1. Make your budget for your new life
“Immigrating is a life project,” indicates Danielle Staraci, employment and professional integration advisor. “There’s no magic number or specific amount (French only) you need to have in your bank account. It depends on your situation, cost of living and budgeting habits. If you’re immigrating as a permanent resident, the Quebec government will have you sign a financial self-sufficiency contract. You will have to commit to providing for your essential needs for three months as of your arrival in the country. The required amount depends on whether you’re immigrating alone or with your family, with a spouse or with dependent children. Essential needs refer to costs related to housing, food and clothing. So in actuality, the amount varies from one person to another. Moreover, it presumes that the newcomer will find work and quickly earn income, which isn’t always the case. So think of it all as a barometer; a minimum.”
In Quebec, the required amount is $3,243 for one adult and $4,756 for a couple. These amounts are higher if you’re immigrating as a family with one or more dependent children. The federal government also asks that you provide proof of funds to the Canadian visa office when you submit your application for immigration through Express Entry. The total amounts to $12,960 for someone who’s immigrating alone, $16,135 for a couple or a single person with a child, and $19,836 for a couple with a child.
2. Important documents to prepare
Then, make sure you prepare all the documents you need to immigrate. “I recommend that my clients arrive as prepared as possible,” Danielle Staraci points out. They will have to meet several conditions to live in Canada. Here’s a list of the required documentation:
- All the documents you’ve received from Canadian officials
- Your passport (valid for the entire duration of your stay)
- Your plane tickets and travel documents
- A list of all the goods you’re bringing to Canada (whether they’re on your person, in your suitcases, or to be shipped in the future, as is often the case for furniture or clothing)
- Your degrees and transcripts
- Your birth certificate and civil status certificate
- Your letters of recommendation from previous employers or landlords
- Your health and vaccination booklet
- Your social security certificate form, if applicable
- Proof of private insurance (if required, depending on your permit type)
- Your driver’s licence and your international driver’s licence, if you have one
- Your bank statements and authorization for fund transfers; these documents could help you in the process since you will have to build a credit report once you’re in Canada.
“Gather these documents in their original formats or get certified true copies. Since you can’t be too careful, scan everything so you have a digital copy. If your documents are written in a language other than French or English, you must have them translated by a certified translator.”
Next, take care of your mobile phone. Having a Canadian phone number will make looking for a job easier. You can use the phone you already have, but you’ll have to get it unblocked by your provider before you leave. Then you’ll have to pick a Canadian provider.
3. Get a social insurance number (SIN)
You will then have to get a social insurance number (SIN) – a national identifier – in order to work in Canada and collect government benefits. Strictly personal and confidential, you can obtain this number by going to a Service Canada office. You can find all the information you need on SINs, how to get one, and what they’re for by reading the SIN section on the Service Canada website.
“My clients sometimes confuse SINs with health insurance numbers, but these are two completely distinct government identification numbers and each is used for different things,” Danielle Staraci clarifies. “I also remind them that their SIN is confidential and should only be shared with employers, financial institutions, and government bodies.”
4. Looking for housing
Once you’ve taken care of the administrative formalities, you can start looking for a job, then eventually for a temporary home.
Danielle Staraci insists that newcomers should first move into a temporary home. “Most of all, avoid signing a lease remotely. Don’t skip any steps, especially since Canadian leases often last 12 months.” Rather, she recommends booking from your country of origin a small apartment that can be rented for a week at a time. Once you’re more familiar with your new city and have a better idea of your needs, then you can start visiting places. “Do it in person, because photos on classified ad websites can sometimes be deceiving, unfortunately.”
Some real-estate agencies also offer their services to newcomers. Of course, if you already have friends or family in Canada, ask if you can stay with them temporarily or if they can help you look for a place.
Finally, taking into account your means and your situation, you could also consider living with other newcomers or residents as roommates. This could help you build your social network. If this interests you, feel free to check out classified ad websites.
If you’re renting
As a newcomer, it’s important to understand what’s involved in renting a place in Canada, as well as your rights and your responsibilities towards your landlord. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has a lot of tools related to renting for newcomers: signing a lease, renting a place for a large family, what’s included and excluded in your rent, how to decipher apartment ads, etc.
If you’re buying a home
Buying your first house in Canada is a major investment that requires some thought and, more importantly, some planning. So it’s crucial that you do your research and get good advice during each step of the process, from evaluating your borrowing capacity to getting your keys. And don’t forget about fees related to buying property. The CMHC is the Canadian government organization responsible for housing in Canada. It offers a wide range of tools designed for people who are moving to Canada and want to own a home.
5. Open a bank account
Once you get your SIN, which is normally a same-day process, you will be able to open a bank account at the financial institution of your choice. National Bank offers a plan made specifically for newcomers.
6. Get health insurance
Canadian and permanent residents (and some temporary residents) in Canada have access to hospital services and medication free of charge thanks to the Canadian healthcare system. To learn more about the healthcare services offered in your province of residence and about the eligibility conditions, check with Health Canada. Also, some protected persons who aren’t eligible for the provincial or territorial healthcare plan may have access to Service Canada’s interim federal health program.
Some countries have an agreement with the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ). Newcomers from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Romania or Sweden must include their proof of social security with their application to the RAMQ in order to automatically benefit from Quebec’s healthcare services.
Once you’re signed up to the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec, please note that there will be a three-month waiting period before you can submit a claim.
However, people who are seeking a study permit or a working holiday visa do not benefit from this agreement. They will have to sign up for private health insurance. In order to ensure that you and your family are covered in case of illness, you may have to procure private medication insurance before you come to Canada.
Finally, please note that your province’s public insurance plan doesn’t include all care. You may find additional private insurance to be useful if you need dental and vision care.
7. Get a driver’s licence
Each province and territory has its own rules, which are outlined on Service Canada’s website. You may have to pass tests or trade in your licence for a local document if you have a driver’s licence issued by your country of origin.
If you want to get a car to make getting around easier, it’s important to choose one that’s right for you and to do your research before settling on a financing solution. You will have to determine whether you want to buy or rent a car, choose between a new or a used car, evaluate your borrowing capacity, and determine certain aspects of your repayment terms. Shop around and take the time to do your research!
8. Register with your country’s consulate
“Another good idea is to register with your country of origin’s consulate. This can be done remotely on their official website, notably with the French consulates. It’s helpful if ever you lose your papers, have to renew your passport, or have to complete some other administrative formality, like signing up to vote. Registration is free and can be done as soon as you have a Canadian address,” Danielle Staraci adds.
This could also be useful to maintain your right to vote in your country, or to help officials in your country find you more easily if needed.
9. Protect your valuables
Looking for somewhere safe to store your valuables? Renting a safety deposit box could give you peace of mind while allowing you to retain quick access to your possessions. Renting a safety deposit box can be done at any Canadian financial institution.
If you get a car, you’ll have to get insurance: it’s mandatory in Canada! Figure out how many people will drive your car and don’t forget to add them to your insurance contract. Also, do some research on the different types of insurance and their coverage. Visit the Government of Canada's website to learn more about car insurance.
Home insurance is essential for protecting your personal effects from unexpected events, like a fire, theft, or floods, whether you own your house or are renting an apartment. This will also protect you in case of an accident on your property that involves another person. Visit the Insurance Bureau of Canada for more information.
Whether for your home or your car, feel free to ask for a quote from at least three insurance companies. This easy step could help you save money.
Moving to a new country can seem like a colossal project. But don’t worry; there’s support, tools and specialists to help you with this new adventure. Soon enough, you’ll find your bearings!