The west coast of Canada is a popular landing place for new immigrants. Are you thinking about moving to Surrey, British Columbia? Or perhaps another part of Metro Vancouver or B.C.? Moving is a huge life decision. The city you choose will have a significant effect on your future.
Spending time researching cities you could potentially move to is an important step. The city you choose will affect your housing options, job selection, and overall financial well-being.
Surrey is a great destination for newcomers. It is popular with immigrants from Asia-Pacific Region. While mostly suburban, it is a beautiful part of the country with a mild climate and is close to Vancouver. Plus, you are never too far from the water and mountains in B.C. But it is an expensive city compared to other parts of Canada.
Is Surrey at the top of your list? Prepare for Canada can guide you with helpful information about living in Surrey.
About Surrey, British Columbia
Living in Surrey, British Columbia allows residents to enjoy beautiful urban forests, clean beaches, golf courses, and great eco-tourism opportunities.
Surrey is the second-largest city by population in British Columbia and is only 23 km from Vancouver Centre. And, housing is more affordable than in Vancouver. So, many people choose to live in Surrey and commute to Vancouver for work if necessary.
Seven main neighbourhoods make up Surrey. They are Cloverdale, Fleetwood, Guildford, Newton, South Surrey, and City Centre encompassed by Whalley.
This city was incorporated in 1879. It was named after Surrey, England because it had land that looked like the region. The Pattullo Bridge was completed in 1937. This allowed the city to expand. Surrey was granted city status in 1993 after significant population growth in the 1980s and through the 1990s.
How Many People Live in Surrey, British Columbia?
There is a population of 568,322 people, as of the 2021 Census. This is an increase of 9.7% and over 50,000 residents in five years. And it continues to grow!
How to Find a Job & Build a Career in Surrey
Surrey’s Local Economy
The economy is rooted in agriculture. Today, about one-third of the land is dedicated to farming. Great business opportunities exist for international trade with Asia and the United States. Because of Surrey’s Pacific Rim location, combined with its growing and multicultural population, it’s a strong city for business.
Due to population growth, Surrey became one of the best places in B.C. to invest in real estate. Over the past five years, more than $6 billion of building permits were issued and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported a significant increase in the number of housing starts.
The strongest growth industry is health. This is due to the increasing need for medical aid for Surrey’s aging population.
The top industries in this city are:
- Advanced manufacturing
- Supply Chain
- Clean Energy
Major Employers in Surrey
The health and education sectors are the main sources of employment. And top employers include:
- Fraser Health
- Surrey School District
- City of Surrey
- Coast Capital Savings Federal Credit Union
- Starline Windows Group
- Vancouver Coastal Health.
Career Pathways in Surrey
You can browse for jobs in Surrey here. You can also use a recruitment agency to find work. The top recruiters in Vancouver are Recruiting in Motion, iLink Global, Robert Half, and Randstad Canada.
For information, tools, free webinars, and more visit our Finding a Job in Canada resource page. Get the help you need to achieve your career goals in Canada!
The Surrey Housing Market
Living in Surrey allows you to rent or buy a home near the beach, in urban centres, close to parks, or on quiet farms. The city is made up of these town centres:
Whalley/City Centre is in North Surrey, and it is the most densely populated of all the town centers. It is the city and commercial centre of this city, and it is the only town centre serviced by SkyTrain. It links Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey. Whalley/City Centre is home to the campus of Simon Fraser University Surrey.
Cloverdale is the historic centre of Surrey and is known for its heritage sites. Many families with children prefer this location for its parks, playing fields, schools, pools, and recreation centres.
Fleetwood is one of North Surrey’s quickest developing neighbourhoods. The Fraser Highway, which runs through this town centre, makes Fleetwood ideal for commuters. Also, Fleetwood has beautiful parks, natural areas, trails, and many playgrounds.
Guildford is on the northern corner of Surrey. It is famous for the 200-store Guildford Town Centre Mall, one of the largest malls in Canada.
Newton is the town centre with the largest and most ethnically diverse population. More than half of the population is considered a visible minority, predominantly Sikh. Newton is home to the Kwantlen Polytechnic University campus.
South Surrey is known for its parks, beaches, forests, and recreation facilities. Many seniors prefer this location. And it has the largest concentration of people over the age of 60.
Is Housing Expensive in Surrey, British Columbia?
It is more expensive than most major cities in Canada, including Toronto, Ottawa, and Calgary. But, when you compare it to Vancouver, it’s much more affordable. This is the main reason why people move to Surrey and then commute to Metro Vancouver to work.
Finding a Place to Rent in Surrey
Renting is a common first step for newcomers to Surrey. The average rent for an apartment is $1,400 for a Bachelor, $1,463 for a 1 Bedroom, $1,770 for a 2 Bedroom, and $2.065 for a 3 Bedroom.
Use Rentals for Newcomers to search for available rental units in Surrey. Here, you can also find current rental prices in Surrey.
When renting a home or apartment, it’s also important to consider buying renter’s insurance to protect your family, belongings, and finances. While renters’ insurance is optional, many property owners may require that you have it as part of your lease agreement.
Buying a Home in Surrey
Buying a home in this city can be expensive. Prices have increased substantially over the past few years. According to data by Zolo, Surrey ranks as the 7th most expensive city in B.C, with an average home price of 1.2 million (as of April 2022). The average cost of a detached house is $2 million. A townhouse is $962, 000 and a condo is $577,000.
Find out more about buying your first home in Canada: First Time Home Buyer: Newcomer Tips
Driving & Public Transit in Surrey
Driving in Surrey, British Columbia
It’s common for residents to commute to work in other parts of Metro Vancouver. The city has a grid road system and several highways. Highway 1 is the main route to Vancouver and other cities in the east. Residents can also use Highway 15, Highway 17, Highway 99, and Fraser Highway to get around town.
Driving and parking in all City of Surrey streets are regulated by the Province of British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act. For maps and directions in Surrey, click here. As part of its efforts to increase awareness of high collision areas, the Surrey RCMP supplies traffic safety maps, to show the top collision locations in Surrey.
Learn more about driving in Canada with these 10 essential facts.
Surrey Public Transit
SkyTrain Expo Line connects Surrey to Vancouver. Buses are the main way of public transport for people living in this city. Currently, there are more than 1,300 bus stops. The fare system is divided into three zones. Passengers pay according to the number of zones they travel in. However, passengers pay one fare no matter how many zones they cross:
- After 6:30 pm on Monday to Friday, and
- During the weekend and holidays.
You must have exact change when getting on a bus because the driver does not accept bills or give change. Make sure you receive Proof of Payment/Transfers. Transfers are valid for 90 minutes. If you travel often, you can buy a Compass Card which is a monthly fare card.
Get more information about driving in Canada:
Community Support for Newcomers
Surrey offers newcomers support through several immigrant support agencies. They include:
- DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society
- Options Community Services Society
- Pacific Community Resources Society
- Progressive Intercultural Community Services (PICS)
- Sources Community Resources Society
- Surrey Libraries.
Newcomers to British Columbia may also be eligible for the Introduction to British Columbia program through the Immigrant Services Association of British Columbia.
Find out more about Services in Canada to Help Newcomers Settle.
Language Support in Surrey
Newcomers can receive language support and take classes through community settlement agencies such as the Fraser Health Authority, DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, and Options Community Services Society.
Personal Finance & Banking
Getting your finances in order once you arrive in Canada is an important step you cannot overlook. You can open a bank account at any local bank or credit union. Most banks offer programs specifically for immigrants to open a bank account, get a credit card, a line of credit, and even qualify for a mortgage.
Get more banking tips for newcomers:
For more information about your financial first steps in Canada, visit our banking in Canada resource page. Get the essential information you need to manage your finances in Canada!
Surrey’s Education System
Elementary and High School Education
In British Columbia, parents can choose to send their children to public schools, independent schools, or homeschooling. And because public schools are government-funded, many people choose to send their children to public schools.
Surrey School District has the largest student enrollment in British Columbia. It has:
- Over 100 elementary schools
- 28 secondary schools
- Five learning centres
- Three adult education centres
- A distributed online learning program, and
- A variety of satellite and inter-agency programs.
If you choose to teach your children at home, you must register them with the Ministry of Education. You will also have to follow the curriculum guidelines that the ministry sets.
Post Secondary Institutions
Surrey is home to a third campus for Simon Fraser University (SFU). On this SFU campus, students can enroll in the following programs:
- Applied sciences
- Arts and social sciences
- Business administration
- Mathematics, and
The Surrey campus of Kwantlen Polytechnic University offers programs in science, business, art, and health.
There are also several private post-secondary colleges such as Brighton College, Sprott Shaw College, CDI College, Western Community College, Sterling College, Stenberg College, Academy of Learning, Surrey Community College, Discovery Community College, and Vancouver Career College.
Read more about education in Canada:
Where To Get Medical Care in Surrey, British Columbia
In British Columbia, there are two main health insurance plans: the Medical Service Plan (MSP) and PharmaCare. For those, who can not afford to pay the monthly MSP premium, there is Premium Assistance.
Three main hospitals are serving Surrey. They are Surrey Memorial Hospital, Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre, and Peace Arch Hospital. In case of an emergency call 9-1-1. This number is the same no matter where you live in Canada. For prescription drugs and some services that British Columbia Health does not cover, you can pay for additional health insurance plans.
How to Find A Family Doctor In Surrey
Once you get medical insurance coverage, you should find a family doctor. You can refer to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia for a list of physicians accepting new patients. If you require specialized care, your family doctor will refer you to specialists.
But, if you are unable to find a family doctor, you can go to walk-in clinics until you secure your doctor. Get more information about health care in Canada: Steps to Access Free Health Care in Canada
What is Day-to-Day Life Like in Surrey?
Things to Do in Surrey
Surrey is an outdoor lover’s paradise. It is often called the City of Parks because of its 600 parks and 277 trails and walkways. Living in this city provides opportunities for hiking, biking, bird watching, and outdoor sports. For more information on Surrey parks click here. Surrey also boasts some of Metro Vancouver’s best golf courses, that are suitable for all skill levels.
Public Spaces & Attractions
Surrey hosts five annual city events. They are Tree Lighting Festival, Party for the Planet, Surrey Children’s Festival, Surrey Fusion Festival, and Surrey Canada Day, Western Canada’s biggest Canada Day celebration. Every year tens of thousands of people attend the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair. And this makes it the second-largest rodeo in Canada after the Calgary Stampede.
Every year on April 13, the Sikh community celebrates Vaisakhi. It is the largest parade outside of India with over 500,000 attendees in 2019.
Restaurants & Nightlife
This city is known as a great place to wine and dine. There are numerous local wineries in the area in addition to many great restaurants with an international flavour. Be sure to try the iconic Old Surrey Restaurant. Other places to check out include Tap Restaurant, Afghan Kitchen, Vault Restaurant, and New York New York Greek Restaurant.
Nature & Natural Landscapes
With over 600 parks and endless green space, it’s easy to get lost in all the surrounding nature. Some points of interest to check out include Crescent Beach, Surrey Bend Regional Park, Darts Hill Garden, and Historic Stewart Farm.
Sporting Events & Concerts
This city is not home to any professional sports teams. But it is host to the Canada Cup International Women’s Fastpitch Tournament. Cricket is a popular sport in the city. If you want to take in a concert, check out The Roxy, River Rock Casino Resort, Centennial Theatre, and The Cobalt.
Culture & Diversity In Surrey
It is a truly diverse community. 57.8% of the population identifies as a visible minority. This is about 300,000 residents. The biggest minority community is South Asian with 32.4% of the population. This is followed by Chinese (7.7%), Filipino (6.2%), and Southeast Asian (2.5%). 2.6% of residents are Aboriginal.
Christianity is the predominant religion in Surrey. 38.2% of the population identifies as Christian – Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, or other Christians.
The second-largest religious group, 22.6%, is the Sikh. Every year on April 13, the Sikh community organizes a big celebration of Vaisakhi. And this celebration often includes a Nagar Kirtan (parade). Surrey’s Guru Nana Sikh Gurdwara is one of the leading Sikh Temples in Canada.
The Weather in Surrey
There is a moderate, inter-coastal Pacific-Northwest climate that is appealing and comfortable. Winter in Surrey is mild with an average temperature of 5 degrees C. It rarely snows. However, getting many rainy and gloomy days or even rainy weeks in a row is not uncommon.
Spring is also wet. Summer is sunny with an average temperature of 22 degrees C, and autumns are cool. Surrey enjoys about 1848.3 hours of sunshine per year (an average of 5 hours per day).
Common Questions Immigrants Ask About Living in Surrey
Is Surrey a good place for immigrants?
Living in Surrey provides many great services and activities for families. Being close to Vancouver, and with affordable housing and many schools, it’s a great city for immigrants. Its diverse community makes it an ideal location for newcomers.
What are the benefits of living in Surrey?
Surrey is a popular destination for Asian immigrants. The city has more affordable housing compared to Metro Vancouver. It has a great hospital system and there is great access to nature. It’s a growing city that offers a great community for families.
What are some potential disadvantages of living in Surrey for new immigrants?
Surrey is expensive compared to other large cities in Canada. Most people commute, so you’ll likely have to drive out of the community to work each day. Traffic can be an issue.
For more information, tools, and free webinars about living in Canada visit our Settling in Canada resource page. We’ll help you to settle successfully!