Updated: Feb 26
Are you a new immigrant that just landed in Canada? Checking off the following 10 things from your list in your first week will definitely make the transition seamless.
Newly landed resident at airport
After getting approved for your permanent residence (e.g. Express Entry program), you’ll have gotten a one entry visa stamped in your passport for your landing in Canada. You will require this visa as well as your COPR (Confirmation of Permanent Residence) whether you’re arriving via air or driving across the border. *Landing is the process of showing up or landing in Canada after being approved for permanent residence and receiving your one-time entry visa.
Upon landing, this visa becomes inactive and you will need a permanent resident card to be able to leave and re-enter the country. Otherwise you’ll need to get a Canadian visa to return to the country by air, train, bus or boat., or just your COPR – but only if your drive across the border.
At the same time, settling into your province of choice in Canada will take some time. The following checklist will help with the process.
PR Landing Checklist
The following should be started upon landing and/or within your first two weeks:
1. Get Your Permanent Resident (PR) card: You’d have to provide a Canadian mailing address to immigration upon arrival at the airport or border, if driving. Your PR card will be sent to you within 3months, so I’d recommend not traveling outside the country unless you need to. Otherwise, you’ll need to apply for a Canadian tourist visa or a permanent resident travel document (PRTD) to come back into the country. However, if you drive across the border you can re-enter with your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) and passport. I did the latter since I had to return to Boston for a wedding a month after my landing.
US-Canada border crossing
2. Apply For Your Social Insurance Number (SIN): The SIN is the Canadian equivalent of the National Insurance (NI) number in the UK and the Social Security Number (SSN) in the States. It allows you to work in Canada and you can apply for this by contacting your nearest Service Canada Center. Since this is also your form of identification in Canada, it’s important that you don’t give this information out to just anybody – just an employer or bank mostly. Protect it the same way you’d protect your passport!
3. Open a bank account: There are several institutions to choose from depending on your banking preference, so visit a branch to inquire about these. Make sure you have your passport and other supporting documents indicating your PR status, as well as some money to deposit in your account. In some cases, you can also contact your bank abroad to do a cross border transfer. TD Bank for example, is one of the well known banks in Boston so it was easy to facilitate this process. A few of the well known banks to choose from for regular banking are: TD Canada Trust, BMO (Bank of Montreal), Scotiabank, RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).
4. Apply for a health card: In comparison to the States, Canada offers universal healthcare, which covers most medical expenses. This comes from tax payers dollars so when you start working in Canada, expect to also do your civic duties by contributing towards healthcare 🙂 If you live in Ontario, you can get one in person through a Service Ontario Center. You will need to present your OHIP card when visiting the emergency room, getting a medical test, visiting your doctors office, surgery etc. If you live in a province outside of Ontario, you can find all the information you need by searching for your provincial health card and following the instructions outlined.
5. Get a mobile phone and/or sim card: If you landed with your international sim card and/or phone it’s important to ensure that you get a Canadian line ASAP to avoid roaming charges. Some Canadian plans allow you to bring your phone and just get a sim card through them. Others may require you get a phone & plan through them. With regards to pricing, the 3 large carriers are Bell, Telus and Rogers. These providers are typically more expensive for individuals since they are designed with families in mind. As a result, these oligopolies also have affordable options for individuals. These include:
Fido (owned by Rogers)
Koodoo (owned by Telus)
Virgin Mobile Plus (owned by Bell)
Some carrier plans also include international options. If you make a lot of interational calls, I’d recommend getting a call card through an online provider like Rebtel (I used this in the States and Canada)
6. Get an accommodation: If you have family or friends that are willing to let you stay with them for a while after you land, I would recommend you take it and express gratitude for their hospitality. If this option does not apply to you, an AirBnB or hostel can be a cost-effective option to consider while looking for an apartment. If you’ve done enough research before landing, you’d probably know that Toronto is one of most expensive cities to live in. However, as you travel to other provinces, your option gets better. Regardless of what province you choose, it’s best to be physically in Canada to view an apartment and to avoid getting scammed.
When you’re ready to get an apartment, check out this Guide to Finding Affordable Apartments safely.
7. Apply for a driver’s license: Driver’s licenses in Ontario are in three (3) levels and follow this order (lowest to highest level): G1, G2 and G. New drivers first have to take a written test to get a permit (G1) before taking the road test. If you fail the written test, you line up again (same day) and re-take it. The lines tend to be long so it’s important to plan for the whole day as it can take hours. After getting your G1, you can take the road test in 8 months if you choose to go to driving school, otherwise you have to wait 1 year and your insurance may be higher.
After completing the road test successfully, a new driver gets a G2 license and can progress to getting a G after completing both a written test and road test. However, if you have experience driving and have an international driver’s license, the process is shorter (read more about the process HERE). Overall, the progression to a G license can take up to 2 years.
8. Get a Transit pass: If you don’t drive or intend to, a transit pass will be your best option for getting around. In Ontario, the transit pass is the PRESTO card and it’ll enable you to travel on the public transport (managed by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)) which includes buses, streetcars and trains. PRESTO works across local transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and Ottawa, and makes paying for your trip simple, convenient and secure. You can get a daily, monthly or annual pass or you can choose to pay-as-you-go. If you live outside Toronto, other options include the GO Train to get to places like Mississauga or Brampton.
9. Exchange your currency: This usually happens early on after landing, since you’d need Canadian dollars to pay in cash. However, you can also use your electronic payments (credit card, debit card) in most places.
10. Sign up for Employment Service Programs: Ontario provides several programs to help new immigrants to Canada transition into the workforce. These service cover resume & cover letter writing, interview skills, job search etc. A few organizations to begin with in Ontario include Acces Employment, The Career Foundation and Skills For Change.
To learn more about how to get a survival job in North America, check out How To Get A Survival Job.