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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.

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