Moving to Canada: Step-by-step guide

Bojana Babić

It’s easy to see why Canada is a popular destination for Irish expats. This beautiful, spacious country offers a huge diversity of natural landscapes, as well as cultures, traditions and religions.

Canada is famous for its broad-minded, tolerant society, commitment to education and fair, accessible healthcare system. You’ll enjoy a great standard of living here, whether you choose country or city living. Canada is also very welcoming towards foreigners, so you should find it easier to navigate immigration procedures compared to other parts of the world.

If you’re excited about moving there but don’t know where to start, we’re here to help. Read on for our essential guide to moving to Canada from Ireland, covering everything from visas and employment to finding somewhere to live.

We’ll also give you an idea of how you can move your money to and from Canada with Wise - which can be up to 8 times cheaper than your bank. Wise gives you the option of sending money from euros to Canadian dollars (and the other way round) with small fees and the mid-market exchange rate.

Check how much you save with Wise

Quick stats about Canada:

  • Population: 38,005,238¹
  • Largest cities (in order): Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton².
  • Most common languages spoken: English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi.³
  • Currency: Canadian dollar (CAD).

📝 Table of contents

Step 1: Check the legal requirements for Irish citizens moving to Canada


While other countries may be tightening their immigration controls, Canada is opening its arms to an increasing number of foreign residents. But even though Canada is actively welcoming new arrivals from Ireland and all over the world, you’ll still need to get a visa.

There are many different routes into Canada, but here are a few of the most popular visa options for Irish citizens:

International Experience Canada (IEC)

This is a working holiday visa for people aged 18-35. With it, you can stay in Canada for up to 2 years to work or take part in internship or work placement programmes. There are only a set number of places issued to Irish applicants every year, and you’ll need to meet certain eligibility criteria.

Express Entry

This is a fast-track route for individuals and families to emigrate to Canada. It’s a competitive, skills-based system, where skilled workers are ranked against each other and the best scoring are invited to apply for Canadian permanent resident status. It sounds tough, but if successful you could settle permanently in Canada in just a few months.

Start-up Visa Program

Plan to start a business in Canada? You may be eligible to apply for the Start-up Visa Program. You’ll need to meet the eligibility requirements, such as having a qualifying business or business idea supported by a designated business organisation. But if successful, you could be granted permanent residency.

Temporary Work Permit

If you’re heading over to Canada to work, you’ll need to have a work permit. There are a few types, including an employer-specific work permit and an open work permit.

The first lets you stay and work in Canada under certain conditions, such as working for a specific named employer for a set period of time. The second lets you work for any Canadian employer, but is only granted in specific situations.

Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

If you’ve already worked in Canada as a skilled worker (for at least 12 months) within the last three years, you can apply for permanent residency through the CEC visa program.

Requirements for students

To live in Canada specifically for educational purposes, you’ll need a Study Permit. This isn’t a visa, but you will get an automatic visitor visa or electronic travel authorisation once your Study Permit is granted.

Step 2: Make sure you can afford to live in Canada


Moving to a new country is always going to be a bit of a culture shock, but you need to make sure it won’t be a financial one too. This is why it helps to learn a little about the cost of living. The good news is that for most things, Canada is generally a little cheaper than Ireland.

Let’s compare the average prices for common things like groceries, meals out, rent and transport between Canada and Ireland⁴:

Cost in Canada Cost in Ireland
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant $17 (€11) €15
Pint of beer $6 (€3.94) €5
Loaf of bread $2.91 (€1.91) €1.48
Monthly transportation pass $92 (€60.42) €110
Rent one bedroom apartment in city centre $1,322 (€868) €1,157
Broadband package $78 (€51) €50

Step 3: Look for a job in Canada


If you’re keen to secure a job before your move to Canada, the Canadian government’s immigration website is a great place to start. It has lots of tips for foreigners on finding a job, along with information on Canadian workplace culture and workplace standards.

Other good resources for job hunting include - Job Bank,, Career Builder, Indeed, Eluta, Jobboom and Glassdoor.

You can also use recruitment agencies such as Robert Half, Hays Recruitment Canada or Global Hire Placement Services - all of which have offices in Canada.

Another useful line of research is which professions and skills are most in-demand in Canada, and the average salaries for each. To save you some time, we’ve put together a list:

Profession⁵ Average pay⁶
Registered nurse $95,500
Electrical engineer $116,000
Driver (delivery, essential goods, medical supplies) $32,600⁷
Customer service representative $44,400
Software developer $117,000
Accountant $80,600
HR manager $178,000

Step 4: Find a place to live


Now that you’ve started looking into visa applications and employment prospects, it’s time to find somewhere to live in Canada.

It could be a smart move to get some temporary accommodation lined up, then you can head out on viewings for longer-term rental apartments or houses. Airbnb is usually a good option for this, but there’s also and the city-specific

Most Irish newcomers to Canada choose to rent accommodation, rather than buy. But for advice on both, start your search at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, or theMoving2Canada website. There’s lots of information, tools and advice here for new arrivals, along with destination guides for all of Canada’s cities and lesser known neighbourhoods.

You can hunt for property to buy or rent on sites like,, or classified ads sites like

Now, where in Canada do you want to live in? To help you decide, we’ve put together a list of the most popular Canadian cities for Irish expats, along with the average rent in each:⁸

City Monthly rent for 1-bedroom city centre apartment
Toronto $2,042
Vancouver $2,014
Ottawa $1,596
Halifax $1,403
Montreal $1,274
Calgary $1,198
Edmonton $1,155

Step 5: Move your belongings


There are plenty of costly and complicated logistics to sort out when moving half-way across the world. One of these is removals. Getting your belongings over to Canada from Ireland can cost you up to €3,500 if you use sea shipping and as much as €9,000 for air freight shipping⁹. And this is just for a two bedroom home - the costs are much higher for larger families.

It makes sense that the less stuff you take with you, the less you’ll pay in international removal costs. So, now could be a great time to downsize and declutter. You may also want to consider taking just the basics with you, and buying what you need on arrival in Canada.

Make sure to get a few different quotes to find the cheapest price for your move. A couple of good places to start include and On these sites, you only need to enter your details once and you’ll get shipping quotes from Ireland to Canada from multiple international removals companies.

Step 6: Set up your finances in Canada

A Canadian bank account can make your first few weeks in the country a lot easier. In fact, it could be essential for renting property or even getting a Canadian visa.

The good news is that you can at least start the process of opening a Canadian bank account online, from the comfort of your sofa in Ireland.

Most of the main banks in Canada are very welcoming to newcomers, and many will offer an online application process. These include Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), TD Bank, Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal (BMO) or the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).

To open a bank account in Canada, you’ll need your immigration and visa documents, work permit, ID documents and proof of address.

Before your new Canadian bank account is open, you’re likely to face the problem of sending money to Canada from Ireland. You’ll need to do this regularly to cover rental deposits, visa application fees and other relocation costs.

This is a problem if you’re using your home bank, as banks tend to charge high international transfer fees and apply a mark-up to the exchange rate. All of this costs you money unnecessarily.

A far cheaper option is to use the free Wise multi-currency account. This works just like a bank account, except that you can send and receive money worldwide with tiny fees and the real, mid-market exchange rate. Plus, you can hold money in 40+ currencies at once.

Step 7: Make yourself familiar with the health system


Canada is world-famous for its fantastic free universal healthcare system, but can you access it as an Irish citizen? Ultimately, it depends on the state or province you live in and your visa status.

For example, in Ontario, you’ll have to wait three months before you can be covered by the healthcare system, unless you have a permanent resident visa. You’ll need to apply for a health insurance card, which will cover most routine medical treatments and appointments.

What’s more, if you travel to another part of Canada, your state’s health benefits may not travel with you. You can find out more about how it works on the Moving2Canada website.

For all these reasons, it’s a smart idea to get private health insurance cover sorted before you arrive in Canada. This could cost around $756 a person per year¹⁰, although this is just an average figure.

Move your money to and from Canada with Wise

If you’re planning your move to Canada, you’re likely to have lots of relocation costs to pay. If you use your bank, this could mean high fees and terrible exchange rates.

It’s far cheaper to use Wise. It’s free and quick to open online, and gives you a low-fee way to whizz money to Canada and all over the world. Plus, you’ll always get the real exchange rate, with no expensive mark-ups added on top.

Try Wise now

Phew. We’ve covered a lot of ground here, from how to get a Canadian visa and find a job to cost of living, employment and healthcare. But moving to a new country is a pretty big deal, and there’s always going to be a lot to think about.

Hopefully after reading this guide, you’ll feel much more prepared. The very best of luck for your move!

Sources used for this article:

  1. Statistics Canada - population of Canada
  2. Statistics Canada - largest cities in Canada by population
  3. - top 5 languages spoken in Canada
  4. Numbeo - cost of living in Ireland and Canada
  5. - top 15 jobs in Canada
  6. - average salaries in Canada
  7. - average salaries for Courier / Delivery / Transport / Drivers
  8. Numbeo - average rent in Canadian cities
  9. - cost of removals to Canada
  10. - private health insurance in Canada

*Sources checked on 25 February 2021

*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