Emigrating to Canada: Buying car insurance and exchanging your foreign driving license

This image shows a Canadian flag with a Canadian city in the background.

Canada has always been one of the hottest emigration destinations for Hongkongers. Among Canadian cities, Vancouver and Toronto are especially popular. The Canadian government has recently pushed out a scheme titled 'Hong Kong Pathways', which enables those who have completed a post-secondary degree in the past five years to apply for a 3-year long work visa. Having said that, it's a vast world out there compared to Hong Kong, and roads tend to be a lot more spread out. Living without a car is akin to being a bird without wings. If you're interested in emigrating, you should get to know how to exchange or obtain your driver's license. 

In this Kwiksure series, we will go through four popular emigration destinations among Hongkongers. This includes the UK, Canada, Australia, and Taiwan. Read on for answers to frequently asked questions like how to exchange your driver's license, how to get one, how to secure car insurance, and how to transfer your No Claims Discount/No Claims Bonus (NCD/NCB).

Exchanging your driving license 

At the moment, there's no way to directly exchange your Hong Kong driver's license for a Canadian one. Planning to work, study, and/or start a new chapter in Canada? Your Hong Kong license is only valid for driving in Canada for 60 days, even if you've applied for an international license, which extends this period.

Take note that you can't purchase car insurance here with an international license. That's why we recommend getting a Canadian driving license as soon as you can. Though your Hong Kong license cannot be exchanged, with one in hand, you can simplify the driving exam process/process of obtaining a driver's license. Let's take a look in detail. 

Getting a Canadian driving license

Getting a local license requires several phases. There are also differences in procedures between provinces. Thus, you should get to know the requirements of the province you'll be living in.

Let's take Ontario as an example, here's how the process works there: 

G1 written test

As long as you're 16 years old (including work permit/study permit holders) and have passed the vision and written test, you can obtain the G1 car license. After which, you may practice driving accompanied by a driver with at least 4 years' worth of driving experience at a designated time. Of course, you're also free to take lessons from a driving instructor. 

G1 license restrictions: this license is incredibly strict as shown below: 

  • License holders must all be accompanied by a driver in possession of a G license with at least 4 years of driving experience. 
  • When driving, their blood alcohol level must be zero. 
  • There's no driving from 12 am to 5 am. 
  • Also, most highways are off limits.

G1 road test

After receiving your G1 license for at least 12 months, you can now take the road test. It covers basic driving skills, such as turning left and right, stopping, and parking. Once you pass you get your G2 license. 

G2 license restrictions: the driver has to maintain a zero blood alcohol level. Having said that, this rule mainly targets young drivers at or below 19 years of age. As such, they cannot drive between midnight and 5 am, and only one passenger below the age of 19 is allowed on their vehicles. Six months later, a maximum of three passengers are allowed. If they have an accompanying person with a G license and no less than 4 years of driving experience, this restriction will not apply to them. 

G2 road test 

You can take the highway road test within one year of getting your G2 license. Aside from what is included in the G1 road test, this exam covers more advanced driving skills, such as driving on a highway and parallel parking. Examinees must maintain the right speed and distance on the road. 

Once you pass, you get a full G license. Keep in mind that test takers have to get a G license within 1 year of receiving your G1 license. If you've missed this deadline, you'll have to go through the entire test process again. 

The advantage of Hong Kong drivers getting a driver's license in Canada

Most aspiring drivers in Canada have to go through the following process:

  1. Take the written test (pass and receive the G1 license). 
  2. Wait for one year.
  3. Take the G1 road test (pass and receive the G2 license). 
  4. Wait for one more year.
  5. Take the G2 road test.
  6. Receive a full G license. 

Do you have a Hong Kong license and two or more years of driving experience? As soon as you've passed the written test, you can skip the waiting period as well as the G1 road test. You can directly challenge the G2 highway road test and grab the full G license. 

Here's the shortened procedure to getting your driver's license:

  1. Take the written test. 
  2. Take the G2 road test. 
  3. Receive a full G license.

If you have a Hong Kong driver's license but don't have two years of driving experience, after passing the written test, you can still skip the 1-year waiting period and proceed to take the G1 road test.

  1. Take the written test (pass and receive the G1 license). 
  2. Take the G1 road test (pass and receive the G2 license).
  3. Wait for one year.
  4. Take the G2 road test.
  5. Receive a full G license.

To obtain a Canadian driver's license with your Hong Kong license, you have to secure a "Certificate of Driving License Particulars" issued by the Transport Department of Hong Kong. (This provides proof that you received your license in Hong Kong, as well as how long you've had your license for. Naturally, it's best to apply before you migrate. Fill in the TD320 form and apply by mail along with a copy of your license and a HKD $160 cheque. This should take about 10 days.)

Buying car insurance in Canada 

To be able to drive in Canada, you'll need to purchase car insurance. If you own a vehicle, you have to secure insurance for it. However, if you often drive your friend's car, make sure their car insurance policy includes your name. 

As with car insurance in any other countries, premiums in Canada will depend on a host of factors. These include the driver's age, their driving record, place of residence, driving experience, and more. 

Note that in Canada, car insurance premiums are on the expensive side. Even a good driver with a matching driving record spends on average CAD $2,000 per year on premiums. That said, if you belong to a particular company or organization, for example, an accountant association or the alumni association of certain universities, Canadian insurers might give you a 20-30% discount. What's more, if you decide to purchase policies (e.g. home insurance on top of car insurance) from the same insurer, they might be willing to give you a discount as well. 

Transferring your Hong Kong NCD/NCB to Canada 

Unfortunately, insurance companies here often don't consider your previous NCD/NCB. That's why you'll have to recalculate your no claim discounts from scratch. 

Contact Kwiksure for more insurance solutions

Are you interested in other types of insurance (e.g. health insurance, personal accident insurance, life insurance) for emigration besides car insurance? Take a look at our article: "Is my insurance still valid after migrating to another country?".

Kwiksure is a car insurance brokerage with over 20 years of experience in the industry. Apart from car insurance (third party and comprehensive), we also provide home insurance, motorcycle insurance, Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS), Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) insurance, and many more. Get a free quote now with our online comparison tool! For personalized advice and a free plan comparison, contact our team of expert insurance advisors today!