You’ve made it!!
After all the dreaming, the planning, you’ve finally arrived in Canada.
Canada has many wonderful opportunities for newcomers. However, the first few weeks after you arrive can be overwhelming, with many forms to fill out and appointments to make.
Here are 10 of the most important essential things you’ll need to do during your first 2 weeks in Canada.
Your Social Insurance Number is a nine-digit number that you’ll need to work in Canada. It’s similar to the PPS number in Ireland, the National Insurance Number in the UK, the CPF in Brazil or the Tax File Number in Australia.
If you’re in Canada on a temporary work permit, your SIN will begin with a ‘9’.
You can apply for a SIN at any Service Canada office, and if the queues are short, you should have it all sorted in about 30 minutes. Be sure to bring your work or study permit with you, and also your passport.
Banking in Canada is convenient, it’s important to get one set up so you can manage bills and debit card payments, and avoid potentially costly withdrawals from your home account.
Have in mind that each of the banks usually has monthly fees associated with their checking accounts (known as ‘current accounts’ in other countries).
There’s nothing enjoyable about researching and comparing phone plans. It’s even less enjoyable when you’re jet-lagged, but it will be necessary to make it easier when you have a local data plan, and can find your way on Google Maps. The earlier you get a local phone, the more you’ll avoid costly roaming charges from your home provider. And if you’re on a two-year visa, and considering entering a two-year contract, you’ll want to align these as best you can.
If you have no Canadian credit history or local references (like most immigrants), you may be at a disadvantage, as some landlords will give preference to applicants who can provide these. If you come across this, you’ll just have to keep trying until you find a landlord who’s more flexible.
Canadian citizens, permanent residents and temporary residents may or may not be entitled to public medical care - which varies by province - and covers medical care. In case they are eligible, each family member will receive their health card, issued by the provincial or territorial government. Some provinces and territories have a waiting period before newcomers are eligible for public health insurance. Until you become eligible, you must apply for temporary private health insurance.
Canada is proudly multicultural and has many organizations dedicated to helping newcomers feel at home. Public libraries are excellent places to find community and government resources — and often free access to the Internet. Community centres and ethnic associations are great sources of information, activities and friendships.
Every child in Canada can attend public elementary, middle and high school free of charge, as long as their parent/guardian has permission to do so.
By law, “school-age” children must stay in school. “School-age” varies by province or territory.
Depending on your status, you will have two options: register your children with the school boards or directly with your local school. The documentation to be presented may vary as well, but in general, they will ask for confirmation of the family's status in Canada, as well as documents such as your child's birth certificate and vaccination certificate. Remember that grade leveling in Canada is based on the age of the child.
If you plan to work full-time or study and need daycare for younger children, newcomer services organizations can tell you how to find suitable daycare in your area. This is a paid service and only permanent residents and Canadian citizens can apply for some form of subsidy to reduce costs.
Once the dust settles on all the errands you have to do, it’s time to get to know some people and start building a solid network of good friends and acquaintances that can help you feel truly at home in your new city.
You’ll be jet-lagged. You won’t know where the best place is to buy your daily conveniences. You’ll occasionally struggle with the knowledge that your entire support network is several time zones away. And the grind of apartment-hunting won’t match the months of daydreaming you did when you planned this whole new life.
That’s okay. Remember that it’s normal to be cranky when you’re tired, and it’s normal after a few weeks in an Airbnb or Hotel to miss having your own bed. Don’t beat yourself up about this, and remember that other travellers are in the same boat.
Between the stress of winding down your life back home, and the stress of setting up your new life here, it can be easy to forget how exciting this whole thing actually is.
Balance your jet lag and your studious efforts to build a life in Canada with reminders of why you decided to travel in the first place. Go to the top of the CN Tower, climb the Grouse Grind, rent a car for the weekend and explore. Do something you’ve been dreaming of.
You’ve arrived. Get out there and see the city.
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I hope you liked our tips!
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