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The Economist Intelligence Unit has released its annual livability index for 2016, and the top five countries match last year's list: Melbourne (Australia) at number 1, followed by Vienna (Austria) coming second, Vancouver (Canada) in third, Toronto (Canada) in fourth, and Calgary (Canada) with Adelaide (Australia) tied for fifth place.

Downtown Toronto (photo: Getty Images)
The index measures 30 factors that fall under five categories: security, education, healthcare, culture & environment and infrastructure to assign a score out of 100.

Melbourne has topped the list 6 years in a row, with the report noting a strong correlation between the cities at the very top of the index.

"Those that score best tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density," the report said. "These can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure."

Six of the top 10 cities are in Canada and Australia, the report went on, which have a population density of 3.9 and 3.1 people per square kilometer, respectively.

The report also noted that violent crime may appear to be on the rise in some of the top cities, but the statistics tell another story.

In Vancouver, for example, the murder rate increased in 2014 after a record-low 2013. But those two years "were still the years with the lowest national murder rates in Canada since 1966," the report said.

However, increased instability over the past year has caused a drop in the score of nearly a fifth of the 140 cities surveyed. Ten of these cities are in western Europe, notably Paris, which has suffered multiple terrorist attacks. Some American cities, including Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago have also dropped down the rankings after spikes in civil unrest.

Most notable to suffer was Sydney (Australia) which dropped out of the top 10, not because of declining quality of life, but because of recent fears of terrorist attacks.

But there was good news for New Zealand, as its largest and most populous city, Auckland, was ranked 8th in the world, above the high ranking European cities of Helsinki in Finland and Hamburg in Germany.

Overall, CANZUK cities continue to impress economists with their high quality of life, educational standards and healthcare, with low crime rates and stable infrastructure developments. Not only do these nations share similar cultures and ancestry, but they also share exceptionally high social and economic standards that make the introduction of free movement a worthwhile pursuit.

With similar standards of education, crime prevention, economic growth, healthcare and infrastructure, there is little risk in "one-sided migration" occurring from adopting free movement between the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada (for example, citizens of Australia would not migrate en-mass to Canada to improve their quality of life, as quality of life is already exceptionally high in Australia). This would also apply to citizens of the UK and New Zealand.

With our free movement proposals gaining support every day, the Economist Intelligence Unit's report provides further evidence why our four nations would benefit from freedom of movement, and how compatible we are (from an economic and social perspective) so as to re-introduce open borders between our four nations.

If you support free movement between the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada and have experienced hardship due to immigration controls between these countries, we want to hear from you.

Since 2015, thousands of people across our nations have been denied jobs, access to their families and rights to permanent residency because of excessive immigration laws. We share the same Head of State, the same culture, the same common-law legal system, the same Commonwealth ancestry and even the same language, yet are subject to arduous visa/permit restrictions that prevent our four nations from prospering under freedom of movement.

Whether you were unable to emigrate to New Zealand because of the restrictive "Expression of Interest" protocols, delayed in coming to Canada because of lengthy sponsorship applications, unable to afford the high-cost of emigrating to Australia, or denied the right to remain in the UK because of excessive income requirements, we want to hear about it.

All submissions will be reviewed, and many will feature on our website as personal testimonials. As such, these will feature as individual endorsements for introducing free movement between the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and help our campaign by providing valuable reasons for advocating free movement with Members of Parliament and government Ministers.

To submit your story or reasons why free movement should be introduced, please use our contact form, or email us directly at

With our cultural similarities, strong economies and seasonal job opportunities, it is easy for Brits, Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders to dream of relocating within the CANZUK area, either temporarily or permanently.

How expensive are CANZUK cities? (photograph: U Move Australia)
Many choose the temporary route, involving working holiday visas, youth mobility programs and seasonal permits. Others relocate permanently, either through spousal sponsorship or work sponsorship, and millions more hope to relocate (one day) under our free movement proposals, effectively nullifying the need for any of the above.

However, upon arrival in their new city and CANZUK country of choice, many individuals find difficulty in adapting to the different (and sometimes frustrating) costs of living. A native from Montreal, Canada may find the cost of living surprisingly high in Perth, Australia. Alternatively, a new arrival from Dunedin, New Zealand may be astonished at the rent prices in London, UK, and a lower ability to purchase goods and services with the same income.

Below, we have accumulated data regarding the most common issues affecting migrants who relocate within the CANZUK area, and an explanation of the data is given below:

[All data provided by Numbeo and accurate at time of publication (August 17th, 2016)]

The data provided is given as an “index” number, meaning all values are metrically calculated against a centralised value. As standard with world data and global indexes, values are measured against a “baseline city”, which in most cases, is New York, United States. If New York was to be placed within our data above, its values would look like this:

Because New York has a base value of 100.00, other cities around the world can be compared as a percentage figure. For example:

  • The Cost of Living in Edinburgh, UK is only 71.93% that of New York’s, therefore it is 28.07% cheaper (100% - 71.93% = 28.07%) to live in Edinburgh than New York;
  • Grocery prices in Brisbane, Australia are 72.30% that of New York’s, effectively indicating that groceries are 27.7% cheaper (100% - 72.30% = 27.1%) in Brisbane than New York;
  • Local Purchasing Power in Wellington, New Zealand has an index value of 129.52, meaning that  you can purchase $129.52 worth of goods and commodities in Wellington as you can with $100 in New York (inclusive of exchange rates).

As a general rule, it is better for the Cost of Living, Rent, Cost of Living Plus Rent and Groceries indexes to be lower, while better for the Local Purchasing Power index to be higher.  

From this, individuals relocating within the CANZUK area can estimate the price and cost variances between their home city and their relocation city. For example:

  • Rent prices in London, UK (76.48) are 43.54% more expensive than rent prices in Vancouver, Canada (32.94). We reach this conclusion via the sum:  76.48 - 32.94 = 43.54%);
  • Grocery prices in Brisbane, Australia and Melbourne, Australia are very similar;
  • By comparison, you can purchase $125.27 worth of goods and commodities in Cardiff, UK as you can with $107.04 in Auckland, New Zealand (inclusive of exchange rates);
  • Cost of living and rent is 28.27% more expensive in London, UK than Dunedin, New Zealand (80.13% - 51.86% = 28.27%).

Therefore, data accumulated in this way provides useful information regarding cost/price comparison in differing cities throughout the CANZUK area. From the data, we can also conclude the following:

We will be looking to update these statistics often and provide the latest indexes throughout the CANZUK area as they formulate.

For more information regarding cost comparisons in CANZUK cities, please email us at

Despondency over the implications of Brexit on the UK, EU, regional and global trade, global finance and globalisation is overshadowing some interesting possibilities. These include the likelihood of the Commonwealth emerging as a major group in the global trade space.

Commonwealth flags (photograph: Rachel Carr -
The Commonwealth is the most diverse collection of sovereign states after the UN and the WTO. No other global group can claim to have as much geographical depth as the Commonwealth that includes countries from South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, Caribbean and Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe.

Though the majority of the group comprise Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small and Vulnerable Economies (SVEs) from Africa, Asia, Caribbean and the Pacific, it includes rich OECD countries (e.g. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK) and high-income non-OECD countries (e.g. Barbados, Brunei, Cyprus, Malta, Singapore, Trinidad & Tobago). From a geo-strategic perspective, Commonwealth member countries figure in major global forums such as the G7 (Canada, UK), G20 (Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, UK) and the BRICS (India, South Africa).

The importance of the UK in the formation of the Commonwealth is well-known. As sovereign countries that were once part of the British Empire, the Commonwealth members are connected by their common links to Britain. Britain can be imagined as the historical ‘core’ of the modern Commonwealth. Nothing reflects the centrality of Britain more to the Commonwealth than the location of the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. Post-Brexit, the Commonwealth becomes an important forum allowing Britain the scope of reformulating its international strategic and commercial relations. It offers Britain a ready platform for engaging with various regional member states –an engagement that Britain can pursue without being hampered by any legacy carried from its association with the EU.

Major EU member states have never been a part of the Commonwealth. Their interactions with the latter members have been through the EU’s interactions with regional forums comprising Commonwealth members, such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Possibilities of Britain’s interaction with world member states running into friction with similar interaction of the latter with the EU hardly exist within the domain of the Commonwealth. Britain can therefore look at the Commonwealth as a platform for cultivating new ties with old partners, as well as enhancing linkages with regional forums, without the “EU baggage’.

Trade will no doubt be an important agenda in Britain’s external policies. Britain should find it easier to work out free trade agreements with other countries given that it no longer needs to operate within the regulatory framework of the EU. In this regard, the Commonwealth again becomes significant. Both Britain and the Commonwealth stand to gain from a common vision on trade that would see the former entering into trade and investment alliances with Commonwealth members, through bilateral agreements with groups of the latter as well as individual countries. An India-UK bilateral FTA, or a UK-South Asia FTA, could well be on the cards following deeper engagement of the UK with Commonwealth members.

A Britain keen on shaping itself as a major global actor in the modern world, and looking at the Commonwealth as an opportunity for doing so, has implications for global trade. These include the emergence of the Commonwealth as a global body espousing an inclusive trade agenda. International trade policy, particularly mega-RTAs, are being seen by many as vehicles dedicated to serving interests of specific businesses, policy elites and geo-strategic objectives. Such perceptions are resulting in popular opinion mounting against mega-RTAs like the TPP and TTIP.

London at night (photograph:
The latter have become targets for anti-globalisation and anti-free trade points of view across the world. Britain has just come out of a referendum, which reflects the sharp division in its society over the benefits of staying linked to a common market. As it works out a new trade policy, it will be conscious of the importance of carrying along diverse stakeholders and interest groups through an ‘inclusive’ trade policy.

Engaging with the Commonwealth can be an effective way of signalling an ‘inclusive’ trade policy. The Commonwealth, for all practical purposes, is a mini-WTO. Developing a trade agenda with Commonwealth nations as partners will require Britain to accommodate as much flexibility as it would have to in its negotiations at the WTO. For Commonwealth members, particularly the low-income developing countries, Britain can be a good beginning for embarking on trade negotiations that would reflect some of the 21st century issues featuring in the US and EU FTAs, albeit with greater flexibility.

While it might be premature to visualise a pan-Commonwealth FTA, Britain could be in a position to kick-start the process. Doing so would establish its strategic credibility as a major global power keen on pursuing the agenda of inclusive trade. On the other hand, a Commonwealth FTA would enable low-income Commonwealth members to gain preferential access to high-income Commonwealth member markets without being subject to strict regulatory conditions that are being demanded in Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the EU. Britain and the Commonwealth are well poised to embark on a mutually fruitful relationship and Brexit might be a blessing in disguise for both.

[Article posted by The Financial Express]

Home to astonishing landscapes and cosmopolitan cities, Canada is an alluring combination of the old and the new, so it’s little wonder that over 16 million tourists visit each year.

 Ottawa at night (photograph: Ottawa Tourism)
But if you are planning on a trip to the great white north, you need to make sure you have the correct visa before you travel, as the rules are changing soon.

Similar to the visa required for entering the United States known as "ESTA" (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), failure to obtain the Canadian equivalent (eTA - Electronic Travel Authorisation) prior to travelling means you won't be allowed in the country, although in Canada, that rule will only apply from September 30th, 2016 onwards.

There are exemptions for those who have a valid Canadian visa or permanent residency card, and if you hold dual nationality (with a Canadian passport), there is no need to apply for an eTA as the scheme will not be applicable for your citizenship status.

You should also ensure that you have enough funds to support the duration of your stay, and you will need to prove this (in most circumstances) with a customs and immigration officer at the Canadian border.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warn: “If you have any doubts about whether you’re eligible to enter Canada (e.g: if you have a criminal record or have been arrested - even if it did not result in a conviction), or about visa matters generally, contact the Canadian High Commission before you travel.

You will need an eTA if you are travelling by air to Canada, but you will not require one if travelling by land or sea.

Regardless of how you enter Canada, you must carry an acceptable travel document and identification (typically a valid passport).

Unlike some countries, your passport only needs to be valid for the duration of your stay. However the FCO advise that "if your passport has less than 6 months validity remaining when you arrive in Canada, it may take longer to pass through immigration control."

And if you decide to travel on to the USA after your trip to Canada, you will also need to abide by the new entry requirements for the USA, which came into effect this year. As of April 1st, 2016, all applicants for an ESTA must have an e-passport. If your passport was issued after October 26th, 2006, you're passport should already contain an electronic chip (qualifying as an e-passport). However, if your passport was issued before this date, you will need to contact the Passport Office to update your passport.

Everyone flying to the USA (either by air or sea) will need an ESTA. This also applies if you are temporarily passing through to catch a connecting flight to an alternative destination.

How to apply for an eTA:

You can only apply for an eTA online at the official Citizenship & Immigration Canada website. Once you have applied, keep a note of the reference number, or print out the page confirming authorisation. Always use the official eTA site for your application, as many websites will charge additional fees for applying on your behalf.

Apply for your eTA through the official CIC website
It will cost $7 (Canadian) per eTA.

All applicants should apply for their eTA before they book their flights to Canada. Most applicants are approved within minutes, but some applications can take several days to process.

To apply online, all you need is a valid passport or acceptable travel document, a credit card (for payment), and a valid email address where confirmation of your application can be delivered.

For more information regarding the new Electronic Travel Authorisation and entry requirements/conditions for Canada, please contact us at

[Article contribution by The Express]

The UK just voted to leave the European Union; why on earth should we support Commonwealth free movement?

That is a question I am frequently asked from individuals all over the world, especially those living in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada who are familiar with our campaign.

 Sydney Harbour, Australia (photograph:
The Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation (CFMO), which I had the privilege of founding, has campaigned for freedom of movement between the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada since February 2015, and since we became internationally recognized, our support has continued to grow rapidly each and every day.

Over 160,000 people have signed our petition calling for free movement between these Commonwealth countries, and an independent poll of 206,000 people (conducted by CBC News in Canada) found that over 91.8% support our proposals.

Our campaign has also received the support of numerous politicians and diplomats across the world, and since the Brexit referendum, our website has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors each month, all eager to learn about what the future holds for free movement between the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

But why the fervor? Why the support from so many people over an issue that is not even on the political agenda of our national governments (yet)? Why should we, as citizens of four sovereign, independent nations, advocate such major reform within our immigration systems and introduce the most politically progressive project the world has ever seen?

Because it is the common-sense thing to do. Granted, that’s just my opinion, but let me explain why.

In January 2011, I moved to Melbourne in Australia under the Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417) with the intention of beginning a new life, thousands of miles away from my home in South Wales, UK. Within 6 months of arriving, I was employed by the largest law firm in Australia with an apartment in Downtown Melbourne, a great circle of friends and a general sense of belonging in my new home.

Within 12 months of arriving in Melbourne, I was boarding a flight back to London. My visa was due to expire, and arduous immigration protocols in Australia made it virtually impossible for me to stay. I was taken away from everything I worked for, simply because of my citizenship.

I wish I could say this only happened to me, but throughout those 12 months, I saw too many Brits and Canadians say goodbye to a place they grew to love. They all spoke the national language, worked, paid taxes, and even volunteered with charities and non-profits, but none of that mattered. We were all born somewhere outside of Australia (through no fault of our own) and that was enough to send us packing.

Over one year later, I landed at Vancouver International Airport in Canada with the same intention of beginning a new life as I had 2 years earlier. As if history is repeating itself, I have a great job, an apartment in the Downtown district, a great circle of friends and a tremendous sense of belonging, but the options for staying here have been incredibly difficult. I began my application for permanent residency in October 2014, and to this date, I am still no closer to knowing whether I can stay permanently in Canada or not.

Since founding the CFMO, I have discovered that there are (unfortunately) thousands upon thousands of people in a similar situation to myself, many of whom are living under much more stressful circumstances.

I have spoken to countless people who are Canadian citizens, but cannot emigrate to Australia to be with their husbands, wives and children because the application fees for spousal sponsorship alone are in excess of $7,000 (excluding lawyer fees, administration fees and processing fees). Likewise, spouses are unable to emigrate to Canada for their loved ones and children because processing times for sponsorship applications are the longest in the world (currently 10 months for Australian applicants and 14 months for British applicants).

I have also spoken to New Zealanders unable to stay in the United Kingdom (even if they have families there) because they don’t meet the new government requirements of earning over £35,000 per year to settle permanently, and likewise, I have personally met UK citizens who could not stay in New Zealand because their skills and qualifications were not applicable under the country’s laborious “Expression of Interest” immigration protocols.

All of these people were law abiding, hard working individuals, yet they were all denied the opportunity to live in (and contribute to) a Commonwealth country of their choice.

But why should these restrictions exist between our countries? The European Union is made up of 28 member states, 508 million people, over 60 different languages and numerous cultures/backgrounds, yet each EU citizen has the right to live and work anywhere within this political region. And yet, citizens of our four independent nations who share the same Head of State, the same common-law legal system, the same western culture, the same respect for democracy and human rights, and even the same language are denied the countless political, social and economic opportunities that would occur from embracing free movement with each other.

I don’t know about you, but I feel the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada are better than this, and we have far more potential in this world by working together than acting individually.

By forming a free movement agreement (similar to that of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement currently operating between Australia and New Zealand), we will effectively create a single labour market servicing the world’s third largest combined economy, with an accumulative GDP of $5.7 trillion.

Auckland, New Zealand (photograph:
Throughout this region of “CANZUK” nations, each of our citizens will be able to work and study freely while our businesses recruit the best talent, all without the cost, risk and often lengthy delays currently experienced through our arduous immigration controls. Business recruitment costs will tumble, employment opportunities will rise, and economic growth will be unprecedented within these nations.

And most importantly, parents, spouses and children will be reunited, free from the stress of separation, immigration fees and employment requirements that cause so many families to live thousands of miles apart. No longer will relationships be subject to challenging immigration policies based on each party’s nationality or citizenship. Instead, families will be unified because of their shared Commonwealth ancestry and heritage, not because of what nation is printed on their passports.

The opportunities ahead of us are limitless. We have the chance to generate greater prosperity and greater relations between our four nations, and all it takes is the diplomatic cooperation of our governments to strive for a greater future for us and generations to come.

We have always stood together throughout history as the leading nations of the Commonwealth, and to this day, our citizens share cultural and historical ties that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.

Now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union, we can advance the ever-growing cultural, historical, economical and political connections that we already share through our Commonwealth ties, and embrace the countless economic and social benefits that free movement between the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada would bring.

If you ask me, it has always been the common-sense thing to do, and with our support base growing rapidly every day, we are closer than ever before to achieving this great initiative.

James Skinner
C.F.M.O Founder & Executive Director
Vancouver, Canada


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