Posted on May. 23rd 2009 at 06:11 pm EDT (1422 views, 13 comments)
So, you want to become a Canadian. Where do you begin? As a former immigrant myself, the very first things I strongly suggest you do is to find out as much about Canadian culture, the cities, the climate, the communities, the education, the cost of living, the job prospects, the business opportunities, etc. Ask friends or relatives too if they are already here. In fact, you can even ask Canadian Tourists in your country. If there is a Canadian High Commission or Embassy, you can request information there too (but the info will be limited).
But sometimes, you don’t feel very convinced. You can always come to Canada, and check out the areas you have found to your liking according to your research. You can meet lots of people and ask straight from the horses’ mouth so to speak (no, I mean people, not horses - lol). But then, how many people can afford to do this? When you can’t, you do have other resources.
First of all, you’re likely already here at this site, LoonLounge.com. There’s a great Canadian immigration related Online Community here. Next, you can get more formalized information from the Government’s CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) department itself. Click here for CIC (http://www.cic.gc.ca/
A Place To Stay
Once you’ve arrived in Canada or you’ve got your “landed” documents stamped by customs and family, friends or you have found your own way to a place to stay.
It’s always a good idea to arrange accommodation in advance of your arrival as the customs will want to know. It helps expedite your entry paperwork.
If you have not come to Canada before, it will be a good idea to simply get temporary accommodations. A short term lease in an apartment or an extended hotel stay, etc. will be wise. Until you know where you will get a job or set down very firm roots in a neighbourhood of choice, do not go into a very long term lease or even buy a home. See below for more info.
So you found a job or started a business and you may want to move closer to it. Before you move, consider schooling for your kids, transportation, ease of travel, etc. Also consider what is known as location, location, location in real estate when you lease long term or buy a home. This means you look for the best property you can afford in terms of location, schools etc.
Often, a good real estate agent can help you. Use word of mouth to find such a person. It has helped me. Such a person can be very helpful to you in starting your new life. There are many things to consider when leasing long term or buying a property. There are mortgages, insurance, maintenance fees, etc.
You might want to do some fact finding through Canada’s MLS (multiple listing service) for real estate availability and approximate property prices. Click here for MLS.ca (http://www.mls.ca/splash.aspx
Social Insurance Number
The very next day or two after resting, head down to the nearest municipal offices to get your SIN or Social Insurance Number. You’ll need to go early because of long ques. This is a document you’ll need for all your formal applications of documents, business, credit cards, bank accounts, drivers license, health card, etc. Click here for SIN Info. ( http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/sc/sin/index.shtml
Health Insurance Card
Medicare is Canada’s national health care system or HCA. Every Province or Territory has its own health insurance system which offers you most government run health facility access, even if you travel into another province.
In Ontario, it’s the OHIP or Ontario Health Insurance Programme. You may need proof of the SIN to apply for one. Oh, yes, bring your official Entry Documents too (e.g. Landed Immigrant Documents).
Click here for HCA Info. (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/medi-assur/index-eng.php
Now, go get a phone service. Get a reliable land line – with internet too as a package. And always demand that you do not need to sign up for a contract – simply because if you move, you’ll need to pay a hefty penalty.
But you’ll need this to show that you have an official address. Keep all statements.
Add long distance services too. Canada is a huge country. Also, if you can afford it, get a cell phone for emergency use.
The largest and considered the main telephone company in Canada is Bell. But there are several other large phone service companies in Canada that will and can offer better priced services. It really depends on your location. Be sure to check them all out! But sometimes, you will first need a land line from Bell before proceeding. Always ask!
Click here for Bell.ca info. ( http://www.bell.ca/home/
Open a Canadian Bank Account
You may already have a ready credit card or bank account from where you came, but you’ll need a Canadian Bank account to show stability to prospective employers (they’ll want to pay into it), or in case you want to create your own business. Also, this is a start to build your credit rating. (In fact, any bill you pay or your credit card obtained in Canada counts toward your Canadian Credit Rating).
There are several big chartered banks in Canada. But there are a number of smaller private banks that may serve the needs you require, above and beyond your retail banking needs. Educate yourself about what you need from; what you should do and how to use the banking system properly.
It would be unfair to pick out one particular bank as an example. However, you might want to check out this fully independent site about banking and educate yourself – you can even download all the articles and ask questions for free. Begin with this article - click here for Private Banking Info. ( http://stephenchua.com/private-bank/banking/types-of-banks/types-of-banks/
Help With Languages
Many people will tell you to go to all sorts of agencies. If you have been admitted Canadian Entry, you would already have a working knowledge of English or would have been directed to a centre near you.
However, do not despair. You see, there are many centres around the big cities that can help you. Sometimes it’s as simple as pointing you to the right person. Try going to social centres like the YMCA, the local Library, or when you’ve been to the SIN or Medicare offices, pick up some helpful brochure. Always ask for help – someone is always willing to help you!
Alternatively, simply check out the schools and community centres in Canada. Each province runs its own education system. Each community or town will have its own community centre. Check there after you arrive. They will help you if you live in the designated area.
There are also many private language schools. Otherwise, use the internet to find a language package and learn from it.
Day Care for your children
For very young children, day care is available, but free ones are on a long waiting list. You will have to pay for this service if you’re working or somehow unable to look after the children.
Of course, some cultures will not even consider letting strangers look after their children. If that is so, and you have someone close that is willing to do so, it may be a great idea too.
However, some parents to send their very young children to a day care perhaps a couple of times a week just so they can learn the language and get along with other kids. Kindergarten aged kids may actually fit in well with the learning system already and they can actually learn to prepare for school and get along with kids. Also, remember the language issue? Kids learn fast, so give your kids an edge.
In the district where you live, ask people about the schools and what conditions these schools might be. Are they suitable for your children? Schooling for school aged children is mandatory in Canada, but the public funded ones are free. There are a number of private schools which may be expensive. If your children are going to higher education, check for their fee structure. You are now landed, and it costs less than if your children were applying for schooling on a student visa.
If you’re going to school to further your education or if your children require more information regarding education and schooling in Canada, CICC (Canada Information Centre for International Credentials) might have the information to help you. Click here for CICIC education info (http://www.cicic.ca/382/Education_in_Canada.canada
Looking for a Job
Some people may already have job offers when they arrive. For others, it might take a great deal of search. Remember the internet? Use it to do your job search. It may be one of the best ways to reach many job search sites.
But a word of advice: you might want to use a service where well recognized organization analyses your qualification and gives you the Canadian equivalent. This gives you credibility and also offers your prospective employer the confidence to hire you.
It is a very good idea to make use of a special service that will assist individuals, employers, professionals and organizations regarding foreign credential recognition and the assessment of diplomas and qualifications in Canada. This organization is CICIC (Canada Information Centre for International Credentials). Click here for CICIC ( http://www.cicic.ca/
You may want to check out the HRDC or Human Resources Skills Development Canada. They can often point you to some available government funded resources that can help you in your job search or training. Click here for HRDC info. ( http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/home.shtml
Starting a Business
Do lots and lots of due diligence. When looking for a business you might be good at, check out the profitability of the idea and what you need to do to start one. Can you afford the time, energy, and funds for it?
Would you prefer a franchise or perhaps a business of your own?
Perhaps you were an investor before and you might be good at it. The same principals still apply but the laws might be a little different. But trading on the open international financial markets still make use of the same rules.
The internet is a great resource, but you may want some help negotiating the ground rules of starting a business. A number of good basic informational sources are available to you. The first resource is head to your local library. They will tell you where you can find the government or privately run organizations that can help you.
There are some private organizations and professionals who can help you with starting up, structuring, organizing and educate you in your business endeavours. But, you might prefer to understand some basic ground rules and government programs available for all Canadian Entrepreneurs. Try Canada Business’ service for entrepreneurs. Click here for Business Canada info ( http://www.canadabusiness.ca/gol/cbec/site.nsf/en/index.html
If the subway or public transport does not serve you well enough, perhaps you’ll want to drive and get a vehicle. You may already have an international driving license but you have 3 to 6 months (depending on Province) to change it to the Provincial driving license.
It’s advisable to take a course from a reputable driving school. It may cost some money before you take your driving test but it will save you time and money later. You’ll save time because you are more likely to pass your driving test and save money because vehicle insurance companies will give you a huge discount (vehicle insurance in most of Canada is very expensive). And consider the safety issue when you learn the various road rules in Canada and can drive accordingly.
All Provinces and Territories issue their own driving licenses which are legal all across North America. Please call the Provincial or Territorial Transportation Ministry for information after you arrive in Canada.
About the Author
May I extend a warm welcome to you. Also an immigrant to Canada 20 years ago, I brought with me tons of experience and knowledge but they weren’t acceptable in Canada. Even with more education, I was caught in the midst of the last recession. There were jobs but most didn’t pay very well to start. Worse, there weren’t much by way of employment services at the time. Most people were very much on their own as the Canadians here typically did not understand the difficulties new Canadians faced.
I then became my own boss and delved into my expertise – building businesses. In fact, some Federal Government initiative targeting immigrants in the early to mid-1990’s helped propel me into unbelievable success. My international trading business, SYLC International Inc. literally took off. I also became sought after as a consultant, a business mentor, a speaker, an occasional author and for a variety of other business functions.
However, today the services have matured and are made very easily accessible for everyone, but it is always much better to have a guiding hand to help you negotiate the maze of Government and private services available.
And now, in the 21st century, I’ve embraced modern technology and have started new Online Businesses. One of which is the Directory of Toronto (http://directoryoftoronto.com/blog/
) which is an online directory for businesses and an informational Toronto City News portal.
I hope this resource article helps you.
Wishing you every success in Canada.