Starting a new life in Canada requires a lot more than declaring your love for poutine and memorizing the national anthem. There are specific documents you’ll need to have and some different processes you must learn to navigate to secure employment, get a mortgage, access health care, continue your education, file your taxes and more. Before you make the move to Canada, make sure you’re prepared for your first year as a Canuck.
What To Do Once You Move
Once you’ve officially relocated to Canada, there’s a long list of things you’ll have to check off, documents you’ll need to secure and general things you’ll need to know.
Apply For A Permanent Resident Card
A permanent resident is someone who has been given permanent resident status by immigrating to Canada, but isn’t yet a Canadian citizen. Permanent residents are citizens of other countries. A permanent resident card is used to show that you have permanent resident status in Canada. As a permanent resident you’ll have to pay taxes and respect all Canadian laws at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.
You’ll also have the right to:
- Live, work or study anywhere you like in Canada
- Get most social benefits that Canadian citizens receive (including health care)
- Apply for Canadian citizenship
- Protection under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Click here to fill out the necessary paperwork and apply for your permanent resident card. You’ll be given this card as part of your immigration process.
Permanent Resident Travel Document
Permanent residents returning to Canada by airplane, boat, train or bus must show a valid Permanent Resident Card (outlined above) or Permanent Resident Travel Document (PRTD) before boarding.
Generally, PRTDs are valid for a single entry to Canada, allowing a permanent resident to enter the country before obtaining a new PR card. A permanent resident may only apply for a PR card from inside of Canada, so the PRTD is often necessary to facilitate entry to Canada. A person may apply for a permanent resident travel document if they meet the following criteria:
- They are a permanent resident of Canada;
- They do not have a valid PR card showing PR status;
- They are outside Canada, and;
- They will return to Canada by airplane, boat, train or bus.
If you meet the necessary criteria for a PRTD, you can submit an application which a visa officer will review to ensure it’s complete and that you’ve met your residency obligations.
Finding A Job
Researching and applying for jobs in Canada can be a complex process, likely much more lengthy than what you’re used to. Depending on your location, education and language skills, it could take months before you’re able to secure something so make sure you plan accordingly.
There are many job banks available in different areas that will help you find jobs related to your skillset or background. They’ll allow you to search for jobs from any device, set alerts to get notified about new opportunities via email and even create a profile and be matched to jobs that suit you best. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the Government of Canada job bank to explore 79,000+ job postings across the country and get access to current labour market stats.
Recognized Vs. Unrecognized Work Credentials
Having credentials in another country, doesn’t always mean they’ll be easily transferable to Canada. Newcomers to Canada must have their foreign licences and certificates recognized to work in some Canadian jobs. An authorized individual will review your foreign education, language skills or work experience and confirm that federal, provincial or territorial standards are met.
While most occupations in Canada are unregulated (meaning you don’t need any special licences or certifications) but some ARE regulated which will mean you must get your credentials recognized before you can work in those fields. Examples of these jobs can include:
Learn more about foreign credential recognition in Canada and how to get your credentials assessed to better determine what you’re working with in this new market.
Getting A Work Visa
In general, you need to apply for a work permit from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or a Canadian visa office before you come to Canada. To obtain a work visa, you’ll need to get a job offer from a Canadian employer before you apply. Learn more about that process here.
Preparing To Get A Mortgage
For many newcomers, buying a home in Canada is a huge part of feeling comfortable and settled. Moving to a brand new country brings with it extra challenges, especially when you begin to look for a mortgage.
Follow these simple steps to make sure you’re prepared to explore your housing options when you’re ready:
1. Determine what you can afford so you can figure out a realistic home price range
2. Save up for a down payment (20% of purchase price is ideal)
3. Speak with a mortgage specialist to understand all your mortgage options
4. Get pre-approved for a mortgage when you’re ready to buy
5. Find a real estate agent you get along with to help you start your search
Accessing Money Overseas
There are plenty of ways to send and receive money from overseas once you’ve opened up a Canadian bank account. Canadian financial institutions will offer International Money Transfers, bank drafts and access to your accounts via mobile app, telephone or in-person banking so once you’ve applied for a bank account in Canada, you can set up a meeting to learn more about all your personalized options.
Applying For Citizenship
To apply for citizenship in Canada you must meet certain eligibility requirements and fill out an application to be considered.
In order to apply for citizenship you must:
– Provide proof that you know how to speak and write in 1 of Canada’s official languages (either English or French)
– Be a Permanent Resident (PR)
– Have lived in Canada as a PR for at least 1,095 days out of the 5 years before you apply
– Have filed your taxes for at least 3 years during the last 5 years and any income tax you may owe must be paid
You can download and fill out the necessary forms here. Make sure you meet the eligibility criteria, have all necessary documents and are prepared to pay the application fee before you proceed with this process.
Taxes In Your First Year Living Here
Income taxes can be confusing and frustrating, even for lifelong residents of Canada! If you typically dread tax season, you’ll want to be extra prepared to navigate an unknown system. As a newcomer to Canada, you should learn more about the Canadian tax system so you can feel confident when it comes time to complete your first year of income tax as a resident of Canada. You can learn more about the whole process and what to expect as a newcomer for your first income tax return by clicking here.
Canada Child Tax Benefit
The Canada child benefit (CCB) is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. As soon as you get your social insurance number, you can apply for a number of tax benefits, including the Canada child Tax Benefit so do your research in advance to learn more about which tax benefits and credits may apply to your specific situation.
Learn more about the criteria that needs to be met, how to apply for the credit, how much you can receive and how the process works by clicking here.
Traveling Outside Of Canada
Ideally you should wait until you have your Permanent Resident (PR) card before you leave Canada. If you don’t have a choice, you should apply for a Permanent Resident Travel Document from a Canadian visa office abroad as soon as you reach your destination.
As Canada shares many borders with the United States, you may want to visit at some point. If that’s the case, you should check with United States (US) authorities before you try to enter the US as only American officials can provide authoritative information on visa requirements to travel to the US.
You’ve likely heard of Canada’s healthcare system as it’s known around the world. It’s delivered through a publicly funded system which means the cost is covered by taxpayers and is mostly free at the point of use. Although healthcare overall is paid for by the Government of Canada, it’s administered differently in each province.
Newcomers to Canada who are eligible for public coverage in their province of residence may also want to purchase private health insurance for services not covered by provincial coverage for healthcare in Canada. Insurance can cover things like prescriptions, dental and optical services, and other forms of paramedical care (like physical therapy or mental health services). While many employers will provide this kind of coverage as a term of your employment, coverage may only be available if or when you complete a probationary period of employment (typically 90 days).
Finding A Doctor
Finding a family doctor (also sometimes referred to as a general practitioner), is an important step in getting settled. These doctors will likely be the first to diagnose and treat most of your medical problems and if the issue is beyond their scope, they can provide a referral to a specialist. How you go about finding a doctor will be determined by which province you’ll be residing in. Look for local programs that can connect you with family doctors in your area, check out the College of Physicians and Surgeons in your province, consider asking family members or friends for recommendations or even contacting your local hospital for some insight as they may be able to assist.
Canada’s vaccination policies are as diverse as their population and will vary by location. Only three provinces have legislated vaccination policies, applying specifically to children about to enroll in school. Ontario and New Brunswick require immunization for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella, while Manitoba requires a measles vaccination.
Generally speaking, the World Health Organization recommends the following vaccinations for Canada: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia and influenza. The Public Health Agency of Canada supports immunization as an effective means to protect Canadians from infectious diseases and encourages all Canadians to keep their immunizations up-to-date.
Applying For Health Insurance Card
You’ll be issued a health card by the Provincial Ministry of Health when you enroll in the program and regardless of where you come from or how long you’ve been in Canada, you’ll receive the same level of care as anyone else. In some provinces you may have to wait a few months for coverage to begin so be sure to check the regulations where you plan to move so you know in advance how the rules work. Each province will also have different criteria and processes in place to apply for health cards so check with the provincial government where you plan to reside for more information about how to get your hands on a health card and what that process entails for newcomers.
Making Plans To Further Your Education
Before you decide to further your education in Canada, you’ll want to know what your current education equates to in this country. It’s always advised to do your research when it comes to your specific profession/diploma as what may seem easily transitional, could be quite the opposite.
Getting Education Credentials Recognized
The Government of Canada will accept assessments from specific designated organizations including:
- Comparative Education Service: University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies
- World Education Services
When they assess your education, they will give you a report that tells you what your education is equal to in Canada. The Government will only accept assessments issued on or after the date the organizations were designated to do ECA reports for immigration purposes. If you got a report before that date, contact the organization to see if they’ll re-issue it.
Improving Your English Or French
Canada has two official languages: English and French. When you’re applying for citizenship you’ll have to provide proof that you know either French or English to ensure you can be understood and understand others in your new home.
The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has identified the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) or Niveau de compétence linguistique canadien (NCLC) level 4 as the language assessment description that best fits the current Citizenship Regulations.
A CLB/NCLC level 4 means that you:
- Are able to understand simple questions
- Are able to understand a conversation on familiar, everyday topics
- Are able to ask and answer simple questions
- Have enough vocabulary for everyday conversations
- Demonstrate an understanding of basic grammar (i.e. proper use of verbs/tenses)
If English or French are not your first languages, you may want to learn more about the recognized standard for assessing the English language proficiency of adults here.
Setting Up A Bank Account
Taking the steps to set up your first Canadian bank account will bring with it the convenience of paying bills, sending money and managing your personal finances online while also giving you access to in-branch services that can help ease you into your transition.
Depending on where you’re moving from, banking in Canada may be quite different than banking back home. A chequing and savings account are the two most common types of bank accounts in Canada and as a newcomer, you’ll likely want both. Once you have your accounts set up, you’ll likely want a debit card to access those accounts on the go from retailers, ATMs, bank branches and through online, telephone or mobile banking. You’ll also want to learn more about how cheques work in Canada so you can ensure you know how to access them and fill them out should the need arise to make a payment that way.
To get started, look around at some of the major financial institutions in Canada (TD Bank, National Bank, BMO, RBC and Scotiabank) to determine which one may be a good fit for you based on your needs. You may also want to look into local credit unions in your area to compare their offerings.
Photo Identification (Driver’s Licence)
Some tests or examinations from your home country may not be valid in Canada but the answer to that question will depend on two things:
1. Which province you reside in as each province has different rules and regulations
2. Which country you’re coming from as some places have agreements with certain provinces
Check the rules for international licence-holders in your chosen province and ensure you gather the correct documentation before you arrive in Canada. To learn more about obtaining a driver’s licence for individual provinces, click here.
Applying For Social Insurance Number
A Social Insurance Number (also known as a SIN) is a 9-digit number that Canadian citizens, permanent residents or temporary residents need to work in Canada or to have access to government programs and benefits. A SIN is issued to one person only and cannot be used by anyone else. It’s your job to protect this number and keep it stored away in a safe place. Children who are 12 years of age or older can apply for their own SIN. Parents/individuals who are legally authorized to act on behalf of the applicant (such as a legal guardian or legal representative) can also apply for a SIN for children under the age of majority in their province, and adults in their care.
There’s no fee to acquire a Social Insurance Number but you will need original copies of specific personal documents. Click here to learn more about the process and apply for your SIN.
Applying For Credit Card
If you want to buy a home, car or are in need of a personal loan in the future, you’ll want to work on establishing your Canadian credit history to ensure you get access to the best rates possible when you’re ready to borrow. There are lots of options when it comes to personal credit cards and each financial institution will have their own line up of offerings. Some will earn you points or cash back, others will get you access to travel perks or better foreign exchange rates. Do your homework when it comes to what you want out of a credit card before you make any decisions about which type of card to choose.
Understanding credit history and credit scores is also a vital part of the process for newcomers as Canada’s system is likely very different from what you’re used to back home. In Canada, your credit history contains facts gathered from financial institutions, retailers and lenders about how you’ve handled credit in the past. Most of this information stays in your credit file for 7 years.
You may be wondering, what exactly is a credit score? Canada’s central credit bureaus use your credit history to give you a credit score (or credit rating), a number that reflects how well you’ve borrowed and repaid money. Lenders will look at this score to decide whether to lend you money (and how much) so the higher the score, the better!
Exchanging Money For Canadian Currency
You’re able to bring money into Canada in different forms but if you have $10,000 in cash (or the equivalent in another currency) per family or on your own, you have to declare this to a border official when you arrive. If you don’t declare the amount, the Canadian Border Services has the right to seize any money over $10,000 that isn’t declared and you could even face a fine or other penalty for failing to disclose this information.
You can exchange foreign currency in Canada at banks, or currency exchange kiosks/booths at airports, large shopping malls etc.
Be sure to speak with your financial institution before you come to Canada about currency laws and regulations in Canada and in the country you’re leaving. There may be restrictions on the amount of money you can take out of the country and you’ll want to be prepared in advance so you don’t run into any issues during your travels.
There are a lot of things to consider before moving to Canada. From required legal documents to standard Canadian customs, you’ll encounter different requirements as you move through the process of relocating. Some of these items will be necessary as you begin to consider the prospect of moving to Canada, some will be relevant within 6 months or arriving and others between 6-12 months once you’re settling into your new home. Want to learn more about how we can help you prepare for a move to Canada? Reach out to our team!