Newcomers’ First Steps In Canada


Let’s apply for some cool ID cards !

In this post, I’m not going to get into the sub­jects of hous­ing, find­ing a job or choos­ing a city to live. But here are some plainly admin­is­tra­tive steps that every new­comer should take as quickly as pos­si­ble when arriv­ing in Canada.

Once your visa sta­pled in your pass­port, you are an soon-to-be landed immi­grant. Con­grat­u­la­tions ! I’m sure you’re as in a hurry to get a whole set of Cana­dian paper­works, ID cards that I was. I an wrong?

Your Health Card

Canada has a fairly good health­care sys­tem called Med­ic­aid. In this sys­tem, you don’t pay directly for most health-care ser­vices, but you do pay taxes that help sup­port­ing the sys­tem. All Cana­dian cit­i­zen and Per­ma­nent Res­i­dent have access to this system.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment set health-care stan­dards for all Canada, but each province man­age its own sys­tem. For exem­ple, in Ontario, we use the OHIP (Ontario Health Insur­ance Plan

In order to be able to use the Med­ic­aid sys­tem, you need to carry with you your provin­cial health card. Apply for it as soon as you can ! To find out wich provin­cial plan cov­ers you, check out the Min­istry of Health in your province.

To apply for your health card, you’ll gen­er­ally need 3 doc­u­ments, one prov­ing your cit­i­zen­ship or immi­grant sta­tus, one prov­ing your res­i­dency sta­tus and one sup­port­ing your iden­tity. Typ­i­cally, these doc­u­ments can be :

  • Your con­fir­ma­tion of Per­ma­nent Res­i­dence (or your PR card)
  • Your pass­port
  • Your dri­vers’ license (or credit card etc.)

Other doc­u­ments could be needed, depend­ing on the province.

In most provinces, you will receive cov­er­age as soon as you apply for your health card. In British Colum­bia, Ontario, Que­bec and New Brunswick, there is a three-month wait­ing period before your cov­er­age begins. You can (and prob­a­bly should…) buy a pri­vate health insurance.

Note that most of time, you will have your pic­ture taken on the spot, no need to bring ID photos.

Your SIN Card

A Social Insur­ance Num­ber (SIN) is a nine-digit ID num­ber used to help the gov­ern­ment keep track of who is earn­ing money, pay­ing taxes, pay­ing into pen­sion plans, using gov­ern­ment ser­vices and receiv­ing ben­e­fits. You must have a SIN to work in Canada and to receive benefits.

To apply, you can go to the near­est Human Resources and Skills Devel­op­ment Canada (HRSDC) office

You will need :

  • Your con­fir­ma­tion of Per­ma­nent Res­i­dence (or your PR card)
  • Your pass­port

You won’t get your SIN num­ber right away, but you will get a paper stat­ing that you did pro­vided the doc­u­ments required and that you’re enti­tled to a SIN card. This paper allows you to work even though you tech­ni­cally don’t have your SIN card yet.

How­ever, some employ­ees request the SIN card to hire you. Hap­pened to me… Staffing agen­cies for instance wouldn’t reg­is­ter me until I show them my actual SIN card. In this case, two options :

  • Come back after you receive your SIN card (it usu­ally doesn’t take that long, let’s say from 2 to 4 weeks up)
  • Notice HRSDC (the place where you applied for your SIN) that you have a job offer and that you need you SIN card process faster. If you’re lucky, you might get your number…!

Open­ing a bank account

Open a bank account as soon as you can : with­draw­ing money from your home bank account (using Mas­ter­card, Visa etc.) or using Trav­el­ers Cheque is quite expen­sive. Besides, most work­places use direct deposit to pay you.

To open a bank account, you will need :

  • Your SIN card (or the paper that state that you applied for it)
  • If your SIN card has an expiry date (i.e.: you’re on a tem­po­rary work per­mit), pro­vide your work­ing visa
  • Your pass­port
  • A piece if ID prov­ing your res­i­dency (Dri­vers’ Licence, bills…)

Canada’s most famous banks include :

Lan­guage train­ing

If you have some time on your hand and wish to improve your lan­guage skills, Canada has a won­der­ful pro­gram called LINC (Lan­guage Instruc­tion for New­com­ers to Canada).

This fed­eral pro­gram enti­tles new Per­ma­nent Res­i­dent to free lan­guage train­ing (French or Eng­lish) across Canada, full-time or part-time.

You will need to book an appoint­ment in your local link cen­ter. You will fist be assessed in the lan­guage you want to learn or improve, and arrange­ments will be made for your future classes.

I per­son­ally didn’t attend the pro­gram but I did vis­ited LINC and got an assess­ment. I found the staff really help­ful and used to deal with all cul­tures. Even if you don’t speak Eng­lish or French very well yet, lan­guage instruc­tor are often immi­grants them­selves and might be able to com­mu­ni­cate in your mother tongue. Pam­phlet and brochures are also multilingual.

Pour plus d’information, vis­iter LINC Canada

Need to help to fig­ure this out ?

Don’t hes­i­tate to con­tact one of many insti­tu­tion (list here) that help new­com­ers to set­tle in Canada.


About Author

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


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