Since writing Things I’ve Learned Moving Abroad, I’ve received countless messages asking variants of the same questions so I thought it best to post them all on the blog so you could see the responses too. With so much change on the go in South Africa at the moment, it seems immigration is on the minds of most South Africans and all I’d want to make sure is that you have all the information in front of you to make an informed decision. If I can answer any of your questions, I will sure try!
How did we Immigrate?
When we first moved to Canada, Craig arrived on a work visa (as he had a job offer) and I arrived on a visitor’s visa — and later got a work visa. Now, we are both Permanent Residents. But we could have (and probably should have) immigrated on the Express Entry route and landed as Permanent Residents.
Did we use an Immigration Agency or do it on our own?
When we applied for Craig’s initial work visa and my visitor’s visa, we did it all on our own through CIC. When we applied for Permanent Residency once we had arrived and had all the necessary documents, we used an immigration lawyer based in Canada. There are loads of agencies that try scam you so please be aware of that before you use one online. I’d really recommend that you research it all online and do it yourself.
How long after we started the immigration process did we actually move to Canada?
Most people ask us this, but I always answer with a caveat. Each individual process is dependent on a bunch of factors. It took us a full two years from the date we decided to move and start the process (including researching, completing exams, waiting on documents etc) to getting to Canada. Bear in mind though, we had a few obstacles in terms of job offers and waiting on documents that delayed us a few months. If you’re even thinking of it, I would start getting these documents lined up at least. But for most people asking, I’ve heard that the shortest is about 6 months to get PR.
Things to be aware of in the immigration process?
It’s expensive! Visa fees; exam fees (for Craig and myself to ‘convert’ our degrees/professions); flights; documents — it was never-ending!
Where in Canada are we?
We live in a small town called Barrhead — just outside the main city, Edmonton, in Alberta. If you’d like to read up more on Edmonton, we blog about it a lot here. Craig’s profession decided which province (and town) we ended up choosing because Doctor’s are paid well in Alberta, and it was easiest for us to get in.
Would we move to a different province?
No, probably not — and for many reasons. Alberta is the cheapest cost of living for us because the GST Tax is the lowest so it would cost more to live in BC or Ontario. Alberta can be very cold and harsh in the winter, but by earning more and saving on cost of living, we can take a winter getaway to somewhere warmer. We’d rather live in a colder climate for a few months of the year to travel more throughout the year. We also have friends and colleagues here so would prefer to stay close to our support system.
Is the Winter that bad?
Minus 40 is cold. No way around it. But if a Durbanite can survive, so can you. The temperature usually hovers around -20 throughout the winter. But it’s not bad at all. The houses and shopping malls are equipped to deal with winters so you don’t even notice it indoors. When you go outside, you do have to make sure you have proper winter gear — and not just the winter clothes you find at Woolworths.
Winter is long. In Alberta, where we live, winter can last 7 months between November and May. Luckily, most of the time it is sunny unlike Vancouver which rains and is mostly grey during that time. That said, we do take Vitamin D daily in winter, because the weather does still affect us.
Are we both working?
Craig has worked from day one — after all, we moved for his job. I only started working a year and a half after moving. First, I was on a visitor’s visa and couldn’t legally work. I also still had to convert my law degree before I could actually work as a lawyer. I haven’t completed this process, but I am now working part-time as a Clinic Manager for the Clinic that my husband works at.
Is it difficult to find jobs?
That of course depends on where you live and what work you’re looking for. Most of the South Africans we know here are doctors and most of their spouses are not working and instead stay at home with their children. I don’t think any of them would struggle to find jobs, but most of them find it difficult to convert their degrees with kids at home.
How did I go about converting my law degree?
I had to apply to the NCA so they could accredit my UCT Law Degree. Read about how to apply here. After applying, they will confirm how many exams you will have to complete to ‘convert’ your degree. I needed 9 altogether and I’ve completed 6 so far. You can find all the exam schedules here. I blogged a bit of it here.
Do we have any regrets?
The short answer is no. Long answer — blog post coming soon! But if you’ve read Things I’ve Learned Moving Abroad, you’ll know that it has been tough for me to adjust — especially the first year after moving. But even throughout that struggle, I knew deep down, that this move was the best decision for us long-term. The advantages have outweighed the compromises we’ve had to make by moving here.
Can you drive on your South African License?
Yes, for the first three months — but we got an International Drivers before we left for Canada too. Then you have to take the Learner’s test and Driver’s test in Canada to get the Canadian Driver’s license. It’s annoying, but trust me, do it sooner rather than later. It will also save you quite a bit on car insurance.
Did we ship furniture and belongings to Canada?
No — we sold everything before we got here and only brought two bags of clothes each. But if you have furniture and belongings you’d like to keep, you should ship them. It has been hugely expensive for us to buy everything new because we’ve preferred to buy long-term, quality furniture. That said, if you wanted to furnish your house in Canada quickly, IKEA is your best bet.
Are there many South Africans in Canada? Nearby?
Yes! Loads! In rural (small) towns, most of the South Africans are the local doctors. And most of the South Africans we know are doctors. But there are big communities wherever you go and they do try get together. If you follow the Facebook Groups online you can find others in the same area that you are and you can try connect. It’s a great help to have someone you can relate to nearby!
Keep sending your questions below! Happy to answer anything I can!
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