Most newcomers To Canada are usually confused (and sometimes frustrated) by the diverse amount of agencies and programs available for newcomers … settlement agencies, community services, employment services with different names and requirements. What’s the best one? Where should you start?
Making sense of it all
First, know that such services are optional, often free and are here to help you settle in. However, some of these services are overlapping and each one has a list of requirements (or “eligibility criteria”) you have to pass in order to receive the services. As a newcomer To Canada you will have no problem signing up for most of these services.
Learn More about how you can settle into life in Canada register for our upcoming online fair. You can speak one on one with settlement experts and discuss everything from education to credentials assessment.
Most of these services are provided by non-profits, but there are also for-profit agencies. All of them work under the guidelines of funders, normally the government, which means the type of services and how they are delivered are usually not negotiable. This means that sometimes you will not be able to utilize the services of two programs at the same time or may be restricted to access one type of program just once.
Knowing what each one does may help you to decide where to go and to understand the limitations of their support and services to you.
1. Settlement agencies
These agencies or programs have multilingual staff and can help you with information, referral and support for areas such as housing, health, family or individual counselling, school for your children, immigration processes such as sponsoring or applying for documents and change on status, general financial and legal information and short-term job search.
There is usually at least one organization in every big Canadian city and sometimes they are limited to the services and areas they can cover. Services are usually free and can vary from one consultation to extended support that may last months.
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2. Employment programs for newcomers to Canada
Employment and career programs are specialized in career exploration, job search, job placement and job maintenance. The length and depth of services vary from program to program. You may find workshops that last two hours to some that offer five weeks of workshops!
Services are usually restricted to the area you reside in and sometimes have age, occupation or other special requirements.
When you approach one, make sure you fully understand what the program does, what you are committing to, and in which way it will impact, restrict or facilitate your use of other programs and services.
3. Language programs
In most cases, newcomers To Canada may access language classes for free through the LINC program. However, seats are limited and classes are long. However, some centres offer evening or online classes and even limited daycare.
Provided by Humber College, this Occupation Specific language training program (OSLT) is aimed at helping newcomers to Canada just like you develop better communication skills for the Canadian workplace in your specific field. You may find that other language training programs for newcomers are useful but only an OSLT will give you the English skills that you need to succeed in your chosen profession.
If you want advanced or specialized English (such as technical or business) classes, you may have to take courses at local community college for a fee. There are also private companies offering accent reduction and pronunciation classes for a fee.
Going to your local library needs to be on your must-do list! Canadian libraries are not only full of great books in every subject you can imagine, they also have movies and CDs for free rent and you can use them to upgrade your English and learn about the culture. Most libraries also hold short workshops on topics from job search to financial literacy and English conversation (all free!). This is a great resource for newcomers To Canada and should not be overlooked.
5. Community centres and neighbourhood houses
There is at least one community centre in each Canadian community. While these places are not specialized in immigrants, they are great places to go for general information, have some fun, exercise and make connections with your neighbours. Most community centres also offer low-cost workshops and events for all ages.
Neighbourhood houses are small hubs in your neighbourhood where everyone is welcome to attend and learn through a variety of programs and services, including many focused on newcomers.