You received your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR), and you’re excited! But still, you have questions about life in Canada and might wonder whom to turn to for answers. Are there any services in Canada that can answer your questions?
The good news is that there are settlement agencies whose primary purpose is to help you settle in Canada. As well, you can access many of these services both before and after you arrive in Canada. Another benefit is that most of these services are free of charge!
According to a 2021 Settlement Outcomes Report conducted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), 70% of newcomers are unaware of the free services that are available. However, among newcomers who received services 95% said they were useful.Newcomer Outcomes Survey (2018 and 2019)
What is a Settlement Agency?
Settlement agencies are community organizations that provide services to help newcomers adjust to life in Canada. So to help newcomers adapt they provide many services.
Each settlement agency provides different services. So it’s helpful to find a settlement agency that best meets your needs.
A settlement agency can work with you on a one-to-one basis. Settlement workers understand that adjusting to life in a new country is hard. And one-to-one conversations with a settlement worker will allow them to understand your needs.
So it’s important to identify your needs and share information about your:
- education, and
Based on your needs, they can provide you with support services such as child care, translation, transportation, and many other services. Working together, you can work towards achieving your goals in Canada.
Services in Canada that Settlement Agencies Provide
Settlement agencies provide a wide range of services. Here are six services that can be vital to your success!
1. Information about Life in Canada
Settlement services in Canada provide insights into life in Canada. For example, the Canadian healthcare system differs across provinces. So settlement workers will explain the healthcare system to you. A settlement agency can help you apply for a provincial health card, or find a family physician.
Settlement agencies also have information about neighbourhoods in many cities. So they can help you look for housing to suit your needs and budget. This is helpful because rental costs vary according to the:
- size of the rental, and
Most cities in Canada have excellent public transport networks. Settlement services in Canada can explain the public transport networks local to you.
Some people prefer to drive. You can ask your settlement worker for more information on driving in Canada. A clean driving record and access to a car can make it easy to drive to job interviews. However, using public transportation can help you to manage expenses while you search for a job in Canada.
2. Help with Your Financial Needs
A settlement agency can also guide you with your financial needs in Canada. For example, they’ll identify the documents you’ll need and help you to open a bank account in Canada.
An important responsibility of permanent residents in Canada is to file their taxes every year. By filing your taxes each year, you can access financial benefits such as the:
- Canada Child Benefit
- GST/HST credit, and
- Child Care Subsidy.
Settlement agencies host free clinics to teach you about the tax system and how to file your taxes. Some settlement agencies have volunteers who will file your taxes for the first year free of charge.
3. Job Search Services in Canada
Settlement agencies have job developers who can help you navigate the job market. They will work with you to understand your short-term and long-term career goals. As well, they can recommend resources to help you achieve your career goals in Canada.
Other job search services can help you to:
- write a cover letter
- prepare a Canadian style resume, and
- create a portfolio of your work.
Additionally, they will conduct mock interviews with you and give you feedback to help you excel in real interviews.
Some newcomers are lucky to find their dream jobs quickly. However, the job search process can be long and stressful for others. If you do not find your dream job quickly, you still need a job to pay your bills.
In such cases, a settlement agency can help you find a survival job. Many newcomers work in survival jobs until they find a job in their field. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in your job search.
In addition, you may have to acquire new skills or upgrade your existing skills. Settlement agencies can point you to bridging programs or other college or university programs that can help you succeed.
Some occupations are regulated in Canada such as the:
- legal, and
- accounting profession.
You’ll need a license to work in a regulated occupation in Canada. Settlement agencies can direct you to the appropriate licensing body for your profession.
According to the IRCC Settlement Outcomes HIGHLIGHTS Report, 78% of clients who used employment related services said it helped them to acquire knowledge, skills and connections to prepare for the Canadian labour market.Newcomer Outcomes Survey (2018 and 2019)
4. Networking Activities
Leaving behind your family and friends is difficult. Settlement services can help you meet other newcomers and their families. So this helps you build a local support system.
If you have a family, settlement agencies will introduce you to public libraries and Early Years programs. Libraries and Early Years programs are free to use and attend. These programs can help your children to improve their physical and emotional health. As well, your children will meet and socialize with other children their own age.
Settlement agencies partner with other professional and non-profit groups to provide newcomers with opportunities to network. And networking can help you build personal and professional relationships.
Some settlement agencies have mentoring programs. Through mentoring, you’ll be matched with a mentor in your career field. You can ask mentors questions about:
- your industry in Canada
- Canadian workplace culture
- job search tips, and more.
Mentors are volunteers who donate their time to help newcomers learn about their field in Canada. But, it’s important to know that their job is to guide you. They are not responsible for finding you a job.
5. Language Training Services in Canada
Canada has two official languages:
- English, and
Quebec is the only French province while New Brunswick is the only bilingual province. Being bilingual in Canada can provide you with more job opportunities.
Improving your language skills in either official language helps you to:
- get information about daily life in Canada, and
- increase your chances of getting a job.
Settlement services also offer classes to help you improve your language skills. They will assess your language skills and recommend a program based on your results. Strong communication skills are essential to your success in Canada.
Some settlement services in Canada even organize conversation circles that give you the opportunity to practice your language skills. This will increase your confidence to talk to others and have meaningful conversations.
6. Your Rights and Responsibilities in Canada
Settlement services in Canada organize free sessions on your rights and responsibilities as permanent residents in Canada. They cover topics like:
- maintaining your permanent residence
- applying for citizenship
- understanding your tenant rights
- knowing your rights as an employee in Canada.
Some settlement agencies conduct workshops on Canadian business and workplace culture to help you succeed and retain your job.
Settlement services in Canada can help you to quickly adjust and adapt to life in Canada. Both before and after you arrive in Canada, these free services provide many benefits for yourself and your family!
For more information about living and working in Canada, check out our upcoming webinars.
Anjali has worked in journalism and corporate communications in the UK and in India. Working across geographies in an international environment has taught her to find unique opportunities to create content for a diverse range of audiences. Pushing herself out of her comfort zone to move to the UK and Canada helped her adapt and thrive in new environments.