Moving to Canada from another country is no easy task. Whether you plan to settle in Canada permanently or relocate for better career or study options, it takes a lot of time and organization to ensure a smooth transition into life in a new country.
We’ve created a handy moving to Canada checklist, which will provide you with a step-by-step guide of all the things you need to do, from deciding which immigration program to apply for to preparing for your life in Canada.
When you’re first considering a move to Canada, you’ll have to choose between several immigration pathways. Many newcomers apply for Permanent Residence (PR) directly, which allows them to live and work in Canada permanently and even become Canadian citizens down the line.
The other option is to apply for temporary residence, either in the form of a study permit or work permit, so you can experience life in Canada before deciding whether you want to stay permanently or return to your home country. Due to ongoing delays in the immigration process, many newcomers who were originally planning to apply for PR (or were awaiting a response on their application) are now exploring temporary ways of moving to Canada.
However, it’s important to evaluate the pros and cons of each pathway before making a decision. For instance, while it’s easier and faster to get a study permit, it’s a longer road to PR. Also, the cost of education for international students is quite high, and even though you may be allowed to work part-time while studying in Canada, you’ll still have to rely on your savings to cover living expenses during your study period.
Having Canadian work experience or educational credentials makes it easier to qualify for PR, so if your estimated Comprehensive Ranking System score is low, it may be better to try for a study permit or work permit first.
The province you choose to settle in will determine the job opportunities that’ll be available to you, the quality of life you’ll have, the cost of living, schooling options for your children, and the cultural environment. Many provinces also have Provincial Nominee Programs through which they invite newcomers whose skills are needed to fill in-demand jobs in the region.
Do some research to learn about Canada’s provinces and territories, the major cities that newcomers prefer to live in, and the job market. This will help you decide which province you want to live in before you apply for PR.
Canada has several immigration programs for PR, both at the federal and provincial levels. The Express Entry program is the most popular among newcomers and includes streams for foreign skilled workers, skilled tradespeople, and foreign nationals with Canadian work experience who want to settle in Canada permanently.
The Express Entry program uses a point-based system known as the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) to rank and evaluate individual immigration applications based on factors such as skills, education, language ability, work experience, age, and more. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) conducts periodic draws to determine the CRS cut-off and, if your score is higher than the cut-off, you’ll receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for PR.
If you’re certain about the province you want to live in, you can apply through the Provincial Nominee Program instead. Securing a provincial nomination adds 600 points to your CRS score, significantly increasing your chances of qualifying for PR.
Note Some PNP streams are linked to the federal immigration program, so you’ll need to create an Express Entry profile and secure a certain CRS score to qualify. To get an estimate of your projected CRS score, use the government’s CRS tool.
Start your PR application process
Gather essential documents for your application
As you start filling in your PR application, you’ll be asked to upload various documents, including:
Education credentials assessment(ECA): An ECA verifies that your foreign educational degree, diploma, or certification is valid and equal to a Canadian one. The ECA process takes time, so start the process at least two months before you plan to submit your PR application.
Language proficiency test scores: If your first language isn’t English or French, you’ll need to take an English and/or French language test. For English, the IRCC accepts IELTS and CELPIP test scores, while for French, you’ll need to take the TEC Canada or the TEF Canada test.
Passport: Your PR application will be linked to your passport number, so be sure to check the validity of your passport and get it reissued if it’s scheduled to expire soon.
Identify your NOC
The Canadian government uses the National Occupational Classification (NOC) system to classify occupations based on job duties and skill level. Use the Find your NOC tool to identify the NOC code for your current and previous jobs.
Note Some PNP programs shortlist newcomers based on NOC rather than CRS score to meet their labour market requirements more effectively.
Fill in and submit your Express Entry or PNP profile
Once you gather all the essential documents, you’re ready to create your application. For Express Entry, you’ll need to create an account on IRCC and create a profile under one of the three streams. You’ll also need to pay an application fee, which includes the fee for a biometrics test. Once your profile is submitted, you’ll be entered into the Express Entry pool of candidates to await the next CRS draw. Your Express Entry profile will be active for 12 months or until you receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA), whichever is sooner.
Some PNP programs may require a separate application. You can find more information on the application process for these programs in our Provincial Nominee Program series.
Respond to the Invitation to Apply (ITA)
Depending on the immigration program you apply to, you’ll typically have 30 to 60 days to respond once you receive an ITA. At this time, you’ll be asked to provide documentation to support the information you provided in your profile. Some of this paperwork can take time to source, so we recommend gathering these essential documents well in advance.
Proof of settlement funds: You’ll require bank statements and letters from your financial institution to prove you have sufficient funds to cover living expenses for your first few months in Canada.
Police certification: Your local police authorities will need to certify that you don’t have a criminal background in your country.
Work experience letters: Depending on your professional history, you may be required to submit letters from your past and current employers verifying your employment history, including the dates of your employment, working hours, job title and responsibilities, and salary.
Birth and marriage certificates: If you’re applying for PR as a family.
Job offer letter: If you already secured a job offer in Canada.
Medical exam: You’re only required to take a medical test if you receive communication from the IRCC or province asking you to do so.
Wait for your PR application to be processed
How long does it take for your PR to be processed?
The processing time for permanent residence applications varies based on the program you apply under. In most cases, it takes at least six months, but due to ongoing COVID-19 related delays, there’s a significant backlog and you may have to wait over a year to get your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR). However, there are some things you can work on while you wait to make your transition into life in Canada easier.
Before you start applying to jobs, create a Canadian-style resume and cover letter and customize it for each role. Since most companies now conduct interviews remotely, you should also start interview preparation, so you’re ready to start actively applying for jobs as soon as you get your COPR.
Download our free resume and cover letter templates
Work on your language skills
English and French are the two official languages in Canada, although English is more common everywhere except Quebec. If you need to work on your communication skills, this wait period is the perfect opportunity to sign up for language classes or practice at home.
Research the basics of living in Canada
Life in Canada may be very different from what you’re used to back home. As part of your preparation, be sure to research the types of accommodation available in Canada and use Arrive’s monthly expenses calculator to estimate the cost of living in your target city.
Many newcomers also experience culture shock when they first arrive in Canada, so spend some time learning about cultural differences you can expect and connect with any friends and family in Canada to learn from their experiences.
Prepare to move to Canada
Get your visa stamped
Once you receive your COPR, you’re all set to prepare for your move. The first step is to submit your passport for a visa stamp and give your biometrics at the authorized agency in your country. The communication you receive from IRCC along with your COPR will have detailed instructions on these steps.
Get ready to travel
With your visa and COPR in hand, you’re ready to book your flight tickets to Canada. Since it usually takes some time to find long-term rental accommodation, most newcomers book temporary accommodation, such as a hotel, B&B, or hostel for their first few weeks.
Next, you’ll need to start packing the belongings you intend to bring with you. As you do that, you can also fill out the personal effects documentation, or forms B4 and B4A (BSF186 and BSF186A), which you’ll need to present to border officials at your port of entry. While you only need these forms at the airport, it’s much easier to fill them out as you pack.
You may also have belongings you won’t bring with you to Canada, such as your furniture, vehicle, large electronics, and other items. If you intend to sell these goods before you leave, make sure you allocate enough time to do so.
Start applying to jobs in Canada
Now that you have a landing date planned, it’s time to start actively applying for jobs. Keep in mind you’re only allowed to start working for a Canadian employer after you receive your PR, but if your initial interviews go well, you can always explain your situation to the employer and negotiate a joining date that’s after you land.
Get your documents in order
In addition to the documents you submitted along with your PR application, you’ll also need the following during your travel or for your life in Canada:
Driver’s licence and extract: If you have prior driving experience in your country, getting a driver’s licence extract from your local authority can help you get a full Canadian licence faster.
Travel insurance: In some provinces, the provincial health coverage has a wait period and you’ll need travel insurance to cover you during that time.
Medical records, prescriptions, and any ongoing medication
References from past employers
Quarantine plan: If you’re travelling to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic, you also need a quarantine plan for your first few weeks after you land. At present, fully-vaccinated travellers are exempt from the mandatory quarantine, but the final decision is up to officials at your port of entry.
Passport and tickets
Important: If your documents are in a different language, get them translated into English or French by a certified translator before you land in Canada.
Start the process to open a Canadian bank account
A Canadian bank account will be foundational for your financial success in Canada. You’ll need access to your funds during your first few weeks in Canada, so, if possible, you should start the process of opening a bank account before you arrive. Some financial institutions, like RBC, allow you to start the bank account opening process virtually from your home country.
There are several things you’ll need to get done in your first few days in Canada and, with a little advance preparation, you can arrive all set to accomplish everything on your list.
Bring some Canadian currency, ideally in small bills, to cover your expenses until you get a debit or credit card.
If you arrive in the winter, pack some warm winter clothes in your carry-on luggage (winter temperatures in Canada are often below freezing!).
Look at public transit maps in your city and make note of the bus stops or subway stations close to your temporary accommodation.
Carry a travel adapter for your electronics (standard voltage in Canada is 120 V).
Buy an international calling card or purchase a Canadian SIM card online and have it delivered to your temporary address. Note: you may be able to purchase a Canadian SIM card upon arrival at certain airports in Canada.
Many newcomers from across the world come to Canada with the goal of working and settling here. If you’re exploring immigration pathways to Canada, this moving to Canada checklist will provide you with the information you need to choose a suitable immigration program, apply for permanent residence, and plan your move to Canada.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.
Arrive makes it easier for newcomers and international students to make a smooth landing in Canada by providing the information and guidance they need. Arrive provides up to date, informative articles, guides, webinars, digital tools and expert advice to help newcomers prepare for their arrival, and adapt to the Canadian job market and cultural landscape. Students can get ready for their Canadian studies, so that they are set up for academic and professional success in Canada.
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