What you need to know before moving to Alberta

Julia Hornstein
Published: January 26, 2024

Alberta is one of the bigger provinces in Canada, bordered by British Columbia to the west and Saskatchewan to the east. One of the most unique benefits of Alberta is its prominent outdoor activity lifestyle and natural beauty.

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The province has a large population of newcomers, with around 1 million immigrants having settled in Alberta. Most newcomers settle in the province’s largest Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs), which include Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge.

The province boasts higher income levels than the rest of Canada. According to the Government of Alberta, the province offers the highest median after-tax income in all of Canada, therefore families in the province typically enjoy a higher family income than in other parts of Canada.

If you are planning on moving to Alberta or want to learn more about living in the province, this article will explore topics such as housing, healthcare and taxation.

Housing

More than 4.6 million Canadians live in Alberta, making Alberta Canada’s fourth most populated province. Most newcomers to the province will look to the rental market for housing.

As of August 2023, the average rental for a one-bedroom apartment in Calgary was $1,728, compared to a one bedroom in Edmonton at $1,279. A one bedroom in Lethbridge averages at $1,181.

Some provincial resources to help you find housing include:

Commuting

At least 71% of residents in each of Alberta’s three largest CMAs live less than 500 meters from a “public transit access point”, meaning they can easily access a bus or other form of public transportation in their community.

Calgary and Edmonton have train transit systems to service their communities. In Calgary, over 40,600 people use some form of public transportation to move around the city, and this number is over 33,000 in Edmonton.

The Calgary Transit, Edmonton Transit Service and the Lethbridge Transit systems all operate their own fleet of buses, trains and other transport to support the needs of their respective communities.

However, most residents of Alberta’s three biggest CMAs continue to use a car, van or truck as their main form of commuting. Therefore, you may want to consider getting an Alberta Driver’s License.

For your first 90 days as a resident of Alberta, you may operate a motor vehicle using your driver’s license obtained in your home country. At the end of the 90 days, you must apply for and receive an Alberta driver’s license to continue operating a vehicle.

You may click on this link to get more information about getting a driver’s license in Alberta.

Employment

In Alberta, the three largest industries in order of employment are trade occupations, healthcare and social assistance and construction.

Alberta employs more than 345,000 people in the trades industry, which includes those in wholesale and retail trade professions. More than 232,000 Alberta residents work in occupations throughout the healthcare and social assistance sector, meaning they are responsible for taking care of the physical, mental and social health of their community members. Lastly, over 178,000 people are employed in Alberta’s construction sector, building the infrastructure that everyday Canadians rely on.

Some provincial resources to help you find a job in Alberta include:

Healthcare

In Alberta, there is a waiting period of three months for newcomers to the province who want public healthcare coverage. After three months, any newcomer to Canada that has settled in Alberta can get free healthcare with a valid provincial health card.

To apply for a provincial health card in Alberta, you will need to apply and provide the government with supporting documents verifying your Alberta residency, your identity and your legal entitlement to remain in Canada.

Across Canada, a valid health card allows you to access public health services without having to pay for them. However, each province has their own provincial healthcare system that determines what services are offered as part of the public healthcare coverage. Certain medications and treatments will require the recipient to pay out of pocket.

Education

Children of newcomers toAlberta will enter the provincial education system at the age of six. Mandatory education continues until graduation from high school.

From kindergarten to high school, Alberta residents can enjoy free education through the public school system. For parents who do not want to send their child to public school, the province also offers private or boarding schools that require parents to pay tuition out of pocket.

The provincial government has provided a webpage that breaks down the provincial curriculum from kindergarten to grade 12 in the province (will link).

In terms of post-secondary education, Alberta offers over 150 Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) for newcomers to Canada. Many of these DLIs offer Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) eligible programs, would enable non-permanent resident Canadian newcomers who graduate from an eligible program to work in Canada.

Taxation

The two primary taxes in Alberta are sales and income tax. Residents are only charged a 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST) sales tax, while most other provinces charge either GST or a combination of sales taxes that typically exceeds 10%.

Like other provinces, Alberta charges income tax based on a bracketed system that requires residents to pay a certain amount of money to the government based on their annual income level.

Newcomer services

Alberta’s provincial government offers settlement services to newcomers that includes resources that can be accessed here. These services include pre-arrival resources, and community, childcare and language support.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) provides government funded services to Canadian newcomers when settling in Canada, including help finding a job, a place to live, and signing up your kids for school.

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