There are many moving parts in building a life in Canada and it can be overwhelming to tackle all at once after you land. If you still have some time before you depart your home country, consider signing up for a suitable pre-arrival service. One of the many is Planning for Canada, which connects its clients with advisors who provide detailed information related to Canadian life and work. You landed on this article for actionable advice so here’s information on housing, settlement support, schooling and banking, shared by experts at our Before You Arrive in Canada virtual conference for pre-arrival immigrants. For more, download our free e-book.
Initial accommodation and rental housing
Where will you stay after you land? It’s one of the most important things to figure out before you arrive in Canada. However, don’t rush to finalize any long-term rental accommodation. Instead, stay with a family member or friend here or at a motel, hotel or Airbnb temporarily, at least for the initial few days or weeks. This would allow you the time to check out neighbourhoods and view suitable apartments, condominiums or houses before you sign any lease agreement.
Be warned of the rent inflation over the last couple of years. The current (July 2023) asking rent in Canada for a one-bedroom unit is between CAD 1400 and CAD 3000 monthly, depending upon the city and province you choose to live in. If it’s the big cities like Toronto/Greater Toronto Area in Ontario or Vancouver in British Columbia, expect to pay upwards of CAD 2500. In comparison, the average one-bedroom rent in Calgary, Alberta, is around CAD 1600. Downtown locations are likely to be more expensive than the suburbs, so consider the location, amenities, access to public transport etc. wisely before you make a decision, especially what living there will be like during the colder months.
For those immigrating with family and children, schooling is another big priority. In fact, many advise finalizing the school first and accordingly viewing housing options in the neighbourhood. Depending on your province or territory, kids can start primary school as young as 4 years old and finish secondary school when they are 18 years old. If you and your family arrive in Canada in the middle of a school year, you can contact your local school board to find a place for your children.
As for the different school systems in Canada, your options may include free public schools, paid private schools, at-home education, and English or French schools.
The video below is from our Before You Arrive in Canada virtual conference for pre-arrival immigrants; it includes information about registering your child at a welcome centre at the local school board and lots more pre-arrival information.
The Canadian government funds several settlement agencies across the country to help newcomers access their programs and services at no cost. Make sure to reach out to one near you within weeks of your landing so you can enroll for any language classes, employment training, bridging programs or integration services that they offer to help you start your professional life in Canada. Most agencies can provide you with the labour market information you require and can often also connect you with other valuable services, mentors, or even employers.
To cover your expenses and sustain yourself with or without employment, at least in the initial months, you’re likely to bring your savings with you to Canada. It’s important to know about transferring funds to Canada. You can bring any amount of money in different forms – cash, securities, bank checks, draft checks, traveler’s checks, money orders, wire transfers, and more. But remember that as a newcomer, if you are bringing more than CAD 10,000 or its equivalent in any other form, then you have to declare the amount.
Banking in Canada: Banking in Canada is safe and secure and there are many types of accounts you can choose from even before you arrive in Canada. However, the final decision depends on your financial needs. For example, if you need guidance from a financial advisor at the bank, then you might need to pay a fee. So do ample research first!
Credit: Everyone in Canada uses credit. When you start living here you will often hear about credit history and why it’s vital to maintain a good credit score to apply for a credit card, apartment lease or loan. International credit history does not transfer over to Canada and it can take up to 18 months to build a good credit history as a newcomer. The easiest way to start is to pay your bills regularly and on time. The video above includes more suggestions.
Taxation: In Canada, there’s a sales tax on your purchase, whether you’re buying your groceries, clothes, or a coffee at your neighbourhood Tim Hortons or paying for any service. It does, however, vary provincially. If a similar sales tax isn’t applicable in your country of origin, it’s beneficial to plan your budget in Canada wisely to not exceed it by oversight.
As for income tax, everyone in Canada must file their income tax returns on or before April 30th annually to avoid penalties.
Financial fraud: It’s not uncommon for newcomers to fall prey to scammers. The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to be informed and alert. Be cautious about giving away any personal information, such as your bank account numbers, passport details, date of birth, Social Insurance Number (SIN) etc. over the phone or email. Here is advice from the Government of Canada to recognize and report fraud and scams.
We at New Canadians are proud to be newcomers’ trusted connection to immigrant-focused resources. Want more pre-arrival guidance? Download our free e-book: The Ultimate Prep Guide Before You Arrive in Canada for additional tips and a checklist that will help you create an action plan for your life and work in Canada.
Is a friend, family member or someone you know immigrating to Canada? Share this article with them to help them prepare for the move.