Starting a new life in Canada
We prepared a list of 10 helpful subjects that prospective immigrants to Canada shouldn’t overlook before and after arriving to Canada.
Before you arrive
1. Choose your community
Canada is an extremely vast country, and living conditions vary from one province or city to another with regards to culture, language, laws and regulations, and government services. Most new immigrants opt to live in major cities like Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver, which are often touted for their excellent quality of life. However, smaller cities offer a lower cost of living, good schools and interesting job prospects. Most French speakers live in Quebec, but there are French-speaking communities in other Canadian provinces as well.
2. Choose the right immigration program
There are several programs tailored to different objectives (e.g., work, school, sponsoring a family member, investing), as well as the new Express Entry program, which was launched in January 2015 and aims to facilitate entry for highly qualified candidates. Be sure to carefully assess your eligibility in order to choose the immigration program that best fits your situation. You should also educate yourself about Canadian standards for exercising your profession and having your professional achievements and diplomas acquired abroad recognized in Canada. For more information, consult the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials and the Foreign Credentials Referral Office.
3. Gather the required documents
Before submitting your application, be sure to carefully read the instructions on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website to find out which documents you will need to provide (e.g., birth certificate, passport, diplomas and attestations of studies, medical files, and letters of recommendation from former employers), as well as which forms to complete and the fees you will need to pay. Remember to make photocopies of all of your documents. You should also have the following types of documents, related to your work experience, translated into English and French: CV, letters of recommendation, skills list, certificates and other diplomas showing your qualifications. The process may seem tedious, but it’s advisable to take the time to gather the right documents and provide the required information, as your application will be sent back if it is incomplete. If necessary, ask someone you trust for help.
4. Develop your language skills
Improving your proficiency in English and French will help you when looking for a job. Canadian employers require a strong knowledge of English and French for most positions. Bilingualism (and fluency in a third language) is a highly valued asset in the eyes of potential employers.
5. Make sure your expenses will be covered
Make a realistic budget for your expenses, find a place to live temporarily until you find a house or an apartment, and make sure you have enough savings to cover your living expenses for at least six months. Remember to exchange some money before you arrive in Canada. To ensure that you and your family will be protected in the event of illness, take out private health insurance before your arrival, as there will be a waiting period before you become eligible for public health insurance.
After your arrival
6. Explore your new environment
Learn about the public transit system and the services in your neighbourhood, such as grocery stores, drug stores, clinics, hospitals, schools and daycare centres.
Settling down in a new country means having to adjust to living standards and habits that are very different from those we are accustomed to. Going to the market, paying for coffee, finding a dentist… Even the most common daily tasks can be affected. Here is a short guide on how to run errands in Quebec and Canada.
7. Reach out to organizations that help immigrants
These resource centres offer workshops to help you draft your CV and prepare for job interviews, language classes and other services to help you get settled. Click here to find the centre closest to you.
8. Obtain the basic documents you will need
Open a bank account at a financial institution and take the appropriate steps to obtain a public health insurance card, a social insurance number (SIN), which will allow you to work in Canada, and a driver’s licence.
Since every country has its own banking system, you should get accustomed to the Canadian one as soon as you can. What is a credit file and why is it important in Canada? What is the difference between a debit card and a credit card? What are personal cheques? We prepared an overview of the basic concepts of the Canadian banking system to help you navigate it more easily.
9. Start job hunting
Visit the Government of Canada’s Job Bank. This site is a great source of information on job prospects for trades and professions in demand, the skills and experience sought by employers, average salaries, etc. A number of other job search sites also have daily job postings, the most popular being: Workopolis, Emploi-Québec, Jobillico and Kijiji. Be sure to check the local newspapers and attend job fairs in your region. You can also contact job placement agencies, which recruit candidates for employers for temporary and permanent positions. This service is free for job seekers. Are you self-employed? Websites such as AgentSolo allow you to post your services for contracts in your field of expertise. Above all, take the time to properly plan your finances and build a solid network of new contacts.
10. Build a network
Meet new people by visiting your neighbourhood community centre, by joining Meetup, an online network that organizes local social activities based on various interests, or by volunteering, which is an excellent way to gain experience and make useful contacts. Having a network of people you can trust and depend on makes it that much easier to make sense of the particularities of your new environment. You could even get in touch with someone who has been through the process. Other newcomers could possibly clarify any questions you may have along the way.
A lifestyle full of benefits
Canada prides itself on its ethnocultural diversity and it is certainly perceived to be an inclusive country abroad: “friendly” and “welcoming” are words that are often used to describe the country.
Canada is also renowned for its extreme seasons, expansive green spaces, hockey and maple syrup. Aside from these iconic symbols, immigrants undoubtedly choose Canada for the quality of life it offers. Here are just a few of the advantages that Canadians enjoy: free universal elementary and secondary education, healthcare that is available to everyone, parental insurance, a safe living environment and a large number of job opportunities in various sectors…
Find more tips and advice about integrating and immigrating to Canada by signing up for the National Bank’s newsletter.