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Dr. Peter Senior, Assistant Professor, University of Alberta

Dr. Peter Senior, assistant professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, is enjoying a much improved professional and social lifestyle since emigrating from the UK.

Peter, his wife and three young daughters have settled into a community in Alberta which highly respects doctors and which is safe, family friendly and has excellent public schools. As Peter says: “No more worrying about keeping up with the Jones’, affording the mortgage, living in the right area to get a good school and we’re only a three hour drive to the Rockies”.

Peter describes his region in Alberta as, “A large North American-type city but with a small town feel, friendly, spacious and laid back – no traffic jams or congestion and with easy parking!”

The benefits, compared with his life in the UK, are summed up succinctly by Peter when he says, “There are many advantages here – career progression, scenery, lifestyle, people, climate, general atmosphere, ambience and the education system.”

Peter feels that for the “90% of life which is taken up with job, family, kids to school, grocery shopping etc. life is better, easier and more fulfilling in Alberta. For the other 10% of life, Peter and his family “take advantages of the unique opportunities such as skiing, skating, running, walking, hiking, canoeing and travel. The kids are thriving at school and enjoy the open space and friendly environment”.

“There is lots of scope for autonomy and determining your own practice pattern”.   

Professionally, Peter says that doctors in Alberta benefit from ample resources, easy access to investigations and specialists, while enjoying, as Peter puts it, “a high status in the community”. There is, he says, “lots of scope for autonomy and determining your own practice pattern”.

Peter initially arrived in Alberta on a work permit before transferring to permanent residency. His more fulfilled life since emigrating has led him to share his experiences to encourage other healthcare workers who may be considering a new life in Alberta.

“Think of Alberta as America-lite”, Peter enthuses, “many of the benefits you would enjoy if living in the US – but with a much more reserved and respectful population. The people, culture and legal system are far more similar to the UK than the US – they even have the Queen on the money!”

Here are some helpful tips from Dr. Peter Senior:

  • “Start early - it will likely take longer than you think.
  • Gather all of your professional certificates, degrees, GMC, medical defence membership. You may need two or three references.
  • Think about your spouses’ employment - explore whether their qualifications will be valid - it may be easier to apply now - even if they aren't planning to work straight away.
  • Bring school reports and vaccination records for your kids.
  • Kids start school later here. Your kids may find the work too easy and may need to be moved up a grade - or else have an easy time the first year and they can concentrate on making new friends.
  • If you have teenagers you may want to consider registering them at a school that offers the International Baccalaureate - this might make studying at a UK university easier.
  • Talk to the tax office. They will likely want to send you a tax return for at least the first year. Writing may stop them continuing to send you them year after year. If you maintain assets (especially property) in the UK you probably need professional tax advice. The tax year in Canada follows the calendar year. Keeping track of international income with two different tax years can be a headache.
  • Leave your NHS pension in the UK - they will pay out no matter where you live. Invest in RRSPs in Canada. Get good advice. The Alberta Medical Association has a business arm with financial advisers.
  • Removal expenses hopefully should be covered. A container will take about 6 weeks to get here. Get a removal company with experience in international moves. They will pack and make an inventory which is required for customs. You will likely have to scrub garden tools and the wheels of your bikes to comply with fears of foot and mouth disease.
  • It's probably not worth importing cars from the UK.
  • Car - bring a letter indicating no claims bonus (insurance) - shop around it may be recognised.
  • Passports - make sure you have a few years on your passport
  • Make a will when you get here. This would certainly make custody of children a lot easier - otherwise orphaned kids would be a ward of the province and not allowed to leave the country until legal custody was determined.
  • Banks - you'll pay for a current account, but the service is likely better. Hours at TD Canada Trust are very good.”