Migrating to Canada from Singapore: Salaries, taxes, cost of living and more

Elle Kasser
26.03.21
10 minute read

If you’re looking to move abroad as a new adventure, Canada may be just what you need. While the climate and natural surroundings couldn’t be much more different to home, you’ll still have access to solid city infrastructure, great healthcare and a world class education system. All with a warm welcome and the chance to hike, ski, or get involved in the local culture in your off time.

Making an international move is a big decision, and this guide covers all you need to start thinking about the practicalities. We’ll cover some hot expat destinations, cost of living considerations, and how your** salary and tax** bill may shape up.

We’ll also introduce Wise and the Wise multi-currency account as a smart option for Singaporeans relocating abroad. Make low cost international transfers which use the real mid-market exchange rate, and open a Wise account to manage your money across borders for less. All that and more coming right up.

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Table of contents:

Why do Singaporeans want to move to Canada?

Canada welcomes something in the region of 300,000 new immigrants every year. In fact, around 21% of the population of Canada is made up of immigrants with permanent residence¹. As a country with a diverse and cosmopolitan population and outlook, it’s no wonder Canada is an attractive destination for Singaporeans looking to relocate.

Toronto is a common destination for expat arrivals - as well as being Ontario’s capital city, it’s the largest in Canada by population, and an economic powerhouse. Other expats may head for Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary or other key cities, based on their preferred lifestyle, career options and budget. No matter where you end up you’ll have stunning natural resources right on your doorstep, and an open and welcoming culture to enjoy. As English is an official language, communication shouldn’t be a problem - and if you’re an entrepreneur, Canada’s business friendly approach and proximity to the entire North American market is a bonus.

While the cost of living in Canada can vary between cities, the averages favour Canada significantly². Rent in Canada on average comes in at a whopping 48% cheaper than in Singapore. Consumer prices in Canada are over 17% cheaper than at home. The only downside is that eating out in Canada can be more expensive than here - up nearly 5%. Time to learn to cook.


Moving to Toronto from Singapore

Ontario’s capital city, Toronto is a popular choice for migrants. The economic opportunities here make it attractive - in fact, as a province Ontario welcomes more immigrants than any other part of Canada - and a majority of them come from Asia³.

The skyline of Toronto, with the CN Tower dominating, is iconic - but you’ve also got easy access to nature and places to explore whenever you want to get away from the city.

One great place to get useful insights into life in different cities is Teleport. From salary information, to costs of housing and everyday life - as well as reviews from locals - Teleport builds a picture of how different cities may suit people looking to relocate.

Toronto in particular scores an unusual 10/10 for startups, and 9/10 for business freedom - making it a good choice if you’re an entrepreneur. It also scores well on healthcare, education, leisure and tolerance, making it a great allrounder.⁴

Here are the headlines:⁵

  • Excluding rent, life in Toronto is around 9.62% cheaper than in Singapore
  • Rent in Toronto is 18.16% lower than in Singapore, on average

And here’s a bit more detail on the sort of average prices you may expect:

Item Cost in Toronto
Meal for 2, mid-range restaurant, 3 courses SGD95.71
Domestic beer (0.5litre draught) SGD7.44
Litre of milk SGD3.42
Loaf of bread SGD3.05
Rent 1 bed apartment - city centre SGD2,154.90
Rent 1 bed apartment - out of city centre SGD1,847.19
Buy a new Volkswagen Golf (or equivalent) SGD27.809.46

*Price information correct at time of research 10 March 2021. Cost of living estimates based on Numbeo’s cost of living index - learn more at Numbeo.com


Migrating from Singapore to Vancouver

Over on the west coast of Canada, Vancouver is one of the most diverse cities in Canada - and another natural choice for people looking to relocate. Vancouver is famous for its arts and culture, including theatre and museums, and is also a popular filming location. With mountains and the sea all nearby, you’re spoiled for choice if you’re an outdoorsy type.

Teleport ranks Vancouver well on a number of measures - highlights include healthcare, tolerance, environmental quality and the outdoors⁶. Life is also a little cheaper here compared to Toronto.

Here are the headlines:⁷

  • Excluding rent, life in Vancouver is around 12.24% cheaper than in Singapore
  • Rent in Vancouver is 19.57% lower than in Singapore, on average

And here’s a bit more detail on the sort of average prices you may expect:

Item Cost in Vancouver
Meal for 2, mid-range restaurant, 3 courses SGD79.76
Domestic beer (0.5litre draught) SGD7.44
Litre of milk SGD2.47
Loaf of bread SGD3.42
Rent 1 bed apartment - city centre SGD2,140.95
Rent 1 bed apartment - out of city centre SGD1,676.99
Buy a new Volkswagen Golf (or equivalent) SGD27,649.94

*Price information correct at time of research 10 March 2021. Cost of living estimates based on Numbeo’s cost of living index - learn more at Numbeo.com


Moving to Canada from Singapore: The basics

An international move will require a good amount of research. Make sure you know what to expect, and have plans in place to deal with the unexpected surprises which will also come your way. Here are a few helpful facts and topics to consider when you’re planning your relocation.


Banking in Canada

Canada has a developed banking system with local and global banking brands to choose from. Because Canada has a high immigrant population, banks are also used to supporting newcomers to the country. You’ll find many offer specialist services to explain banking options and help during the transition period. Here are the biggest traditional banks in Canada - a good place to start when researching your banking options:

  • Royal Bank of Canada⁸
  • TD Bank⁹
  • Scotiabank¹⁰
  • BMO¹¹

Traditional banks offer great products for managing your finances day to day in Canada. But you’ll probably also find that as an expat you need frequent international transactions, to send and receive money from overseas, and convert currencies.

When it comes to specialist services like this, regular banks don’t offer the best service or price. Instead, get expert help from Wise. Wise offers international transfers which use the real mid-market exchange rate with no markups. There are no hidden fees - just a simple transparent fee per transaction which can work out to be much cheaper than your regular bank.

You can also get a Wise multi-currency account to hold 50+ currencies, receive fee free payments in SGD, EUR, USD, GBP and more - and send, spend and receive money from all over the world. It’s free to open your account on line, and there’s no monthly fee or minimum balance. There’s nothing to lose, and you could find you make big savings on unnecessary bank fees.

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Taxes

Income in Canada is taxed on both a federal and regional level. That means there are 2 different sets of income taxes you need to consider.

Here are the federal tax rates by income bracket for 2021:¹²

Taxable income Income tax bracket
Up to CAD49,020 15%
CAD49,020 - CAD98,040 20.5%
CAD98,040 - CAD151,978 26%
CAD151,978 - CAD216,511 29%
CAD216,511 and over 33%

Provincial tax rates vary. To give an example, here are the 2021 tax brackets in Ontario:

Taxable income Income tax bracket
Up to CAD45,142 5.05%
CAD45,142 - CAD90,287 9.15%
CAD90,287 - CAD150,000 11.16%
CAD150,000 - CAD220,000 12.16%
CAD220,000 and over 13.16%

There are a number of deductions and credits which can apply to your income and therefore reduce your tax. These depend on your personal situation and where you choose to live, and fall into these major categories:¹³

  • Family, childcare and caregiver deductions
  • Education costs
  • Disability allowances
  • Pensions and savings
  • Employment
  • Provincial and territorial programmes
  • Climate action initiative

It’s also worth noting that tax is only part of the picture when you’re working out the affordability of a move abroad. Singapore has relatively low income tax on a global scale, which can mean that the tax systems overseas look concerning. However, the amount of tax you pay is only important in the context of earning power and cost of living.

If your job commands a better salary in Canada - and/or the cost of living is lower for your lifestyle, the higher tax percentage suddenly seems less of a problem. For a vivid example of this, take the average salary for a nurse in Singapore compared to Canada. While nurses here may earn under SGD40,000 per annum¹⁴, the same role in Canada may net you over SGD60,000 a year. Worth thinking about if you’re worried about how the tax may impact your quality of living.


Average income in Canada

Of course, a key consideration when heading out to pastures new is how you’ll pay for everyday life. Even if you don’t need to find a job in advance of heading to Canada, you’ll want to know that the average salaries in your field are good enough to pay for your lifestyle.

Here’s a rundown of some average salaries for a few jobs, with a comparison between Vancouver and Toronto. You’ll find much more helpful information - including more granular detail by role and city - over on Teleport’s site.

Occupation Vancouver¹⁵ Toronto¹⁶
Finance Manager SGD79,487 SGD93,418
UX Designer SGD69,537 SGD70,971
Nurse SGD63,320 SGD63,929
Accountant SGD58,663 SGD60,733
Web Designer SGD57,112 SGD58,170

*Information correct at time of research 10 March 2021


Visas, work permits, citizenship

There are many different visa types if you’re hoping to immigrate to Canada¹⁷. The right one for you will depend on your circumstances and plans. For example, you may choose:

  • Express entry for skilled workers
  • Family sponsorship if you already have relatives in Canada
  • Start-up visa if you’re an entrepreneur
  • Provincial nomination if you’re in a skill shortage occupation

Express entry for skilled workers is a common route to get permission to live and work in Canada[18]. This is a points based system. You’ll need to fulfil the minimum requirements set out for entry by the Canadian government, and then will be pooled with other applicants after providing documents showing your eligibility. The authorities will invite eligible candidates to apply for permanent residence - the number of invitations issued depends on the number of entry permits available. If you rank highly in the points system you’re more likely to be invited to immigrate.

Citizenship is an option for people who already have PR status, and who have lived in Canada for at least 3 of the past 5 years¹⁹ ²⁰. You’ll need to prove your English or French language ability, pass a citizenship test and interview, and take an oath of citizenship.


Occupations that may not need a job offer for a visa

There are many factors which count when you’re applying for a visa to move to Canada. However, you may find your chances are improved if you work in a shortage area on either a national or regional level.

You can check out the eligible occupations in the Federal skilled Worker Programme as an example. This route to entry is aimed at people in over 300 specific occupations which are required throughout Canada. You’ll need to prove your experience, qualifications and basic eligibility. Here are a selection of the roles currently on the high demand list:²¹

  • Managers and supervisors across a broad range of fields
  • Forestry professionals
  • Engineers
  • Pilots and related roles
  • Dentists, doctors, vets and other medical professionals
  • Skilled tradespeople across a range of fields from carpentry to electricians

Education system in Canada

Education in Canada is not federally organised. Instead each province has its own education system and sets its own curriculum. Although these are similar throughout the country, you’ll need to check out the exact details for the region you’re hoping to settle in.²²

You’ll find a choice of schooling options including state run, private and international schools. There are also religious schools, and some private single-sex schools available. However, the way each province organises education varies. That means, for example, faith schools in some areas are state funded and in others are privately provided only.

It’s good to know that Canada scores consistently well on an international level for the outcomes of its education. The most recent OECD PISA results rank Canada at 6th in the world for school attainment - this is behind Singapore, but still an extremely high result on a world scale. To give context, it’s 10 places above Australia, and also beats the US and UK.²³


Canadian weather and climate

There’s no denying that climate and weather are important if you’re planning on moving to Canada. While Canada is a large country with varied weather patterns, it’s substantially different to Singapore. Not only are winters - and even summers - colder, daylight in winter can be limited, conditions for getting about can be impacted, and the specific weather conditions can dictate what’s safe and enjoyable to do.

Typically the larger cities in Canada aren’t in the north of the country, which means that the normal day to day conditions aren’t as extreme as you may think. Toronto has very cold winters, and warm summers, but Vancouver is slightly more moderate. It’s really important to understand the weather you’re likely to experience when you move to Canada - but don’t forget, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. And coming from Singapore where a sudden downpour can end outdoor plans pretty quickly, planning and dressing for the weather is maybe not such a big change.

If you’re at the beginning of your journey to relocation you have an exciting ride ahead. Take time now to research all the aspects of your move thoroughly, and you’ll hit the ground running when you arrive in Canada. And don’t forget to check out Wise and the Wise multi-currency account as a smart and simple way to save money - and make life easier - when you’re managing your finances across currencies. Good luck!


Sources:
  1. Statista - Immigration in Canada: Statistics & facts
  2. Numbeo - Singapore And Canada
  3. Ontario ministry of finance - 2016 CENSUS HIGHLIGHTS: Factsheet 8
  4. Teleport - Quality of life in Toronto, Canada
  5. Numbeo - Cost of living in Toronto
  6. Teleport - Quality of life in Vancouver, Canada
  7. https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Vancouver?displayCurrency=SGD
  8. Personal Banking - RBC Royal Bank
  9. TD Canada Trust - Personal, Small Business Banking & Investing
  10. ScotiaBank
  11. BMO
  12. Canada Revenue Agency - Canadian income tax rates for individuals - current and previous years
  13. Canada Revenue Agency - All deductions, credits, and expenses - Personal income tax
  14. Payscale - Average Registered Nurse (RN) Salary in Singapore
  15. Teleport - Vancouver salaries
  16. Teleport - Toronto salaries
  17. Government of Canada - Immigrate to Canada
  18. How Express Entry works
  19. Government of Canada - Canadian citizenship
  20. Canadian Government - Apply for Canadian citizenship
  21. Canadian immigration services Federal Skilled Worker Program Eligible Occupations
  22. Government in Canada - Immigration and citizenship - Education in Canada
  23. OECD - PISA results

Sources checked on 10 March 2021


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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