In August 2018, we packed up our lives in Dublin, Ireland (well, as much as we could fit into two suitcases each) and moved to Toronto, Canada.
We love travelling and have wanted to live abroad again (we lived in California during the summer of 2015) experiencing new cities, cultures and gaining international working experience along the way.
We’ve been living in Toronto for six months now (time flies!) and a few people have asked us about moving to Toronto and Canada.
I thought this was the perfect time to write this blog about our experience so far and include tips we’ve learnt along the way, for those considering making a move.
Toronto vs Vancouver
Firstly, we had to decide which city we wanted to move to, and it ultimately came down to Toronto or Vancouver.
We weighed up the pros and cons of each city, and this is what determined that Toronto was the best option for us:
- The weather: Although Toronto has colder winters, it has hot summers and a lot less rain than Vancouver (which I can’t stand) – so why would I want to move from one rainy city to another!?
- Toronto tech scene: As I work in Digital Marketing and Gearóid in Software Development, Toronto seemed like the perfect choice for our careers with its booming tech industry.
- Timezone: Toronto is 5 hours behind Dublin, whereas Vancouver is 8; making staying in touch with family and friends a lot easier.
- Distance from Dublin: It’s only one flight away – good for family and good for us for when we visit our homeland.
- The home of the Toronto Raptors – need I say anymore! 🏀
What visa did we get?
We applied for the International Experience Canada Working Holiday Visa which gives Irish applicants an Open Work Permit, allowing you to work in most industries for two years.
Canada has three different options under the IEC visa – Working Holiday, Young Professionals and International Co-op internship. Each visa differs depending on your eligibility – you can find out more information on the Government of Canada website.
Applying for your Visa.
Ensure that your passport is in date! It can be awkward changing your visa details if the passport it correlates to expires before your visa does.
Gather your documents before you apply: scan your passport, apply for your police certificate, fill in the family form, get your visa photographs taken etc.
The application was recently updated in late 2018 and now requires biometrics – you can learn more about this here.
If you don’t have everything by the submission deadline date, usually you can submit a proof of receipt if you’re waiting on documents to arrive.
The whole process for us – from initially registering our interest, to receiving our Port of Entry letter – took roughly eight weeks, but this can differ for every applicant.
Get travel insurance.
Travel insurance is required for the IEC visa – if you don’t have insurance when you arrive in Canada, immigration will not issue you a work permit.
The same applies if you only decide to buy three months worth of insurance – Canadian immigration will only issue you with a three-month visa if you do – so getting insurance for the full length of your visa is imperative.
For our travel insurance, we went with USIT. They offer a two-year policy (that includes winter sports) at a very reasonable price.
Don’t skimp on the $2,500 limit – YOU WILL RUN OUT OF MONEY!!
The IEC application stats that you must provide proof of a minimum of $2,500 funds upon your arrival in Canada.
If you’re staying in an Airbnb/hostel/sublet and you want to enjoy your first few weeks in Canada, SAVE UP! Otherwise, your money will drain very fast.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that without a Canadian credit rating or a job lined up, you could be expected to pay up to six months rent in advance – so you will want to have additional funds on arrival.
We arrived with more than enough to cover the cost of paying rent up front, furnishing our apartment and everything else in between. We didn’t want to have to worry about this, and we didn’t because we came prepared.
Get your Social Insurance Number at the airport when you arrive.
Don’t skip sorting out your Social Insurance Number (known as a SIN number) at the airport when you arrive – It’s there for a reason! Social Security is required for working in Canada.
Otherwise, you will have to go to a Service Canada branch and potentially spend hours waiting to get it done when it can take about twenty minutes to get it out of the way at the airport.
Plus, It’s one less thing to worry about! 🙂
What is the cost of living like in Toronto?
Expatistan.com is a handy website for comparing the cost of living in different countries. According to them (and at the time of writing) Toronto is 14% cheaper than Dublin.
When it comes to renting, it obviously depends on where you want to live and how much you want to pay, but we personally find rent, groceries and entertainment prices to be a lot more reasonable here than in Dublin.
The best way to find a job?
Firstly, research the career market before you even begin your IEC application, as not every job or degree easily translates over in Canada.
If you’re fresh out of Uni, I’d recommend gaining some working experience before you jump on the next flight to Canada. Otherwise, you may find it difficult to begin your career here as you’ll be competing with Canadian graduates.
If you know anyone in the city that you’re moving to, connect with them and ask for help. Being able to name drop can really help you get your foot in the door, especially with recruiters as it’s a different ball game over here.
Recruiters rarely come to you, you have to try and get to them.
- Update your CV to the Canadian resume format – they prefer to see your accomplishments rather than your day-to-day duties.
- Add keywords to your LinkedIn profile that are related to your career and experience – this will make you more searchable to hiring managers. My current employer found me this way.
- Connect with hiring managers, recruiters and employees of companies on LinkedIn.
- Indeed is also great for applying for roles and getting an idea of salaries in your field.
Begin applying for jobs around a month before you arrive. I personally found that a lot of companies and recruiters waited until I was on Canadian soil before contacting me for interviews.
We were determined to get jobs as soon as possible – it took us three weeks to get hired – it can be done once you put your time and effort into applying for roles.
Finding a place to live.
If you want to find your own place, use a realtor. They don’t cost (the landlord pays their fees), they will drive you around to viewings and assist you with rental applications. It took us two weeks to find and secure a place thanks to the help of our realtor, whereas; without one, it could have taken us up to two months to find somewhere. It’s a no-brainer!
If you’re looking to sublet or live with others, reach out to Facebook groups such as Irish and New in Toronto and Bunz Home Zone.
For any additional queries about the visa process, the IEC Working Holiday Forum on Facebook is a fantastic resource – you can use the search bar to look up posts or ask for advice by posting into the group.
All in all, these past six months have been great so far, we’ve settled comfortably into Canadian life. It can be hard being away from our family and friends back home, but we keep in touch regularly and we can’t wait for them to start visiting very soon.
Toronto is a really cool city to live in and Canada itself is a beautiful country – I can’t wait to see what the next six months bring us!
We’ve been up to so much since we arrived in Canada, so I have a lot more to write about – stay tuned! 🙂
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