The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic altered the way we live, work, and conduct our daily activities. Like many other nations in the world, Canada enforced a variety of restrictions and guidelines to control and prevent the spread of the disease. 

As businesses temporarily closed down and everyone stayed home, newcomers who had recently moved to Canada as well as those who were planning to move soon have been greatly impacted. Now, after approximately three months in lockdown, the economy and businesses in Canada are slowly starting to reopen in a phased manner. 

In this article, we hope to provide a consolidated overview of all the information, resources, and tips that will help you understand what to expect once you arrive in Canada and hence, be better prepared for your move. 

Arriving in Canada: Entry eligibility, admission criteria, and penalties

All international flights are still restricted to four airports in Canada: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. If you’re travelling by air, you need to follow all airline requirements (including wearing a non-medical mask) and pass a health check conducted by airlines before you’re allowed to board your flight. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 is not allowed to enter Canada by air.

As per the guidelines outlined by the government of Canada, you may be able to enter Canada if you are:

  • A permanent resident (PR) whose application was approved before March 18, 2020.
  • A PR’s spouse, common-law partner and/or child and were included in the PR application that was approved before March 18, 2020.
  • An immediate family member (spouse, common-law partner, dependent child, grandchild, parent, step-parent, guardian, or tutor) of a PR or Canadian citizen who is living in Canada. 
  • An international student whose study permit was approved before March 18, 2020.
  • A temporary foreign worker with a valid work permit and job offer.

Tip: If your PR application is approved, but you can’t travel to Canada before your documents expire, use the Web form to tell Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) why you can’t travel. And once it’s possible for you to travel, use the same Web form to contact IRCC again so they can tell you what to do next.

To learn more about entry eligibility, see Immigration to Canada in times of COVID-19: Your questions answered, which features responses from authorized immigration consultants.

Admission criteria to be met:

  • You may have to provide evidence that you would be staying in Canada for at least 15 days. 
  • Even if you have no symptoms, it is mandatory to have a quarantine plan that shows how you’ll quarantine for 14 days when you arrive in Canada. A quarantine plan should include:
    • A place where you will be staying, 
    • How you will get to your destination from the airport,
    • How you will get your groceries, and
    • How you will access essential services and medical care
  • Individuals reuniting with an immediate family member who lives in Canada:
    • Have to provide evidence that their travel is essential and non-discretionary (in addition to staying in Canada for at least 15 days). 
    • Present proof that you’re an immediate family member of a Canadian citizen or Canadian permanent resident. Note: Paper and electronic copies of the documents are accepted. 
    • You do not need a written authorization from IRCC confirming that you are exempt from the travel restrictions.
  • Individuals reuniting with an immediate family member who is living in Canada temporarily (such as international students or temporary foreign workers): 

Upon arrival in Canada, at the airport, you must:

  • Provide basic information using the traveller contact information form, available through: 
    • The ArriveCAN mobile app (iOS and Android)
    • An accessible web-based form at the airport kiosk
    • A paper form provided by an officer at the airport
  • Be screened by a border services officer or quarantine officer to assess symptoms

The penalties for not following your quarantine plan once you’re in the country can include:

  • A fine of up to $750,000 CAD
  • Six months of jail time
  • Upon being found inadmissible, you may be removed from Canada and banned from entering for one year

Tips for your quarantine plan:

  • Accommodation: 
    • When booking temporary accommodation, ensure that there are no vulnerable people, such as seniors and people with underlying medical conditions in the same space. Limit contact with others inside the home, including children, and do not have guests. People who share living accommodations should avoid using the same bathroom as others, if possible. 
    • Book your temporary accommodation for at least 15 days. See: How to find temporary accommodation in Canada for more recommendations and advice to find a suitable place. 
  • Transportation:
    • To travel from the airport to your temporary accommodation, you can opt for a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft or have a friend or relative pick you up at the airport. You are required by law to go immediately to your accommodation and quarantine for the next 14 days. Stopping at the grocery store, or going to a friend’s place on the commute between the airport and accommodation is strictly prohibited, and if caught, you could face fines or jail time.
  • Groceries, cleaning supplies, and essential items: 
  • Payment options:
    • Cash payments are discouraged due to COVID-19, and you may not have a Canadian bank account or credit/debit card in the first few days or weeks. Hence, it is highly recommended to have an International credit card and/or a forex card, to pay for transportation from the airport to your accommodation, as well as for purchasing groceries or ordering food online.

Completing newcomer landing formalities while in quarantine

Once you arrive at your accommodation in Canada, most newcomers are worried about various landing formalities that they need to complete. Here’s a brief overview of the current mandates (as of June 30, 2020) for various tasks.

1. Get a Social Insurance Number (SIN)

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. 

If you are unable to get your SIN at the airport or if your arrival airport that does not offer SIN services, you have the option to apply online or by mail: 

If your SIN application meets the requirements, you will receive a letter with your SIN by mail within 20 business days from the date the application is received. If more than 25 business days have passed, and you would like to find out the status of your application, you can contact the SIN program for an update.

2. Open a 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.

To ensure the health and safety of employees and the community, most bank branches in Canada are still temporarily closed, and clients are advised to limit branch visits. You can, however, speak with a banking agent online or on the phone.

Chat with an RBC advisor or call 1-800-769-2511 (toll-free) to know more about how you can open a
RBC newcomer bank account. RBC’s phone services are available in up to 200 languages.

To open a newcomer bank account, you will require the following documents:

  • Your passport
  • CoPR and/or Social Insurance Number (SIN)

Additional resources:

Preparing for the job market in Canada

As businesses start to reopen, there are many things you can do to prepare for the job market and find relevant positions; some of which can be completed while in quarantine: 

1. Analyze the job market for your skills and experience

There is no direct or definitive answer to the scope or demand of any occupation in Canada. However, there is a process that you can follow to better understand the market and industry you work in and make decisions driven by data, facts, and numbers. 

Download the Canadian job market guide for an overview of the tools and resources required to analyze the job market in Canada. This guide covers 14 industries and includes candid insights from recruiters.

Additional Reading:

2. Start networking with virtual coffee chats:

Due to social distancing, it may not be possible to meet people in-person, but you can start building your network virtually. Use networking apps like LinkedIn to meet people who are born and raised in Canada or have been in the country for many years. See the top 10 tips to optimize your LinkedIn profile.

Additional Reading:
Learn the basics of networking, get recommendations on where to build your network, and understand all about coffee interviews or informational interviews to be better prepared for the job market in Canada.

3. Be prepared for virtual interviews

Most employers and recruiters are now conducting interviews over phone or through video conferencing. 

Tip: Prepped is an excellent resource for you to practice your interview skills and prep for the interview process in Canada.

Post-quarantine, catching up with life in Canada

Most provincial and territorial governments in Canada have started rolling out plans to reopen the economy in phases – British Columbia has four levels, Ontario has three stages, Saskatchewan has five phases while Newfoundland has five alert levels. Businesses and stores are still expected to have social distancing measures in place, and not all services will resume in all areas at the start of each reopening phase.

Once you’ve completed your 14-day quarantine period, there are some tasks for which you will need to be physically present on-site to get it done. Here are some of them: 

1. Get provincial health insurance and find a family doctor

Depending on the province or territory you move to, there may be a waiting period before you are eligible for public health insurance in Canada. For instance, 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, and if you’re moving to a province that has a waiting period, it is recommended to purchase private insurance for the first few months.  

Registering for provincial insurance can be deferred to a time when it is considered safe to visit the centre in-person. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many provinces waived the waiting period for newcomers and announced that for those who do not meet the criteria for health coverage and are uninsured, the province would fund the cost of COVID-19 services.

Additional reading:

2. Find permanent accommodation

The rental market has witnessed a slight drop during the pandemic, and hence, it may be comparatively easier to find a place. Many landlords and realtors have been offering virtual showings, and as provinces and cities move into the next phase of relaxing restrictions, in-person visits are being permitted in certain areas.  

Read: How to rent your first home as a newcomer in Canada for guidance on all the norms, requirements, and processes involved in renting a place. And get tips on navigating the challenges most newcomers face while renting.

3. Enrol your kids in school

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. 

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. 

4. Take up temporary employment or survival jobs

Temporary positions or survival jobs can help you preserve your savings, meet living expenses, and get some Canadian experience


5. Get driving license/photo ID card

Obtaining a driving license or photo ID card is not an essential task and can be deferred to when things are back to normal. Driving licenses and photo cards are provincial IDs, and hence, you have to approach the provincial authorities (such as ServiceOntario, ServiceBC, ServiceAlberta, and so on) to obtain them. 

You will be able to find information for each province/territory by visiting the respective websites.

Tip: Do not visit ServiceCanada or the provincial government offices unless absolutely necessary; many locations are closed or operating with reduced hours. Always inquire online or through phone before visiting in-person. If you must visit, be sure to wear a mask and do your best to keep at least 2 metres away from others.


As life begins to return to normal, the fear of a second wave is still looming. Being aware, practising physical distancing, and taking precautionary measures can help in reducing the spread of COVID-19. As newcomers, let’s do our part and play an active role in building a safe and healthy community in Canada – our new home.  



About Arrive

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 live chat 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.