In all of your excitement when you get your confirmation of permanent residence, it’s important to consider the first things to do after landing in Canada. It’s now time for the next step along your immigration journey. Your Canadian journey will begin when you have completed all the paperwork, including medicals, packed your belongings, and said your goodbyes.
Once you’ve made your decision to immigrate, now is not the time to second-guess yourself. You’ve already done so much to prepare for Canada, so trust yourself, enjoy the journey, and prepare to land in Canada.
What to expect when you land in Canada
Knowing what to expect when you land will contribute to a smooth experience.
One of the first people you will meet at your point of arrival in Canada will be a friendly Canada customs agent. You will deal with your goods and landing certificates here. You’ll also meet other officials from Immigration Services. They will ask you to show your passport and visa papers.
Immigration authorities will give you application forms for a variety of documents that you will need such as your:
- Permanent Resident (PR) Card
- Social Insurance Number (SIN) card
- Health care card
- Driver’s license
You will need these cards to find work and start the clock on getting your provincial healthcare coverage in place. It’s important that you start the process to obtain these documents as soon as you land.
When you’ll receive your Permanent Resident (PR) Card
Your PR card is proof of your Canadian permanent resident status. You will need this card whenever you re-enter Canada.
An immigration officer will tell you when you can expect to receive your PR Card. You will receive your wallet-sized plastic PR Card in the mail. So, be sure that you receive it within the time-frame indicated by the immigration officer.
Important first steps to take when you land in Canada
1. Apply for your SIN Card
Apply for your Social Insurance Number (SIN) as soon as you arrive in Canada. Without this number, you cannot get a job or apply for any government assistance or credit. In fact, without it, you are virtually a person without an identity in Canada. There is no cost for you to get your SIN.
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2. Apply for your Health Care Card When You Land in Canada
You will need to apply for a health care card when you land in Canada to receive free medical coverage in the province or territory where you plan to live. Apply for your health care card as soon as you land.
If you plan to live in British Columbia or Ontario, there is a three-month waiting period before you will be covered by the public health care system. So, it’s important to apply for your health care card as soon as you land in either of these provinces.
For all other provinces and territories, your health care coverage begins as soon as you arrive.
A big first step is finding accommodation. While you will have arranged temporary accommodation from your country of origin, now it’s time to find a good place to rent for the medium term.
The best place to search for a rental is the internet and classified newspapers. You can also visit various neighbourhoods, where you will likely see posters in front of some apartment buildings, advertising apartments for rent.
4. Get help from settlement services before and after you land in Canada
There are many immigrant service agencies across Canada to help newcomers settle into Canadian society. Settlement agencies provide information and many free services to help you adjust to life in Canada. Some settlement agencies even offer pre-arrival services before you land in Canada. Some of the services include:
Free Language Training:
It’s a great idea to improve or enhance your English or French language skills because it’s critical to newcomer success. Language training may focus on basic English skills only, and may not be enough to help you succeed in the work environment. However, many colleges and industry associations offer higher-level English training to help you with:
- business English courses
- Job-specific or occupation-specific language training to help you with jargon and other work-related phrases.
Some organizations may offer a host program. This is a volunteer-based program that matches immigrants with a host who can guide you through your first few months in Canada. Your “host” can help you with questions you may have such as:
- Where to shop
- How to find housing
- How to enroll your children in school.
Immigrating to a new country can be an emotional time. You may feel frustration, regret, and homesickness. Immigrant settlement agencies are there to support you with counseling for you and your family.
Job Search Services:
Immigrant settlement agencies are also a great first step to help you with your job search. For example, they can help you to:
- Prepare your resumé for the Canadian job market
- Write a cover letter
- Prepare for job interviews.
You can also ask the settlement agency if they offer a mentorship program. Mentoring programs can connect you with someone who works in your industry and can give you information and tips about how the industry works in Canada. Mentoring can be a great way to find a job and help you succeed in the workplace.
5. Set up a Bank Account
Another priority in your first few days will be dealing with your finances. Select a bank or a credit union near your home or work and open at least one bank account right away. To open an account, you will need your landed immigrant papers and any other identification you have to prove your place of residence.
Banks provide basic savings accounts and chequing accounts. You may need a chequing account in particular because many employers pay by direct deposit right into your account.
Slowly, you can build a good relationship with your bank, and start building your credit history, by applying for a secured credit card and then a traditional credit card. To build a strong Canadian credit history, it’s important to pay your bills and loans in a timely manner. Your credit history will help you when you want to get a mortgage to buy a home, or get a loan to start a business.
6. Enroll Your Children in School
Of course, one of the main reasons you are planning to immigrate is no doubt to give your children a better future. That starts with education. The Canadian education system guarantees education to everyone. In Canada, every child between the ages of five and 18 is entitled to attend school. You are required to enroll your child in school as soon as possible after arriving in Canada.
There are progressive levels in the Canadian education system for children:
Kindergarten: At age five, children enter the school system in Kindergarten
Primary or Elementary School: After they complete Kindergarten, they attend primary or elementary school for grade 1 to grade 7 or 8, depending on the school district.
Secondary or High School: From grade 8 or 9 through to grade 12, children attend secondary or high school. Some school districts have a junior high school level between elementary school and high school.
You’re going to need to be proactive if you want to settle in Canada the right way. By taking these suggested steps, you’ll be off to a great start to living in Canada.