Home search in Ireland, some reflections on housing in Canada, Australia and the UK

Home around the corner near my old flat in Primrose Hill, London.

I am embarking on searching for rentals on my fourth country (Ireland).  I know what it’s like in London (UK), Australia (Brisbane, mainly and a short while was seeking in Sydney), and Canada (Vancouver and Toronto).  Going through this process can be exciting, tedious and stressful all at the same time.  It’s exciting because you are imagining what the end is going to be like and you relish the novelty of living in a new place.  It’s tedious because you have to figure out an entirely new locale, whether or not it meets your requirements and all the details that need to be considered.  It’s stressful because you are out to meet that basic Maslow hierarchy of needs requirement – physiological and safety – while dealing with other stresses and constraints such as time and budget.  I am getting all these feelings now searching for a place in Ireland!

On the way to Camden Town, I look over the bridge and see this...
On the way to Camden Town, I look over the bridge and see this…

Anyway, while waiting on a few responses and paperwork to arrive, I just thought to have a think about what the rental ‘scene’ is like in all the other countries that I’ve been in…



Brisbane and Sydney, Australia

I went to university in Australia and worked in the industry for two years after.  During university, I rented a house with friends – the first one was those typical Queenslander-style homes and the second one was built by the owner who was an architect.

After university, I rented in a condo (or apartment) which was right in the CBD (central business district) and overlooked the river.  I could even spy someone from my window working at his office desk!  It was a bit of a weird sight because since I was on the ground level, the outdoor pool was also on the ground level and if I sat upright from my chair, I could see people dive into the pool.

Now, if you were searching for properties around Sydney and look at Google Maps, you will see that Sydney has a very unique natural setting.  I haven’t lived in this city, my sister has and she lived in Bondi Beach where you can see a glimmer of the beach and ocean from the apartment.  When I walked outside during summer, I seriously felt like I was in some sort of resort city. When I look out of the window of the airplane and see the harbor, it is absolutely magnificent seeing the boats on the harbor and the Sydney Opera House.  Make sure to grab a seat by the window!

London, United Kingdom

London is hands down THE best city in the world.  And if you can lock in that rental property in the right part of London that suits your needs, you will guarantee that the rates pay themselves off.

When I first arrived, I was renting temporarily right in the heart of London – Barbican. You can see the brutalist style architecture in Barbican as well as the arts centre.  It’s quiet amusing that my place didn’t have a laundry so I had to go to the outside laundromat. On one hand I was living in the area well-known for the prestigious arts centre but at the same time I had to go outside to do the laundry.

If you wander the streets of London, you can easily run into so much history in the place all juxtaposed with new developments.  

Cute houses at one of the streets in Primrose Hill
Cute houses at one of the streets in Primrose Hill

After Barbican, I moved to Primrose Hill.  I was only there for about six months until the landlord decided that he didn’t want tenants to do renovations.  Primrose Hill is an absolute dream.  Just walking across the Primrose Hill Park (when you walk up the hill, you can see the CBD) from my work at Regent’s Park to my flat just put a smile on my face.  I chose this area because it was walking distance to and from work and because I wanted to live near a park.  I secured a viewing while I was travelling in Dublin and didn’t even realize how beautiful this area was until I arrived.

Cafe Rouge, St Johns Wood
Cafe Rouge, St Johns Wood

When it was time to move, I was at St John’s Wood and I lived in those historical red brick apartments. I chose this area since it was also near a park and within walking distance to and from work.  For the first week or two, I was mourning over the fact that I was no longer in Primrose Hill but eventually fell in love with St John’s Wood.  I loved the flowering trees that bloomed, the High Street, the houses and mansions and Regent’s Park.

St Johns Wood High Street

The three areas that I’ve lived in London was perfect for me.  But, there are so many other choices that it really didn’t matter too much because those choices were great anyway.  I had a flatmate that moved to Old Street, another at Brick Lane, co-workers in Brixton, a friend who semi-squatted in this artsy type of commune living space in Hackney.  At the same time, I have seen some pretty depressing places when compared to its asking price since the need for property in London is always high.

And, living in London is always so interesting and since the connections to travel to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa is fantastic.

However there is one thing that bothered me while living in London.. and that was the lack of seeing blue skies because of the weather.

Vancouver and Toronto, Canada

I really only took one look at the rental market in Vancouver when I decided that it really was not for me. This is further supported by the real estate price bubble driven up by foreign property investment that the city is being addressed.  However, Vancouver has a beautiful backdrop with the mountain skyline always in your view, even if you are way out of the city.

Toronto had more choices, but the one main item that I couldn’t wrap my head around until I arrived was the concept of the GTA, or the Greater Toronto Area.  

My rental experience in Canada was not the same as before.  It was more a reflection of my thought process rather than a comment on the state of the rental market in Toronto.  I decided not to live nearer to the downtown area and opted for living in a house way out in the suburbs and it has been years since I last lived in the suburbs.  If I were to repeat this process, I would have done a bit more research into all the different areas in Toronto and I would have stuck with characteristics that makes a place turn into a ‘home’ to me.

In terms of culture, Toronto is a multi-cultural city and I was exposed to completely new cultural groups such as the Caribbean, Central and South American influences.   In contrast, you get the suburban Walmarts and the plaza malls.

In terms of Toronto and Vancouver proving its livability (as promoted by those Top Cities To Live In guides), there were some glimmers of it.  But, for the majority of the time, I didn’t really experience it in the same depth as something like London.  This was especially pertinent during the Toronto winters when, at some stage, the temperatures had gone down to -26C.

On the other hand, there are other absolutely beautiful areas outside the major cities.  For example, you have the absolutely beautiful Kelowna region in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.  If circumstances permit, I would opt to be in these regions.

Now on to Dublin and Ireland!

The last time I was in Dublin was in 2012 for a three week trip from late May to early June.  Something close to Primrose Hill or St John’s Wood would be the most ideal!

How to apply for Permanent Residency via International Experience Canada in 12 Months

Reader note:

This guide is only for those who are eligible to apply for International Experience Canada (IEC) and are able to work for at least 12 months in Canada.

Why Canada?

There could be a number of reasons why you are choosing Canada as your base.  Its close proximity to parts of Asia (from the Vancouver side), to Europe (from the Toronto/Halifax side) and from the US is just one reason. You also have the opportunity for exposure to the North American market (both Canada AND the US) if the company is large enough.  You have the advantage of going with a fairly stable economy, with English being one of the main languages spoken (alongside French) and an urban multicultural community.

For those eligible, they can move and work in Canada via the International Experience Canada route.  And from there, if they choose to use Canada as a more permanent base, they can then springboard on to a Canadian permanent residency.

Why write this post?

The reason why I am writing this is because I read about others who were on the IEC visa, they had their experience, then later on they realize that they want to stay and work longer but they can’t.

Another could be someone who came back to their home country, then later realized that they want another shot in Canada but this time, they have to go through other and more cumbersome visa hoops.

It’s better to be prepared from the beginning, rather than the end. It’s what I advise in my tips for those on short-term, temporary work visas.

Let’s get started!

Now, in Canada, all applicants must qualify within the Express Entry pool regardless of what stream or channel that they are applying in.  For those on IEC, I’ve identified that the best channel is to apply via the Canadian Experience Class stream.  Even if you meet the criteria, you are classified with points.  The higher points you have, the better your change of getting an invitation to apply for permanent residency.

When you receive your Letter of Introduction

This is the letter given to you to apply for the IEC visa upon landing Canada.  Once you get this, start looking for work and make sure to meet the requirements that are set in that letter.  You can still be turned away by the Canadian Border Security.

Meeting the Canadian Experience Class core requirement

Regarding the work opportunities, it must also have equivalency within the NOC code.  Feel free to read my advice on how to optimize your profile prior to a relocation here.

You must have that job opportunity since freelancing or self-employment does not count as qualified work experience.  Upon meeting the requirements of at least 12 months of full-time (or an equal amount in part-time) skilled work experience, you are then eligible for the Canadian Experience Class stream.  For some reason, the system will still accept you even if you only hit 11 months and x weeks so it’s not the exact 12 months mark.

From day one to three months

Sign up to a university education certification authority to confirm that your overseas education has some sort of Canadian equivalency. I used WES.  These don’t expire after five years.

Try to not lose your job.  In Canada, there are various “statutory probation periods” and they vary depending on which province you are working in.  This means that provinces allow for the termination of an employee without any notice or any pay.  Probationary periods occur at the beginning of your employment.  Out of the list of eligible citizens that can apply for this visa, Australians are the only ones that can live and work for two years. The rest, except for Italy, can only live and work for one year only.  Having such a small stay duration means that there are very little chances of getting another opportunity under this visa class.

After three months

You can do a test run and create your Express Entry profile, seeking to enter via Canadian Experience Class.  Make a note of which details you need and if there is anything else that you need to cover that is unique to your situation.

There are going to be some parts which you won’t need to meet. For example, entrants on Canadian Experience Class who are already working don’t need to meet the Proof of Funds requirement.

After six months

Sign up to get the English language test. This will add more points to your profile.  I used CELPIP.  You may actually want to do the language test a few months before going into Express Entry since there is a two-year expiration date for the results.

You may want to notify your employer about wanting to continue on and apply for permanent residency and wanting to continue on working for them.  There may be other programs available which they may be aware of already.

The other case may be that they need to provide a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA, previously called LMO) if it turns out that you need to enter via another class such as the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP).   However, getting an employer to do a LMIA requires some additional red tape that is normally not involved when hiring someone who is on IEC visa.

After 10 months

Express Entry will require not only the exact start and end dates of your previous work history, but it will require the NOC equivalent and whether or not it was full-time or part-time.  Have these details ready.

After 11 months

Since the 12 months skilled Canadian work experience requirement seem to start from 11 months and something like 1 week, you can actually enter your details in this early and you may still find yourself eligible for Canadian Experience Class.

Start entering the rest of your details in your Express Entry profile so that you can calculate your final points.

Time to go into Express Entry!

After the points are calculated, submit the Express Entry profile

Once your final points are calculated, you’ll be in the running to obtain the invitation to apply for permanent residency.

Invitation rounds happen at two-week intervals and you are notified via email in regards to any new messages.

You are in IEC and you receive your invitation for permanent residency

Once you have an invitation, you have 60 days to obtain your documentation and complete your application for permanent residency.

Your IEC will most likely expire before receiving your invitation for permanent residency

Realistically, and especially if you are on a 12 month visa, you will be facing the consequence of not being able to obtain the invitation prior to the expiration of the IEC visa.  In this case, it is a very good idea to plan and budget for seeking legal counsel or qualified migration assistance to see what avenues can be pursued.

Your status changes after applying for permanent residency

Another item that I have found is that there is this other status called a ‘Permanent resident applicant‘.  This is like a grey area between those that are not temporary, not permanent residents nor are they citizens.  For example, there may be certain government or provincial resources, benefits, exceptions and so on that will consider those that are deemed ‘Permanent Resident applicants’.  The Government of Canada also has another set of wording for these here.  Keep a look out for these.

The reality is that it’s going to take months, even years, to get a final decision.

After the application for permanent residency and you are on a 24 month visa (aka, you are Australian!)

Once this has been sent off, and you have four months or less left in IEC you can apply for an open-work permit providing that you meet certain conditions.

The point of these open-work permits is that it will enable you to live and stay in the country while a decision is made on permanent residency.

After the application for permanent residency and you are on a 12 month visa

The main issue here is that by the time you are ready to submit your application for permanent residency, your IEC visa will most likely have expired.  However, there may be some work around.  The only thing is that you will by then have already sought after legal counsel or qualified migration assistance at this stage.  If you are already prepared and have budgeted for this, then this should not be a nasty shock.

When is it time to get legal counsel?

One of the cases that I have read on a law firm site, they involved a client on IEC applying for a visitor visa prior to its expiration. In doing so, they were able to take advantage of “implied status”. However, in this case it is a good idea to seek out as much advice as you can, including legal counsel.

Good luck!

Please note that this guide is not a substitute for migration or legal advice and that you should first and foremost check the Government of Canada Immigration and Citizenship portal for the latest details and/or with qualified legal counsel for your particular situation.

I am also not a migration consultant, I do write about Millennial expats though.  Please have a look at the rest of my blog here for other posts.

If you are looking to add an official online presence to your relocation strategy, please email me at hi@hannahsuarez.me