5 Things to Do When You Land in Canada (That No One Told You About)

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The Par­lia­ment of Canada, Ottawa, June 2011

It’s the end of the process and you finally received the let­ter say­ing your visa is ready to be issued. You are a soon-to-be landed immi­grant and you already have a list of all the prac­ti­cal things you must do after you arrive.

Let me add more to your plate!

Here are 5 Things to do when you land in Canada (that no one told you about)!

Start to look for a fam­ily doc­tor — As a landed immi­grant, most of your health care needs will be cov­ered by your provin­cial health care sys­tem. Some plans, such as the Ontario Health Insur­ance Plan (OHIP), have a three-month wait­ing period for new appli­cant, and not every­one is eli­gi­ble, so buy­ing expat health insur­ance is a great idea. But above all, make sure you start look­ing for a doc­tor right away! There is a short­age of fam­ily doc­tors and some spe­cial­ists in Canada. It took me six years to find a fam­ily doc­tor and I’m not even sure my cur­rent one will be able to keep me. So as soon as you land in Canada, pick up the phone book, call fam­ily doc­tors in your area one by one, and ask if you can be put on a wait­ing list, if applic­a­ble. You can also sign up with free refer­ral pro­grams, such as Health Care Con­nect, but don’t expect miracles—I join the list over 18 months ago and I still have no news. Friends and new col­leagues may also be able to let you know if their doc­tor is tak­ing new patients, so don’t be shy to ask.

Build your credit his­tory — After land­ing in Canada, you will need to choose a bank and open a check­ing account. Most Cana­di­ans do their day-to-day bank­ing online, includ­ing pay­ing bills. You will likely get a debit card for everyday’s pur­chases, plus a few cheques offered by the bank (if you want more, you must order them—and pay for them). Credit cards are very prac­ti­cal for online pur­chases but they are not eas­ily avail­able to new­com­ers who have no Cana­dian credit his­tory. This is one of the rea­sons why you must start build­ing your credit his­tory as soon as you can. First, if you are a cou­ple mov­ing to Canada, make sure both part­ners have bills and accounts in their name. Women often dis­cover that they have zero credit his­tory because they have joint credit with their spouse. Sec­ond, to build a good credit his­tory, pay your bills, rent and loans on time. Tip: if needed, you can try one of these workaround to get a credit card with­out a Cana­dian credit his­tory.

Try new local prod­ucts — The period after land­ing in a new coun­try is com­monly known as the “hon­ey­moon”. You are prob­a­bly happy to be in Canada (finally!) and every­thing is fresh and excit­ing. Make the most of the period because it doesn’t last for­ever. The “hon­ey­moon” is often fol­low by a “back to real­ity” period dur­ing which you will have to look for work, deal with some of the unpleas­ant real­i­ties of Amer­i­can life and likely face a few challenges—fear not, it will get bet­ter again after that. Mean­while, the “hon­ey­moon” is the ideal time to try to local prod­ucts, such as food, drinks, clothes etc. because you are not home­sick yet. This will do won­ders for your inte­gra­tion poten­tial and for your wal­let, as local goods are usu­ally cheaper than imported products.

Start net­work­ing — The period right after you land is the best time to start net­work­ing. You will likely be curi­ous about your new envi­ron­ment and will feel like meet­ing peo­ple. You may have more time on your hands too because most new­com­ers don’t find a job right away. Make the most of this period by going out, sign­ing up for new activ­i­ties and meet­ing new peo­ple, estab­lished immi­grants or Cana­di­ans. I met some of my best friends in Canada right after they landed and trust me, years later you will look back and be happy to have such a long his­tory together.

Record your time out of Canada — Finally, a prac­ti­cal tip you prob­a­bly won’t think about! When you land, the immi­gra­tion offi­cer will prob­a­bly inform you that, three years for now, you could be eli­gi­ble to become a Cana­dian cit­i­zen. At the time, I shrugged it off because three years had seemed a long time from now. One of the require­ments for cit­i­zen­ship is to have com­pleted 1095 days of phys­i­cal pres­ence in Canada. If you exit and re-enter the coun­try after becom­ing a per­ma­nent res­i­dent, do record your trips abroad! You won’t always get a stamp when you leave the coun­try and three years from now, you’ll be scram­bling to remem­ber when and where you were absent from Canada in order to sub­tract these trips from your days of phys­i­cal present. So sim­ply keep a sheet of paper in your pass­port and record your time out of Canada to make your future appli­ca­tion for cit­i­zen­ship much easier.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

28 Comments

  1. Great tips. I would never have thought about track­ing how many days you were out­side of Canada, but that makes sense if you’re try­ing to get a per­ma­nent res­i­dence per­mit. I also really agree with start net­work­ing asap. Mak­ing friends takes time and the sooner you get started on it, the sooner a place will feel like home.

    • The net­work­ing point is com­mon­sense but I was slow to make friends here and I regret­ted it. I hope oth­ers won’t make the same mistake!

  2. I can­not stress on the impor­tance of build­ing credit his­tory and I know the expe­ri­ence first hand because I bought a house recently. It is extremely impor­tant to get a credit card and start using it even if occa­sion­ally. As long as the amount is paid off by the due date, credit cards are like angels and will help drive your credit score north.

    • That’s very true! I always pay off my credit card and I’m glad to have a great credit his­tory, plus some occa­sional free­bies that comes with the credit card.

  3. Thanks for the nice post, Zhu. I landed in Canada this week, will be study­ing for a mas­ters degree for next two years. I’m not earn­ing any­thing at the moment, hope­fully in future. Would you sug­gest a stu­dent like me to get a credit card ?

    • If you are able to get a credit, def­i­nitely do apply for one! It’s some­times eas­ier to get stu­dent credit card. That’s how I got my first Cana­dian credit card actu­ally. The limit was low, $500 I think, but it helped my credit his­tory. I believe I got mine from CIBC… maybe they still have that “deal”. And wel­come to Canada!

  4. Sally A. Bonsra on

    Guys what if I have lived in Canada for 4 years n have applied for PR under FSW… At the moment I am back in Europe wait­ing for THE LETTER to con­firm my entrance.
    I don’t have 10.grand as a young sin­gle per­son but I used to work with a Cana­dian com­pany…
    They have asked for my bank state­ments .…could that be enough?!
    Aeo was applied n approved at the very beg­gin­ing stage of my appli­ca­tion but I no longer work for that com­pany… What should I do…? Pof is my night­mare now a days…
    Please help with info.
    Thanks

    Sal

    • Well, it’s really hard to help with­out much back­ground info regard­ing the cat­e­gory you applied in. But you will need to show proof of funds.

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