I remember exactly where I was when I decided to apply to move to Canada.
I was sitting in Istanbul airport, travelling back to London after spending an amazing Christmas in Cape Town, and I was dreading going back to work. I was in a job hated, various family problems going on, and above all I felt like my life in London wasn’t giving me everything I wanted, it was time for a drastic change.
If I’m being honest; Canada wasn’t my first choice. I’ve always wanted to live in LA, but getting a US work visa is near impossible, so I shifted my focus, and settled on Canada.
Canada offers an IEC visa, which is a working holiday visa. The visa is up to 2 years for people between 18 – 35 depending which country you’re from.
I’m from the UK, and the cut off age is 30. I was 28 when I applied for my visa, so I felt it was the perfect time for me to go. For more information on the IEC visa and to see if you’re eligible to apply, check out www.movingtocanada.com and www.cic.gc.ca
There is no guarantee when applying for the IEC visa that you will even get approved, or how long the process will take. There are only 5,000 visas available per year for those applying from the UK, so it’s competitive. Applications aren’t approved based on any merit, applicants are selected at random, providing you meet the basic criteria. I applied for the first stage in January, by February I had been approved the for next stage and by March I had been approved for my visa.
When I decided to apply for the IEC visa, I was prepared to relocate on my own, as I knew I had to change my life. But after telling my cousin my plan, she decided to do it as well, we started her application right there and then!
We handed in our notices at work, and started saving our money to move to a country neither of us had ever been to. It seems mad now looking back, but we knew it was the right decision, we were both ready to have an adventure and meet new people. We arrived in Toronto on the 19th July.
Arriving in Toronto and finding an apartment…
We decided to a rent a room via airbnb for the first 2 weeks, thinking that would give us enough time to find an apartment, this was a TERRIBLE decision. I was slightly too optimistic in how long I thought it would take us to find an apartment. We started searching the moment we arrived, but we faced the same problem over and over again. We didn’t have a Canadian credit score, or jobs to prove that we would be good tenants; nor did we have the 6 months rent upfront they were asking for as a counter offer. We ended up spending 6 weeks in a very small bedroom, in a very small bed in a house without air-conditioning! Luckily the airbnb hosts we were living with were happy to extend our booking, but it was a challenge financially and we were living slightly outside of the city so it was a lot of commuting back and forth.
Save as much money as you can before you arrive, and arrange temporary accommodation for at least a month. We tried using a realtor to help us find an apartment, but didn’t find it that useful. In the end we were able to find an apartment through a managed building called Metcap. We live in a slightly older apartment building, west of downtown called Parkdale. This area worked perfectly for us as it’s a short 20 minute commute to where we both work.
When looking for a place it was really important to us that we were centrally located, as we were both new to the city and we didn’t want to be too far out and feel isolated. Although apartments further out of the city may seem attractive because they’re cheaper, I would really recommend you factor in transport costs and think about moving to an area where you would like to hang out during your days off. Moving to a new city is challenging and you want to be in the midst of it as much you can.
Before I arrived in Toronto I found this article on blogto.com really helpful, as it gave me a fairly good understanding of the neighbourhoods https://www.blogto.com/neighbourhoods/
I’m an Executive Assistant by profession, but when I moved to Canada I knew I wanted to have a break and do more flexible work so that I was free to travel. I’ve found temp work to be a really good option and after signing up I was working within a few days. If you have experience as a PA / receptionist, I suggest joining the following agencies: adecco.ca and tdspersonnel.com
I lined up all my interviews with these agencies before I arrived, so I was able to get signed up straight away, this turned out to be really useful when applying for apartments.
How much does it cost to relocate to Toronto?
- To enter Canada and in order to receive your visa you must be able to prove you have a minimum of $2,500 in your account. I would suggest printing out your bank statement the day before you leave so you can present it at the airport, or use your mobile banking app.
- IEC visa application fee for those from the UK is $150. This may change depending on what type of visa you’re applying for and which country you’re applying from. For more information go on www.cic.gc.ca
- Police Certificate– this is one of the supporting documents you need when applying for your visa, this is a background check to see if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime. This will cost £45 for the standard service and £80 for the premium service. These prices are based for those applying from the UK. For more information go on www.acro.police.uk
- First and last months rent: this is a basic requirement when applying for an apartment. Your rental deposit will obviously depend on where in the city you decide to move to, whether you go for an apartment, a condo or a house share. But to give you a rough idea, the average cost of a 1 bedroom apartment in Toronto is $2,230 and a 2 bedroom will be around $2,830. For more information on the rental market across Canada, check out padmapper.com. Although it is illegal for landlords to ask for more than first and last months rent, be prepared to offer more, as without a Canadian credit score or a rent guarantor, you’re likely to be an undesirable tenant in what is a very competitive rental market.
- Travel Insurance: you have to buy travel insurance for the length of time you want your visa for. The maximum visa length is 2 years, and if you want to stay that long, you have to buy 2 years worth of insurance, which is expensive! I bought my insurance with Big Cat Travel Insurance and selected the ‘basic plan’ and that cost £859.09
- Flights: we decided to get a one way ticket with Primera Air, which unfortunately, although not surprisingly has gone out of business! It’s a budget, BUDGET airline offering tickets to Toronto for around £350 one way. Although the flight was very basic, and didn’t have any inflight entertainment, it was perfect for what we were looking for. To compare flights go on skyscanner.com
- Furniture – Now this may seem very obvious, but it was something we didn’t factor in to our budget. We made the mistake of assuming we would be able to find a furnished place, but we discovered that’s not very common in Toronto. If they are available, you’re likely to be paying an extra $400 + more a month. We ended up spending roughy around $3,000 on the basics such as: TV, beds, sofa, tables, lamps etc. We bought most of our stuff from IKEA, but if you don’t mind second hand furniture, check out some of the Facebook groups I mentioned earlier as often people are selling things on there for a really good price.
3 months in…
We have now been living in Toronto for 3 months and it feels like we’ve been here forever. Moving from London, Toronto feels like a really small city, so it didn’t take us long to get to know the city and feel at home. We’ve found the people to be really friendly and work was easy to come by. our biggest challenge really was finding somewhere to live.
Now we’ve settled into our apartment, we couldn’t be happier. So far we don’t feel too homesick, and we’ve surprised ourselves with how quickly we’ve adapted to life here. It’s not easy packing up your life, and starting a brand new one somewhere where else, but it really is one of the best things I’ve ever done.
My visa is for 2 years, and I don’t know if I’ll stay the full 2 years, or whether or not I’ll meet the love of my life (ideally Drake!) and have a reason to stay, but for now I’m enjoying the adventure.
Below are a list of sites that I found really helpful regarding: housing / visa advice / finding work:
IEC Working Holiday Forum – Moving2Canada
Brits in Toronto