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

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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