After months of preparation and immigration paperwork, arriving in Canada is a dream come true for most newcomers. But this is just the beginning, and some of your settling-in processes start right at the airport.
If you’re landing in Toronto directly, your flight will likely arrive at the Lester B. Pearson International Airport, also called Toronto Pearson Airport or YYZ airport. Many newcomers are unsure about what to expect when they arrive at the airport. This article covers a step-wise overview of everything you need to do upon arriving at Toronto Pearson Airport as a newcomer.
In this article:
- Submit your customs declaration
- Immigration and landing interview
- Collect your luggage at YYZ airport
- Going through customs at Toronto airport
- Get your Social Insurance Number (SIN) at Service Canada
- Purchase a Canadian SIM card at the airport
- Getting home from Toronto Pearson Airport
- Which terminal do international flights arrive at – T1 or T3?
Submit your customs declaration
The first step when you arrive at Toronto Pearson Airport is to confirm your identity and submit your customs declaration at a Primary Inspection Kiosk (PIK) or eGate. Customs declaration is a standard procedure at most international airports globally, but Toronto Pearson (and several other international airports in Canada) has automated it.
Up to five people travelling together from the same country can use a single kiosk at a time. If needed, a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) agent can help you submit your declaration.
The process is fairly simple, and you receive on-screen instructions to guide you through each step:
- Select your language preference: In addition to English and French, you may see an option for additional languages, including Hindi, simplified Chinese, Korean, Punjabi, and more. Choose a language you’re most comfortable with and proceed to the next step.
- Scan your passport: The kiosks have scanners where you can scan your travel document or foreign passport.
- Take a photograph: You will be prompted to take a picture of yourself through the kiosk camera to confirm your identity.
- Verify your fingerprints, if needed: Only select foreign nationals are required to provide their fingerprints through the kiosk.
- Submit your customs declaration: Next, you must declare if you’re carrying any items that aren’t permitted or currency over the $10,000 CAD limit. You will also have to answer questions regarding any past criminal record, whether you’ve ever been denied entry into the country, and more.
- Take your CBSA receipt: After you submit your declaration, the kiosk will generate a receipt, which you must keep and later submit to a border services officer at the time of immigration.
|Tip: To save time, you can also prepare your customs declaration through the optional Advance CBSA Declaration feature on the ArriveCAN app up to 72 hours before arrival. If you’ve already done this, simply scan your passport at the kiosk, certify your declaration, and take your receipt.|
|Note: Starting October 1, 2022, the government has removed all COVID-19 vaccination, testing, and quarantine requirements for travellers entering Canada. Travellers are no longer required to submit their travel and vaccination information through the ArriveCAN app.|
Immigration and landing interview
After submitting your customs declaration, follow the signs to the Arrival and Customs area (also known as the immigration area). If you are landing in Canada for the first time with your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR), you must report to an immigration officer for a landing interview and to sign paperwork for your Permanent Resident (PR) card processing. Be sure to join the line for non-Canadian citizens.
When you reach the head of the line, the immigration officer will look at your essential documents, including Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR), passport or travel document, visa, proof of settlement funds, and your CBSA declaration card. They will also ask questions to confirm your identity, verify your customs declaration and some specifics of your PR application. The officer will fill in details of your landing date on your COPR, ask you to counter-sign it, and make a copy for their records. Double-check all the information on this document to ensure there are no spelling mistakes, typos, or other errors. In case of any errors, be sure to get them corrected immediately, as it can be very hard to get changes made to your landing papers and PR application once you’ve left the airport.
While processing your PR card application, the immigration officer will ask for a Canadian address where your PR card can be mailed to you. Most newcomers typically don’t have a permanent address in Canada when they first arrive, but you can provide your temporary address or a friend or family member’s address instead. If you move or change your address before receiving your PR card, update your address using the online address notification form on the Government of Canada website.
|Tip: Keep your signed COPR document safely with you. You will require this document for several post-arrival tasks until your PR card arrives, including opening your Canadian bank account, getting a driver’s license, and more. Read our article on how to navigate your first 100 days in Canada for more information.|
Collect your luggage at YYZ airport
Next, it’s time to head to the baggage claim area to collect your luggage. In most flights, before you deboard, the crew announces which conveyor belt to pick up your checked-in luggage from. It’s a good idea to make a mental note of the conveyor belt number, so it’s easier to find your suitcases.
If you miss the announcement or the carousel number for your flight changes, don’t worry. The baggage claim area at Toronto Pearson has screens displaying where luggage from each flight will arrive. Since the immigration processes take a while, you will likely find your belongings waiting for you on or around the baggage carousel.
Going through customs at Toronto airport
After collecting your luggage, proceed to the customs area. As a newcomer, you can bring your belongings to Canada without paying any duties. To do this, you must fill in the BSF186 and BSF186A Personal Effects Accounting Documents (also known as B4 and B4A forms or settler’s effects) and give them to a customs officer.
Although you can fill these forms out at the airport, it’s best to do so before your travel. Not only will this help you save time at the airport, but you’ll also be able to provide a more accurate list of the items you’ve brought or expect to bring later. If you are bringing jewellery or other precious ornaments, use wording from your jeweller’s appraisal or insurance policy on the forms and include photographs signed by a jeweller or gemologist.
The customs officer will make copies of your forms and any photographs you provide and return the stamped originals to you. They may also ask how much currency you’re carrying, the source of those funds, etc. Be sure to carry purchase receipts for the Canadian currency you bring with you to avoid delays and confusion.
Occasionally, international travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson may be selected for a random customs check. In such a scenario, customs officials may check your luggage to make sure you’ve declared all your belongings and currency and are not bringing anything that’s not permitted.
|Tip: Keep your original BS186A Goods to Follow list and attached photographs with you. For goods arriving in Canada later, you need to show this form to claim your shipment or carry the document while bringing these items with you during later trips.|
How much time does it take to get through Toronto Pearson Airport as a newcomer?
Depending on the time of your arrival and the length of the immigration queue, it can take between one to four hours to complete airport formalities and exit Toronto Pearson Airport. Afternoons and evenings (2 p.m. to 8 p.m.) are peak traffic times at YYZ airport, so account for more time if your flight lands during these hours.
Get your Social Insurance Number (SIN) at Service Canada
Newcomers arriving at Toronto Pearson Airport during business hours may be able to get their Social Insurance Number (SIN) before leaving the airport. There is a Service Canada centre inside the airport, although it has remained closed during the pandemic.
If the Service Canada centre is open when you land, you can fill out a form to obtain a new SIN. You will need to show your passport and signed COPR and provide a Canadian address (it doesn’t have to be a permanent address). You will receive your SIN on the spot within a few minutes.
If you can’t get your SIN at the airport, you can apply for one online, by mail, or in person at another Service Canada centre near you. Read our article on how to get a Social Insurance Number in Canada for more information.
Purchase a Canadian SIM card at the airport
Before you leave the airport, it may be a good idea to purchase a Canadian SIM card. Phone providers like Chatr have pop-up stores or kiosks in the airport, just outside the arrivals area.
Although Canadian phone providers typically offer postpaid and prepaid (pay-as-you-go) plans, you will usually only qualify for a postpaid plan once you have an established credit history in Canada. Most newcomers start with a prepaid SIM card and upgrade later if needed.
While you don’t necessarily need to buy a SIM card at the airport, it’s something you can check off your to-do list quickly. Plus, it will be useful if you want to let your family and friends back home know you’ve arrived in Canada safely. Toronto Pearson Airport also has free wi-fi if you prefer to shop around for phone service deals later.
Getting home from Toronto Pearson Airport
After you complete all your landing formalities and collect your luggage, it’s time to go to your new home. Here are a few available options to make your journey to your temporary accommodation convenient:
Get a friend to pick you up
If you have friends or family in or around Toronto, ask if they can pick you up at the airport and drop you off at your temporary accommodation. Be sure to let them know how much luggage you will have and check if it’ll fit in their vehicle. Ideally, you want them to arrive at the airport at least two or three hours after your flight lands, so they don’t have to wait.
Get a taxi or limo from the airport
You can reserve a taxi or limo online before your flight to Canada or even after you land (subject to availability). Some options available at YYZ Airport include Pearson Air Limo, Toronto Pearson Airport Taxi, and Aeroport Taxi and Limousine Service. These taxis have a fixed fare based on which part of the city you go to and it’s normal for drivers to not turn on the meter. The queue for taxis is normally not very long.
At the time of reservation, you can choose to pay by credit card or cash (in Canadian dollars). In addition to the fare, be sure to account for a 10 to 20 per cent tip. Tipping for services is part of Canadian culture, and not leaving a tip may be considered rude.
|Tip: If you’re travelling with a large group or with lots of luggage, it may be cheaper to get a limo instead of two taxis.|
Take an Uber, Lyft, or a prepaid cab
As you walk towards the airport exit, you’ll find kiosks for several prepaid cab options you can use. In this case, you must pay the fare upfront, based on distance, by cash or credit card.
Alternatively, you can download the Uber or Lyft app on your phone and book a vehicle before exiting the airport. Toronto Pearson has free wi-fi that you can use to coordinate with the driver. Typically, Uber and Lyft pick-ups happen at either gate Q or P at T1 (ground level) or at gate D at T3 (arrivals level), so make sure you use the right gate to exit the airport.
Use public transportation
Toronto Pearson Airport is well connected to Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) by public transit. The Union Pearson Express (also called the UP Express) connects the airport to Union Station in Downtown Toronto. It runs every 15 minutes during peak hours (6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and every 30 minutes during off-peak hours, with the last train running from Pearson at 11:27 p.m. The train also makes stops at Weston and Bloor. You can purchase your ticket online or buy a PRESTO card or a ticket from a vending machine at the UP Express Terminal using cash.
The 900 Airport Express bus runs from Toronto airport to Kipling Station every six or eight minutes, with five stops en route. At the Kipling Station, you can transfer to subway line 2. Alternatively, you can take the 52A bus to the Lawrence/Lawrence West station and get on subway line 1. There are also overnight options such as the 300A Bloor-Danforth bus, the 332W Eglinton West bus, and the 352W to Lawrence West.
How far is Brampton from Toronto Airport?
Brampton city centre is approximately 24 kilometres from Toronto Pearson Airport, and the journey takes 20 minutes by cab or taxi (with minimal traffic). You can also take the 115 bus to Bramalea and transfer to the 501/501A to reach Brampton Downtown.
How far is Mississauga from Toronto Airport?
Toronto Pearson Airport is located in Mississauga, but the Mississauga city centre is approximately 17 kilometres away. A cab trip from the airport to Mississauga will take between 15 and 20 minutes (without traffic). You can also take GO Transit (bus route 40) to Square One or the MiWay bus 7 to the Mississauga city centre transit terminal.
How far is Downtown Toronto from Pearson Airport?
Downtown Toronto is approximately 28 kilometres from Toronto Pearson Airport. If you take a taxi, the trip will take between 30 and 40 minutes, depending on traffic. The UP Express to Union Station takes 25 minutes and can be a convenient option if you don’t have a lot of luggage.
Which terminal do international flights arrive at: T1 or T3?
At Toronto Pearson, both T1 and T3 terminals handle domestic and international flights. Your arrival terminal will depend on the airline you travel with. For instance, Air Canada, Air India, Emirates, Egyptair, Lufthansa, and United Airlines usually use T1. Other flights such as American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta Airlines, Etihad Airways, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines typically arrive at T3.
As a newcomer, landing at Toronto Pearson Airport for the first time can be thrilling. Going through immigration and customs can take a little time, but as long as you know the process and have your essential documentation handy, it should be fairly straightforward. And once you exit the airport, it’s time to finally put all your immigration paperwork behind you and start your new life in Canada.