Moving to a new country, embracing a new culture and making it your own may seem intimidating. As you restart your life in Canada, there are a few things you can do to ensure you’re on the fast-track to settling in.
In this article, we will briefly outline various tasks that you should do upon arrival. We will also provide relevant resources to guide you during your first 100 days in Canada.
Getting started: Basic landing formalities for newcomers in Canada
Get your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
A SIN is a nine-digit number that is essential for getting a job, opening a bank account, and applying for any government assistance or credit.
How to apply for a SIN in Canada?
Documents required: You’ll need the following documents to apply for a Social Insurance Number (make sure to copy both sides if there is identity information on each):
- A digital copy of your original, valid Permanent Resident card or Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) OR a copy of your valid study permit issued by IRCC which indicates that you “may accept employment” or “may work”
- A digital copy of your original, valid passport, or provincial driver’s license; and
- A digital copy of a proof of address, such as an official document issued by the government, your employer, designated learning institute (DLI), landlord, or financial institution.
Applying at the airport: Depending on your arrival airport in Canada, you may be able to get your SIN at the airport. This service is currently provided for newcomers at Toronto Pearson International Airport and Vancouver International Airport during business hours on weekdays.
Applying online or by mail: If you are unable to get your SIN at the airport or if your arrival airport does not offer SIN services, you have the option to apply online or by mail. If you apply for a SIN online or by mail and your application meets the requirements, you will receive a letter with your SIN by mail within 20 business days.
To apply by mail, you’ll need to download the application from Service Canada’s website and send your completed
application form and the original documents listed above (photocopies are not accepted) to:
Social Insurance Registration Office
P.O. Box 7000
Bathurst, NB E2A 4T1
Applying in-person at a Service Canada centre: To book an appointment at a Service Canada Centre near you, you’ll need to submit an online service request form. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person visits to Service Canada Centres are discouraged. If you’re applying for a SIN in person, you will receive it during your appointment.
Apply for provincial health insurance
In Canada, to get access to medical services, you need a health insurance card. Each province or territory issues these cards to its residents. As a newcomer, you have to submit an application to the provincial government to get the card. For instance, if you’re in Ontario, you should visit Service Ontario to submit an application, while if you’re in Alberta, you should visit Service Alberta.
Depending on the province or territory you reside in, there may be a waiting period before you are eligible for public health insurance in Canada. Some provinces such as British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have a waiting period of up to three months, but in Alberta, you’re covered from the day you land. So, be sure to check the eligibility requirements in the province or territory where you reside.
Note that during the COVID-19 pandemic, most provincial governments with a waiting period for health insurance have waived off the requirement for newcomers, so you may be covered for COVID-19 screening and treatment from the day you move. Existing regulations are being modified periodically, and the government has assured that anyone needing healthcare would get it. So keep checking government and news sites for the latest updates.
|Want to learn more about how healthcare works in Canada?|
See Healthcare in Canada: Basics for newcomers for all the essential information you should know.
Find a family doctor
Also known as a General Practitioner (GP), a family doctor addresses medical needs for you and your family and will also be the one to provide a referral if you need to see a specialist.
You can find a family doctor in Canada by:
- Asking a friend, colleague, relative or acquaintance.
- Contacting an immigrant-serving organization.
- Contacting a community health centre in your area.
- Checking the provincial websites for finding a family doctor. For example, the ‘Find a doctor’ page, if you’re in Ontario or the B.C. College of Family Physicians website, if you’re in British Columbia.
- Use Lumino Health (by Sun Life) to find a family doctor, dentist, optometrist, or another health-care provider near you.
|For more information on finding a family doctor and/or pediatrician for your kid(s), read Family health 101: What newcomers should know.|
Get your driver’s license OR a provincial photo ID
A driver’s license and a provincial photo ID are authorized by the province or territory you reside in. A driver’s license obtained in any of the Canadian provinces/territories is valid throughout Canada. Note that just like your passport, a driver’s license and a provincial photo ID are recognized as official proof of individual identification in Canada. But you cannot hold both – you have to choose either one.
If you have a valid driver’s license from your home country, you can use it for up to 60 to 90 days (this time varies between provinces) in Canada before applying for a Canadian driver’s license. Check your province’s specific licensing rules before arriving to know how much time you will have to get a Canadian license.
Tip: It is not mandatory to get a driver’s license or provincial photo ID. However, there will be many instances (such as renting, health insurance, opening a bank account, getting a library card, etc.) when you will be required to provide address proof. Therefore, it is recommended to get a local driver’s license or photo ID so you can use it for address proof.
|For detailed instructions on obtaining a driver’s license in Canada, see Getting around in Canada: How to get a driver’s license.|
Get a library card
A membership to the local library offers many benefits for newcomers: free printouts, internet, community and government resources, and informative sessions related to healthcare, banking, finance etc. All you need is an ID and an address proof.
Buy a phone plan
For phone plans, you have the option to choose between a pay-as-you-go (prepaid) option and a postpaid plan. Approximately 90 per cent of Canadian mobile phone users subscribe to one of the three largest national telecommunication companies (Rogers, Bell, and Telus) or one of their subsidiary brands (which generally have lower rates).
List of subsidiary brands:
- Rogers: Fido, Chatr, Cityfone, Primus Wireless, Zoomer Wireless, and SimplyConnect.
- Bell: Virgin Mobile, Lucky Mobile, Solo Mobile, and Bell MTS.
- Telus: Koodo and Public Mobile.
- Shaw: Shaw Mobile and Freedom Mobile.
Tip: Phone plans can be expensive in Canada. Explore lower-cost alternatives by getting a plan with one of the subsidiary providers instead of the main provider companies, i.e. Bell, Rogers, and Telus.
For postpaid phone plans, some providers are likely to run a credit check to verify that you have a good credit history and pay your bills on time. Note that as a newcomer, you may not have any credit history, which may lead to the company limiting your mobile phone usage or not offering a phone plan at all.
Register your children for school and/or daycare
School education in Canada is mandatory for children aged five to 18. Generally, the school year begins at the end of August or early September and ends in June. It is divided into periods or quarters (also called terms or semesters). The months of July and August constitute summer break.
You can register your children at your local school or school board office. Bring your permanent resident card, record of landing, or confirmation of permanent residence, as well as your child’s birth certificate and vaccination certificate. The enrollment process differs by school type. Contact your local school district office or the school board to identify a school in your neighbourhood. The school board will usually inform you of the next steps and the documents required.
|Read The newcomer guide to schooling in Canada and Child care in Canada: Types, cost, and tips for newcomers for a detailed view on how to enroll your kids in schools and/or daycare.|
Know the important phone numbers
In the unlikely event of an emergency, it’s important to know who to call. Store important numbers in your cell phone or print them out on paper for quick access.
- Fire, medical, or any other police-required emergency: 911
- Municipal information: 311
- Community and social services: 211
- Helpline for kids: 1-800-668-6868
Securing your finances
Open bank account
As a newcomer, you want a trusted partner who understands your banking needs. RBC (Canada’s largest bank*) has been such a partner to newcomers for 150 years. It’s why they support everything we do at Arrive.
Chat with an Advisor before you arrive in Canada, and open an RBC newcomer account while in quarantine. Banking in Canada may be different from what you’re used to. RBC can help you understand how it works here so that you’re prepared when you arrive. Book a phone appointment now to speak to an RBC Advisor and learn more about how to open a bank account.
To open a newcomer bank account, you will need to have the following documents with you on the day of the appointment:
- Your passport
- Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR) and/or Social Insurance Number (SIN)
Finding accommodation and settling in
Begin the search for permanent accommodation
The time needed to be able to find a place can vary depending on the demand-supply and vacancy rate in the rental market of the Canadian city you are moving to. In major cities like Toronto, lack of credit history and employment proof can make it more difficult to secure rental places. However, note that it can be relatively easier to find a place if you intend to live in the suburbs or mid- or small-sized cities.
|For an in-depth read on how to rent in Canada, download Arrive’s free Housing guide. Whether you’re looking to find temporary accommodation for your first few weeks in Canada, or looking for a more permanent, long-term option, this guide will provide resources, tips, and advice to ensure you are making the right decisions on housing for you and your family.|
Buy essential furniture and household items
You may have to purchase new furniture and/or appliances for your home. Check out websites for Ikea, Structube, and Wayfair to know the approximate costs of furniture and other household items. You can also find many items second-hand, in local buy/sell groups, Facebook Marketplace, or on Kijiji. If you live in a condo or an apartment building, you are required to book the “moving elevator” to bring in larger items. Most of the buildings have specific dates the moving elevator is available; you are required to book it in advance to secure a timeslot.
Purchase home internet
Home internet plans generally range between $50 to $80 CAD per month. Some popular internet providers in Canada are Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Telus, Virgin, and Fido. However, there might be other local companies that offer competitive pricing, so be sure to shop around before purchasing.
Get equipped for the cold weather
Canada is a vast country, and weather conditions differ from the west coast to the east coast. Fall-winter months are generally September to February. Although, winter weather can start in October and last through late March or early April, making it a total of approximately seven to eight months of chilly weather. Winter on the west coast is milder and rainy in comparison to the east coast. And the further north you go, the more arctic-like conditions you’ll be likely to find. However, know that as long as you have your wardrobe, home, and car ready for winter, you’ll be just fine.
|See How to dress for Canadian winter and How to prepare for your first winter in Canada for tips on preparing for the cold weather.|
Explore the city and neighbourhoods
Take the time to explore your city and neighbourhood – it is a good opportunity to see and learn the local culture, visit popular attractions, ride the public transit and see how it operates, and meet new people.
|Get to know more about public transportation in key Canadian cities through our Getting Around article series for Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.|
Starting your career and job search in Canada
Start building your social and professional network
Leaving behind your colleagues, friends and family when you move to Canada makes the entire process of setting in more difficult than it actually is. A strong network of local friends can be very helpful as you start to build your new life.
Professional networking is a way of life in Canada and is crucial to finding a role in your field of work and tapping into the hidden job market. This hidden job market refers to positions that are filled without the employer advertising them publicly.
|Resources to help you learn more about social and professional networking in Canada:|
Prepare for the job market
Start by analyzing the job market to know the scope of your profession. Check if you need to obtain any license or certification to be able to work in your field in Canada. Update your LinkedIn profile and have a Canadian-style resume and cover letter ready.
The job market in Canada can be competitive. Along with obtaining the necessary certifications and/or licenses for your profession, it is worthwhile to explore various online courses to further strengthen your knowledge and in-demand skills. This will help you stand out from the competition.
There are also various bridging programs offered by settlement agencies and local colleges that can help you achieve your career goals. Some of the bridging programs’ services include courses, education and skills assessment, practical or workplace experience, exam preparation for licenses or certificates, language training, and action and learning plans to help you identify the training you may need.
|Navigating the Canadian job market can be overwhelming. Arrive guides on Starting your career in Canada and the Canadian job market are a quick and concise overview that explains all the need-to-know information and action items you can take to prepare yourself for finding and landing a job opportunity in Canada. Download your free copies now and fast-track your professional success!|
Find a settlement service or newcomer centre near you
The government of Canada offers various free settlement services to help newcomers settle in smoothly in Canada. Beyond helping you find employment, they can also provide assistance with language learning, finding a place to live, enrolling kids in school, etc. Newcomer centres are available all across Canada; you can always find one near you.
Setting in and feeling like home in a new country can take a while. However, when you know what to expect and are better prepared, the transition can be faster and much smoother.
Arrive is powered by RBC Ventures Inc, a subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada. In collaboration with RBC, Arrive is dedicated to helping newcomers achieve their life, career, and financial goals in Canada. An important part of establishing your financial life in Canada is finding the right partner to invest in your financial success. RBC is the largest bank in Canada* and here to be your partner in all of your financial needs. RBC supports Arrive, and with a 150-year commitment to newcomer success in Canada, RBC goes the extra mile in support and funding to ensure that the Arrive newcomer platform is FREE to all. Working with RBC, Arrive can help you get your financial life in Canada started – right now. Learn about your banking options in Canada and be prepared. Click here to book an appointment with an advisor.
* Based on market capitalization
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.