billgeek

ARRIVED: Our Story

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billgeek

Hello Everyone

I've realized that I didn't introduce myself on these forums and have really not been too active, aside from one or two questions here and there. So below is our entire story from day one until today. I will highlight the most important points that we learnt in Bold ;)

When our son was born in 2014 we decided to move somewhere where he would have a better future in terms of basic education such as Maths and Science and tertiary education in terms of popular and great universities.

We were pretty much all set on going to New Zealand when the visa regulations changed and we had to have a long and hard look at our options. As we only speak English, the choices were a bit small: England, US, Canada, New Zealand or Australia. While other countries in the world do speak english, the primary language is usually the native one. We actually did start learning German but gave up on that idea when we realized that even Germans don't understand all the local dialects!

The US was out because of their political system and, whether it's opinion or fact, the public shootings were just far too many. Australia was another good option, but the problem for us was the "nanny state" comments made by some close friends of ours that have been living there for years. The UK was another good option, but we decided against it as my wife gets really down if it rains for weeks on end. I don't mind, I actually love it!

So we decided on Canada!

During October / November 2016 we went to Canada on holiday and we loved it from the very first moment. We stayed in Toronto, Ottawa and a little log cabin in Kinmount. (About an hour away from Toronto)

Our experience was great. While I love the big city (I chose Toronto), my wife prefers being out in the bush. (She chose Kinmount) However both of us loved Ottawa most of all so we decided that Ottawa would be where we would try and get to stay.

As soon as we got back to SA we started looking around at ways to at least land and experience the country. One of my colleagues moved to Canada on a student visa (so temporary) and we decided to go for that route. We filled in an application to study at Algonquin College in late December and received feedback mid-January. We then started working on our application.

The application was really straight forward and we did everything online though the CIC website. If anyone ever wonders how to do it: It's really simple! We didn't submit our application immediately, instead we went for our medical exams and waited for the results. Once the results were back (that took about 4 weeks) we submitted the application. All my wife needed at that stage was her letter of acceptance from the college.

After another few weeks, we were asked to provide means of financial support. We learnt the hard way: A pension fund statement or payout letter will NOT suffice! We had to max out our bonds and cash out shares and investments to make up the money that the government had requested. We were actually a few hundred dollars short (about $300) but we made it in the end.

The most important parts of the application were:

  • Proof of means of financial support: no pension statements! We actually opehned an FNB global account with CAD currency and that sufficed, though the statement didn't help. I had to get an "Account Confirmation Letter" for the account to accompany the statements an as the statements didn't show my name for some reason...
  • Proof of return to SA: We got official bank statements for our bond showing the remaining duration of the loan and that seemed to suffice
  • For our son we simply got a visit visa and it was issued!

We all flew out together on 27 August 2017 via Emirates. (For anyone looking: cheapflights.co.za offers great prices. Seems like Travelstart has different "specials" or bookings, so check both and see which one works out cheapest!)

We landed in Toronto on 28 August 2017 and the border control was a very smooth and effortless process. We supplied our documents to the border official, he took about 20 minutes and came back with our permits (work and study) printed and ready to go. Even though we were only in the border control section for about 30 minutes, we managed to take so long that our luggage was removed from the carousel at Toronto airport. After a few minutes we managed to find out bags scattered around another carousel. We collected them and headed for a hotel shuttle. We were booked at the Sheraton hotel for the first night. Very affordable, it was around $100 for a room and we managed just fine.

The next morning I took the shuttle back to the airport and "collected" the rental car. We drove through to Ottawa immediately where we booked into our AirBnb for the first two weeks. Because the car rental agencies are skelms, they would've charged us an additional $800 for a one-way trip with the car! So we decided to take the car back to Toronto the next day and catch the train back to Ottawa. We decided this was the easiest way as we had six pieces of luggage and the train from Toronto Airport only allows one piece of luggage per passenger. The train tickets cost us just over $400 in total, though we arrived at the station 5 minutes too late and the train had already departed. Fortunately we were helped by a very friendly gentleman who listened to our story and helped us out. He only charged us a minimal fee for a rescheduled ticket and it worked out about $50 each. So in the end, just taking a one-way rental trip would've been much easier!

The train took about 5 hours to get to Ottawa and it was rather pleasant!

During our stay in Ottawa we found the following of particular interest:

  • To get a bus pass, you need to go to a bus station. I'm not sure if you can get them anywhere else, though in Toronto you can get a bus pass at most Metro stores. I'd recommend getting a Presto Card because you can manage that online and top up or buy new passes for your card instantly.
  • Convenience stores are just that: Convenient. They're NOT CHEAP! We paid $5 for a loaf of bread on average!
  • Rentals are a pain! It took us about three weeks to actually find a place and we're only moving in on 1 November 2017!
  • When renting a townhome as we did, we needed to get our own Hydro Ottawa account and tenant's insurance. We went with Sonnet insurance as ZipSure's customer service is pathetic! (I thought we're out of South Africa?) Our insurance is around $25 per month with a $2M liability. The hydro account is super easy: All online and it's done within two days!
  • Drivers here are more relaxed than in Toronto and I suppose that's normal...
  • Shopping!!! This is a pain because the prices on the shelves are all excluding sales tax! You can't go grocery shopping with $100 in your pocket because you'll never know what your total will be!

So today I decided to go for my license. There's a lot of resources on here about going for your license and I'm forever grateful for that! Some highlights on the license process:

I sent an email to "that David guy" at RTMC to which he didn't reply. I ended up going to their website and sending the same contact request to "info@rtmc.co.za" to which we eventually got replies. It took about a week for them to say our forms are ready and my mother-in-law collected them for us. We had to give her copies of our ID's and licenses just in case, not sure if anyone asked for them. She sent them via DHL and we received them two days later. (A side note on DHL: They'll just leave your package at the front door. No knocking, bell ringing, no attempt to make sure you're home whatsoever!)

For preparation I went to "https://www.g1.ca". They have an awesome collection of tests and simulators that really helped me pass my test!

I went to DriveTest today (1570 Walkley Road) for my G1 test. I arrived at 09h14 and walked out out of the building at 10h17. This included waiting at the reception as their ticket machine was out of order, waiting to write the test, writing the test, pictures, forms, etc... It was a very pleasant experience! I'll be booking my full driving test soon (not sure if it's called the G2 road test or just the G road test... will find that out!) as soon as I've had about two or three driving lessons. 

TL;DR

  • For proof of financial support, a pension statement did not work for our application form on my wife's study permit
  • Also for proof of financial support, a bank statement will work if it shows the account number, balance, your full name and address
  • When renting a car for a one-way trip, make sure of the one-way "penalty" you'll need to pay. If you're going to take the same route as us, make sure you get to the station in time!
  • Make sure you get your driving history from RTMC. You can still get it from over here, but it's a lengthy process. Not difficult, just delays you by a few weeks.
  • Finding a rental from SA is very difficult. Probably not impossible, but to make an appointment for viewing if you're unsure of where you'll be it will make it very difficult.

So that's our story! I'm sorry in advance, it's a LOT to read but it's hard to try and condense seven weeks into a few words here! 

I hope some of the takeaways above are useful or valuable to someone.

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SunshineGirl

@billgeek, thank you so much for your post!  Really enjoyed reading it & the nuggets of useful info. Congrats on making the move & on all the things that you have done to far to set up shop!  Would love to still hear your thoughts & experiences on settling in. ;-) ;-)

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Christelle

Thanks so much @billgeek please keep on sharing. All your notes on each of your experiences are all so helpful!

Thank you for sharing!

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Jules

Very good post which will be super helpful for those following. 

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Hennie Calgary

Great tips. I've recently been renting cars for company trips quite frequently, and have found that sometimes Avis do not charge such a high levy on one-way trips, probably when they need to move vehicles from / to airports. So always check out the different companies, and different collection location options. I recently discovered that doing a pickup in downtown Hamilton, Ontario, and dropping off at Hamilton airport was actually cheaper than doing both pickup and drop-off at the airport - go figure!

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billgeek
5 minutes ago, Hennie Calgary said:

Great tips. I've recently been renting cars for company trips quite frequently, and have found that sometimes Avis do not charge such a high levy on one-way trips, probably when they need to move vehicles from / to airports. So always check out the different companies, and different collection location options. I recently discovered that doing a pickup in downtown Hamilton, Ontario, and dropping off at Hamilton airport was actually cheaper than doing both pickup and drop-off at the airport - go figure!

I wish I did my homework a bit better before we flew out! :( Thanks for the heads-up Hennie, my sister is coming to visit during Christmas and New Years and I'm sure I won't have a car by then. I'll be sure to pass on this info!

@SunshineGirl @Christelle @Jules Thanks, I'll keep posting updates as we go along. We're moving in 10 days so I'm definitely going to send another update soon!

 

Regarding looking for a job:

As soon as our visa's were approved I started looking for jobs. I'm a software developer with extensive experience in banking but unfortunately I do not have a tertiary qualification. Luckily because I've proven myself to my previous employer, they decided to give me a consulting contract for the next six months so I can have a bit of an income if I have a few hours to spare every day.

I applied for a few jobs on Monster before we left but didn't get any responses. Only once we landed and I updated my profile (both on Monster AND LinkedIn) did I start getting phone calls from recruiters and hiring managers. LinkedIn seems to be the most important one to update with both your location as well as your contact details. I've had four responses to date from Monster jobs I've applied for and I'm waiting on feedback from two interviews I've been to thanks to recruitment agencies.

 

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Nelline

Ummmm @billgeek PM me I may or may not have opportunities for you to look at. NO promises and it would mean a move so that might be a no-go

 

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Nettie

So....are you a student at Algonquin and how many hours/week can you work with a student visa? Just curious. Also, are you paying international student fees? Maybe a "duh" question, just curious, because I've heard that is extremely expensive if you are an international student (info from international nursing students).

Welcome to Ottawa. :ilikeit:

Edited by Nettie

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billgeek

@Nettie Thanks! :D My wife will be studying at Algonquin, she's allowed to work 20 hours a week, though during the summer break she is allowed to work full time. (40+ hours per week)

We are paying international rates, yes. Where the local students will be paying around $2'000 or so per semester, we end up paying $7'500+. Fortunately our pensions did pay out and we're able to cover the cost. In total we're looking at about $30'000 for my wife's course but it's only two years. It's quite unfortunate that it's not a degree, but rather a "technical diploma". Still counts towards Express Entry so we're hopeful that there will be more ways for us to become permanent residents after her course is finished.

@Nelline I'll send you a message shortly... Thank you in advance for any opportunity you may or may not have! While the moving might be a bit of an issue, we'll see if there's ways and means around it if need be ;)

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Raakhee Singh

Hi and all the best to your family on settling in.

Please can you advise on the process of applying for study permit.  On the application it states to show intent to return to SA, or need to show dual intent. What is your advise on study permit application process?

Many thanks

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Cornel

Hi guys

 

How has the transition been, especially considering that Ontario is mostly french or has this not been a problem?  @ Billgeek - have you found a job yet?   My husband loved Ottawa, unfortunately I have not been there as he visited it with his second visit

 

Our first visit included, Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Jasper, Bannf, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and a few other towns in Saskatchewan

 

At this point we are considering:  Calgary / Edmonton / Ottawa / Saskatoon

 

Are there anyone who has an opinion as to which city will be the best for a couple (both lawyers) with twins who are now barely 7 weeks old bearing in mind child care costs, possible income etc.

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Cathy K

Cornel, you are confusing Quebec with Ontario. Quebec is French. Ontario is not.

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Nettie
On 12/4/2017 at 2:08 AM, Cornel said:

Are there anyone who has an opinion as to which city will be the best for a couple (both lawyers) with twins who are now barely 7 weeks old bearing in mind child care costs, possible income etc.

Hello,

I would say let the job opportunities be your guide. Ottawa is very bilingual in certain aspects and I would think law would be one of those fields.

Enjoy the babies.

 

Edited by Nettie

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Cornel

Thank you guys

 

@Nettie Do you have a link of what your experience are in Ottawa, even now after 11 years, what it feels like.  Did you make the right choice starting over?  

 

@Cathy Kthank you, I did get confused :)

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Nettie

Hi @Cornel I'm sorry there's no one link that I'm aware of. 

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billgeek

@Raakhee Singh Thanks we're doing great so far! For intent to return to SA we submitted our bond statements to CIC and stated on our letter of explanation that our family all still reside in SA. I don't know which of the two was the "deciding factor" though. For the most part the application process was effortless. The hardest part was showing proof of funds as we don't have much of a savings habit. (Something that's definitely going to change as soon as I find a job!) When submitting your application, just be sure to read the instructions very carefully and ensure that the documentation is exactly what is required. As stated before, CIC tends not to look at pension statements as proof of funds. We had received two follow up responses saying that we need to submit proof of funds and eventually we received a call from the JHB office (I think?) telling us that they don't accept pension statements as it's not immediately accessible funds.

@Cornel In my experience, what Cathy K suggested is true in that Ottawa is predominantly English speaking. However, as it's a "government town" (the words from the locals here, not mine! :-D) you'll find it very advantageous to be able to speak and understand French when it comes to looking for a job, the majority of which that I found on the Canadian Job Bank requiring some level of French proficiency. And no, I have not found a job yet. I did receive a good lead (thanks @Nelline !) though it was in the Atlantic provinces and my wife and I decided it might not be in our best interest at this point to move away from Ottawa considering her studies. I am still working for my old employer back in South Africa as a type of "consultant" though, and I get paid by the hour. It really does help having some sort of income. Come January I'm going to push the job market again. I've had two interviews thus far after submitting around... 20 or so job applications, so the market is either very competitive or my CV is not very impressive... :P

 

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Raakhee Singh

Dear Billgeek

 

Many many thanks to you for all the advise and guidance.

 

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