If you are coming to Canada for the first time, it’s a good idea to be as prepared as possible. Here are some important things to do before you arrive in Canada.
Remember, each and every member of your family needs to bring copies of their own documents.
PLAN YOUR FIRST FEW WEEKS IN CANADA
After several months of preparing to leave the Philippines, the last thing you want is to arrive in Canada without anywhere to stay.
Reaching out to relatives and friends to ask for suggestions well before arriving is a great idea. In most cases, relatives wouldn’t mind having your family over for a limited period of time before you get a place of your own.
If you do have relatives or friends who can provide you with temporary accommodation, very good. Otherwise, a few days at a hotel would be advisable so that your family can rest after the long trip.
GATHER IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- School transcripts, certificates and diplomas
- Medical records, including vaccination
- Drivers licenses
While many of these documents may not be needed right away when you arrive in Canada, it’s always a good idea to have them ready for when the time comes.
Don’t forget that the Philippines is very far away, and that getting copies of these documents will be very difficult, especially if your entire family is already with you in Canada.
If the documents are not in English or French, you may need to have these translated. Most documents from the Philippines are available in English, but if you need to have something translated, look for a translation service that is recognized by the organization that needs those records.
GET SOME REST
Congratulations! You made it to Canada. After months and months of preparation, your new life in Canada has finally begun. You may not realize it yet, but you’ll be very tired. Take a few days to recuperate, sleep as much as you can, and then take a couple of days to get used to your surroundings.
Before anything else, sit down for a good meal with your family and take a deep breath to appreciate all the hard work you’ve put into making this moment happen.
After you’ve gotten enough rest, it’s time to lay down the foundation of your new lives in Canada. You’ll need to find a new house to live in, set up your bank accounts, get some new cellphones and find a school for your kids! All of these things tend to happen all at the same time, so don’t worry. Each family does things differently, just make sure to stay as organized as possible and to take your time to make each decision.
APPLY FOR YOUR SOCIAL INSURANCE NUMBER AND HEALTHCARE COVERAGE
Another important thing you should take care of when you first arrive in Canada is to get a social insurance number.
The Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a 9 digit number that you apply for at Service Canada.
Service Canada no longer issues SIN cards, instead you will get a Confirmation of SIN letter. Every member of your family will be issued an SIN.
Requirements for applying for a SIN:
- Permanent Residency Card or Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR)
- Philippine passport (or other government issued photo ID)
Your SIN assigned to you and noone else. You don’t have to have your SIN on you at all times, keep it in a secure location.
You should also apply for provincial healthcare coverage for you and your family as soon as you arrive. Healthcare in Canada is under provincial government jurisdiction, check your provincial government websites on requirements for applying.
- British Columbia – Medical Services Plan (MSP) click here.
- Alberta – Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) click here.
- Saskatchewan – eHealth click here.
- Manitoba – Manitoba Health Services Insurance Plan, click here.
- Ontario – Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) click here
- Quebec – Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ) click here.
- New Brunswick – New Brunswick Medicare click here.
- Nova Scotia – Nova Scotia Medical Service (MSI) click here.
- Prince Edward Island – click here.
- Newfoundland and Labrador – Medical Care Plan (MCP) click here.
- Northwest Territories – click here.
- Yukon – click here.
NOTE: In most cases, provincial healthcare coverage starts three months after you arrive. It is very important to purchase private health insurance that is equal to or more than the provincial healthcare coverage.
SET UP YOUR BANK ACCOUNTS
Canada’s big five banks that operate all across Canada. When you first arrive in Canada, try to do a little bit of research, then choose one to open an account. Having a bank account will give you access to debit and credit cards, as well as chequing accounts that you’ll need to pay for housing. These banks are:
- Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) click here.
- Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) click here.
- Bank of Nova Scotia (ScotiaBank) click here.
- Bank of Montreal (BMO) click here.
- Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) click here.
All five banks have programs tailored around the needs of Newcomers like you. Just approach the front desk and let them know that you’re brand new in Canada and they’ll help you set up an appointment to speak with a representative to help you get started!
FIND A HOME TO RENT
Finding a temporary place to stay is very important when your first arrive in Canada. Whether you are staying at a hotel or at a relative’s house, you’ll have to find a more permanent home. When you’re ready to to start looking, go and find yourself a realtor.
Realtors are a great resource for you to learn the ins-and-outs of the Canadian property market. They enjoy meeting Newcomers to Canada like you because you’ll be future customers when you become ready to buy you first home.
They can help you find a property to rent that fits into your budget and is suitable to your family’s needs.
SIGN UP FOR CELLPHONE AND HOME INTERNET
Once you’re settled in your new home, it’s time to go shop around for new cellphone and internet service.
If you’ve brought unlocked devices from the Philippines, you can have them checked to see if they’re compatible with Canadian mobile service providers. Providers include:
While there are many smaller companies providing cellphone and home internet service, we’d suggest trying out the bigger companies first. Shop and compare to find our which services are suitable for your needs.
All companies offer the newest devices for zero dollars down (although you do have to pay for the taxes up front, as well as other connection fees). Payment for new devices are usually split into 24 monthly payments, plus the cellular plan. If you don’t need a new phone, you can try a pay-as-you-go plan (pre-paid).
When it comes to home internet, it’s best to sign up for the fastest unlimited plans you can afford. We’ve tried downgrading from our current plan, it’s not worth the bother.
We don’t suggest signing up for home phone or TV. We haven’t had a home phone in years, and most of the TV we watch is Netflix and YouTube.
LOOK FOR SETTLEMENT ORGANIZATIONS
The Government of Canada provides funding for not-for-profit organizations that provide settlement programs and services.
These organizations are staffed by settlement workers and counsellors who can help your family navigate the many supports available to you, including English as a Second Language programs.
Settlement organizations provide ESL and many other programs to help Newcomers become engaged members of their communities. Other places to look for similar programs would be your local library and community centre, where settlement workers are available to help you.
Settlement programs and services are free for Newcomer families. You just have to provide your permanent residency card number and you’re off to the races.
LOOK FOR A JOB
Looking for a job in Canada is a very different experience from what you may be used to back in the Philippines. Before starting your job hunt, you should gather all your documents in one place and reach out to your personal network first.
You may be surprised to find out that you have relatives and friends who may be able to refer you to colleagues and acquaintances who can help you get started in your job search.
If you do not have any relatives or friends available to help you, you should go speak with a settlement worker, who can refer you to programs and services like job search, interview and resume writing workshops that will help you better understand how to approach looking for a job in Canada.
Taking the time to understand the Canadian way of doing things will go a long, long way towards successfully finding your first job.
If you are a foreign-trained professional, such as a teacher, nurse, doctor or engineer, you should look into getting your credentials assessed. In most cases, foreign-trained professionals can’t practice their professions without getting licensed in Canada.
REGISTER YOUR KIDS FOR SCHOOL
No matter what time of the year you arrive in Canada, one of the first things you should do (after finding a place to stay) is to register your kids for school. Unless it’s summer, in which case schools may be closed.
You can choose to send your kids to provincially-funded schools, either at the public board or the Catholic board. Both school boards follow the same provincial curriculum, with additional religion classes in the Catholic board.
While the choice of which school board you send your kids to up to you, the specific school they will attend will depend on the space available at the school, and the support your kids will need, if any.
In most cases, your kids will need to be assessed by the school board before attending school. They will be assessed for their English and Math skills to determine if they need any additional support.
START EXPLORING YOUR NEW COMMUNITY
Get out and enjoy. Take your family for a walk in the park, an afternoon at the library or buy stuff you might need at the mall. Make some new friends, you’re off to a great start! enjoy the fruits of your hard work and live your best life in Canada!
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