Living abroad: Canadian Guide to Studying and Working in Foreign Countries

Living abroad Canadian Guide to Studying and Working in Foreign Countries

About three million Canadians live in the world beyond our borders. They all have different reasons to choose to live and work in foreign countries. It can be rewarding to live abroad, whether temporarily or permanently.

It can be difficult, especially if you are moving to another country in pursuit of a dream. It is not an easy decision to move away from your home and adjust to a new social and cultural environment. This decision requires planning, research, and knowledge. Your experience abroad will be better if you’re well prepared before leaving Canada.

Every year, thousands of Canadians who live in foreign countries are assisted by the Government of Canada. There are more than 260 Canadian consular offices located in 150 countries, plus an Ottawa Emergency Watch and Response Centre. We’re available 24 hours a days, seven days a săptămână. Although there are limitations on the assistance we can provide, we offer a wide range of consular services. These include replacing lost passports, sharing information about local laws, and lending support during medical emergencies.

We are well aware of all the difficulties you will face when living abroad. This booklet is designed to assist you.

  • Before you leave Canada, be informed and prepared.
  • Take care of your loved ones and yourself while you are away.
  • Know what to do in case things don’t go as planned.
  • Plan for your eventual return.

Have questions about international travel?

  • Is it safe?
  • What if I got sick?
  • Whom can I call for emergency assistance?
  • Can the Government of Canada help me get out of a foreign prison?
  • What do I do if my passport is lost?
  • Are there any taxes that I must pay on income from abroad?
  • What can I bring back from Canada?

Answers: www.travel.gc.ca

This booklet is essential information for Canadian travelers and we recommend that you read it along with our main publication Bon voyage. Travel.gc.ca is the official site for information about international travel. Have a safe, happy, and healthy trip abroad!

Before you leave Canada

Do a risk assessment

Relocating abroad is a risky business. It is important to weigh the benefits and the risks. To find a safe and suitable location, you should conduct a risk assessment for each potential host country. Don’t be intimidated by the inconveniences and perils of a destination.

An assessment of risk will identify the risks you need to be aware of. This includes safety and security, health conditions, and the political, cultural, and natural environment. You can take this example:

  • Some countries are still experiencing civil unrest, insurgencies, and wars.
  • Others are vulnerable to extreme temperatures or natural disasters like earthquakes, typhoons and volcanic eruptions.
  • Your pace of life might be different than what you are used to. This can have an impact on your work habits and overall well-being.
  • It is possible to find safe and comfortable housing that is not available or too expensive.
  • It is possible that there may not be wheelchair access or allowances available for those with hearing, sight, or other special needs.
  • Consuming alcohol could be illegal. Those convicted of drug-related offenses may face the death penalty.
  • Children can be tried and convicted of the same crimes as adults.

To conduct a risk assessment

To find out if there is an official Government of Canada Travel Advisory in place, consult the Travel Advice and Advisories of your potential host country. You will also be able to get information about safety and security, customs and health, and entry requirements.

For cultural information, facts, and advice about showing respect for local customs in different countries around the globe, visit the Centre for Intercultural Learning’s Country Insights webpage.

For country-specific information about health and medical care standards, visit our Travel Health and Safety page or the World Health Organization website.

The World Weather Information Service website provides weather and climate information for countries around the world.

These resources can be supplemented with guidesbooks, newsletters and magazines for expatriates. These guides provide insight into the cultural, emotional, and health issues faced by Canadians who live abroad.

Read up, register, reach us

Canada’s Government encourages Canadians follow the Three Rs of international traveling:

Consult our Travel Advice and Advisories to learn more about safety and security, customs and entry requirements, and other important travel topics.

Register via the Registration of Canadians Absroad service before you leave Canada. We can help you in an emergency abroad such as a hurricane, civil unrest, or notify you about an immediate situation at home.

For urgent assistance abroad, please contact them at the Ottawa Emergency Watch and Response Centre.

Take the time to evaluate potential opportunities abroad

Canada offers many opportunities for work, study and volunteer, as well as retirement. Before you accept any offer, make sure to fully evaluate it.

International fraud is a serious problem. Avoid overseas agencies that only operate via email or phone and those that charge placement fees. Students have been scammed out of large amounts of money by bogus organizations offering international education opportunities. They were lied to about securing financial aid, study permits and admissions. Phony volunteer placement agencies also charge unsuspecting volunteers for opportunities that do not pan out. There are many international scammers that target retired people with empty promises of romance and friendship, as well as financial rewards in faraway countries.

Be cautious if you are a woman and take offers that seem too good to be true. Avoid getting involved in sex and labour trafficking. Fraudulent ads are often used by criminals to recruit foreign women for jobs as models, hostesses, entertainers, nannies or maids.

Learn everything you can about any agency offering you a chance abroad. If the agency is Canadian, ask for references and visit their website. Talk to people who have worked at the organization, or contact others who have.

If you don’t know the details of your job, never accept an overseas job. If possible, have a lawyer review your contract. If things don’t go according to plan, verify the conditions for breaking your contract.

You should fully understand all financial terms of any job offer. Know when your first paycheck will arrive and what currency it will be in. You can avoid exchange rate fluctuations by receiving your salary in Canadian dollars or U.S. Dollars. Find out whether the currency you will be receiving is convertible and what restrictions are in place for taking money out of the country. Find out if your employer covers expenses such as airfares and residency permits, language training, school tuition and health and dental insurance (including coverage of family members).

Ask for photos, a detailed description, a floor plan, and a furniture inventory in advance if your contract includes accommodations. In different countries, “Western” or “furnished” have different meanings. Ask about your neighborhood and the transport system. Consider sharing accommodation with another person.

While some employers or volunteer agencies may offer to pay your return flight to Canada if you sign a contract with them, they will not always honor this promise. It is best to request an open-ended ticket in advance.

Are you up for a cross-cultural move

Many Canadians who move abroad for the first-time are shocked at how isolated they feel. This makes the transition more difficult. Make sure you understand the culture and social context in which you will be living before you leave Canada. Are you comfortable with cultural differences? Are you able to accept being in a minority or to be treated like a foreigner? Are you able to make new friends? Are you open to new ways of doing things and are you willing to try them? Are you able to live at a slower pace or faster pace?

International Experience Canada

There are thousands of options for young Canadians to travel and work abroad. These programs can be made possible by reciprocal agreements negotiated with host nations. Participants between the ages of 18 and 35 can benefit from living and working abroad while also gaining valuable international experience and skills.

Call 1-877-461-2346 for more information or visit International Experience Canada.

Planning is key to success

For a successful and safe stay abroad, you must think ahead. These steps will help you put the pieces together before you leave Canada.

Our safe-travel booklet Bon voyage but… essential information for Canadian travelers. It provides the knowledge and advice that you need to travel safely and confidently in Canada while avoiding potential pitfalls. You will also find information about consular services around the globe.

You and your family members must have a Canadian passport valid for at most six months after you intend to return to Canada. You should obtain any visa required by the host country for work, study, volunteering, visitor, or any other purpose well in advance. You could be charged with violating visa conditions in certain countries if you don’t know the terms of each visa. For more information, see Moving abroad with children or Required travel documents.

In case of theft or loss, leave copies of important travel documents with Canadian family and friends. If possible scan these documents and send them to you at an email address that you have access from anywhere.

You should have travel insurance that covers medical expenses, including hospitalization abroad or medical evacuation, as well as insurance for baggage damage, loss, or interruptions.

Register for the Registration of Canadians Absroad service to ensure that the Government of Canada can reach you and offer assistance in an emergency. After you have registered, make sure to keep your account current.

In case of emergency, carry a Canadian Emergency Contact Card with the coordinates to the nearest Canadian government offices in your host country.

Secure accommodation in your host country should be arranged in advance. You may need to book through an agency if you are looking for suitable housing in areas with high vacancy rates. You can plan for temporary housing if you are unable to find long-term accommodation. Be sure to verify that the address is correct before you pay a deposit on student housing or other accommodations advertised online. For more information, see A roof over your heads.

It is important to know what you are allowed to bring with you. Be aware that many countries have strict import restrictions. Get the necessary adapters to allow you to bring any electrical appliances. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which offers a free service to help you identify valuable items that have serial numbers or other unique markings, can assist you in obtaining the necessary adapters. Other items can be given a sticker by the CBSA so that they can be identified in customs upon your return.

To find out all requirements for taking your pet abroad, please contact the consulate or embassy of your host country. A detailed health certificate will be required for your pet. You may also need an import permit. You may need to quarantine your pet before allowing it into the country.

Check that your mail is still moving. Send a request for a change in address to Canada Post. Let all your contacts know about your new address.

Before you leave Canada, make a will. It will help reduce complications related to a death abroad, in the event of the worst. You might consider making two wills, one for Canada and one to the host country. Different laws will apply.

Register Canadians Abroad

Free service that could save you life

Register for the Registration of Canadians abroad service if you are planning to travel or live abroad. Registering allows us to contact you in an emergency abroad such as an earthquake, civil unrest, and/or inform you about an immediate situation at home.

Register online, by mail or fax, or in person. Visit our Registration of Canadians Abroad Page or call 1-800-267–6788 (in Canada or the U.S.), or 613-944–6788 for more information.

*Registration information is kept confidential and used in accordance to Canada’s Privacy Act.

Dual citizenship: A blessing or a curse?

Canadian law allows you to have more than one citizenship. Dual or multiple citizenships can provide benefits, such as employment opportunities, unlimited residency, property ownership and entitlements to education, healthcare, pensions, and other social programs overseas.

There are disadvantages. Canadian citizenship might not be recognized by the country where you are from. This could prevent Canada providing consular assistance. This is more likely if you travel to the country as a citizen, and not using your Canadian passport. You may have to comply with laws as a citizen. This could include being compelled to serve in the military, paying taxes, being liable for educational costs reimbursements, and subject to increased scrutiny by immigration and security officers. You can’t work if you are a citizen in another country. It is possible that you do not meet the residency requirements. You may not have been granted Canadian citizenship. If you have dual citizenship, it can cause problems in third countries if there is confusion about which citizenship you obtained.

Permanent vs. temporary residency

Canadians who plan to travel abroad to study, volunteer or retire will most likely choose to keep their Canadian citizenship. If they don’t intend to return to Canada regularly and can get sufficient health-care coverage abroad, they may choose to obtain permanent residency or citizenship in their host country. It involves establishing legal status in another country. This can be more complicated than a visitor or tourist. This could have serious implications. If you are a Canadian citizen and have legal status, consular officials in Canada may not be able to help you.

These steps can help you reduce the risk of living in another country.

  • Confirm your citizenship and the status of your accompanying family members. Then, address your concerns to the appropriate officials from the concerned country through their embassy or consulate here in Canada.
  • Ask the country if there are any obligations, such as tax, military service, or repayment of education costs. Ask for written confirmation.
  • You can use your Canadian passport to enter Canada if permitted by law.
  • If you have any questions about dual citizenship, contact the nearest Canadian consulate or embassy immediately.
  • See Travelling as a Dual Citizen for more information.

Did you know ?

To travel internationally, you cannot use a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship in place of a Canadian passport. A Certificate of Canadian Citizenship cannot be used as a travel document. Canadian passports are the only valid and widely accepted identification and travel document that can be used for international travel. Canadian citizens who bring other documents to Canada, such as a Certificate or Canadian Citizenship, birth certificate or provincial driver’s license, can face delays or even be denied entry by the transport companies.

Move with your health

Your health should be your top priority, no matter where you are located. Before you leave Canada, make sure you plan for your long-term health.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that each member of your family visit a travel clinic or their health-care provider at least six weeks prior to departure for a comprehensive health assessment. The examination will help determine if you need to be immunized, take preventative medication, and make sure that you are taking precautions to avoid getting sick while abroad. An additional health assessment may include a check-up with an optometrist and dentist, as well as a psychological evaluation that will help you adapt to a new environment

If you need to act quickly…

Consular assistance is available seven days a semaine, 24 hours a year. If you have any problems while abroad, please contact us.

Contact the closest Canadian consulate or embassy.

  • Call Ottawa’s Emergency Watch and Response Centre at 613-996-805 (call collect if service is available).
  • Email at sos@international.gc.ca.
  • Complete an Emergency Contact Form.

Vaccinations

You and your family members could be exposed to infections in foreign countries. These diseases are rare, if ever, found in Canada. A health-care provider will assess your health and recommend vaccinations.

Your routine immunizations, such as tetanus and diphtheria (pertussis), whooping cough (pertussis), measles, rubella, and pertussis, must be up-to-date. To enter certain countries, you may need to show proof of yellow fever vaccination within the last 10 years or an International Certificate of Vaccination/Prophylaxis. It can take some time for preventive medication and vaccinations to be effective.

You may need to arrange an alternative schedule or accelerated immunization for children or infants if you are moving abroad. Talk to your family doctor, pediatrician or travel health specialist. Visit our page on safety and travel health for more information.

Medication

You should always bring extra medication or arrange for refills when you travel. In case of medication theft or loss, keep a duplicate prescription with the generic and trade names. Keep any prescriptions for optical glasses or contacts handy.

Do not combine medications in one container to save space. To avoid problems with customs, keep all medications in the original, clearly labeled containers.

Certain medications that are sold over-the-counter in Canada may be illegal or require prescriptions from other countries. Check to see if your medication is legal in the host country. Get a note from your doctor detailing the medical reasons behind your prescription and the recommended dosage.

It is important to bring enough syringes or an autoinjector if you have life-threatening allergies or have a plan for replenishment. A medical certificate must be carried to confirm that the items are medically appropriate.

Consider wearing a MedicAlert(r), bracelet or necklace if you have a preexisting condition or allergies that might flare up while abroad. This will link to your medical records, making them available 24 hours a days from anywhere around the globe.

STI Prevention

To protect yourself against sexually transmitted diseases and prevent unwanted pregnancy, carry a supply condoms. Condoms might not be available in your destination or meet safety standards set forth by the World Health Organization. See our Sexually transmitted Infections (STI) page for more information.

You are well on your way.

Are you interested in learning more about how to protect your health abroad? The publication “Well on Your Way” provides valuable advice about how to:

  • Evaluate your travel health risk
  • Take preventive steps before, during, and after international travel
  • Choose the right travel insurance plan
  • Prepare for a medical emergency in another country;
  • Consular services are available in case of medical emergencies
  • Call 1-800-267-8376 (in Canada), or 613-944-4000 to order your brochure. Or download a copy.

Pregnancy and childbirth

You should consult your doctor if you are pregnant and intend to have a baby abroad. Your supplementary insurance should cover pregnancy-related conditions, full-term births and neonatal care. Avoid malarial zones. Expectant mothers are more at risk for the illness. If you are planning to give birth in another country, make sure to identify a hospital or birthing center that meets Canadian standards. See Canadian birthright for information about citizenship for children born abroad to Canadian parents.

You can find more information about traveling while pregnant on our page Travelling while pregnant and in our booklet Her Own Way: A woman’s safe-travel guide.

Accessibility for people with disabilities

Many countries do not provide special access for those in wheelchairs, or help with sight, hearing or other physical needs. To obtain services that you would normally expect from Canada, you may have to make arrangements overseas. The website of Disabled Persons International has country-specific information about accessibility for disabled travelers.

Canadian holders of disabled parking permits may use them in associate or member countries of International Transport Forum (ITF). To confirm your entitlement, check with the local authorities. In non-ITF countries, parking permits for Canadians with disabilities are not often recognized. See the ITF website for more information.

Our Travelling with disabilities page contains additional information about government services for people with disabilities, including parking privileges, special needs, and meeting specific requirements.

Get the best insurance that you can afford

If you are hurt or become sick while abroad, your provincial or territorial insurance plan may not cover the cost. Medical bills out-of-country can be costly and can result in heavy financial burdens. It’s not easy to become ill in another country and worry about spiraling medical expenses. Your provincial or territorial health insurance plan will only cover part of your medical expenses in Canada. It will not pay upfront. It will also be invalid if you move to another country for more than six to eight months depending on which province or territory you are in. Contact your local health authority for more information.

You don’t have to live abroad for a long time. Make sure you get the best possible health insurance. This is one of the best investments an expatriate can make. Be sure to read the fine print of your policy. It should provide for your health and the needs of your dependents. Check with your employer to see if they offer health insurance for you if you are working in the destination country.

You should always have proof of your international insurance, as well as contact information for your insurer. Leave a copy with someone you care about in Canada. To make a claim, get a detailed invoice from your doctor or hospital if you are paying for your own medical treatment. Many insurers won’t accept faxes or copies.

Supplemental insurance versus replacement insurance

Expats have two types of private insurance for their health. Supplemental insurance offers additional benefits for those who are not covered by a provincial plan or territory plan. For those who are unable to apply for a Canadian insurance plan because they have been away for too long, replacement insurance will provide full coverage.

Although full replacement insurance is more difficult to find than supplemental insurance for expatriates, there are many companies that offer insurance designed specifically for them. Consider your personal situation when looking into replacement insurance. This includes your age, medical history, and any potential health issues. Make sure you have replacement insurance in place before you leave Canada. Also, make sure that your policy is valid in the country you intend to live.

Expats have two types of private insurance for their health. Supplemental insurance offers additional benefits for those who are not covered by a provincial plan or territory plan. For those who are unable to apply for a Canadian insurance plan because they have been away for too long, replacement insurance will provide full coverage.

Although full replacement insurance is more difficult to find than supplemental insurance for expatriates, there are many companies that offer insurance designed specifically for them. Consider your personal situation when looking into replacement insurance. This includes your age, medical history, and any potential health issues. Make sure you have replacement insurance in place before you leave Canada. Also, make sure that your policy is valid in the country you intend to live.

Compare health insurance options to find the best for long-term stays abroad. Check to see if the policy is still available.

  • provides coverage whether or not your provincial/territorial health plan remains in effect;
  • Offers a global 24-hour/seven day emergency number in English as well as translation services for health-care professionals in your host country.
  • You can either pay immediately for medical expenses abroad or you will need to pay upfront and be reimbursed later.
  • Provides a cash deposit in advance, if necessary by a hospital
  • Covers both dental and health care for your entire stay abroad
  • Pre-existing conditions such as heart disease and borderline diabetes are covered. Ask for written confirmation
  • Includes coverage for injuries sustained while participating in adventure activities such as mountaineering or scuba diving
  • Provides for medical evacuation to Canada, or the closest location with suitable medical facilities.
  • Covers premature births and associated neonatal care
  • Pays expenses related to a death abroad, such as the repatriation of the remains or ashes to Canada;
  • Provides coverage for travel to Canada and other countries while on vacation;
  • covers the period before your provincial/territorial plan is renewed upon your return to Canada.

Did you know ?

You should also consider enhanced life and disability insurance. Insurance that covers flight cancellations, trip interruptions and lost luggage is also required. Cargo insurance for household goods, automobiles and personal effects are also necessary. When you move abroad, insurance coverage can help to prevent major disruptions or additional costs.

Our booklet, Well on Your Way: A Canadian’s Guide to Healthy Travel Abroad offers more information on the things to consider when purchasing travel insurance.

Did you know ?

Some insurance companies won’t cover medical claims for injuries sustained in a country that has a Government of Canada Travel Advisory.

Moving abroad with your children

A child’s first experience in a foreign country is one of the most rewarding. It can help them grow confidence, adaptability, and intercultural awareness. However, meeting the needs of your children can add to the already difficult task of moving abroad. Take steps to ensure that your family and you have a smooth transition before leaving Canada.

Talk openly with your children about the possibility of moving abroad.

Make arrangements for the right schooling or daycare. You should ensure that you are satisfied with the quality of daycare in your destination country. For information on the school system, contact the education authorities of the country. Most countries have both public and private schools. Many also have international schools that are attended mostly by expatriates. Keep copies of the school records of your children in case you need them.

Immigration officials will be vigilant about children crossing international borders without proper documentation. We strongly recommend that children under 18 years old are accompanied by their parents. They should also carry a consent form proving they have permission for travel from all persons with the legal authority to make major decisions on behalf of them. It is a good idea to have your consent letter stamped, sealed and certified by an official who has the authority to administer an solemn declaration or oath. Here is a sample consent letter and an interactive form you can use to create your own.

Each child should have a Canadian passport. Also, ensure that they have any supporting documentation such as a birth certificate and citizenship card. For additional information and documentation, check with the Canadian consulate or embassy.

In case of separation, keep additional identification in the pocket of your child. Recent photographs of your child are important for emergency identification.

If your child lives abroad, it is a good idea to consult a lawyer. In some countries, custody arrangements made in Canada might not be recognized. Extreme cases may mean that your child or you are not allowed to return home to Canada. Before you travel abroad, make sure to check with the consulate or embassy of your destination country.

Talk to a pediatrician about how to best protect your child’s safety while abroad.

Visit our page on Children and Travel for more information.

Travel documents required

Before you leave Canada, ensure that your passport and any other required documents are in order.

Your Canadian passport

Canadian passports are the only valid and widely accepted identification and travel document. To travel to Canada or reside in Canada, you and your family members must possess a valid passport.

Canadian passports for children under 15 years old are valid for five year. The validity period for passports for 16-year-olds and older is five years or ten years depending on the selected validity period.

To find out the rules and restrictions regarding passport validity, contact the consulate or embassy of your destination country. Some countries require that your passport must be valid at least six months after your return date to Canada. If your passport expires while you are abroad, it is best to renew it before the return date.

Start the process as soon as you plan to depart from Canada if you have to renew or apply for a passport. You will need to wait longer if you require a visa.

Online applications are available at the Canadian passports website. In person, you can also pick up forms at any Passport office, Service Canada receiving agent, or Canadian government offices overseas.

To make it easier for you to replace your passport if it’s stolen or lost while abroad, keep the following items handy:

  • A photocopy of your passport’s identification page (photo)
  • The original of your citizenship or birth certificate
  • To prove your identity, you will need a copy at least one additional document.
  • Contact information for a Canadian Embassy in your destination country.
  • Two recent photos that meet Passport Canada requirements (taken within a year and displaying your current appearance).

Report any loss or theft of passports while abroad to Passport Canada and the nearest Canadian government office. Our Passport page has more information about how to apply, care for, or replace a Canadian passport.

Did you know :

Only your host country’s government can grant you a visa. You cannot have the Government of Canada intervene for you.

Visas

To stay for longer than three months in any country, you will need a visa. Most visas are for student, work, and residency. You may also require a tourist, visitor, or business visa to enter the country for a temporary stay.

To avoid problems in the future, ask about multiple-entry visas if you intend to leave and re-enter your host nation during your stay. It is important to apply for visas in advance. Do not expect to be able to change your visa status later. Respect visa terms and conditions. It is illegal to stay in a country without a visa, or to overstay a visa expiry date. This could result in deportation, imprisonment, and stiff fines.

Depending on which type of visa you require, the requirements and processing times may vary. Some countries may require you to have a visa in order to grant it.

  • A certified criminal record check by the RCMP or your local cop;
  • A doctor signed medical certificates proving that you are in good health.
  • A certificate of negative testing for the human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV)
  • A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required if you are arriving from an area infected.

Additional information on visa requirements can be found on the Travel Advice and Advisories webpage or at the consulate or embassy of your destination country. Check the visa requirements for countries you might visit or transit while on your trip to host country.

Permit or work visa:

If you plan to live and work in a country, you will need special permission. You may need to be sponsored by your prospective employer for a permit or work visa. Your employer may be responsible for obtaining the document. Or you might have to apply directly through the Canadian consulate or embassy of your host country. A work visa can take several months so make sure you start the process before you leave. If you change your job after arriving, be aware of the consequences. You may lose your visa or have to re-enter the country with a new one.

Working holiday visa:

Canada has many reciprocal agreements that allow travelers to exchange cultural experiences.

Visa for students:

To study in a country, you will need a student visa. You may also need a permit or visa to reside in the country.

Volunteer visa:

To be able to do unpaid charitable or volunteer work, some countries require that you have a visa. Some countries require you to have a permit or work visa, even if your volunteer status is not required.

Permit or residency visa:

A permit or residency visa is required for those who plan to stay longer than the allowed time on a tourist visa. This usually happens when you are looking to retire abroad.

Marriage visa or spousal visa:

Certain countries will issue a visa for marriage or spousal purposes to you, usually with a specified validity period, if your spouse is a citizen or permanent resident of that country.

Alien registration card:

You may need an alien registration card upon arrival in your host nation. It will be necessary to keep it with you at all times, both for identification purposes.

Calculate the cost

Make sure you have the financial means to move abroad before you leave Canada.

Consider the cost of living in your destination nation. The average Canadian salary isn’t enough. You should account for fluctuations in exchange rates and inflation that are likely to occur while you’re away.

Find out the costs of shipping household and personal items. Only take what you really need. Find out what you can purchase in your destination country. Find out if your employer will pay for the move or provide you with basic necessities if you are volunteering or working.

You need to have sufficient funds to settle properly, including money for expenses like a rental security deposit or utility connections. A furnished home is more expensive than good accommodations in many countries.

Make arrangements with friends and family to help you in the event you run out of cash while you are abroad, or need to go home unexpectedly.

Consider all taxes, duties and fees you will pay on your retirement income. Non-residents of Canada pay tax on income earned from Canada. They may also be subjected to taxation in the host country.

Consider not only the cost to travel to your host country, but also the cost to return to Canada on a frequent basis. Most countries require that foreign visitors have a valid ticket for return with a departure date and within the allowed time frames by immigration authorities. You should expect to pay more if you need to travel home unplanned.

For tips on managing your money, including budgeting, banking and other financial matters while abroad, see Manage Your Money

Living abroad

Keep safe

It doesn’t matter how safe you feel in your host country; it is vital to criminal-proof yourself.

Be alert and aware of what is happening around you. Reduce alcohol intake and avoid using, carrying or getting involved in illegal drugs.

Never leave your luggage unattended. You should never carry the luggage of another person or transport any item – even an envelope- across borders or through customs. Keep your passport, credit cards and debit cards, cash and tickets for airline and train travel, your insurance policy, your prescriptions, and your contact information handy. In case of theft or loss, keep copies of all important documents safe.

Criminals that target foreigners should be avoided. They can work in groups or individually, sometimes posing as good Samaritans and creating distractions to steal items. You should be cautious about meeting new friends, including fellow Canadians and foreigners.

Do not be afraid to make a statement or give the impression you are vulnerable or lost. Be aware of where you are going, what you’re doing, and how you can get there. Always keep the address of your accommodation with you. Before you go out, make sure to study a street map. Do not open a map in public areas. Avoid isolated areas.

Avoid showing expensive jewelry, cameras and other extravagant accessories that could make you look like a wealthy foreigner.

Only hire reputable and legal taxis. If a taxi driver approaches you at the airport, do not hire them. These services are often illegal and could be dangerous. To avoid this, ask someone you trust to recommend taxi service providers.

Credit card fraud is a serious problem. Keep your credit card safe. You should only use an ATM during normal business hours. You will need to quickly cancel your credit or debit cards.

Travel and drugs

Many countries have severe penalties for possession of even a small amount of illegal drugs. Even prescription drugs and syringes that are used for legitimate medical purposes are subject to intense scrutiny. Visit our Alcohol, drugs, and travel page for more information.

A roof over your head

You will likely need temporary accommodation before you can settle in your host country. Be careful when selecting short-term or long-term accommodations.

You should feel at ease about the accommodations and the location. Are the doors locked properly? Are there escape routes and fire alarms? If you don’t feel safe, don’t go anywhere.

Avoid accommodation on the ground floor.

Be aware of the dangers associated with low-budget accommodation, such as hostels or dormitories. Do not leave valuables or travel documents in your room. If you are staying in a dorm, keep them close by. Accepting lodgings from strangers could lead to danger.

You should be careful, even if you are staying in luxury accommodations. You must ensure that your room’s door is locked when you are not there. You should never open your doors to strangers without checking through the peephole or verifying their identity.

Keep your windows closed, especially if you live on the ground floor.

Did you know…

Some countries require that visitors always have photo identification such as a passport and resident card. You could be arrested, fined or face other serious consequences if you fail to comply.

Health care

You may be more at risk if you travel for a long time. It is possible to learn how to safely shop for food and make sure you have access to potable water. You will also need to organize for your health care and that of your family members.

Canadian expatriates face serious health care issues because not many countries have as extensive or affordable systems. Some countries offer comprehensive health-care plans which will cover you after a waiting period if you immigrate. Most countries do not offer such programs.

Many countries in the developing world offer free health care for citizens and permanent residents. However, most Canadians who live in these countries prefer private healthcare. This is often of higher quality and requires fewer wait times. Private medical facilities in most countries are quite advanced and can usually see you right away for a fee. These trade-offs are why most Canadians opt for the private option and ensure they have adequate replacement or supplemental insurance. For more information, see Buying the best insurance that you can afford.

Did you know…

You should always make it a point to locate the closest reputable hospital or clinic when you arrive in your host nation. Also, note the operating hours. Do not wait until an emergency occurs – it could be too late! For a list with local doctors and hospitals, contact the closest Canadian consulate.

Avoid hospitals and dental centers in countries that have poor hygiene standards. See our Travel Advice and Advisories Page for country-specific information.

Culture shock

People who live abroad experience culture shock, a period of adjustment. Even experienced expatriates can experience this type of psychological stress. It occurs when familiar patterns and cues are lost.

These symptoms can be temporary or lasting several months. The intensity of the symptoms varies from one person to another. People who have suffered from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety prior to their departure are at greatest risk. It is important to recognize signs and symptoms of culture shock. These often follow a predictable pattern.

The first phase is often called the “honeymoon” stage. Most encounters in a new country are exciting and positive.

The second phase, also known as the “emptiness” stage, is when foreigners feel dislocation and unease. Some symptoms include:

  • Feelings of anger, frustration, and irritability;
  • Negative feelings about the culture and people of the host country.
  • Boredom, fatigue, and inability to focus or work effectively are all signs of boredom.

The third and final phase is when foreigners accept their surroundings and find a balance between the honeymoon stage and the emptiness stage.

The impact is mitigated

It is important to try to adapt to the new environment and make it easier to deal with culture shock.

  • You should learn the cultural norms of your host country, and try to get to know the locals. It will make communication easier if people know how to greet you, what to wear, and how to behave.
  • Learn the language. This will simplify your life and let you show that you are interested in being part of the community. Begin with some basic phrases and then expand your vocabulary.
  • Participate in local culture such as music, cuisine or learning a new sport. You will meet new people and feel more connected.
  • Keep in touch with your family and friends back at home. You can adapt to the local environment by sharing your problems and experiences.
  • Take care of your body. Make sure you eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and don’t drink excessive alcohol. Do not reduce or stop taking medication for a mental condition.
  • Make time to explore the country’s attractions and sights.
  • Do not compare your life to that back home. Enjoy your time here and be open-minded.
  • To reduce isolation, you might consider joining the Canadian expatriate group.

Take control of your money

Living abroad means managing your finances, from banking and budgeting to purchasing property and paying taxes. Unexpected expenses, unfamiliarity with local currency, and other costs can make it difficult to estimate how much money you can afford. Inflation and currency fluctuations can be a problem if you are paid in local currency. Recessions, stock market crashes, and devaluation in the currency your pension or other benefits is paid are all factors that can reduce your income. You must ensure that your income is sufficient to support your family.

A private financial planner is a great idea. They can help you with things like contributing to the Canada Pension Plan or a Registered Retirement Savings Plan.

Opening an account in a foreign bank

It is almost certain that you will want to open a bank account in the host country. If possible, one that can be financed from a Canadian account. You will need your passport, residence permit, and Canadian banking information to open a bank account in your host country. Most banks will have someone who speaks English to help you. This process can be time-consuming and complicated. Make sure you have another source of funds.

Other tips for banking abroad

  • Inform your Canadian bank or credit card company of the time you will be away.
  • You should investigate the possibility of money being transferred between Canadian and host country accounts. Find out how much money you can send home. Your host country may have strict regulations about the amount you can send home.
  • Keep all receipts, transaction records, and documentation relating to financial transfers.
  • To avoid local laws being broken, only authorized agents can exchange money.
  • There are many ways to access your money abroad, including credit cards, debit cards, and cash.

Receive a foreign public pension

Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Quebec Pension Plan(QPP) or Old Age Security (OAS), benefits can be paid to you when you are abroad.

CPP and QPP benefits can be paid abroad as long as they are eligible. OAS can be paid abroad if the pensioner has been a resident of Canada for less than 20 years. OAS is designed to provide seniors with a minimum amount of income. An income test determines eligibility. You must file an annual tax return detailing your worldwide income in order to receive OAS benefits from outside Canada. See the Canada Benefits website for more information.

Online banking

Many financial institutions permit you to access your account from anywhere in the world to view balances, pay bills, and transfer money. Cybercafes and other areas that offer Internet service are not recommended for transactions. It is difficult to guarantee that computers are secure from hacking programs that could capture account and personal information. Clearing the cache of an Internet browser will erase any trace that you left behind if you have to complete transactions on a public computer.

Taxation

The status of your tax obligations when living abroad depends on whether or not you are a Canadian resident. The purpose and duration of your stay abroad, your frequency and length of visits to Canada, and whether or not you have severed any residential ties with Canada, all affect your status. To avoid any surprises, make sure you review your situation with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

See CRA’s “Individuals – leaving or entering Canada and Non-residents” for information on how to determine your residence status. After you have confirmed your residency, you will be able to find specific information about your situation as a Canadian living abroad. This includes details on your rights and entitlements as a Canadian, including the tax package that you should use, your eligibility for the Foreign Tax Credit or Overseas Employment Tax Credit, and information on tax treaties between Canada, certain countries and other countries.

The CRA’s International Tax Services Office processes income taxes returns for non-residents, deemed residents of Canada and Canadians who are working abroad. It provides telephone and postal assistance and manages all tax withholding accounts.

For more information, see our Taxation for Canadians Living, Travelling or Working Outside Canada page.

Did you know ?

You cannot, as a rule, receive welfare, disability, or any other form of social assistance while you are abroad. For more information, contact your provincial or territorial authorities.

Legal matters

You are subject to all laws and regulations in your host country while you are abroad. Canadian citizenship does not confer immunity. If in doubt, get professional legal advice. A list of English-speaking lawyers can be provided by the nearest Canadian consulate or embassy.

Did you know ?

Global Affairs Canada can help you if you have a dispute regarding child custody while you are abroad. For contact information, visit our Request emergency assistance page.

Divorce and marriage

There are many laws and procedures that govern marriage and divorce. This can often lead to unexpected complications.

You should be aware that certain countries have strict restrictions regarding a woman’s rights to property entitlement, inheritance, child custody, and alimony. The husband might be able to place strict restrictions on his wife and children to prevent them from returning to Canada.

You should be familiar with the laws and conventions in your host country concerning relationships and marriage as well as their implications on children. Investigate the rules regarding child custody and property settlement in case of divorce or separation. Your spouse may be a citizen of the host country and have greater rights than you as a foreigner. If your country has a history of deciding child custody cases based on gender or religious beliefs, you could be in a disadvantage. For more information, contact a lawyer or the relevant authorities in your host country.

Consult the Vital Statistics Office of the territory or province where you’ll be living to find out if your marriage or divorce from your host country will be recognized in Canada.

Contact the closest Citizenship and Immigration Canada office if your future spouse isn’t Canadian to confirm that he/she will be eligible for a return to Canada on a permanent or temporary basis.

For additional details, see our Marriage overseas page.

Did you know ?

Canada is a legal place for same-sex marriages, but they aren’t recognized internationally. Internationally, same-sex civil unions have a greater acceptance. Canadians who attempt to enter a foreign country with a married couple of the same gender may be denied entry. In certain countries, homosexual activity can be a criminal offense and could lead to imprisonment or death. You can find country-specific information on our Travel Advice and Advisories or the Canadian Embassy or Consulate.

Property purchase

It is a big decision to purchase property in another country. There are often differences in laws and customs regarding real estate abroad. This can lead to unexpected risks and issues with ownership rights. Mexico is one example. Foreigners must have a permit to buy land. They can only purchase property in border and coastal zones through a bank trust.

Did you know:

Canada is not the only country that regulates real estate agents and lawyers. In many places around the globe, conflict of interest rules can be lax. In Latin America and the Caribbean, real estate agents don’t need to be qualified and can promote sales where they have no interest. Local authorities might ignore complaints from foreign residents regarding crooked dealings, particularly if the agent or lawyer is an established member.

If you are planning to purchase property, be cautious. Renting is a good way to get used to a place before you commit to buying it. You should research the local property laws. Also, be sure to investigate any claims about “beach access” that may be false. To find out if there are any problems in your host country, such as fraud or real estate, visit our Travel Advice and Advisories Page.

A local legal representative who is familiar with real estate law will represent you. They are independent from any other parties involved in the transaction, such as vendors or real estate agents. As much as possible, hire a Canadian lawyer who is familiar with the laws of the host country. Your lawyer should never sign anything you haven’t carefully reviewed. Remember that property disputes are private legal issues that cannot be solved by local courts if things go wrong. The Government of Canada can’t intervene.

To avoid problems for your heirs regarding property and other assets that you have abroad, make a will.

Bribery

Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act bans Canadian citizens and businesses from corrupting foreign public officials in order to gain or maintain a business advantage. Canadians who give or offer a loan, reward or advantage to foreign public officials (or someone on their behalf) may be prosecuted in Canada or abroad. Violation of this act can lead to imprisonment for up five years.

Citizenship and immigration

Depending on the laws of your country, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency, citizenship, or both. Either requires you to establish legal status that is more than temporary visitor. You should be aware of the consequences, including the possibility of being denied Canadian consular assistance in the host country. See Dual citizenship – blessings or burdens? or Travelling as a dual citizen for more information.

Immigrant regulations

Although immigration regulations can vary greatly from one country to the next, they are generally based on three principles: investment, employment and family connections. Certain countries will accept potential immigrants who have sufficient guaranteed income, including pension benefits. Mexico, for example, considers a qualified retiree or permanent resident an inmigrante rentista or long-term immigrant. The United States does not recognize retirement as a reason to establish permanent residency.

You will need to apply for immigration before you can arrive in many countries. Some countries will let you enter as a tourist, and allow you to apply for immigration later. For more information, contact the immigration authorities in your destination country.

Temporary visitors: Regulations

Canadians can travel to many countries as tourists, whether they are volunteers, seasonal retirees, or students. A valid passport is usually all that is required to enter.

Some countries have strict restrictions regarding the time that temporary visitors may stay. Costa Rica, for example, limits tourists’ stay to 90 days. Costa Rican immigration authorities must issue a visa to students and they must confirm that students have enrolled in accredited institutions.

If you are planning on buying a home, you should think twice about setting up shop in a country you cannot enter as a tourist. You might consider applying for legal residency. This removes any restrictions on your stay and provides reasonable assurance that you will be able to return to the country at any moment. You can still maintain Canadian residency even if you have legal residency in another nation.

Canadian birthright

Canadian parents do not need to register the birth of their child abroad. However, it is a good idea to prove your baby’s citizenship to be able to apply for a Canadian passport. To apply for a Certificate for Canadian Citizenship and a passport for your child, contact the nearest Canadian consulate. It may take some time, so it is important to start the process as soon as possible. You can find more information on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website.

Driving

International travellers are most at risk from traffic accidents, which can cause serious injury or even death. Be extra cautious when driving abroad.

Check to see if your local laws require you to have an International Driving Permit. The Canadian Automobile Association offers the IDP, which is proof of your Canadian driver’s license. The IDP is only valid for one year after the date of issue, or until the expiration of your Canadian license. It is important to keep your Canadian license safe and to renew it before it expires. Some countries require foreign drivers after a certain period to get a local license.

You must confirm that you are insured to drive abroad.

Learn about local traffic laws, and follow speed limits, legal alcohol levels and road safety procedures.

Drive defensively. Road conditions and motorist behavior vary greatly from one country to the next. Plan your road trip in advance. Make sure you know where you are going. To prevent thieves and carjackers from breaking in, lock all doors.

You must ensure that your vehicle is suitable for Canadian driving. This includes headlight converters to allow left-hand driving and an approved emergency kit. An oval sticker at the rear with “CDN” (the Canada-specific license plate code)

Check with the Canadian Border Services Agency to confirm that you are allowed to import an automobile from abroad. See the Canada Border Services Agency video Importing Vehicles into Canada for more details.

Consular services

Canadian consular officers are available to help you at consulates and embassies around the globe.

  • You can arrange for medical assistance by obtaining a list from local hospitals and doctors.
  • If you are unable to provide the necessary treatment locally, help coordinate a medical evacuation (fees apply).
  • Offer assistance and contact information for local police and medical services to victims who have been victim to robbery, assault, or any other form of violence.
  • We will provide you with a directory of local lawyers.
  • We can provide you with information about local laws and regulations.
  • If you are detained or arrested, you should ensure that you are treated fairly according to the laws of the country.
  • You will need to replace a passport that has been stolen, damaged, or expired (fees apply).
  • Ask your friends and relatives for help in sending money or tickets to the airport.
  • If you are involved in an accident or are being detained by the police, contact your next of kin.
  • Offer advice on how to bury a Canadian overseas or help with repatriating the remains back to Canada (fees apply).

We can’t:

  • Intervene in private legal matters.
  • Investigate a crime or death.
  • Ask your local authorities for preferential treatment.
  • Travel arrangements should be made.
  • Assist in job searching.
  • We can help you find accommodation.

Our Consular services page contains a complete list of the services that we are able to provide. For a complete list of Canadian consulates and embassies around the world, visit our Embassies & consulates page.

Prepare an emergency plan

It is essential that you have an emergency plan for when you travel abroad. It will be of great help to you:

  • Know what to do in the event of a major emergency, such as a natural catastrophe or civil unrest.
  • Find escape routes from your workplace and home, and find a safe place to meet up.
  • You should have a 72-hour emergency supply, which includes food, water, and other necessities.
  • Visit the Government of Canada website Get Prepared for more information about creating an emergency plan.

Death abroad

You should immediately contact your nearest Canadian consulate or emergency response centre if a Canadian friend or relative dies overseas. Consular officials can help you make the arrangements necessary to:

  • Register the death with your local or Canadian provincial or territory authorities.
  • Documentation, such as a death certificate or autopsy report, should be obtained.
  • Get information about the circumstances surrounding the death.
  • Return the remains of your loved ones to Canada

There may be fees. See our Death abroad page for more information.

Did you know:

Consular assistance is available at all times, 24 hours a days, seven days a semaine. For more information, see “In case an emergency …”

Voting

Canadians who are eligible can vote while they are temporarily residing abroad. You must first submit an Application for Registration with Special Ballot to Elections Canada. A voting kit will be sent to you with instructions when an election is called. You can find more information on our Elections page (voting from overseas).

Stay connected

You may discover that, despite the charm of living abroad you are more dependent on Canada than ever. While you adjust to living abroad, it can be helpful to share your problems and experiences with friends and family. It can also help you receive news from home. Your eventual homecoming will be easier if you have a strong support network here.

Keep Canadian contacts informed about your whereabouts, and any changes to your plans. Canadian consular officers receive many calls from grieving family members and friends who have not heard from their loved ones abroad. You shouldn’t expect communication to be as fast in other parts of the world than it is in Canada.

Did you know:

Telephone: Many countries have less reliable and more expensive telecommunications services than Canada. It is possible that you will not be able to get a phone line right away. Some countries have lengthy waiting times. Foreigners may need to make large cash deposits. In countries that offer mobile services, a cell phone is usually a better option than a landline.

Internet: Internet access is available in many countries, but it is restricted by the infrastructure and network technologies of each country. It may be difficult for private Internet access to be established. You shouldn’t expect high-speed internet access in developing countries to be as fast as in Canada.

Radio and television: Canadian broadcasts can be accessed worldwide via satellite and Internet. For online programming about Canada, tune in to Radio Canada International (rcinet.ca).

Mail: In developing countries, postal services can be slow and unpredictable. You may find it more convenient to have your mail sent via Canada to a forwarding company, which will then be couriered to your home periodically.

Canadian expat community: Connecting with the expat community can help you to lessen your culture shock, provide vital support as you settle into your new environment, and make connections.

Information about travel: Stay up-to-date with the latest information via our Travel Advice and Advisories and RSS feeds. You can also connect with us via Twitter or Facebook.

Returning to Canada

Plan for your return

When you return to Canada, expect to experience some adjustment. A reverse culture shock can occur, which could include feelings of anxiety, groundlessness, and depression. It takes a little planning to make your homecoming easier.

Tax and departure clearance

Before you leave your host country, it is important to resolve any outstanding obligations. You should ensure that you have paid all your bills and made arrangements for it. You may require departure clearance to leave the country if you have citizenship, permanent residency, or another legal status. Acceptance usually depends on satisfactory inspection of travel documents and permits, as well as other official forms. Some countries require a declaration from the local tax authorities proving that you have met all obligations. If you are leaving the country for a long time or for good, others will cancel your residency permit.

When you leave, be prepared to pay a local departure tax. You may be charged fees by other countries that you pass while en route to Canada.

Importing pets

You will need to show proof that your pet has been vaccinated against rabies if you plan to bring your dog or cat back to Canada. An import permit may be required for other pets. See our Travelling with animals page for more information.

Bring it home

You may be subject to import restrictions for household and personal items depending on how long you have lived abroad. All items purchased abroad must be declared, regardless of whether they were intended for you or as gifts. For inspection purposes, keep original receipts.

You can bring as much money into Canada as you like, but it is not restricted. However, you will need to report any amount exceeding $10,000 to customs.

See our Customs page for more information about what you can bring home.

Post-travel medical matters

You should immediately see your doctor if you feel sick or unwell upon returning to Canada. Be sure to mention your time spent abroad, the countries you visited, whether you were ill while you were away, and the medical treatment you received.

Illegal souvenirs

Certain goods cannot be imported into Canada. For guidance, please contact Canada Border Services Agency before you plan to import meat, eggs or dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, plants, animals, or items made of their feathers or skins. Our Customs page provides timely and accurate information about import requirements.

Many illegally imported items into Canada include elephant ivory, coral jewellery, and sea turtle shells. These are all made from endangered animals or plants. These items are among the 34,000 species that are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Violations of CITES can result in your purchase being seized and you could be subject to a fine or prison sentence. Consult Environment Canada’s CITES website for details.

It may be illegal to bring back cultural property such as fossils or antiques whose export is prohibited or restricted by your host country. You may face severe penalties and your cultural property could be confiscated and sent back to its country of origin. Consult your host country’s authorities border or Canadian Heritage for more information.

Did you know:

It is illegal to import obscene material, child pornography, or hate propaganda into Canada.

The website of Health Canada lists products that are banned from Canada because they pose safety hazards.

The Canadian Firearms Program website has information about how to import weapons.

Number for social insurance

Your social insurance number (SIN), may be deactivated if you haven’t filed a Canadian tax return for more than five years and lived abroad for an extended time. You will need to prove your identity and provide an explanation for the inactivity. You can find more information on Service Canada’s website or visit your nearest Service Canada office. Or call 1-800-206-7218 (in Canada), or 506-548-7961 (from overseas).

Provincial/territorial health insurance

If you have been away from your home country for more than six months, your provincial or territorial health plan may be invalid. You may need to requalify before your coverage can be reinstated. You may be covered for this period by any insurance purchased abroad. If you do not have health insurance, temporary visitors to Canada can purchase it upon arrival.

Be sure to apply for reinstatement of your provincial/territorial health plan upon your return to Canada. Contact your local healthcare authority for more information and to learn what conditions you may be subject to. Visit the Moving back to Canada page for links to the official websites of Canada’s territories and provinces.

Checklist for Living Abroad

These are the most important steps to follow before you leave Canada.

Consider your willingness to travel abroad. You should weigh the benefits and risks of learning a new language, culture, laws, customs, climate, and security.

Confirm that you are authorized to work, volunteer, retire, or study abroad.

For Canadian travelers, we recommend consulting our Travel Advice and Advisories as well as the publication Bon voyage.

Calculate the costs involved in moving abroad.

Preparing for your long-term health by getting a pre-departure assessment, vaccinations and prescriptions. You can also get extra eyeglasses, supplemental, or replacement insurance.

Double citizenship can cause problems in your host country.

All required travel documentation should be obtained (e.g. passports, visas and medical certificates as well as criminal record checks). Canadian family members and friends should have copies of your documents as well as your insurance policy.

You must have a written consent letter to prove that your children are allowed to travel abroad. Check with the immigration authorities in your host country for additional requirements. Make arrangements for daycare and schooling.

Register for the Registration of Canada Abroad service to be contacted and assisted in an emergency.

Feedback

We value your opinions and they will allow us to continue providing world-class consular service. Please share with us your feedback via the comment section.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *