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How to Move to Canada from India: Our experience

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Wondering how to move to Canada from India, you are at the right spot! In 2009 Salil and I moved to Canada separately as students, and never looked back. 

In this guide, you will find different ways of moving to Canada – through federal and provincial programs – and your personal situations. 

How to move to Canada from India

Canada has had a high immigration rate historically. Immigrants love to come here for a better life, for education, business and more. From 2019-2021, Canada is all set to welcome more than one million immigrants through its various programs. 

Toronto skyline with Canadian flag
Move to Canada from India: Your Options

We will cover all the possible options below, and share our experiences. 

Student Visa to Canada from India

Moving to Canada as a student is one of the popular ways to immigrate here. I moved to Toronto as a student. My University in India had a student exchange program with a Canadian Institute and that is how I landed here. 

As compared to studying in the United Kingdom or the USA, fees are affordable in Canadian Universities.

Before deciding on Canada, I was planning to study in the UK – and in terms of fees, living expenses and the possibility of securing a permit after completion of studies was far better in Canada. So I chose Canada, and 12 years later I can say I made the right decision. 

Salil moved to Canada on a student visa as well. 

If you didn’t know that already Canada is the world’s third-leading destination of international students, with a staggering 642000 foreign students. International students in Canada contributed an estimated $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP and supported almost 170,000 jobs for Canada’s middle class. All of this is a significant economic contribution.

Studying in Canada
Canada Student Permit

This is how your process of University/ College selection will look like

  • Choose your course/degree/certificate – whatever you wish to pursue
  • Search for University/college selection. University studies will be slightly pricier than Community Colleges. The colleges can award post secondary certificates, diplomas, apprenticeships, etc. For Degree level programs, provincial universities are a better bet. Almost all of these educational institutes will have an international student department with free resources that you can use to plan your move
  • Once you have narrowed down on your University/college, speak to the authorities for program eligibility. This will include things like
    • Past educational qualifications. Consider doing an International Credentials Assessment to validate Indian educational degrees to Canadian standards
    • IELTS scores or any other entrance exams
    • Course duration and documents
    • Fees
    • Residence or accommodation information near the University/Institute

You will need a course/program acceptance letter to get a student visa or to apply for a student loan back home in India. 

Give yourself at least 6 to 8 months of time to get everything in order. September or fall semester is the popular time for international students to enroll. 

International students studying in Canada may apply for Canadian permanent resident status while studying in Canada or after completing their studies, provided they meet the requirements of the Canadian immigration program – whichever they apply. 

When we completed our studies we received one year of open work permit wherein we could work for any employer for that duration of time (1 year in this case). 

Canada Express Entry Program | Canadian Experience Class | Federal Skilled Worker or Trades Program 

Express Entry is a federal program that manages applications for the following economic immigration programs:

  • Canadian Experience Class
  • Federal Skilled Worker Program
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program

You can access all the information here

Ways to move to Canada from India
Moving to Canada: Entry entry

In this program each application is a part of an Express Entry draw which represents the CRS score of the lowest-ranking candidate to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence. The CRS is a points-based system that is used to assess and score your Express entry profile application. It is then ranked in the Express Entry pool.

There is a CRS cut-off score for this draw. You can use the Comprehensive Ranking System or CRS score tool online for more inputs. Source

Anything over 470 CRS points is considered a good score.

Once a candidate receives an ITA, they are given 60 days to complete and submit an official electronic Application for Canadian Permanent Residence (eAPR).

Canadian Experience Class is a government approved program, where skilled workers who have Canadian work experience and want to become permanent residents. You can read all about the eligibility requirements here – Source

Provincial Nominee Program 

Provinces and territories also recruit skilled workers through the Provincial Nominee Programs. Instead of the federal body, provinces grant permanent residency to immigrants with a valid job. 

Salil and I, both got our PR through the Saskatchewan Nominee Program or SNP in 2012. We went through all the periods of student work permit (with 20 hours per week), closed work permit to PR and finally a citizen.

Different provinces have their own nominee programs, and different eligibility requirements. You have to apply for each separately.

Quebec follows a very different policy program from the rest of Canada. 

Check the following programs

Family Sponsorships

Canada allows you to bring your relatives to the country. They can live, study and work in Canada if they become permanent residents of Canada. You can sponsor certain relatives to come to Canada if you’re at least 18 years old and a:

Open Permits 

Open work permits aren’t one of the popular ways to move to Canada. For one, getting a job in Canada while based in India might be a challenge. In certain situations, a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada might work. In this case, a job offer is provided prior to your visa/permit application. 

But it is rare. 

An LMIA or LMO is a document issued by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) stating that the hiring of a foreign worker will have a positive or neutral effect on the Canadian labour market.

Having said that, here are the situations where you can apply for an open work permit

  • are an international student who graduated from a designated learning institution and are eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (apply as a student first)
  • applied for permanent residence in Canada
  • are a dependent family member of someone who applied for permanent residence
  • are the spouse or common-law partner of a skilled worker or international student
  • are the spouse or common-law partner of an applicant of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program
  • are a refugee, refugee claimant, protected person, or their family member
  • are under an unenforceable removal order
  • are a temporary resident permit holder
  • are a young worker participating in special programs

More Resources:

  • You can read Canada Immigration News and check which fields or jobs are in demand here
  • Indeed.ca is a jobs website, and you can search for Foreign Worker Jobs here

Onsite Opportunities

Many Indian IT companies offer on-site opportunities in the USA and Canada, particularly in Toronto. 

Tata Consultancy Services is one of them. You can contact your HR or look for on-going client projects in North America/Toronto to secure a position. This will give you a feel for the place for a year or so. 

Once you are in the country, and you like it you can apply for other jobs or immigrate through any of the federal approved programs. 

Preparing for your move to Canada from India

Once you are ready to move to Canada and your visa/entry/PR is approved, let’s dive into preparing to land here

moving to Canada packing list
Preparing for your move to Canada from India

Travel documents

Ensure your Indian passport is current. This is something you will need when you apply for your visa, or receive landing papers. 

  • Keep all of your immigration documents in good order
  • Add your birth certificate (translate in English), marriage certificate to this list
  • Property and bank documents, etc
  • Educational certificates (all the degrees, diplomas, etc.) Do apply for International Assessment for all of your certificates, as it will be handy later
  • IELTS or any English testing certificate/scores 

How to find Accommodation in Canada from India

When you arrive in Canada, you will need a temporary place to stay. Most people crash with their friends and family. But if you don’t have anyone in the city you are landing in, you can book a hotel, or an Airbnb. 

Do book a room or apartment ahead of time so that you don’t pay a high price, especially in the fall when schools open. 

  • For hotels browse Expedia.ca, or Booking.com where you can compare prices and book a room instantly
  • For apartments head over to Airbnb.ca or VRBO. You can find apartments for a month or longer depending on the property. 

Once you land and settle in, you can go apartment hunting. ​There are rent ads on Facebook Groups or websites like Craigslist and Kijiji.

Boardwalk Rentals and other property management companies also have their dedicated site and database where you can browse flats and virtually check them out. 

Finding apartments in Canada
Accommodation in Canada

When you look for apartments the landlord or the property manager will ask for your status in Canada, references and financial documents. 

Financial documents include pay-slips, or bank statements that can prove you are capable of paying the rent.

Letter of reference is from a previous landlord, now when you do not have a credit history or history of renting it could be difficult to get a place, but landlords can look into it on a case by case basis. We recommend sharing this when you go house hunting so that you don’t waste any time.

Also note that apartments are rented monthly, usually on the 1st of the month. Some rentals might be available on the 15th. Regardless, plan to arrive by mid month to go house hunting. 

Most landlords will take one month’s security deposit when you move in.

Note: When you arrive/land in Canada you need to disclose where you will be staying – hotel, friend’s house, temporary residence, etc. So ensure you have the address ready to share. 

Money & Banking 

There is a limit on how much money you can carry when landing in Canada in the form of cash (CAD $$). But you can carry drafts and travellers cheques (for smaller amounts).

A Foreign Currency Demand Draft is great for transferring money for educational payments, medical fees, VISA fees or migrating to other countries. DD can also be reissued if lost or stolen. 

Once you land here, you can open a bank account in one of the financial institutions.

When we moved here were a handful of banks that were taking in newcomers, and some required a reference. 

Banks like TD Canada Trust, Scotia Bank, CIBC are good choices to get started. 

Do exchange some Indian currency to Canadian Dollars – about 500 to 1000 CAD. This will be handy to catch a cab when you land, get food and other essentials. 

Packing your essentials

Contrary to popular belief, you will find all the spices, food, and clothes to meet your needs in Canada. Make your move easy on yourself and carry the items that are most essential. 

I moved to Canada with one checked in luggage, and one cabin bag. I had some clothes, shoes, a laptop, some toiletries to get me started. I did bring one Indian traditional outfit, and 4 pieces of utensils. 

So bring enough to get you through for 2 weeks, and then you can venture out and buy whatever you need for your lifestyle needs. There are Indian grocery stores to get the food you need, and of course tons of restaurants serving desi food, if you are home sick. 

Clothes, especially winter outerwear, are best purphased in Canada. Same goes for winter boots. 

The fewer things when you bring on your move or travels the better. You can always get items shipped here later, or bring more items when you travel back to India for a visit. 

Flight and arrivals 

Book your one way ticket at least 3 months before you land (for better flight fares). Only book the ticket/s once you have the visa and landing papers with you.

Double check the flight details a week or so before taking off. You will most likely arrive in one of the major international airports (namely Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver for immigration purposes). 

Once you land in one of the major airports you can make your connections to other cities. 

If Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver are your final destinations then you can easily catch a cab or public transport to arrive at your hotel/friend’s house. 

Our experience moving to Canada from India

As we shared before Salil and I moved to Canada on a student visa. I moved to Toronto to complete my second year of MBA. I am the first one in my family who has ever left India and am thankful to my University who helped me with the immigration papers.

In Waterton – Alberta on a warm summer day!

My student visa was submitted to a VFS centre in Chennai, India, and processed. I was living alone in Chennai and flew to Toronto solo. Prior to arriving, I secured a room with an Indian family that I got to know through one of my seniors.

Salil traveled from Pune/Mumbai, and he secured accommodation with an Indian family online. 

Salil and I met in Toronto, and we met many other Indian students there. College was fun, and so was our everyday life. We used public transportation and the travel bug in us took us to different places/attractions in and around Toronto. 

We moved to Saskatoon Saskatchewan when we received our one year work permit (with a group of other friends). This was in 2010, and after working for 6 months we were able to apply for Canada permanent residence via the Saskatchewan Nominee Program.

We continued living in Saskatchewan for another 3-4 years, as we progressed in our respective careers. Saskatchewan was a perfect launchpad for our professional careers. 

Thereafter we moved to Edmonton Alberta, switched jobs, bought a house, got married and are living the best life traveling internationally and running an online business!

Throughout these years, we have been very open to opportunities, and have worked really hard to get where we are now (from graveyard shifts, to learning new skills and taking on leadership roles). 

Having lived away from home since I was 16, I didn’t find any culture shocks when I was a newcomer in Canada. I mean experiencing cold and snow was new, seeing fewer people on the roads was different but….. polite people, allowing pedestrians to cross the road, personal space, women’s freedom of choice was a refreshing change – and something I/we are grateful for. 

Canada is an amazing place to call home!

Should you move to Canada

From our experience we can 100% vouch for moving to Canada. It is one of the safest countries in the world. The political situation is stable, and violent crimes and internal conflicts are very rare, almost non-existent in most cities.

As an immigrant, we (my husband and I) have lived in popular cities like Toronto, Edmonton, to less populated towns like North Battleford in Saskatchewan. We have also traveled and explored provinces like Alberta British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan and felt safe.

Edmonton Canada in the fall
Edmonton Alberta Canada in the fall

In 12+ years of living here we have never faced any sort of racism/discrimination at work or in our everyday lives. As a woman of color, I feel safe working and going about my day-to-day tasks, doesn’t matter what time of day or place it is. 

In terms of job opportunities it may not be great for all careers. But it is easy to find traditional and service jobs like banking, retail, medicine/nursing, business operations, government administration careers, etc.

Jobs in the field of ads, marketing, IT, etc are restricted to bigger cities. But you can find good paying jobs in many provinces and with benefits and vacation leaves.

Most Canadian employers promote work life balance. If you are employed/living in smaller cities, your commute time is reduced to mere 10-15 minutes tops, which means you have more time for yourself and your loved ones. 

Plus you get long weekends (3 day weekend – Saturday/Sunday/Monday off), vacation leave (2 to 3 weeks depending on the province), maternal – paternal leave, compassion leave, sick leave, etc. This is comparable to many other developed countries. 

Canada is great for raising kids. There is free primary education, and tons of activities to choose from.

Also, it is not hard to find stunning landscapes in Canada. Every province or city has their ‘star’ hangout place. So you will find plenty of leisure and recreational opportunities in Canada. If you have never hiked or camped in India, you might start loving the outdoors and the sun here 🙂

Depending on the province and the city you plan on living in Canada, winters may be harsh especially if you are from hotter/humid areas in India. I lived in Chennai before moving to Toronto and have lived in extremes from 40 to 44 degrees to – 30 degrees with windchill. 

But you will be fine. Just ensure you layer on, and wear warm clothing when you venture outside in the cold. Houses, shopping malls and public transport will have heating – so no worries – you can brave the cold in Canada!

With so many ways to immigrate to Canada from the Express Entry System, student visas to sponsoring your relatives, you will find an option that works for you.

Have any questions? Get in touch!

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