Part 2: A South African’s comp


Part 2: A South African’s complete guide to emigration

Part 2 in a series on how to emigrate to Canada.

Part 2: A South African’s comp


Once you have made the decision to immigrate to Canada and have confirmed that you are eligible to apply, the next step is to start planning for your immigration journey.

Most immigration applications take twelve months to complete. This excludes temporary residency applications such as visit, work and study permits. During this time there are things that you can begin to plan for and get in place to make your transition as quick and easy as possible.

This week we will be focusing on what needs to be completed in South Africa before departing for Canada. Part 3 of our series will focus on what you will need to do once you arrive in Canada.

Funds required:

First, you will need to ensure that you have your finances in order and will be able to afford the immigration process itself and then the actual cost of moving and living in Canada before you find employment.

While the Canadian government has a set amount of settlement funds required based on your family size when applying for immigration, the actual funds required could be substantially higher depending on where you intend to immigrate to and your family size.

Those who intend to go to larger cities such as Vancouver and Toronto will find that their rent/cost of housing will be one of their largest expenses on a monthly basis and that they will require more money on arrival than those intending to go to smaller towns.

Things to sell:

Next, you will need to make a list of assets which you intend to sell before leaving for Canada. Some assets may take longer to sell, and you do not want to be rushed and forced into accepting lesser value than your asset is worth. You will also want to watch the exchange rate to see when the best time to begin transferring Rands out of the country will be.

Once you have been issued with your applicable Canadian visa, you will be able to open a bank account in Canada from South Africa and can begin transferring money to Canada. You will not be able to withdraw money from the Canadian account or transact with the account until you physically arrive in Canada and go into a local branch to activate your account. There are numerous banks in Canada which offer special services for new immigrants such as the Royal Bank of Canada, Scotia Bank, CIBC and TD Canada Trust.

Buying a home:

If you are intending to purchase a home in Canada, you will want to start looking at your eligibility to obtain a mortgage in Canada before leaving South Africa. Without credit history in Canada, the requirements are stricter for new immigrants. For those with a job in Canada, it can be easier to obtain a mortgage after working in Canada for several months.

For those who are self-employed, the process can be different. It is possible for self-employed individuals or those with enough income to obtain a pre-approved mortgage. In cases where you are not yet employed in Canada, the bank will want a 35% deposit on the home which is much higher than normal and you would want to know this upfront to ensure that you have that amount of money available.

Things to cancel before leaving:

You will need to make a detailed list of things to cancel before leaving for Canada. Below is an example of accounts you may need to close. For some accounts such as your cell phone, you may find that you have to pay a penalty for cancelling your contract early. You will want to know this ahead of time and budget for any extra costs:

Office lease
PO Box
Medical aid
Life insurance and RAs
Car insurance
House insurance
Security company
School fees
Gym membership
Any other debit orders
Car payments  


Once you have your visa you will need to look at flight options to Canada. Depending on the time of year the price of flights can be less or more expensive. If you have enough time to plan, you may want to wait and fly during a less expensive period of the year. Another thing to consider is the number of bags you will be taking with you.

While one flight may appear to be cheaper, if they only allow one checked bag per person, you may find that what you have to pay for extra bags will make the flight more expensive than if you flew with an airline that allows two checked bags per person. The next thing you will need to consider is if you will be required to obtain a transit visa based on the route you are taking to Canada. Some countries such as the United States may require you to have a special visa to transit through the USA even if you will not actually be entering the USA.


New immigrants are not covered by the Canadian medical system on arrival. There is typically a 90 day wait period for new immigrants before they will be covered. This means that you will need to have private medical insurance to cover you for your first 90 days in Canada.

Typically, it is cheaper to buy travel insurance than to keep your medical aid active. You will also want to ensure that you obtain a copy of your medical files from your doctor to take with you to Canada. If you are pregnant, you will also need to ensure that the travel medical that you obtain for the first 90 days will cover pregnancy and that you are still allowed to fly based on your due date.


While many people believe they will be able to find employment in Canada before they arrive, this is usually not the case. Many employers will want to meet with you face to face and know that you are in Canada and available to work at any time. Once you arrive in Canada you will also immediately be eligible to go and apply for a Social Insurance Number which will also be required by any potential employers once they wish to hire you.

Licensed occupations:

If you work in a licensed occupation, you will want to start working on getting licensed in Canada as soon as possible and complete as much of the process as possible before you even leave for Canada. If you fail to do so you may find that you will not be able to find employment until that has been completed and for some occupations this can takes month or over a year. This would apply to doctors, lawyers, teachers and various other occupations.


Before leaving South Africa, you will need to ensure that you obtain your driving record as it will be required to obtain your Canadian license. You will still be required to complete a written test and a driving test in order to switch your license over regardless of how long you have been driving. Some countries have agreements in place with Canada where these test would not be required, but for those with a South African driver’s license it would be required. Depending on the Province that you move to, you may only have 60 – 90 days to complete this process.


Upon arriving in Canada, you will require a place to stay. It is usually best to do a short-term rental with a company such as Air BnB or VRBO as you do not need a Canadian bank account, proof of employment and other documents that most new immigrants will not have in place for a rental agreement.

Once you have stayed in your chosen destination for a few weeks and get to know the neighbourhoods and roads then you would want to go and look for a long term rental keeping in mind the distance you will need to travel for work and that schools are zoned, meaning that your children will attend the schools in your area.


When you first arrive in Canada you will require money before your Canadian account has been activated. This means you may want to take some Canadian Dollars with you and also advise your South African bank that you will be travelling and give authorization for your cards to be used in Canada while you are awaiting your Canadian accounts and cards to be activated.

Goods to follow:

Before leaving South Africa, you will have to make a list of goods that will be accompanying you on arrival in Canada as well as a list of goods which will follow. Goods to follow would include any household goods which are being shipped with a moving company, courier, etc. You will need to ensure that you have a complete BSF186 – Personal Effects Accounting Document. You will need to present this document on arrival in Canada as it will need to be stamped by a Canada Border Services Officer.