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How to buy international stocks in Canada

Buying foreign stocks from Canada is easy and affordable.

Canadian stocks make up around 2.5% of the global market, so investing in international stocks is a simple way to gain exposure to a much wider range of investment opportunities. The good news is that there are multiple ways to buy foreign stocks in Canada.

A safe and cost-effective option is to invest in ETFs or mutual funds that provide access to a portfolio of global stocks. This is quick and easy to do through any Canadian stock brokerage.

Alternatively, you can invest directly in international stocks through a stock trading platform with access to international exchanges, or you can consider more complicated options such as investing in American Depositary Receipts (ADRs).

Whether you want to learn how to buy Indian stocks, Japanese stocks, European stocks or other countries’ stocks from Canada, keep reading to find out how to buy international stocks in Canada.

4 ways to buy international stocks in Canada

  • Buy shares of global-themed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or mutual funds that focus on international stocks and fixed-income (hint: This is the simplest, most cost-effective way to buy international stocks)
  • Invest directly in international stocks – such as Facebook and Apple – using an international broker
  • Purchase foreign stock exposure through American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) using an American brokerage (and US currency)
  • Purchase American equities through Canadian Depositary Receipts (CDRs)

Top stock trading accounts for buying international stocks in Canada

Best for Beginners

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Free trades for young investors
  • Easy-to-use platform
  • Low fees
  • Student and young investor discounts

Best for Lowest Commissions

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Low margin rates
  • Access to international stock exchanges
  • Low margin rates
  • Powerful research tools

Best for Easy-to-use App

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Low commissions
  • $50 in free trades
  • Low commissions
  • Easy-to-use app

Step 1: Compare options and choose a broker

There are many different account options to choose from, and it’s worth comparing them to choose the best one for you, like you would any other financial product. You’ll want to consider things like:

  • Brokerage fees
  • Access to international markets
  • Exchange rates
  • Research tools
  • Customer service

Compare online platforms to buy international stocks in Canada

1 - 4 of 4
Name Product Finder Rating Available Asset Types Stock Trading Fee Account Fee Signup Offer Table description
Interactive Brokers
Finder Score:
★★★★★
4.2 / 5
Stocks, Bonds, Options, ETFs, Currencies, Futures
min $1.00, max 0.5%
$0
N/A
Winner for Best Overall Broker in the Finder Stock Trading Platform Awards.
CIBC Investor's Edge
Finder Score:
★★★★★
3.7 / 5
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs
$6.95
$0 if conditions met, or $100
100 free trades + up to $4,500 cash back
An easy-to-use platform with access to a variety of tools to help you trade with confidence.
Questrade
Finder Score:
★★★★★
3.9 / 5
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs, International Equities, Precious Metals
$4.95 - $9.95
$0
Get $50 in free trades when you fund your account with a minimum of $1,000.
Opt for self-directed investing and save on fees or get a pre-built portfolio to take out some of the guesswork.
Qtrade Direct Investing
Finder Score:
★★★★★
3.6 / 5
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs
$6.95 - $8.75
$0 if conditions met, otherwise $25/quarter
Get up to a $150 sign-up bonus. Use code OFFER2024. Ends October 31, 2024.
Low trading commissions and an easy-to-use platform with access to powerful tools and a wide selection of investment options.
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Step 2: Open your account

Once you’ve decided on an online broker, you can open your share trading account. If you already have a bank account with that provider then you can usually sign in via their online banking portal. If not, you will have to open a new account. To open an international share trading account you’ll generally need to meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be 18 or over
  • Have a Canadian residential address
  • Have a mobile number

As part of the application process, you will typically need to provide:

  • Personal photographic identification (for example your driver’s licence, or passport)
  • Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) or business registration number if applicable

When opening the account you’ll be asked to choose whether you’ll be trading as an individual, with a joint account (for example, with your partner), as a company or organization or on behalf of a trust.

Because share trading has income and tax implications you must provide details of your income and occupation. Along with your personal information, you may be required to disclose the source of your income and the origin of your financial position.

After you’ve provided your personal details, you’re up to the account set-up stage. This involves providing the details of your linked bank account, setting up financing options if applicable and choosing from the various options that may be available.

Once you’ve confirmed everything and double-checked your details, you’re ready to load your cash management account and start trading.

Already have a stock trading account?

Some providers will require that you open one account for local shares and a separate account for international shares. If you already have a local account, you can open an international one in just a few quick steps. Simply follow the steps within your platform for adding an international account and link it to your regular account.

Step 3: Fund your account and start trading international stocks

Simply fund the linked international account to start trading foreign stocks, plus any broker fees that will apply. It can take a few days for your funds to be loaded into the cash account, so keep this in mind when you decide you’d like to make a trade.

Once you’ve set everything up, you can trade online through your new international share trading account. Expect to see a dashboard with features such as current share prices and changes over time and options to buy, sell or research. You may also find tutorials and introductory material to help acquaint you with the available features.

Let’s say you want to invest in US stocks by purchasing shares in an S&P 500 ETF, such as the BMO S&P 500 Index ETF (ZSP) or Vanguard S&P 500 Index ETF (VFV). To get started, simply search for the ETF’s ticker code from your account dashboard, enter how many shares you want to buy and then place a buy order.

What’s the difference between Canadian and international stock trading?

When trading shares, you can choose to do it domestically or internationally.

Domestic stocks

Trade shares and ETFs listed on Canadian stock exchanges. Trade within certain business hours and access only Canadian investment options, which make up about 2.7% of the global market. Major Canadian stock exchanges include the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), Montreal Stock Exchange (MSE) and Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE).

International stocks

Trade shares and ETFs from global markets around the world 24 hours a day, subject to local market hours, including big global brands and household names. Gain access to more investing options, but also experience more risks and challenges.

International stock exchanges include the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the London Stock Exchange (LSE), the Nasdaq and many others.

Compared to domestic trading, there are both advantages and disadvantages to trading shares internationally.

Advantages of foreign stock investment:

  • Broaden your investment horizons. Gain access to a wider variety of investment options.
  • Diversify to manage risk. An internationally diversified portfolio can help protect you from the downturns of the Canadian market.
  • Longer trading hours. You can trade 24 hours a day rather than only within set business hours.
  • More buyers. The actual value of your shares depends on how much you can sell them for. When trading internationally, there may be a larger number of different interested buyers and you might find it’s easier finding a buyer.

Disadvantages of trading international stocks:

  • Currency conversion. Exchange rates can fluctuate and can significantly hurt (or help) your return on investment.
  • Foreign policy can affect your returns. It’s possible that changes to another country’s foreign policies, local instability or other issues can impact the value of your investment in ways beyond your control. This is a largely uncontrollable risk.
  • Tax. Taxation and related issues may be more complicated when trading international shares.

Capital gains tax on international stocks

The Canadian government requires you to disclose information about any foreign assets you hold so that gains and dividends can be taxed appropriately. The taxes you may incur will depend on the country in which you are investing and the type of asset(s) you are invested in.

How to buy international stocks in Canada

If you want to invest in international stocks, you’ll need to choose the right brokerage platform. Look for a stock trading platform that provides access to international markets as well as Canadian exchanges.

This will allow you to invest in stocks and ETFs traded on markets in the USA, Europe, Asia and other locations around the world. At the same time, you’ll also be able to invest in Canadian companies and ETFs from Canadian fund issuers.


How to buy Indian stocks from CanadaIndia flag

If you want to know how to invest in the Indian stock market in Canada, the first step is to open an account with a broker that provides access to Indian exchanges like the Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange.

However, there are complicated rules and limits regarding foreign investment in Indian companies, so you’ll need to check whether you qualify as a non-resident Indian (NRI) or person of Indian origin (PIO).

To keep things simple, invest in an Indian stock-themed ETF listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Options include the iShares India Index ETF (XID) and the BMO India Equity Index ETF (ZID). To buy shares in an ETF, log in to your brokerage account and search for the ETF’s ticker code. You can then place a limit order or market order to purchase ETF shares.


How to buy Japanese stocks in CanadaJapan flag

To invest directly in Japanese stocks, you’ll need to open an account with a broker that offers access to the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The good news is that because this is a major exchange, it’s supported by a range of brokers.

However, you’ll also need to have a Japanese yen currency account and deal with the hassle of currency conversion costs eating into your profits.

That’s why the easiest way to gain exposure to Japanese equities is to invest in an ETF that’s traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange but which tracks the Japanese market, such as the BMO Japan Index ETF (ZJPN). To do so, open your brokerage account and search for the ETF ticker code, then place a buy order.


How to buy European stocks in CanadaEuropean flag

Major European stock exchanges include Euronext, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and the SIX Swiss Exchange. If you want to invest in European stocks traded on those exchanges, open an account with a broker that provides direct access to those markets.

But the simplest approach is to invest in ETFs that provide exposure to European shares, such as the Vanguard FTSE Developed Europe All Cap Index ETF (VE). These ETFs are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, so you can invest with Canadian dollars and you don’t have to worry about the cost of currency conversion.

To invest, log in to your trading account, search for the ticker code of the ETF you want to purchase and then place a buy order.


How to buy Australian stocks from CanadaAustralian flag

The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is one of the world’s 20 largest stock exchanges. While some Canadian brokers allow you to invest directly in ASX-listed stocks and ETFs, many don’t.

So if you’re looking for the easiest way to gain exposure to Australian stocks, look for a TSX-listed ETF that tracks the performance of the Australian market or a specific Australian market sector. One popular example is the Hamilton Australian Bank Equal-Weight Index ETF (HBA).

To buy shares in an ETF, log in to your brokerage account and search for the ETF’s ticker code. Choose a market or limit order and buy the number of shares you want.


How to buy Hong Kong stocks from CanadaHong Kong flag

If you want to invest directly in companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, there are some Canadian brokers that will allow you to do so.

Unfortunately, there are no TSX-listed ETFs that track the performance of the Hong Kong market. However, if your broker offers US market access, you may want to consider investing in a US-traded ETF that tracks Hong Kong shares. One popular option is the iShares MSCI Hong Kong ETF (EWH).

To invest, log in to your account and search for the ticker code of the stock or ETF you want to buy. You can then specify the amount of shares you want to buy and finalize your purchase.


How to buy UK stocks in CanadaUK flag

The London Stock Exchange is one of the world’s major exchanges. There are several Canadian brokers that allow you to trade the London Stock Exchange, so compare your options before signing up for an account.

You can invest in an individual company such as AstraZeneca or consider an ETF that tracks the performance of the UK market, for example the Vanguard FTSE 100 UCITS ETF (VUKE) or the iShares FTSE 250 UCITS ETF (MIDD).

You can invest by logging in to your brokerage account, searching for the stock or ETF you want to purchase and placing a buy order.


How to buy Korean stocks from CanadaKorea Flag

If you want to invest in South Korean stocks directly, you’ll need to obtain an investment registration certificate from the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS). However, Korean exchanges aren’t widely supported by Canadian brokers, so the easiest option is to look into ETFs that invest in South Korean stocks.

In Canada, one example is the Vanguard FTSE Developed Asia Pacific All Cap Index ETF (VA), which tracks the performance of equities in developed Asia Pacific markets including South Korea.

If you want to invest in an ETF that tracks 100% South Korean stocks, one option is the iShares MSCI South Korea ETF (EWY), which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.


How to buy Chinese stocks from CanadaChina flag

While there are some brokers that allow you to invest directly in markets like the Shanghai Stock Exchange and Shenzhen Stock Exchange, an easier option is to invest in TSX-listed ETFs that track Chinese shares.

One popular example is the BMO MSCI China ESG Leaders Index ETF (ZCH), which aims to replicate the performance of the MSCI China ESG Leaders Index.

To invest in an ETF, log in to your brokerage account and search for the relevant ETF. Enter how many units you would like to purchase and place a buy order.


Is it worth investing $500 in stocks?

The right investment for you will depend on factors such as your investment goals, time frame and appetite for risk. That said, if you’ve got $500 you want to invest and long-term financial objectives in mind, it’s well worth considering investing in index ETFs.

These ETFs are designed to replicate the performance of stock market indices such as the S&P/TSX Composite Index, the S&P 500, the Dow Jones and the Nikkei 225. Designed for investors with long-term investment goals and a hands-off approach, index ETFs offer exposure to a diverse portfolio of stocks.

From your initial $500 investment, you can then work towards building a bigger portfolio. While you could use any dividends from your investments to provide extra income, you could also re-invest them in the ETF or in other ETFs or stocks. And if you make a habit of setting money aside to invest, your portfolio will quickly start to grow.

However, just remember that if you have $500 to invest, you’ll need to make sure your broker doesn’t have a minimum trade limit of more than $500.

How many international stocks should I buy from Canada?

Leading investment advisory firm Vanguard recommends that Canadian investors allocate around 30% of their portfolio to domestic equities and 70% to international equities. Dividing your investments this way will help minimize long-term volatility.

Nevertheless, most Canadians prefer domestic investments for the majority of their equity portfolios. However you choose to allocate your investments, diversity is key. It’s wise to avoid relying on a single market if you want to protect your wealth from regional economic swings.

Why are international ETFs a smart way to invest in international stocks from Canada?

If you want to invest in international stocks, international ETFs offer an easier and more affordable way to do so than investing in a host of individual companies. Here’s why.

  • Diversify your portfolio. Buying shares in a single ETF provides exposure to a basket of assets, making it easy to diversify your portfolio. For example, an ETF that tracks the S&P 500 will invest in the 500 companies in that index.
  • Cost-effective. If you were to invest in several international companies, you’d need to pay brokerage fees on each trade. But if you invest in an ETF, you only need to pay brokerage on one trade, while some brokers also offer commission-free ETF trades.
  • Curated portfolio. If you’re a beginner, choosing which companies to invest in takes a lot of time and effort. With an ETF, all the hard work of choosing stocks is done for you.
  • No exchange rate fluctuations. When you buy and sell international stocks, fluctuating exchange rates and currency conversion costs can eat away at your profits. But when you trade international ETFs listed on the TSX, you can use Canadian dollars.
  • Simplifies tax. If you invest in foreign stocks, you’ll need to deal with complications with foreign tax obligations or withholding tax. That’s not the case when you invest in a TSX-listed ETF.

Extra tips when you invest in stocks in Canada

Making big trades? Look for lower exchange rates, research tools that allow you to make more reliable investments and flat broker fees rather than percentage rates. Where applicable, it may be worth accepting higher flat fees when buying shares in exchange for lower percentage rates. Avoid low maximum limits which might constrain your trading.

Making a lot of small trades? You may want to avoid flat fees that take a big chunk out of the potential profits of each trade and stick to percentage rates that will cost you less. Low maximums are less of an issue, but high minimums might be a problem when trading international stocks.

How will you diversify your portfolio? Not all accounts will give you the same options to invest in stocks in Canada, so plan what kind of trades you want to make. Consider whether a given account will let you trade ETFs as well as buying shares, and if you are able to do forex trading through the same platform.

Looking for US stocks? Check out our guide to buying US stocks.

Canadians consider stocks a smart investment option in 2023

According to results from the Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q1 (CSTQ1), more than a third (36.18%) of Canadians considered equities to be a smart investment in the first quarter of 2023. This dropped only slightly in the second quarter of 2023 to 27%, according to the Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q2 (CSTQ2).

Men preferred stocks as an investment option, with 41% under the impression that Q1 2023 was a “good time to invest in stocks,” compared to 32% of female investors.(1)

Age also had an impact on an investor’s confidence in stocks as an investment opportunity. The youngest generation, Gen Z (investors up to the age of 24) had the most confidence in stocks as a good investment opportunity in the first quarter of 2023 with 53% believing “now is a good time to invest in stocks,” compared to 42% of millennials, 31% of Gen X and 19% of baby boomers.

In general, almost a third of Canadian investors (31%) held stocks outside of registered accounts, like a retirement savings fund (RRSP) or Tax-Free Savings Fund Account (TFSA) and almost three-quarters (72%) bought or sold stock through an online stock platform or app. This seems logical, given that 29% of respondents in the CSTQ2 stated they had never worked with and had no plans to use the services of a financial advisor.(2)

The bottom line buying international stocks in Canada

Trading international shares is a great way to diversify your portfolio and access a wide variety of stocks. As long as you are using a broker that supports international exchanges, you can buy and sell international shares with ease. You will need to be mindful of the exchange rate, as this will impact your return on investment.

If trading is new to you, you might want to start with the basics of share trading. If you already know how to buy international shares, you can simply compare brokers and open an account.

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Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

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