Archive for 'Expat Life'

Your Canadian Visa: Don’t Leave Home Without It

Posted on 17. Dec, 2011 by in Blog, Expat Life

Canada does an excellent job of marketing itself as an open, welcoming country looking to attract new immigrants. It certainly lives up to its reputation in terms of tolerance and ethnic diversity. However, this doesn’t mean you can waltz into Canada and expect to be automatically granted permanent resident status – far from it.

If you’re considering relocating to Vancouver, your very first concern should be getting a visa. There will be plenty of time later to think about the job market, find a place to live or look for a school for your kids.

Don’t assume getting a Canadian visa is a mere formality. The process is often lengthy, admissibility criteria are getting increasingly restrictive, and quotas apply for each visa category.

In other words, you need to do your homework, and do it well ahead of your planned relocation date.

Entry stamp (Nick

Where can you find the information you need?

The only fully reliable and up-to-date source for immigration matters is the government. You can either talk to the nearest Canadian embassy / consulate, or visit the official Immigration Canada website.

There is a whole range of visas you can apply for, depending on your age, your professional profile, and your relocation goals. Only a specialist can advise you on the best visa category to apply under.

Don’t rely on second-hand information, even if people seem to know what they’re talking about. It doesn’t matter how quickly your neighbour’s son got his visa last year – what you need to find out is how long it’ll take to get your own application processed.

What if you don’t have a visa?

Many foreigners don’t need a visa to get into Canada. However, without a proper visa or work permit, you’ll be considered a tourist. This means you can only stay in the country for a maximum of 6 months, and under no conditions will you be legally allowed to work.

If you’re planning on working here or becoming a resident, you absolutely need a visa or work permit. There is no way around this.

It is your responsibility to make sure you can get a visa before making any significant commitment, such as signing a lease for an apartment or accepting a job in Canada.

As for landing in Vancouver as a tourist in the hopes that things will work themselves out… that’s really chancing it. I can only advise against such a risky tactic, as it could have serious consequences both for you and your potential employer.


Was this post helpful? Do you need more personalized advice? Contact me to schedule a one-on-one consultation.

Image by Nick 1297, via Flickr Creative Commons


0 comments | Leave a comment

Canada Day barbecue? Cultural Do’s and Don’ts

Posted on 01. Jul, 2010 by in Blog, Expat Life

Are you going to a Canada Day barbecue today? Chances are it’ll be a potluck meal, which means that everybody brings a dish to share with the other guests.

Potlucks are fantastic. Everyone makes enough food for a small army, you end up with 7 cheese platters and 6 different desserts… life is good.

However, if this is your first time bringing food to a Canadian party, there are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind – after all, you don’t want to be “that guy” who brought the weird dish, do you?


5 comments | Leave a comment

Being an introvert abroad

Posted on 28. Jun, 2010 by in Blog, Expat Life

You may remember that last year I was wondering about expatriation and introversion.

This article from the excellent Matador Network touches on the same subject. Be sure to read the comments, as they add a lot to the discussion.

I find that Vancouver has a lot to offer to both extroverts and introverts.

The laid-back atmosphere and the huge numbers of fellow foreigners should give the outgoing folks plenty of opportunities to strike random conversations with strangers.

And what’s not to like about a city where even cab and bus drivers will go out of their way to be helpful and answer your questions?

But Vancouverites can be reserved, too. People generally mind their own business. They don’t pry and they don’t stare at passersby.


For a city its size, Vancouver strikes me as a very gentle kind of place. The pace is unhurried, and there’s enough room for everyone to be who they are and do their own thing.

And then of course there’s the serene, majestic beauty of the landscape, which to me is like instant meditation.

I can’t think of a better place to get lost in your own thoughts, sitting on a log on the beach with a good book, or journalling about your day by the bamboo grove in Dr. Sun Yat-sen Park.


PS: Falling squarely in the middle of the extrovert/introvert spectrum myself, I had never realized how many introverts felt pressured to become more extroverted. Is that something you’ve ever experienced personally? How do you cope with that kind of social pressure?

Image: Tofino, author’s own picture

2 comments | Leave a comment

Is The Weather Getting To You? Take A Break!

Posted on 04. May, 2010 by in Blog, Expat Life

Brrr – it’s been really cool out lately in Vancouver, and the weather doesn’t know what it wants to do.

If the lack of spring weather is getting to you, remember to stay active.

Exercising and getting enough natural light – even when it’s grey out – are the best ways to shake off the winter blahs. So go for a bike ride in Stanley Park, a long walk on Kitsilano beach, or a nice (indoor !) swim at the Aquatic Centre on Beach Avenue.

Drinks on the beach

Need a longer break somewhere sunny?

Do like the Canadians, and book a vacation down in Mexico or Cuba, two favourite destinations for the sun-starved Vancouverites. All-inclusive stays in a beach resort can be pretty inexpensive, and you will soak up enough sun rays (not to mention fruity drinks) to recharge your batteries within a week.

Last-minute update: the Cuban government has just made health insurance mandatory for all foreign tourists. According to the new rules, your insurance policy will only be accepted if it covers medical evacuation by air, which means that MSP (BC health insurance) coverage isn’t enough. Ask your travel agent what additional coverage is available for your trip – if you travel abroad, you should have travel insurance anyway.

Have fun, and don’t forget the sunscreen!


Image by eNil, via Flickr Creative Commons

3 comments | Leave a comment

3 Keys To A Smooth Relocation

Posted on 19. Feb, 2010 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation

There’s a interesting discussion going on in one of the LinkedIn expat groups I belong to – Rishi Ghai put out the following question to the expat community:

When you first moved to a new country, what were the top 3 things that helped you the most to settle down and adapt to your new life?

Most of the answers given by LinkedIn users revolved around 3 themes:

- The practical stuff: utilities, paperwork, finding a permanent place to live
- Doing your homework: getting the lay of the land and learning about your new country
- Making new friends, and finding people you can learn from

    My Top 3 would be:

    1. Getting my bearings as soon as possible
    2. Exploring the city on foot
    3. Learning where / how the locals socialize… and joining them!

    What about you?
    If you had to move on to a new country tomorrow, what would be most useful for you to do or know about?

    Please share your own Top 3 in the comments!

    The Seine river

    Was this post useful? Subscribe to the newsletter to get more expat tips and resources, delivered straight to your inbox!


    Images by NickPiggott (top) and johnbullas (bottom), via Flickr Creative Commons

    0 comments | Leave a comment

    Starting A Business Abroad: How To Create A Solid Contingency Plan

    Posted on 13. Jan, 2010 by in Blog, Expat Life, Working Abroad
    1 comment

    We’ve already talked about contingency plans when discussing why you’re going to succeed and how to choose the right business structure. Today we’re going to go into further detail, so that by the end of this post, you’ll be able to easily create your own plan and never have to worry about it anymore.

    Simply put, your contingency plan tells you what to do when things go wrong. It’s not about preventing things from going wrong – it’s about coming up with a strategy to deal with big bumps in the road, as efficiently and as painlessly as possible.

    Be prepared for the unexpected

    What to plan for


    1 comment | Leave a comment

    Starting A Business Abroad: Why You Need An Exit Strategy

    Posted on 11. Jan, 2010 by in Blog, Expat Life, Working Abroad

    You’re busy getting your business set up, and planning your exit strategy is probably the last thing on your mind. You haven’t even fully started yet, why on earth would you be thinking of getting out of your business?

    Figuring out what to do with your company when you no longer can or want to work in it is a key piece of your strategic planning. It’s also one of the most easily overlooked.

    Spiral straircase exit

    Put your mind at ease (more…)

    0 comments | Leave a comment

    How Do I Find A Job In Vancouver, BC?

    Posted on 06. Jan, 2010 by in Blog, Expat Life, Working Abroad

    Unless you’re being sent here by your employer (you lucky duck!), your main preoccupation will probably be to find a job.

    You’re eager to get a head start on your job search before moving to Vancouver, but you’re not sure how to go about it. Is it even doable to look for a job when you’re not in the country? Argh – so overwhelming!

    You may not be able to get a firm job offer before leaving, but if you follow this two-part strategy, you’ll be much closer to landing the position of your dreams soon after you get here.
    Downtown Vancouver

    Before you move (more…)

    15 comments | Leave a comment

    Thinking Of Moving To Vancouver, BC? Here’s What You Need To Know

    Posted on 04. Jan, 2010 by in Blog, Expat Life, Relocation

    With the Winter Olympics fast approaching, and British Columbia under the spotlight, I’ve been getting more and more inquiries about relocating to Vancouver.

    Since other expats (you, maybe?) may have similar questions, I have decided to compile a little FAQ over a few posts, and to put said posts up permanently somewhere on the website for easy reference.

    All right – let’s rock and roll! For starters, here are a few things you need to know about Vancouver.


    Is Vancouver really such a great place to live? (more…)

    12 comments | Leave a comment

    Starting A Business Abroad: What Is Your Brand?

    Posted on 01. Jan, 2010 by in Blog, Expat Entrepreneurs, Expat Life

    The first thing that comes to mind when you think about a brand is “logo”. That’s just a tiny part of your overall brand, though.


    What is a brand, really? (more…)

    0 comments | Leave a comment