane Stogdon

If you’re thinking of moving abroad, Canada is an excellent choice. The world’s second-largest country boasts beautiful scenery and breathtaking natural wonders, along with diverse and vibrant cities.

Brits feel particularly at home in Canada, thanks to an overlap in cultures and English being one of the country’s official languages. Canada is also known for being democratic, liberal and very welcoming to foreigners, which is why people from all over the world have chosen to settle there.

In this guide, we’ll help you plan your move to Canada by covering all the essentials you need to know. This includes visas and residency, money and bank accounts, jobs, places to live and much more. We’ll even look at options for UK retirees.

Plus, a handy tip for UK expats needing a cost-effective way to manage their money internationally - open a Wise multi-currency account. With this super-convenient account, you can cover relocation costs and receive UK income in Canada for tiny fees and the mid-market exchange rate1. Plus, you can spend like a local using your Wise debit card from the moment you arrive.

Learn more about
Wise multi-currency account 🌎

Learn more about
Wise international debit card 💳

We’ll look at how Wise could work for you later in this guide. Let’s start with some basic facts about living in Canada as a UK expat.

Living in Canada - what you need to know

First up, some handy at-a-glance facts to know about Canada if you’re considering moving there:

  • Currency - Canadian Dollars or CAD
  • Main languages - English and French
  • Population - approx. 38.85 million2
  • Number of British expats - approx. 531,5003
  • Most popular cities for expats - Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver4

Cost of living in Canada

One of the most important things to know before moving to a new country is how far your money will go. Prices in Canada are broadly comparable to the UK, except for groceries which are around 27% more expensive5.

To illustrate, here are some average prices5:

  • A three-course meal for two people is around £58 in Canada, compared to £60 in the UK.
  • A monthly public transport pass is approx. £61 in Canada, compared to £68 in the UK.
  • A loaf of bread is £2.09 in Canada, compared to around £1.21 in the UK.
  • Utility bills (including electricity, gas and water) for a small 85m2 apartment will cost you around £127.12 in Canada, vs £253.13 in the UK.

Prices will depend on where you live, and of course, what you buy. For example, while the average rent prices in Canada are slightly higher, rent for a one-bedroom city centre apartment is around £1,514 in Toronto, compared to £2,238 in London6.

Healthcare system

Citizens and permanent residents in Canada have access to the country’s excellent universal healthcare system through public health insurance7. If eligible, you’ll need to register for a health insurance card and show it every time you access healthcare services.

Note that each province and territory has their own health plan and the coverage of services can vary.

But if you’re a newcomer and don't yet have permanent resident status, you’ll need to take out private health insurance in your province or region. Getting your card can take up to three months7, so private coverage is very important during this period. However, you can still access emergency medical services for free.

Bank accounts

Newcomers and non-citizens can open a bank account in Canada8. You don’t necessarily need a job or regular income, but you will need to meet the identity requirements and open your account in person. Read our guide for more information on how to open a Canadian bank account.

Many of the major banks even offer dedicated accounts just for newcomers, with low or no fees, or other special offers. For example, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), TD Bank and Bank of Montreal (BMO).

RBC will allow you a whole year without any maintenance costs, as well as no RBC fee when using another bank’s ATM9.

Finding somewhere to live in Canada

The most popular destinations for newcomers to Canada are big cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. The Quebec province and Ottawa in Ontario are also popular with expats.

But there are plenty of other options, and you could find it more affordable to head out of the city to places like New Brunswick or Newfoundland. For comparison, rent costs in St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, are around 52% lower than in Vancouver10.

To find a place to rent, consider taking a look at the listings on, Rent Canada or a site or rentals agent specialising in the local area you’re looking at.

However, buying property is a bit more complicated for non-nationals due to new legislation. If you're an expat or non-Canadian citizen, you’ll need to wait a little longer before you can buy your dream Canadian home. This is due to a temporary ban on non-nationals buying Canadian housing property until January 1, 202711.

The Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act, known as the foreign homebuyer ban, was introduced by the government in 2023 to address the rising number of Canadian nationals being priced out of the housing market12.

The ban was due to end on January 1, 2025 until a two-year extension was announced in February 2024.

There are some exceptions to this, such as property location, so be sure to check if you are eligible. Exemptions currently include those with refugee status, those with temporary work permits, and international students, though they must all also meet certain criteria13.

A good place to start if you’re considering buying your own home in Canada is the website.

Finding a job in Canada

Before you can find a job in Canada, you’ll need to apply for your Social Insurance Number (SIN)14. It’s a good idea to do this almost as soon as you arrive. You can even check out the list of required documents before getting to Canada.

Once you have your SIN, it’s time to start job-hunting. Canada is a great place to find a job, since the unemployment rate there is fairly low. Out of all the G20 countries, Canada is at number 9 when it comes to the number of unemployed individuals15.

Coupled with an increase in hourly wages, job-seekers have something to look forward to. Average hourly wages rose 5.3% compared to the previous year16.

The Canadian Government website has lots of tips to help you find a suitable role, but here are a few places to start your search:

You can also access newcomer services in your local province, including advice and resources to help you find a job. Checking out the current in demand jobs in Canada might be of great use as well.

Moving to Canada requirements - what do I need?

The first and most important thing you’ll need to move to Canada is a visa. Let’s take a look at a few options that could suit your circumstances.

Working holiday visa

If you’re aged between 18 and 30, you can apply to the International Experience Canada (IEC) programme for a Canadian working holiday visa. This lets you live and work in Canada for up to two years17.

You’ll need to meet certain requirements, such as having health insurance and enough money to support yourself during your stay. Also, your Canadian work permit can’t be valid longer than your passport.

Luck is of great importance in this process, as your application will be entered into a pool of eligible candidates and successful applications are selected at random.

Start-up Visa Program

If you have an innovative business idea which has the potential to create jobs for Canadian citizens, and you can get the backing of a qualifying Canadian organisation, the Start-up Visa Program18 could be the ideal option.

There are lots of requirements to meet, including having a qualifying business, letters of support and having enough money to settle in Canada. There’s also a fee of around $2,140 CAD to pay and the process can take up to 37 months.

But if your application is successful, you and your family will have the legal right to settle in Canada and get a brand new business off the ground.

If you have an innovative business idea which has the potential to create jobs for Canadian citizens, and you can get the backing of a qualifying Canadian organisation, the Start-up Visa Program could be the ideal option.

Work permit

Another route into Canada for UK residents is with a work permit. There are two kinds of work permit19 - an open work permit and an employer-specific work permit. In both cases, you’re likely to need a valid job offer in place.

Open work permits are only issued in specific circumstances (you can find some examples here), while employer-specific permits lay out strict conditions on who you can work for and how long you can stay in Canada to work.

How to move to Canada from the UK permanently

If none of the visa options above are suitable for you, the best option is to apply for permanent residency. There are many immigration programmes to choose from, including Express Entry as a skilled worker20.

There are three immigration programmes available:

Canadian Experience Class

This one is designed for those who actually have Canadian work experience. Specifically, in the three years before applying.

Federal Skilled Worker Program

This is suitable for skilled workers with foreign work experience.

Federal Skilled Trades Program

This is for those qualified in a skilled trade. They also must hold a certificate of qualification or have a job offer already.

You’ll need to meet tough criteria for skills, experience and education, as well as language proficiency, criminal records, proof of funds and medical exams.

All applicants are required to submit lots of supporting documents, and are scored using a points-based system. Your application will be entered into a pool, then ranked on your score - this determines who is granted permanent residency.

It all sounds very time-consuming, but Express Entry applications are submitted using an efficient online system and tend to be processed within 6 months or even less.

You can also be sponsored for permanent residency by a family member who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident21.

A quick guide to retiring in Canada from the UK

If you’re approaching retirement age, you may well have an eye on Canada as a potential retirement destination. It’s easy to see why, as Canada offers great healthcare facilities and a high standard of living.

But how easy is it to retire in Canada? Here are the essentials you need to know:

Visas for UK retirees

Many of Canada’s visa programmes focus on people who are most likely to contribute to the country’s economy, which unfortunately doesn’t include retirees. However, there are certain options for those that would like to enjoy their golden years in Canada.

You can apply for permanent residency through family sponsorship, if you have some type of a family connection to Canada. The Super Visa22, a multi-entry visa is valid for up to 5 years for UK citizens with children or grandchildren in Canada.

A Super Visa allows multiple entries during a period of up to 10 years. There’s certain criteria that must be met, such as financial support and medical insurance.

If you’re not yet retired and have the right skills, you could also apply for one of Canada’s work-related visa or permit programmes and settle in the country through that route.

It’s also useful to know that UK citizens can live in Canada for up to 6 months a year without a visa23. An Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) is connected to your passport and valid for up to five years or until your passport expires.

With this in mind, you might even end up splitting your retirement between the UK and Canada.


You can receive your UK state pension in Canada, and you may also be able to transfer other personal pensions. Just make sure you choose a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) to transfer your pensions to, or you could face a large tax bill24.

Save on your relocation costs to Canada with Wise

Moving abroad will always involve lots of costs and fees, and many of these payments will need to cross borders. Use your bank for international transfers and you could be stung by high fees and terrible exchange rates.

Luckily, there is an alternative. Open a Wise multi-currency account and you can send money between the UK and Canada, and all over the world, for tiny fees and the mid-market exchange rate1.

And once you’ve moved, Wise keeps on working for you. From the moment you step off the plane in Canada, you can spend in CAD using your international Wise debit card. This clever contactless card automatically converts to the local currency in 175 countries, at a fair exchange rate. There are no foreign transaction fees, only a small fee1 to convert the currency.

So, while you’re waiting for your Canadian bank account to be set up, you’ll still have a convenient and low-cost way to cover your everyday expenses.

Join Wise and start saving today

That’s it - all the essentials you need to know about moving to Canada from the UK. We’ve covered visas, permanent residency and other moving to Canada requirements, along with jobs, money, property and healthcare.

You’re likely to have lots more research to do to plan your move, but hopefully this has been a solid starting point. The best of luck with your Canadian adventure!

Sources used for this article:

  1. Wise - terms and conditions & pricing
  2. Statista - total population in Canada
  3. MoveHub - number of British expats in Canada
  4. - popular large cities in Canada for expats
  5. Numbeo - the cost of living in Canada vs. UK
  6. Numbeo - the cost of living in Toronto vs. London
  7. - healthcare in Canada
  8. - opening a bank account in Canada
  9. Royal Bank of Canada - bank accounts for newcomers
  10. Numbeo - the cost of living in Vancouver vs. St. John’s
  11. - extension to ban of non-Canadians buying real estate
  12. - ban of non-Canadians buying real estate original legislation
  13. CMHC - exceptions to the ban of non-Canadians buying real estate
  14. - getting a SIN before getting a job
  15. Statista - G20 unemployment rate by country
  16. CTV News - hourly wage rise in Canada
  17. Telegraph - working holiday visa
  18. - start-up visa Canada
  19. - work permit visa Canada
  20. - express entry Canada
  21. - family sponsorship Canada
  22. - Super Visa Canada
  23. - Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
  24. - QROPS UK pension schemes list

Sources checked and updated on 13th Feb-2024.

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

Money without borders

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location