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A Guide to Moving to the UK from Canada

By Quality Move Management Inc / February 15, 2024

Moving to the UK from Canada has become increasingly popular as recent statistics show that over 75,000 Canadian nationals reside in the UK. Whether you’re drawn by career opportunities, cultural experiences or simply a change of scenery, living in the UK as a Canadian offers a new start with a host of enriching experiences. To support your new adventure and arm you with the information you need, we’ve created this moving to the UK guide. We’ve delved into the intricacies of how to move to the UK from Canada and the steps you’ll need to take to make the transition smoother and less daunting.

Can Canadians Live in the UK?

The UK is the home of one of the largest communities in the Canadian diaspora which means Canadians can live and work in the UK after going through the proper legal processes. Typically, this involves obtaining the necessary visa from the UK government. Whether you are moving to Ireland from Canada or relocating to Wales, it’s essential for Canadians planning to live in the UK to thoroughly research and adhere to the visa application procedure outlined by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to ensure compliance with immigration regulations. Fortunately, Canadian citizens have access to visas not available in other countries since Canada is a Commonwealth country. The UK government provides entry clearance guidance to help you better understand the process.

Do Canadian Citizens Need a Visa for England?

If you’re a Canadian citizen and you plan to stay in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales for more than six months, you will need to apply for a UK visa. When it comes to visa applications, there are a few options available depending on your circumstances. You will need to check out which visas apply to you and confirm your eligibility. To start the process and get the proper advice, you can visit your nearest Visa Application Centre.

UK Visa Requirements for Canadians

If you have a British grandparent (born in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, then you may be eligible for a UK Ancestry Visa. This visa allows you to work, study and bring a partner or child with you. You can apply for this type of visa at least three months before you travel and it can take around three weeks to process your application. If you need to receive your visa quickly, there are options to pay for a faster decision. This visa will allow you to stay in the UK for five years. After that period, you can apply for a visa extension or choose to live in the UK permanently by applying for indefinite leave to remain. The UK Ancestry Visa costs £637 and you may also be required to pay the healthcare surcharge as a part of your application.

If you have no British ancestry and want to live in the UK for longer than six months, you will need to apply for a UK work visa or a student visa.

Can Canadians Work in The UK?

To be eligible to work legally in the UK, Canadians must apply for and obtain a UK work visa. There are a variety of work visas available, the one you choose will depend on your circumstances. Here are two of the most common work visas for Canadians.

Youth Mobility Visa

If you are aged between 18-30, you could be eligible to apply for a Youth Mobility Visa. This visa allows Canadian citizens to work and live in the UK for up to two years. You can apply for the Youth Mobility Visa six months before you travel and you’ll need to provide documents and prove your identity. Be sure to allow for extra time if you need an appointment to fulfil this part of the application. It usually takes around three weeks to get a decision. To be eligible to apply for this visa, you will need to have £2,530 in savings ( this is roughly equivalent to $4331.89 CAD depending on exchange rates). The application fee for this visa is £298 and you will also need to pay the healthcare surcharge which is usually £470 per year but you can check the amount you’ll need to pay. Once you’ve been granted the visa, you can live and work in the UK for up to 24 months and leave and return to the UK at any time during your stay. If your 31st birthday falls after you’ve been granted the visa, you’ll be able to stay in the UK until your visa expires.

Skilled Worker Visa

The Skilled Worker Visa allows you to stay in the UK to do an eligible job with an employer that has been approved by the UK Home Office. To qualify, your approved employer will need to provide a “certificate of sponsorship” with information about the job opportunity in the UK. This job offer must be confirmed before you apply for your visa and it must fall under the list of eligible occupations. The visa can last for 5 years and when it expires it can be updated or extended. You will also need to update the visa if you change employer or occupation. After 5 years, you’ll also be able to apply for “indefinite leave to remain” status. You can contact the UK Visas and Immigration UKVI service on the government website to find out about other visa options. Depending on your reasons for immigrating to the UK from Canada, you still have UK visa options if you cannot fulfil the requirements mentioned above.

Setting Up a Bank Account

Before arriving in the UK, it's important to research and select a bank that aligns with your preferences and needs. Some popular banks in the UK include Barclays, Nationwide Building Society, and Halifax current account, among others. You can also find HSBC branches in the UK so if you hold one of these accounts, you may find transferring your details to a UK account quite simple. These institutions offer a range of services, and exploring their options before you move can assist in making an informed choice. It's important to note that setting up a bank account in the UK may require a visa. Many UK banks often ask for proof of residency or employment, which can be challenging without the proper immigration documentation. Therefore, it's advisable to set up your bank account once your visa has been secured.

Finding a Job in the UK

According to the UK Labour Market Statistics, in 2023, over 33 million people over the age of 16 were in employment. In the last quarter, UK employment levels increased by over 73,000 with levels for the year increasing to 267,000 which is promising news for anyone looking to relocate and work in the UK. Job websites like Indeed can provide information about the most in-demand jobs as well as finding the latest job listings in a range of industries. LinkedIn is another reputable website to find a variety of jobs while the NHS jobs website is the ideal place to search for jobs within the National Health Service. The National Careers Service can connect you with recruitment agencies, local council websites and hidden job markets to find jobs that are not advertised on job websites.

Travelling to the UK

When preparing for your relocation to the UK, it's essential to plan your travel carefully. Start by ensuring that your passport is valid for the entire duration of your stay and that your visa is applied for well in advance if required. To stay organised and avoid any last-minute panics, be sure to book your flights in advance and pack essential documents, including your visa, passport, and any relevant medical records, in a secure and easily accessible location. Also consider purchasing travel insurance to provide additional security during your journey. When packing electricals, bear in mind that the voltage and plug sockets differ in the UK. The UK and many countries in Europe use a type G plug that includes a fuse and has three rectangular pins in a triangular formation. Be sure to get an adapter for charging phones, tablets and any other electrical devices.

When it comes to packing and shipping your belongings from Canada to the UK, the choice of an international moving company is paramount. It’s essential to research and select a reputable company that specialises in overseas moves to the UK and consider factors such as experience, customer reviews, and insurance coverage. To help you make an informed choice, be sure to discuss with the moving company the various shipping methods available, with air and sea transport being common options. Understanding customs regulations is crucial to ensure a smooth entry for your belongings into the UK. Additionally, prioritise packing essential items separately to facilitate immediate use upon arrival, such as important documents, basic clothing, and daily necessities to make your transition more comfortable.

Is a Canadian Driving Licence Valid in the UK?

When you move to the UK, you can legally drive with your valid Canadian licence for 12 months. If you intend to continue to drive after this period, you’ll need to exchange your Canadian driving licence for a UK licence. As long as your Canadian licence is still valid, you have up to five years to exchange it. When you’ve paid the fees, submitted relevant documents and have no medical conditions to declare to the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) you can exchange your Canadian licence through the official government website.

Is Healthcare Free for Canadians in The UK?

Prior to your international move to the UK, you may be required to pay the healthcare surcharge which is a fee that is separate from the visa application fee. Once you have paid the surcharge and your visa application has been granted, you can start to use the National Health Service (NHS). Much like healthcare coverage in Canada, paying the healthcare surcharge ensures you have healthcare coverage for the entire duration of your visa in the UK. If you need hospital treatment in the UK, you’ll be considered “ordinarily resident” and eligible for free treatment as long as you hold a valid visa. You can find out more about accessing NHS Services here.

Best Places to Live in The UK

A useful guide to moving to the UK wouldn't be complete without covering popular locations to move to. Choosing the best place to live in the UK as a Canadian largely depends on personal preferences, lifestyle, and priorities. London is one of the most popular destinations for movers, however, venturing outside of England’s capital has a lot to offer. There are many other popular places to live in the UK and here are some of our favourite locations in the north, south, east and west of the United Kingdom:

Popular Places to Live In the North of the UK

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and is known for its historic architecture and festivals. The city has a rich cultural and arts scene, with the iconic Edinburgh Castle dominating the skyline. Nature lovers moving to Scotland from Canada will enjoy the fact that Edinburgh is surrounded by picturesque landscapes and close to the Scottish Highlands.

Manchester, England

Manchester is a thriving cultural hub with museums, galleries, and a vibrant music scene. It is known for its diverse neighbourhoods offering a mix of modern amenities and historical charm. Manchester has become a hub for many startup businesses making the area desirable for job hunters. This city also boasts excellent transport links and proximity to beautiful countryside.

Popular Places to Live In the East of the UK

Cambridge, England

Home to the prestigious University of Cambridge, with a scholarly atmosphere. Cambridge is a city known for its historic architecture, beautiful gardens, and scenic riverside views as well as a selection of museums, and green spaces.

Norwich, England

Norwich (pronounced Norr-ich) is a picturesque city with well-preserved medieval architecture and is known for its vibrant arts scene, including theatres and galleries. This historic city is surrounded by the scenic national park, the Norfolk Broads and is close to the coast.

Popular Places to Live In the West of the UK

Bristol, England

Bristol is a dynamic city with a creative and tech-driven economy. Think harbourside living, cultural festivals, and a vibrant street art scene. The city is also in close proximity to the Cotswolds and beautiful coastal areas.

Cardiff, Wales

Located in the South of Wales, Cardiff offers a blend of historic landmarks and modern developments. Not only is Cardiff the capital city but it is also the home of the Welsh Assembly known as Senedd Cymru (Welsh Parliament) in the Welsh language. Lively cultural events, theatres, and a thriving food and nightlife scene make moving to Cardiff a great choice for families and individuals alike.

Best Places to Live in the South of the UK

Brighton, England

Brighton is a vibrant coastal city known for its diverse cultural scene, iconic Brighton Pier and lively entertainment. Living in Brighton offers a relaxed atmosphere, beachside living, and a strong LGBTQ+ community. Southampton is a bustling port city with a rich maritime history and home to the research-based University of Southampton which is a founding member of the Russell Group. This city offers diverse cultural offerings, including theatres, museums, vibrant nightlife and live music venues. Southampton is ideal for those interested in waterfront living and offers easy access to the New Forest National Park.

Southampton, England

Southampton is a bustling port city with a rich maritime history and home to the research-based University of Southampton which is a founding member of the Russell Group. This city offers diverse cultural offerings, including theatres, museums, vibrant nightlife and live music venues. Southampton is ideal for those interested in waterfront living and offers easy access to the New Forest National Park.

Some More Popular Places in the UK

Northern Ireland

If you’re considering moving to Ireland from Canada, exploring Northern Ireland offers a unique blend of rich history and stunning landscapes. You can immerse yourself in the cultural tapestry of Belfast, the capital, known for its vibrant arts scene and historic landmarks. From the breathtaking Causeway Coast to the serene lakes of Fermanagh, Northern Ireland provides a diverse and welcoming backdrop for your new adventures.

The Midlands

In the heart of England, the Midlands beckons Canadians with its mix of historic charm and modern vibrancy. You can explore the picturesque canals of Birmingham, a city thriving with cultural diversity and a bustling arts scene. With the idyllic countryside of Worcestershire, Derbyshire, and beyond, the Midlands offers Canadians a tranquil yet vibrant region to call home.

Moving From Canada to the UK

Whether you are moving to England from Canada or relocating to somewhere else in the UK, QMM has a complete range of international moving services to help make your move as stress-free as possible. From packing and storage to international vehicle shipping, our full range of services combined with our decades of experience, make QMM one of the most trusted international movers. To arrange a pre-move survey or get more information about our moving services, contact our friendly team of experts today.


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