Advice for New Comers
Before The Move
There are many companies in the UK that specialise in moving personal goods abroad. Armishaws (http://www.armishaws.com) is a long established removals business with management expertise in all aspects of International removals. Other companires include Pickfords (http://www.pickfords.co.uk), First Move International (http://www.shipit.co.uk/index.html) or AVM (http://www.avm-storage-shipping.co.uk) who come highly recommended by one of our members). If you need a site that will compare removals prices for you try http://www.removalsbrokers.co.uk. They compare prices from a range of International removals firms to give the user the best price for their home move.
Get some quotes and decide whether you are going to sell as much as possible, travel light and buy new here or bring everything with you. These companies should pick up your goods store them and ship them. If you haven't got a house to move to directly then negotiate free storage with the removal service, this is cheaper and easier than finding storage space this end. You can also arrange for them to deliver your goods to your door in Canada. However, it is relatively inexpensive to hire a Uhaul Truck and do it yourself (I did).
Grid electricity in Canada is 120V. Some electrical goods bought in the UK can be switched to work at 120V. Alternatively, you can buy a transformer to convert to 240V. In Montreal transformers are available from DDO Electronique Inc. 43B, avenue Brunswick, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, (514) 421-2755 and at "220V" on autoroute 40. Transformers cost around $100 -$150. VCRs, DVD, PS2 etc. will not work on Canadian TVs so it's worth bring a British TV with you if you want to watch your video collection in Canada. Alternatively you can by a multiregion VCR and route your other devices through it. However, They are quite expensive. For more information see http://www.futureshop.ca.
There are two ways to bring your pet over. The first is by a company that specializes in transporting pets (check out the yellow pages). Once you have settled in your new home in Canada you can call the company which you have contracted and they will collect the animal, arrange for the necessary paperwork and vaccinations, and put the animal on a plane in a custom carrier. They will advise you on the flight details. The alternative method is to do it yourself, you will need to purchase a crate, and these can be bought from one of the quarantine kennels that surround Heathrow. You then check the animal in as excess baggage but note you need to advise the airlines at least two weeks in advance that you intend to bring an animal as excess baggage (the animal may not be allowed to travel if they are carrying medical supplies). As with the professional carrier the animal will need to be vaccinated and examined by a vet on its arrival in Canada, you also need to obtain a certificate from a home office approved vet to ship "livestock". Any good vet should have the number of the nearest approved vet. This should be done a few weeks in advance; the vet may also be able to obtain the crate for you.
Pets rabies shots have to be one month before hand and also bear in mind that airlines won't fly animals between November and March (coz it's too cold).
Paper work to bring
Make sure you have the following:
Some of these documents won't be needed straight away but may be required for the next stage and are much easier to organise whilst still in the UK.
Entry into Canada is fairly painless providing you have the right paperwork/visas.
Once through passport control you will proceed to immigration where an officer will ask you a few questions and then issue with your work permit - id required. Remember to have some Canadian dollars with you as there is usually a small fee involved.
In the first few months in Canada you will doubtless be phoning the UK often; particularly if you still have a house to sell. Get yourself a phone card and save yourself a lot of money. Montreal Express is one of the best and at the time of writing you get around 780 minutes long distance for $10.00. They are available at Pharmaprix outlets and Familyprix in St. Lazare
EUROLINK is another very good buy. You can obtain these phone cards from most "Corner shops" you know what I mean !! They will cost you around $5 (No Tax) and a call to the UK will be deducted at a rate of approximately $0.01 a minute.
The way these phone cards work is that you dial a 514 number which is of course is free, then the pin number on the card followed by the UK phone number. A small inconvenience for a massive saving. Even better, you can use these cards for all your long distance calls, The rest of Canada, the States and most of the rest of the world.
Mobile phones are disappointing compared to the UK. Tri-band phones are very expensive and the cheaper dual band phones are just that - cheap. The main companies are Bell, Telus, Fido and Rogers so shop around. You will not be able to get a contract until you have a social insurance number. Beware of connection fees and extra fees for phone attributes e.g. caller ID.
Living In Canada
Where to live?
You need to decide if you want to rent or buy.
House prices are very cheap when compared to the UK and mortgage payments are often a lot lower than rent. Montreal is on an island in the St Lawrence river and living off the island, e.g. St Lazare or Hudson gets you more house/land for your dollar. However, public transport is virtually non existent and living on the island of Montreal can be more practical as it has a good bus service and a train service to down town and local shopping malls. It depends on your personal circumstances.
When looking at houses check out the heating systems. Baseboard (Skirting board) heaters and pellet stoves require electricity. The electricity bill over winter can be a shock to newcomers from the UK. Don't forget that for most of the winter you will be heating your house from a temperature below zero (usually substantially below). Other sources of heating are oil, gas and wood burners. Most people go for a source that requires electricity with a wood burner or gas fire to supplemental/back up in case of power failure.
There is only one electricity supplier; Hydro Quebec. Electricity is reasonably cheap but with the extremely cold winters the bill can add up over time. Hydro Quebec allow you to spread the cost by paying a fixed monthly rate. Expect to pay upwards of $200 a month. Wood costs around $60 to $80 per chord. 5 Chords should see you through winter.
In the summer it can get very hot, some houses have air conditioning others have ceiling fans. Forced air heating allows you to have cool air blown through in the summer.
A good source for houses for renting are the local papers. Take a look at the home page for links to online newspapers.
The web site (http://www.mls.ca) is a major portal in Canada for real estate sales. You can use it to get a very good idea what you can get for your money. The main Real Estate Agents are Groupe Sutton (http://www.suttonquebec.com), Royal Lepage (http://www.royallepage.ca) and Remax (http://www.royaljordan.com). The process of buying a house in Canada is very quick and efficient and could take as little as 3 weeks from offer acceptance to moving in. Note that you have to put a deposit of 25% down. You will need to employ a Notary for the legal work.
There is a tax levied once you have purchased your property aptly named the "Welcome Tax". This is around 1% of the purchase price payable within six months. There is also municipal tax and school tax to pay each year based of the municipal valuation of the property. E.G. In St Lazare a property valued at $240,000 dollars will attract municipal taxes of around $2400 per year and school taxes of $800 per year. On the Island of Montreal taxes are much higher. Make sure you ask your estate agent about the taxes levied in the area you want to move to.
Selling a house in Canada is very expensive with estate agents charging around 7%.
Buying a house on a school bus route will ensure that your street is ploughed after snow falls. You can pay local companies to clear your drive for you for around $250 for the season. They employ tractors fitted with snow blowers to move the snow from the drive onto the lawn.
You will get lots of visitors so get a reasonable size house, but don't go too mad as the house needs to be heated and furnished.
Schools and Education
If you are on in Montreal on a work permit your child may be educated in the English system. The school board on the west Island is the Lester B. Pearson School Board (http://www.lbpsb.qc.ca). However, once you become landed immigrants the child will be transferred to the French system at the start of the next school year. This is unless you are willing to pay to go into the private system which is much less expensive than in the UK.
For entry into universities good A levels are required, the child will also require a student visa or permanent landed immigrant status, note the immigrant status effects the school fees that are payable e.g. $400 per year as opposed to $9000 per year (i.e. similar to being a student in the UK where foreign students are required to pay more then those from the UK). Most parents from the UK are shocked at just how much you have to pay to support you kids at school. Requests for your money are relentless. Initially a school fee is levied each year (On top of the school taxes) by the school. Then you get a "supply list" which is a list of equipment and consumables you will have to buy. Then there are hot dog days, pizza days, book clubs. Canadians are also very big on buying gifts for teachers and are quite abrupt at asking for donations. You child will also need a pair of indoor and a pair of outdoor shoes and, of course, snow boots/pants/coat etc. for winter. If your child needs to stay in school at lunch time you have to pay for lunchtime supervisors and there is a charge for school dinners.
Opening an account in Canada is similar to opening an account in the UK. If possible open an account before you arrive on a permanent basis (Say on an earlier visit to Canada). This means that you can take advantage of dollar rates whenever they peak and allows you to transfer the money across ready for your arrival (Companies such as www.currenciesdirect.com or www.hifx.co.uk can help you with this).
Mortgages are flexible in Canada and you aren't tied to 25 year payments. You can pay off the mortgage more frequently than once a month should you wish to do so. Note rates on interest accounts and mortgages are negotiable.
There is no free banking in Canada, banks charge handling fees and service fees for cashing cheques, debit card use, cash point use, etc. Look for packages offered by the banks, it can save money in the long run. Come supplied with enough cash to carry you through the first weeks of your stay.
It's useful to keep an account open in the UK to close out things after your departure, statements can be sent to Canada free of charge.
Canada has the Medicare system; which is similar to the NHS. You will need to be issued with a Medicare card. This is renewed every year whilst you are on work permit. There is now a three-month residential clause before this can be operative. Therefore you need to arrange private coverage for the first three months you are here. You will need photographs for the Medicare card; these can be obtained at the time you apply for your first card. You will also have to arrange Medical and Dental coverage (insurance) for things not covered by Medicare.
Lease or buy a car?
It is possible to do either even when on a work permit. With leasing the payments are less each month, which may be a consideration when you have just arrived but the car is never yours.
When buying you don't have to buy new, the papers are a good source of second hand cars. A good source of information is http://mtlautoprix.com.
Tax is payable on second hand cars. Unlike the UK the car plate's stay with you again there is an annual tax, the SAAQ will send out reminders when this is due. When considering buying a car/truck consult the Lemon aid guide to trucks/cars. These books will advise you on what models to avoid for various reasons.
You have 90 days to visit the office of the SAAQ and exchange your UK licence for a Quebec one. There is a fee payable every two years (due on your birthday), every four years the photograph is renewed.
Note the office now requires proof of residence i.e. a gas/electric bill, this is a problem if you are the hotel or have only just moved into your new home. This can be overcome by asking for a letter from your company stating that you do live at your present address and that you work there.
Driving is not too difficult; remember to stop at stop signs (rolling stops or American stops are not permitted).
If you see a school bus with its lights flashing you must stop, failing to do so can result in a large fine.
What is a tax return?
Everyone who is working is obliged to complete a tax return in the new year and to have submitted it by the end of April. You can use computer software to do it yourself but it is usually better to get an expert to do it for you. FINTEG is a company run by British immigrants who would be happy to help you through the process - Phone 514 312 7728.
FINTEG can explain the important information on the following topics which can be daunting to immigrants:
Click Here for the Canada Revenue Agencies Newcomer's Tax Guide
Progressing from work permit status to landed immigrant
This involves a lot of paper work, a lot of money and the whole process can take a very long time. A good source of information can be found on the web page http://www.cic.gc.ca, or follow the immigration links on the navigation bar. You can save a lot of money by not employing an immigration consultant. All the necessary paperwork and advice can be found on the web site above.
Quebec like the UK has four seasons, spring, summer, autumn (fall) and winter. The only difference is that the temperatures are a lot more extreme. Spring is a lot shorter than the UK. Even though the winter is harsher than the UK it is certainly a magical time, there is more to do than the UK and there is more opportunity to do things outside such as skiing, walking and snow shoeing. Dress appropriately for the season/activity, dress in layers.
French is the language of 85% of the population in Quebec. It is a good idea to try to learn French if you are going to settle in Quebec but it is by no means essential.
As previously stated your children will have to attend French school once you become a landed immigrant. Learning to speak the language is important if your are to help them with their studies. The French here is Quebequoise French and is somewhat different from the French you would have been taught t School in the UK.
Cost of living - how does it compare?
Almost everything is cheaper than Europe, housing, food, appliances, petrol (gas).Tipping in restaurants is a standard practice the rate is 15% (note tipping in self service restaurants is not usual). In bars you do not usually pay until you leave.
Remember that all prices in the shops are quoted without tax so add 15% to the bill. Sales are more frequent in Canada than in the UK.
There are plenty of supermarkets, Loblaws, Maxi et Cie, Metro, Super C and IGA. The best thing is to try them out and stick with what you feel comfortable with
For fresh fruit and vegetables try the markets such as Marche de l'ouest, Atwater and Jean Talon, the food is fresher and cheaper.
To get a better selection of wine and hard liqueur you are obliged to go to the SAQ. Good selections of beer are available for the supermarkets. Talk to the locals to see where they do their shopping. Prices do rise in winter as the fresh fruits and vegetables come from California and Florida.
All kids clubs require up front payment for the period of registration. So if you child joins a baseball club for instance you pay $110 which include training and game fees.
There is plenty to do in Montreal. Montreal has 1000's of restaurants that cover all price ranges and specialities from French cuisine to tastes of the Orient.
The summer is full of international festivals, Jazz, Comedy and of course there is the Grand Prix.
In the winter there is the Ice festival.
Further details can be found on www.bonjourquebec.com and www.tourism-montreal.org.
What is there to do in and around Montreal?
As mentioned above Montreal has a number of festivals. Fall is a popular time for visitors and you will hear the term leaf peepers.
Quebec City is a short drive and is well worth a visit. North of Quebec City you can visit Tadoussac to see the whales.
Ottawa (the capital) is approx 1.5 hours away and there you can see the houses of parliament and various museums.
There are plenty of opportunities to do sports all year around. Joining sports clubs is also a great way of meeting people.
Winter; Skiing; The West island and off island is littered with X country trails. Mont Rigaud is good for beginners downhill skiing, for the more adventurous there is Mont Tremblant (http://www.tremblant.ca/index-e.htm) and the Laurentians.
Curling: A very social sport both on and off the ice.
Snow shoeing, Summer walking: Golf, walking, horse riding, canoeing, swimming. Rugby and soccer are also played in the summer and these too are great sports to meet people; there are leagues for all ages and abilities.
Suggested reading: Lobster guide for children- Montreal
In winter the key thing is to dress in layers, a good coat is essential, budget $300 - $500 dollars. The extremities are also important, hats, gloves and good boots.
In summer it is shorts and tee shirts
Generally the area is very casual in its dress code.
Buy your winter clothing here, the UK isn't geared up for the extreme temperatures
TV and Press
With the TV you have three choices:
Most go for option 2 or 3.
You will be amazed at the number of channels you get but you will eventually realise the choice is pretty restrictive.
BBC Canada is now available so you will be able to see some of your favourites, as is BBC Kids.
You can even get English premier league soccer.
The only English Language local paper is the Gazette; National papers are the National Post and the Globe and Mail.
Note all the major UK papers are available on the internet so it is possible to keep up to date of news at home, you can also buy an International Express at Chapters (a bookstore) and in some news agents.