Moving Checklist April 15, 2020

Moving to Vancouver – an Expat’s Guide for 2023

Blake Shaw

Bostonian and residential moving and packing expert. Blake Shaw enjoys bar-hopping, music, and writing insightful content.

More and more Americans who decide to move out of the US and become expats are choosing Canada as their new home. The Great White North has more than a few places with excellent quality of life, nice weather, and a variety of job opportunities, but moving to Vancouver presents itself as a perfect option for many.

It’s right there on the US border, it’s green, highly welcoming to strangers, and it is widely considered as one of the most liveable cities in the world. Stay with our short guide as we show you the basics of moving to and living in the largest city in British Columbia. And no, it’s not as dull as stories would make you think. It’s not called Hollywood North for nothing.

As a US Citizen, You Won’t Need a Visa to Enter, but a Work and Residency Permit Are Required

As always, the first thing to do when moving abroad, even before booking international moving services, is to collect all the needed documentation. Luckily, Americans can enter Canada without a visa, so no worries there.

But to stay legally for a more extended period of time, you’ll need either a permanent or temporary residence permit. To apply for the former, you’ll need to meet a few basic requirements, such as providing a medical certificate and criminal record check, submitting a permanent resident visa application (there are more than 60 different types), paying a fee, and so on.

On the other hand, getting a work permit requires a standing job offer and passing the Labour Market Test of Employment and Social Development Canada. Once those two are in place, you are set to become an expat.

You’ll also want to have the British Columbia Identification Card (or BCID). With it, you’ll be able to go clubbing without your passport, among other things. If you decide that the Great White North is where you wish to stay for the rest of your life, you may apply for citizenship after at least one year of skilled work in the country. Other requirements are understanding the country, culture, and people, and good command of English. For more detailed info, check out the website of Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Canadian flag
Make sure you have everything necessary to set up a new home and live across the northern US border

What You Need to Know About the Cost of Living

Since there’s no way around it, we’ll put it bluntly – Vancouver is expensive. Housing prices are among the steepest in Canada, as is almost everything else.

According to the latest data by numbeo.commonthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city’s downtown stands at about 2,100 Canadian dollars (about 1,550 USD). By contrast, the same apartment on the outskirts goes for C$1,600 (1,200 USD). A three-bedroom apartment downtown would cost you around C$3,800 (2,850 USD), while outside of the center, it would go for about C$2,800 (2,100 USD).

If you wish to buy real estate when moving to Vancouver, the average price per square foot is around C$1,270 or 950 USD in the downtown, while outside of the center, it stands at C$930 (700 USD). It’s no wonder that many newcomers opt for living in the suburbs or on the city’s outskirts. Also, know that the prices you see in the supermarkets and stores are without tax and will be higher once you get to pay for them.

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First Thing to Do After Moving to Vancouver – Find Roommates

Since the prices of housing are the way they are, the best thing you can do is find yourself a roommate. Or a couple of them. That way, you’ll save cash that will come handy elsewhere.

Healthcare Is Expensive Until You Get Insurance

Canada takes great pride in its excellent, but even more importantly, free healthcare. To get public health insurance coverage, you’ll have to obtain a Social Insurance Number (or SIN, pun probably not intended) and then wait for three months before you can benefit from public programs. The good news is that you can apply for SIN as soon as you obtain your permanent or temporary residence permit. Until those three months are up, going to the doctor won’t be cheap at all.

aerial view of the city
Living is easier with free healthcare; you just need to wait for three months

A Quick Guide to the Best Neighborhoods – 2020 Edition

Vancouver’s neighborhoods are many, and each one offers something unique. Kitsilano is a place for people who wish to have a beach across the street from their home, while West End boasts the most exclusive areas.  If you wish to live surrounded by other expats, better go for Surrey, Burnaby, or Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, and Port Moody, commonly known as Tri-Cities.

Living here is expensive, especially in downtown, but those people know how to live, and their advice is to just find a roommate

Opening a Bank Account After Moving to Vancouver

Opening a bank account doesn’t take long, and it allows you to transfer money. Make sure to check out offers of several banks before deciding which one to commit to. Some won’t charge you fees, and those should be on the top of your list.

Be Patient With Money Transfers

In general, it is a lot easier to transfer money to your new account then it will be to send cash out of Canada. And the fees are not negligible. Make sure you pick a bank that has clear guidelines on how much they will charge you for international money transfers.

city at night
A guide to setting up a new home in British Columbia can’t be complete without info on employment and banks

The Weather is Not Like in the Rest of Canada

You know how Canada is always associated with snow up to your neck? Well, Vancouver’s different. Its climate is mild. The temperature averages around 39F in winter and 69 to 70F in summer. Snow is a sporadic event. Be ready for tons of rain, though.

park in the city
You’ll like the weather there; it’s among the reasons why people are moving to the so-called Hollywood North

What to Do Once You Get There

In Vancouver, you’ll have plenty of chances for outdoor activities. If you desperately yearn for snow, the Rockies are nearby. The Pacific is right there, while beautiful forests are well within driving distance.

Within the city itself, you can eat out and drink beer or sangria in some excellent pubs, but the nightlife, in general, is not something to be proud of. That’s what got the city nicknames such as Blandcouver, or Nofuncouver. But the outdoors compensate for it.

Moon over the city
People may complain that there’s just not enough things to do, but they still live in the best city in the country

Why You’ll Need a Compass Card or New Driving License

Transportation in Vancouver can be a real drag. If you opt for shipping a car overseas by using the overseas vehicle shipping service, you’ll need to convert your US driving license to a British Columbia one. And then, you’ll be stuck in traffic day in, day out.

It would be better to spend that time reading a book or something. That’s what the Compass Card is for. With it, you can ride on public buses and trains. You’ll be stuck in a bus just the same as in the car, but without worries about other nervous drivers. Or catch a cab or the newly-introduced Uber.

Pros and Cons of Biking

Biking in Vancouver is a great experience. Unless it’s an awful one – it depends on who you talk to. Still, bikes are in abundance, as are paths for riding them. Just make sure you’re fit enough to make it in the traffic wilderness.

man on a bike
A short guide to transportation – if you know the best way around, you’ll live a happier life

Great But Not-So-White North Is Calling You

Setting up your new home in Vancouver can be the best decision you’ve ever made. Canada is welcoming to expats, and British Columbia and its largest city have a lot to offer, both in terms of lifestyle and overall living experiences. Opportunities for work are many, and with a good salary, having a home is well within reach. So don’t hesitate and head on to the next chapter in your life up north. We’re sure you’re gonna like it.

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