Planning a move to Canada? Here's everything you need to know

Preparation is everything and getting ready to work in the second largest country in the world is more complicated than you might think

The second largest country in the world, Canada is also hugely varied. There's outdoorsy Vancouver with its mild coastal climate and mountains nearby; there's the bustling central business district of cosmopolitan Toronto; and the oil and gas fields and wild winters of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Canada is now one of the main destinations for Irish emigrants, but its popularity has grown slowly. Just 1,100 people left Ireland for Canada in 2009; the figure for 2014 is closer to 14,000.

The economy has undergone a profound shift over the past decade, mostly thanks to a natural resources boom, which has created massive labour shortages for tradesmen and construction professionals, particularly in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Canada needs workers with similar skills to those worst affected by the downturn in Ireland, and it has widened access through its various visa programmes to allow more Irish people to enter the country.


But no matter how attractive the change of scenery or the promise of a well-paid job may be, it is important to do thorough research in advance of such a big move, whether you are travelling alone or with a family.

One of the biggest current issues for Irish migrants is a lack of adequate predeparture information, and many find the first six months tough. Visa rules ask a lot of newcomers. The IEC visa requires people to have 2,500 Canadian dollars (€1,725) in their bank accounts on arrival, but this can run out quickly.

A study by the University of Toronto in 2013 found that recent immigrants were almost twice as likely to be unemployed as the Canadian-born population.

Simple practical issues, such as a different style of CV or resumé favoured by Canadian employers, can be a barrier for jobseekers.

This guide gives an overview of the main points to consider, with links to official government websites and other useful online resources where you can go for more detailed information.

  • Visa guide: Introduction to the most popular visa types for Irish workers, from the working holiday visa to options for longer stay, including employer and state sponsorship, permanent residency and citizenship
  • Finding a place to live: Overview of property market, short-term accommodation options, average cost of renting and buying a home in each of the main cities, and how to find cheap furniture
  • Which city? The most popular locations for Irish people, and what they offer in terms of jobs and lifestyle (also consider adding section on climate and distance from Ireland here)
  • Finding a job: Introduction to the current economic climate in Canada, examining the jobs market, what skills/occupations are currently in demand and where, how average salaries compare to Ireland in certain industries, and advice on how to jobsearch
  • Health and Education: Who is entitled to public healthcare, what costs are involved, and health insurance options. How the education system is run by state/territory, third-level options and costs and fees for visa holders, permanent residents and citizens
  • Climate and distances: Canada is a massive country, so flight times to Ireland and temperatures vary hugely between cities and regions
  • Costs: How much money you should bring to get set up, the cost of living by city, an introduction to the tax system, and other financial considerations
  • Directory: Contact details for Irish organisations, sports and culture clubs, online social networks and other useful support groups
Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny, founding editor of Irish Times Abroad, a section for Irish-connected people around the world, is Editor of the Irish Times Magazine