Moving the family to Canada means making dozens of decisions to be sure everyone can thrive in their new home. Information about your new country and its culture will help you get acquainted with family immigration to Canada. If you’re moving to Canada from India, the Philippines, Jamaica, or another country. In that case these facts and resources may help you understand the cost of living, Canadian currency, schools, their healthcare system, and more.
Cost of Living in Canada
Canada ranks the 17th most expensive country in the world in terms of cost of living, according to Numbeo in 2022.1 This means Canada is likely more costly than the country you are leaving. Of course, the jobs, wages, excellent schools, healthcare system, and government policies that welcome immigrants can balance its higher cost of living (see below). As a point of comparison, the cost of living in Canada, on average is 7.95% lower than in the U.S.2
How Canada Works
Canada provides many taxpayer-funded public programs, which include healthcare, social services, and education to its citizens. These policies and programs are managed at the province or territory level. So, if you are seeking information on jobs, healthcare, social services, schools, or programs for immigrants, look at the geographic area where you live or will be living. Check websites and local resources like the YMCA when you arrive.
Hello, Canadian Money
Canada’s currency, referred to as the Canadian dollar (CAD or CAN), is simple to understand and designed for easy use. Made up of dollars and coins, all cash features notable Canada symbols and individuals—and the bills (or notes) are brightly colored. There are 100 cents (¢) in one dollar ($).
Today’s bills are made of polymer (a form of plastic), a change made in 2011. Bills currently come in five denominations and colors, so they’re easy to learn:
- $5 blue
- $10 purple
- $20 green
- $50 red
- $100 yellow
The coins come in six amounts: 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1, and $2. The $1 currency featuring a loon, Canada’s national bird, is sometimes referred to as a “Loonie.” And the $2 coin, called a “Toonie” or “Twoonie” includes a polar bear image. The government no longer produces the 1¢ coin, called a penny, but existing pennies may still be used for payment.
As of January 2021, the $1, $2, $25, $500, and $1000 dollars are no longer legal tenders, so you don’t want to accept or use them.
Have Canadian Currency Ready When You Arrive
Did you know it’s easy to send money ahead of time, so it’s in Canadian currency when you arrive? Use our currency converter to help you monitor exchange rates and decide on when to convert. With the Western Union app, you can view exchange rates, send money, and find locations for picking it up once you get to Canada.
Excellent Education and Childcare Financial Support
Canada’s education system extends to all 13 of its territories and provinces and is ranked 4th in the world globally by U.S. News & World Report, reflecting one of the government’s priorities.
Starting at age four or five, children can attend free kindergarten for a year, which is mandatory in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Some provinces offer an additional year at no charge. Children attend primary (1-6 grades), junior high school (7-8 grades), and senior high school (9-11 or 12 grades) until they are 16 years old. All English-speaking schools in the country teach French as a second language. In Quebec, school is conducted in French, and English is offered as a second language.
Once students finish senior high school, they can attend higher education universities, colleges (similar to technical and trades schools and community colleges), or Cegep, a two-year pre-university program exclusive to Quebec. One study indicated that children of immigrants attain higher education levels than children of Canadian-born parents. Immigrant students make up one-third of all students in the schools.
Historically, infant, toddler, and pre-school care have been costly, and availability varies by province and can be scarce. In response, the government has started a $10/day program for Early Learning and Child Care, essentially cutting the cost of child care in half. Provinces have begun rolling out the program, so check locally for the status. Also, look into the federal government’s grant called the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) to see if you’re eligible for assistance with childcare. Because of demand, facilities typically require waitlist fees of $50-200 CAD. Some parents reserve spots at multiple centers, before the child is born.
To locate childcare centers in your province or territory, search for Child Care Services on your city’s website or the province’s Ministry of Education website. For informal, unlicensed daycares, check community center bulletin boards and talk to other parents and community leaders.
Top Universities in Canada
Educational distinction extends to Canada’s universities. The University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, and McGill University rank in the top 100 of the 2022-23 Best Global Universities.
National Healthcare for Citizens
Each province and territory provides a plan and regulations for free healthcare to ensure citizens get primary medical care, including visits to physicians, some other healthcare providers, and hospital care. Some provinces and territories may also provide supplementary coverage, such as prescription drugs. Additional consideration is paid for by individuals themselves or through their employers.
Each family member needs to get their own healthcard. Newcomers established as permanent resident or with a working permit should be eligible for healthcare and get their healthcard within three months. You’ll be asked for your card when seeking care from a doctor or hospital or when getting diagnostic testing. To find a family doctor, look for information on your province or territory here.
Becoming a Citizen
Canada is eager to welcome newcomers as citizens…approximately 450,000 in both 2023 and 2024. The government or other resources are here to help you understand the residential requirements, application package, citizenship test, interview, and more.