What to do in your first week in Canada?

Contributed by Just for Canada, 28 December, 2018

If this is your first time moving abroad, Canada is one of the most open, inclusive, transparent, family and business-friendly countries in the world. Canadians are well known for their kindness and for welcoming foreigners in their country. With their diverse communities, you will find yours very quickly and feel right at home.

Moving to a new country is always challenging, especially in the beginning when there is so much to do to settle in. However, when you come prepared and know exactly what you need to accomplish and most importantly how to do it, your first few days will be less stressful. Here are the main steps you will have to go through to get ready to enjoy your Canadian experience to the fullest.

Get your Social Insurance Number (SIN)

Your Social Insurance Number (SIN), issued by the federal government, is mandatory to be able to work in Canada. It is, therefore, your first stop when you land, and it is quite easy to get yours.

Simply find the nearest Service Canada Office, just bring your passport and any immigration document in your possession (also bring the certified translation if any of your documents are not in French or in English).

The SIN will be handed to you at the end of your visit. Make sure to keep it confidential, as they are many ways to fraudulently use it.

Find long-term accommodation

If you are going to Toronto or Vancouver, the rent will be extremely expensive. However, you can still find an affordable place if you are willing to live outside the city center or to share an apartment with other roommates. The rest of Canada is relatively cheap compared to those two big cities.

Leases usually start the 1st of the month and last for 12 months. Some landlords will require seeing documentation, such as payslips, bank statements, and/or letters of reference from previous landlords. Rent can be increased every 12 months, but the increases are regulated and landlords are required to notify you at least 90 days in advance.

To find an apartment, you can look in newspapers, find Facebook groups, or use peer-to-peer platforms such as Craigslist or Kijiji. You can also use professional real-estate agencies to help you, but there are fees that come with the service.

Get your healthcare card

When you are a temporary worker or permanent resident in Canada, you are eligible to the same free healthcare that is provided to Canadian citizens. However, as healthcare is managed by each province, there are a few minor differences between provinces.

For example, (i) the beginning date of the healthcare coverage can be between 0 and 3 months from the date of establishing residence in the province, or (ii) students might not be covered at all in some provinces (Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Yukon).

As soon as you have legal documents to prove your residence (lease agreement, a Sworn Statement, etc.), you can apply for your healthcare card. You can find the specificities of each province, how and where to apply here.

Open a bank account

There are many banks to choose from, and most of them offer special offers for newcomers. The "Big 5" banks of Canada are: BMO, Scotiabank, CIBC, TD Bank, and RBC. There are other smaller banks such as Banque Nationale, HSBC, and Desjardins.

If you prefer online banks and their cheaper fees, you can check Tangerine and PC Financial.

If you are not familiar with credit history and credit cards, you should really be careful to pay all your invoices in time. Credit history can be used (i) by banks to determine the rate at which they will lend you money, (ii) by multinationals to check if you have ever not paid your debt (they can reconsider hiring you), and (iii) by landlords to make sure you will be a good tenant.

Subscribe to a mobile plan

You will have a lot of providers and plans to choose from. Assess first what your needs are, as communication costs in Canada are quite expensive, compared to European countries (mainly due to the vast size of Canada). For better customer service and access to TV stations on your mobile, you can go with the expensive providers: Rogers and Bell. If you want lower-priced plans, you can go with Fido or Virgin Mobile, which are owned by and use the same communications network as Rogers and Bell (respectively).

Exchange your driver's licence

If you want to drive in Canada, you will need to get a Canadian driver's licence. Indeed, after a few months of settling in (depending on the province, but up to 6 months), the licence from your home country will no longer be valid.

You might be eligible to exchange your driver's licence to a Canadian one, without taking any written or road test. This possibility is only available in some provinces, and for select countries (some European countries, the U.S., Japan, South Korea, etc.). Find out if you are eligible to exchange your driver's licence here.

Your Canadian experience will be rewarding and unique. Do not forget to enjoy every minute of it, as there is so much to see in Canada, as the second largest country in the world!

Tags: Expat Services | Expats | Canada |



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