How I Moved to the UK from Canada

I was born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I studied my HBa in history at the local university, and had worked for the government in a variety of capacities by the time I was 22. Then, two months after graduating I moved to Edinburgh. I wasn’t on a work visa, or a student visa. I moved using this miraculous visa that the commonwealth has – the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa. This blog post is a beginning to end scope of how I moved to the UK from Canada. How I got my visa, what my visa is, what happened once I got here and all sorts of nosy personal bits in between!

What is the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa?

The Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa is the short answer to ‘how I moved to the UK’. The visa is an agreement among some Commonwealth countries (Canada, the UK and Australia are the big three) where people aged 18-30 can work abroad in one of these countries for two years. It’s basically a temporary work visa that your government sponsors you for, and only a few people qualify for.

Who qualifies for the Tier 5?

Anyone who is between 18-30 years of age and is a citizen of Canada, Australia, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea or Taiwan can apply to move to the UK on the Tier 5. They must also have proof of sufficient funds, the equivalent of £1,890 in their own currency in order to have their visa approved.

Where I got the idea from?

I saw it in a video of a very similar title to this by Estee Lalonde. Seriously. It hit me that I could move to the UK if I wanted to, and I’d always wanted to. Now I had a (very vague) guide on how to do it, so I started looking into it more.

Where I got my information from?

All of my initial information came from that Estee Lalonde video, and then her book Bloom. From this I learned what the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa is, and got an idea of how you applied and how much it cost. Then I did more research, found a few other blogs and spent a lot of time on the UK government website. At the end of the day, it’s the government website that matters because things can change, and that’s where those changes will be documented. Everything you need to know will be there.

When did I start planning? 

I saw that video in the new year of 2017. I distinctly remember getting insomnia in February 2017 because I did a deep dive into researching this and it freaked me out! It got too real. I still had a year and a half of uni left, and I couldn’t action anything to make it happen, so I just left it on the back burner. But, this is when I started telling my family and friends that this was my plan.

When did I *really* start planning?

Over the summer of 2017 I convinced my friend to move with me. She convinced me we should actually apply to do our masters there, so for my last year of uni I was looking at and applying to Masters programs in the UK. I got in to UCD and the University of Edinburgh, and it was swiftly brought to my attention that there was no way I could swing £30,000-45,000 for one year abroad. So, in June 2018 I went back to my original plan and started the process of applying for the Tier 5 visa. 

What to do in Canada? 

Think about your timing before you do anything. Really, all you have to do is submit an application online, register for a meeting at a UK Visa Application Centre, go to said meeting with all your documents and then wait for your passport and application to come back with your results.

The realities of applying for the Tier 5

But, you can apply three months in advance at absolute most. You have to pay for the visa application at that time, payment does not mean they will accept you. You need around $3500 CAD (or at least the equivalent of £1890) in your bank, and you need to print a statement that proves this. And, don’t forget that you’ll need a passport that will be valid for the duration of the visa (2 years). The application will ask you which post office you will pick your biometrics up at, so you need to know where you plan to go, at least when you first arrive.You need to book your meeting when you make your application, usually it’s about 2-3 weeks ahead. There aren’t a lot of places in Canada to have these meetings, I had to fly from Thunder Bay to Toronto at my own expense and sort it all out there, and then wait for them to mail my stuff back to me.

You also don’t want to apply too late. They don’t process visa applications in Toronto, they send them down to New York and then back up to Toronto. If you plan to get yours back in the post it can and will take at least three weeks.

What happens at your meeting/interview

It’s not scary. Seriously. You wait for ages outside a tiny room, and then inside a tiny room, but once you’re in you’re fine. They’re not going to ask you any questions you don’t know the answer to. All they do is check that you have all the appropriate documentation, take your picture and your finger prints and then process the application to be sent. Done. The photo will go on your temporary permit (in your passport when it comes back and is approved) and on your residence permit (biometrics). Your residence permit is a plastic identity card that you need to pick up from a post office in the UK, it has your photo and your fingerprints on it. You cannot enter the UK without it again. It is basically your main form of ID in the UK.

What to do in the UK? 

For the Visa: you need to bring all your documents when you first enter. Your temporary permit will be printed in your passport which will be your ticket in when you first arrive – but you need to support it with the rest of your documentation. The best thing is to have someone, a friend or family member in the UK who can help you with everything. My sister had a friend of a friend who she put me in contact with and she was a godsend. She helped so much.

A timeline of events 

January 2017 – decided to move to the UK after graduating.

July 2017 – convinced a friend to move abroad with me.

June 2018 – sent my application in online.

July 2019 – travelled to Toronto for my interview, booked a flight to the UK.

August 2018 – received my passport and approved application.

September 2018 – got on my one way flight with all my documentation and an Airbnb reservation! Picked up my documents in the UK… and basically just moved!

October 2018 – started working (freelance) and found a flat (flatshare). Neither of these were easy. At all.

How much did it cost?

Answering this question is painful. The application alone cost me around 1,200CAD. This was in two parts, the health surcharge (so I could access the NHS while here), which was about 450.(I just recalculated and it’s now 600). And the cost for the application, which now seems to have gone down (?). The whole website has had an overhaul for the points-based system since I applied, so now it’s 300USD to apply. USD. To apply for a visa that Americans do not qualify for, to a country that uses GBP. I’m baffled by that. To go to Toronto to do my interview I spent around $400CAD, my flight to Edinburgh was around $700, and then we spent three weeks in Airbnbs before we got a flat for around $1600. My flat was 500 pounds for the first month which is around 800-900 in CAD. So:

1200 + 500 + 700 + 1600 +850 = 4,750CAD

Gross. That’s all the “big money” I had to spend to get secure here even though I wasn’t making money. I saved for awhile before moving, of course.

Is it different for other countries? 

Yes. Big time yes. And once you’ve used the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa you cannot renew it and then most of us are in the same boat. Now, we’re not sure what’s going to happen with work visas in the future. We know the UK is moving to a points based system, which means that in the future you’ll need to be highly skilled and making a lot of money, not just sponsored by your employer.

Did you find a job/flat first?

No. Did get scammed out of a flat, did apply to tons of jobs. I tried for ages to make both of these things work, they didn’t. I’d always recommend not expecting to have these ready before you move. Things I did have ready: online bank account, job interviews, flat viewings. I’ve only *just* replaced my online bank account with a ‘real’ one. I got the ‘job’ to work freelance – they didn’t pay me but it gave me an opportunity to make some cash, and that took a weight off my shoulder. Not the ideal job, but something. Flat viewings were a bust. Do not bother with agencies when you do not have a job, credit in that country, or a guarantor.

Is there anything you regret not doing before you moved?

Travelled in the Caribbean and Central and South America. Furthest south in the Americas that I’ve been is Cuba, which was amazing, but I would have loved to explore more. It’s way more expensive to travel to from here.

Did you get homesick?

When I talk about how I moved to the UK people are always shocked that I wasn’t homesick until I went home and left again. Then it became REAL. I cried for weeks. I sat on Skype watching my dog sleep with tears pooling on my cheeks. It gets easier when you make friends and build a support network. Going on holiday with my friend Lauren last February was a god send, and then my cousin came to visit, and then I made Angus. I needed all three of those things to get me back on track and more invested in my life here. Now I do every here and there, mostly nostalgia more than homesick. I miss when my family was all together but now we’re all over the place — so not really homesickness, but boy o boy still cuts to the heart.

What now? Do you plan on staying?

The golden question. I was actually going to move home last September, but stayed because of Angus. Then I got a job, and my friends and life here just grew and grew. I’d love to stay because this is where everything is, but we’re trying to be realistic and weigh our options. I’m working on a contract that ends in June, and because of my visa situation, so is the question of whether or not I’ll be extended or hired full time. The great thing is that Angus and I have had to have the hard ‘commitment’ conversations and we’re in it together. Our main options include applying for some other visa to stay here (long and arduous and expensive), moving to Ireland where I can apply for a working holiday visa (and where I *love* everything, but still complicated and expensive), or moving back to Canada with him on the same visa I came here on. Terrifyingly, we don’t know what will happen in the next 12 months.

And that, ladies, is how I moved to the UK.

I’d love to write more about what I did when I actually moved – how I found a flat and a job eventually, but this is getting long. Feel free to leave comments if you have questions! I always answer. Even if it is often just my mom commenting.

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