First steps in Canada: A newcomer checklist
Once you’ve stepped off the plane, follow this to-do list to guide your first steps in Canada:
• Before you leave the airport, check out the newcomer welcome center. At the Toronto Pearson International Airport, look for the Immigrant Reception and Information Services (IRIS) kiosks. At the Vancouver International Airport, go to the Community Airport Newcomers Network(CANN) kiosk. These kiosks will have pamphlets and resources to help you in your first days in Canada.
• Find temporary accommodation for your first few nights after landing and then start looking for a longer-term rental in the city and neighborhood of your research. Ensure you do some research on where you want to reside for the longer term before committing to a lease.
• Obtain a good street map, a telephone book, and the Yellow Pages. These resources will be important tools in your first days as you get to know your neighborhood and search out local services.
• Visit a local immigrant settlement agency. Such non-profit organizations receive government funding to offer newcomers services, such as free ESL training, settlement counseling, employment workshops and more. They also often have host programs that buddy up newcomers with volunteers who help guide them through their first few months in Canada.
• Get your permanent resident (PR) card, a wallet-sized, plastic status card that replaces your paper IMM 1000 Record of Landing document. It’s convenient proof of your permanent resident status.
• Apply for your Social Insurance Number (SIN) card. Without it, you cannot get a job or apply for any government assistance or credit. Applications for a SIN card can be made through a Services Canada office — check the blue pages of your local telephone book under Government of Canada.
• Apply for your official health care card. Application forms for these cards are available from doctor’s offices, hospitals, and most pharmacies, or by calling the provincial medical services authorities. Since there is a three-month waiting period for coverage in Ontario, B.C. and some other provinces, don’t delay in your application. Ensure you have temporary private health coverage to cover your family during the waiting period.
• Open an account at a bank or credit union near your home. It’s important to start a relationship with a bank as soon as possible, so you can manage your money, pay your bills and begin building a credit history.
• Get a cell phone. Sign up for a Canadian cell phone, even just a pay-as-a-you-go type plan so you will be accessible for potential employers and landlords.
• Get your Canadian driver’s license. An international license is only valid for a few months. Check with your provincial motor vehicle branch on the rules in your province.
• Enroll your kids at school. Every child between the ages of five and 16 is entitled to, and in fact required to, attend school. Ask at schools in your neighborhood or contact the local school board for guidance.
• Buy essential furniture and household items that you are missing. Look for inexpensive options like buying second-hand items at garage sales in your neighbourhood.