2022-11-02T20:21:42-04:00June 23rd, 2020|

Pre-arrival checklist for newcomers to Canada

While preparing to immigrate to a new country, there are many tasks to be completed to ensure a smooth transition. In this article, we hope to provide you with a comprehensive list of action items, grouped by timelines, to help you better organize and plan for your move to Canada. 

The Arrive pre-arrival newcomer checklist helps you keep track of all your action items.

Download the checklist now!

Approximately two to three months before you move:

1. Book your flight

Air ticket prices fluctuate based on demand and supply during the year. So it might be a good idea to start tracking air ticket costs at least four months in advance of your intended moving date and book your flight once the cost seems reasonable. There are a variety of travel websites and apps you can use to compare costs; some of them are Kayak, Skyscanner, Expedia, Tripadvisor, and Hopper.  

2. Plan and book short-term accommodation

Depending on the Canadian city you are moving to, it can take a while to find permanent, long-term accommodation. That’s why it’s a good idea to book temporary accommodation at a hotel, hostel, or an apartment, condo or house for a couple of weeks or even the first few months. 

Tip: For more tips and important things to consider while booking your initial stay, check out our article on How to find temporary accommodation in Canada.

3. Register for government-sponsored pre-arrival programs

The government of Canada offers many settlement programs for preparing to live and work in Canada free-of-cost to newcomers with an approved immigration visa. You can sign up and register for these programs before you arrive in Canada. Pre-arrival service organizations assess your needs and create a personalized plan to help you settle in Canada.

While most sessions and resources are virtual, some settlement organizations like Planning for Canada offer in-person sessions in your home country. There is usually a long waitlist to register for in-person sessions, so you should look into enrolling as soon as you get your visa. 

4. Research the job market

As you plan your move, it is essential to be aware of the job market trends for your occupation in Canada, and more specifically, in the city, you will be moving to.  

Tip: For an overview of the tools, resources, and process to analyze the job market in Canada, download the Newcomer’s Guide to the Canadian Job Market.

Canadian job market guide

5. Prepare for the job market – look into certifications and licenses

Different Canadian provinces and territories may have different requirements for professional licenses and certifications. Identifying if you will need to obtain a license or certification can help you get a headstart in preparing for your employment in Canada.

All occupations in Canada are classified into regulated and non-regulated occupations. You can find out if your profession is regulated by typing in your NOC code and province/territory on the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (CICIC) website. The Canadian Job Bank website is another good resource to refer to as well. Regulated occupations require you to have a license and/or a certification to be able to work in the field.

Note: Most occupations in the fields of healthcare, engineering, and law are regulated across Canada, and you will be required to get a certification or license to be able to practice or work.

Irrespective of whether a certification or license is required for your occupation in Canada, you can also explore various online courses to further strengthen your knowledge and skills and be better prepared for the job market in Canada. Some course providers you could refer to are Lynda, Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, Microsoft Technical Certifications, Microsoft Office Certifications, and Hubspot Academy.

6. If you have kids, look up school enrolment information and process

In Canada, children, aged five or six and above, are obligated by law to attend school. Schools usually begin at the end of August and finish around the end of June. If you and your family arrive in Canada during the school year, contact your local school board to enrol your child/children. To get into the school you prefer, make sure to enrol your kid(s) well before the school year begins. 

Documents that may be required at the time of enrolment include proof of child’s age (birth certificate or passport), proof of address, proof of immigration status (Permanent Resident card, Record of landing or CoPR), and immunization records. 

7. Budget for initial months in Canada

In Canada, the costs associated with housing, transportation, food, and entertainment can vary from city to city and are likely to be very different from what you are accustomed to at home. Research and budgeting can not only help you reduce stress, but ensure you cover expenses and save for the future. 

Tip: Use the Arrive Cost of Living in Canada Calculator to plan your monthly budget.

Approximately one to two months before you move:

1. Get supporting documents for your existing driver’s license

To drive a car in Canada, you’ll need a driver’s licence issued by the government of your province or territory. If you have a valid licence from your home country, you may be able to use it to drive in Canada for a short time after you arrive. 

The process of getting a driver’s licence in Canada depends on the province or territory where you live and on your driving background. If you plan to use a foreign driver’s licence in Canada, you should get an International Driving Permit (IDP) in your home country. Some countries issue a “driver’s extract,” which can then be used to apply for a driving license in Canada. 

2. Create a Canadian-style resume

The resume format that’s widely used and accepted in Canada may be different from the one you’re used to in your home country. To get a headstart on your job search, work on your resume in pre-arrival and adapt it to the Canadian-style.

Download our free resume templates to craft an impressive Canadian style resume and cover letter.

3. Refine your LinkedIn profile

To find talent, LinkedIn is often the initial go-to site for many recruiters and employers in Canada. Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and log in regularly so you don’t miss out on any opportunities.

Tip: Read these top 10 tips to optimize your LinkedIn profile for the Canadian job market

4. Research the climate

The temperatures and climate vary greatly across Canada. Google the weather conditions for the days when you will be travelling and dress appropriately. 

5. Look up items that are permitted to bring to Canada while immigrating

According to the government of Canada, when you move to Canada from another country, you may bring your personal and household goods with you without paying duty (a fee that the government charges on some goods when they enter Canada). You’ll have to pay duty on any item you bring that hasn’t been used.

6. If you’re an international student, get your ID

The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) allows international and domestic students to access student discounts in Canada and around the world. If you’re an international student travelling to Canada, you can order your card online, but it may take up to four weeks for delivery, depending on where you live.

A few weeks before you move:

1. Book an appointment to open a Canadian 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.

Speak to a newcomer financial advisor

To open a newcomer bank account, you will need to bring the following documents with you on the day of the appointment:

Additional resources:

2. Complete the forms for bringing goods to Canada

The government of Canada recommends that before you arrive, you should prepare two copies of a list (preferably typed) of all the goods you plan to bring into Canada. The list should:

Give this list to the border services officer when you first get to Canada, even if you aren’t bringing in any goods at that time.

Tip: If you’re bringing jewellery or precious ornaments, to avoid delays at customs when you enter Canada:

  • Use the wording from your insurance policy or jeweller’s appraisal on your list of goods.
  • Include photographs of the items.
  • Know how much you paid for the items or have a receipt showing how much you paid.

3. Buy medical insurance

Depending on the Canadian province or territory you are moving to, you may or may not be covered from the first day of landing in Canada. For instance, in Ontario and British Columbia, there is a wait time of 90 days for newcomers to be eligible for provincial health insurance. However, if you are moving to Alberta, there is no wait time to receive provincial insurance benefits, and you’re covered from the day you land. 

You can check the ministry of health in your province or territory to know how long you’ll need to wait. Meanwhile, it is advisable to buy private or supplementary health insurance plans from a Canadian insurance company to cover yourself and your family for your initial months in Canada.

Tip: There are many insurance rate comparison sites to help you with your research – LowestRates, InsuranceHotline, ratehub and RateSupermarket are just a few of them. It is recommended to shop around and check all your options before you purchase an insurance policy.

4. Fill your prescriptions

The government of Canada suggests that you may want to bring a six-month supply of medications as pharmaceutical brands may be different in Canada, and prices could be more expensive if you’re paying out-of-pocket. 

5. Get Canadian currency

Ensure you have some cash in Canadian currency with you for your initial days in Canada, as it may take a few days or weeks until you open your bank account and receive your credit and/or debit cards. 

6. Start networking

Networking is an integral part of life in Canada and “coffee chats” or “informational interviews” are very popular. It doesn’t hurt to start early in pre-arrival, and expand your network online through sites like LinkedIn.

Networking for Newcomers to Canada guide

7. Download offline maps on your phone

During your initial days in Canada, you may not have access to the internet or data connection when you’re out and about. Downloading area-specific maps through Google Maps or Maps.me is an excellent way to find your way around the city without using the internet. These maps can also be very helpful while travelling to your accommodation from the airport. 

8. Organize all essential documents for travel

Ensure that you have all the essential documents that you should bring with you when you move to Canada. Use this checklist to make sure you’re not missing anything.

Essential documents include but aren’t limited to:

  • A Canadian immigrant visa (if this applies)
  • Confirmation of Permanent Residence for each family member travelling with you
  • A valid passport or other travel document for each family member travelling with you
  • Two copies each of:
    • A detailed list of all the personal or household items you’re bringing with you (Form BSF186 or B4)
    • A list of items that are arriving later and their money value (Form BSF186A or B4A)
  • Health documentation, prescriptions, optical records, dental records, and child immunization records
  • Marriage certificates
  • Driver’s licence, including:
    • An International Driver’s Permit 
    • A reference from your auto insurance company
  • Adoption, separation or divorce papers
  • Birth certificates or baptismal certificates
  • Letters of reference from former employers
  • Trade or professional certificates and licences
  • Car registration documents (if you’re importing a motor vehicle into Canada)
  • School records, diplomas or degrees for each family member travelling with you
  • A list of your educational and professional qualifications and job experience for your resume
  • Financial records and bank statements that showcase proof of funds


  • Don’t pack these essential documents in your luggage; keep them with you at all times.
  • Ensure all your official documents are translated into English or French and notarized (certified by a notary).
  • Store photos and scanned copies of your documents on the cloud for easy accessibility.
  • Make photocopies of all essential documents, in case the originals get lost. Be sure to keep the photocopies in a separate place from the originals.

Planning and organizing in advance will help reduce stress and ensure you and your family have a smooth transition to Canada.