“If you quit on the process, you are quitting on the result.”
The trip of two and half days to our final destination left us feeling overwhelmingly fatigued that we had to take another two days to feel refreshed. The first two days after our arrival, we only went out for a walk around the neighborhood to remind ourselves that this is no joke, we were actually in Canada for real!
Afterwards, it was time for us to start working on settling down. Our host – the same family I mentioned in the journey begins who told us about the Canadian immigration express entry process- made sure we were comfortable (God bless them!). Three days after our arrival, we went downtown with them and they showed us where to get our bus pass, so we could easily move around without waiting on them to get things done.
They also took us to the Newcomer Information Center, where we were assigned a settlement counselor to make settlement a lot faster- which it actually did. The first thing our counselor did was to bring out a checklist of things we needed to do to fully settle into the province.
In the next couple weeks we were busy ticking off items on the checklist, not exactly in the most efficient order but it all worked out all the same. However, I recommend using the order below, and I’ll tell you why.
- Get your SIN: we got our SIN at the Toronto Pearson Airport when we landed Canada- reason we missed our connecting flight to Saskatoon but not everyone is able to do that due to time constraint. If you are unable to get your SIN on landing, no worries. You can get it from the nearest Service Canada location. You need your SIN to apply for any government benefits and there are quite a few for new immigrants. Also, when you get a job, your employer will request for it for benefit purposes. So apply for your SIN and take advantage of all the benefits.
- Find a telephone service provider and get yourself a phone number: We got ourselves new phones with Canada phone numbers and I didn’t pay a dime but instead got a $100 Walmart gift card. My immersion to building credit history officially begins! You will need to include your phone number in almost every form you fill when you’re trying to settle down. The earlier you get a number, the easier it is for you to navigate the other settlement procedures and also navigate your new city. GPS is your friend! You don’t wanna get lost in Canada, the experience is not interesting but I’m almost certain that you, like every new immigrant I have ever met in Canada will get lost at some point. You may as well have a phone to browse your way back on track!
- Research banks and account packages and open a bank account: We opened individual accounts. Although our hosts had recommended that we opened an account with a particular bank, we opted for another bank because of accessibility. At that point, we didn’t have a car and had to settle for the bank that was easier to get to. Assuming you brought some money with you, you would want to keep it safe in the bank as soon as possible; but this is not the only reason you need to open an account earlier in your settlement process. If you plan on finding a job, you will need to provide your employer with a void cheque from your bank. Additionally, almost all new immigrants qualify for GST/HST rebate (more on this shortly), so you need your void cheque to attach to the form when you apply. Equally important is added benefit of getting a credit card with free money to go on a shopping spree. Don’t take the free money part seriously! But seriously, you get a credit card which is an important way to build your credit history. A word of caution on credit card usage! Don’t forget to do your research about all the banks and credit unions in your province as well as their different account packages to get the best value.
- Get an accommodation: From the third day after our arrival, we began the search for accommodation on kijiji.ca and also spread the words around to whomever cared to listen. Eventually, we found one that we both liked after about one week and the landlord seemed like a nice guy, so we entered into a one-year lease. We had been previously advised to carefully read the lease before signing it to avoid signing an agreement we couldn’t keep.
- Apply for health card: Although we applied for our health card with the help of our settlement counselor before getting our own accommodation, the norm is to apply after you get your accommodation because you will need your lease to prove that you are resident in the province since healthcare is the provincial government’s responsibility. However, our settlement counselor was able to do our application with a letter from our host stating that we were currently living with them, so you can try this as well if it will work pending the time you get an accommodation. Nonetheless, you can still access health care without your health card but you will have to pay for it out of pocket to be reimbursed later either when filing your tax return for the year or you can claim it when your health card arrives. To apply for your health card, click on your province below to see the requirements and procedures.
- Apply for your provincial ID card: you’re probably wondering why this step is not listed first right? That’s because you need to provide two proofs that you’re resident in the province. The accepted proofs are the lease for your accommodation, your employment letter, a recent void cheque, your pay stub, etc. However, each province sets the requirement for getting the identity card. Check the requirement for your province below. Getting your provincial ID card at this point will make you stop carrying your PR card or international passport around. Since the ID card is an acceptable form of identification within Canada.
- Apply for your library card: If you’re a bookie like me, then you should get your library card as soon as you can to bury yourself in books while waiting to get a job. I believe many if not all library cards give you access to online courses on Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning). And since courses on Lynda are recognized by many companies, you may want to do some courses in your career line to boost your chances of getting a job. I learnt graphics design with this and that gave me an edge when i was job-hunting. Visit any library in your neighborhood to get a free library card. All you need is an ID card.
- Start applying for jobs: The not-so-fun part is the job hunt. Upon landing, we were told that care job was easier to get than any other job, so we went for a 2-day home care and first aid training. Immediately I finished the training, I began applying for home care support jobs, while still applying for jobs in my profession. About one week after I started applying for the home care jobs, I got my first job in Canada as a home support aid. The workload and pay wasn’t terrific neither was it terrible. Meanwhile, my husband had gotten a retail sales job prior to this, so we could get by just fine without spending our savings from home. At about this time, I also did a job search and interview training with the Open Door Society, and immediately began applying what i was learning to my professional job search. I landed my dream job two months later. Comment below if you want me to share the tips i used in another post.
- Get your driver’s licence: The transport system in big cities in Canada is effective, however, the reverse is the case in smaller cities. Depending on your city of residence, you may not be able to function effectively without a car and/or driver’s licence. In fact, many of the jobs we applied for requested for driver’s licence and owning a personal car. It didn’t take us too long to understand why, after we missed several interviews and went late to others because of the transport system. Nonetheless, the current law in Canada is that you can drive with the licence from your home country up to three months after arrival, so that gives you enough time to practice driving the Canada style before going for driver’s test. The procedure for getting a licence in each province differ, so learn what the procedure and requirements are in your province below. Also, getting a letter from your auto insurance company from home stating how long they have handled your auto insurance and that you have not had any claim, can reduce your auto insurance considerably.
- File for GST/HST rebate claim: Who doesn’t like free money? No one, I guess! The GST/HST rebate uses your income for the year to determine if you can afford the good and services tax that you pay. If the government determines that based on your income, you’re spending too much on goods and services tax, the government will give you back some of the money on a quarterly basis. With the help of our settlement counselor, we applied for the GST/HST rebate and about 3 months later, I got the first credit alert. Don’t ask me how much, i don’t kiss and tell. Speak with your settlement counselor about it or apply here.
- Apply for child benefit: I wish i could share my experience on applying for child benefit but i am yet to go on that journey. I’ll write about it when I do. However you can read up on applying for child benefit.
Lessons: If i could go back in time, I’ll do lots of comparative research before settling for any product or service whether phone, service provider, banks, accommodation, cars, etc. This would have helped to cut down our expenses and saved us some money. Also, I learnt the importance of networking during this process. Endeavor to meet new people and chit-chat with them. You never know where valuable information will come from, especially when you’re new and don’t know how things work in your new environment. Never be shy or ashamed to ask questions. I have had kids laugh at me because I asked them the meaning of band aid. But they didn’t have to laugh at me the next time because I knew the meaning already. Ultimately, NEVER GIVE UP ON THE PROCESS! In the end, you’ll be fine and you’ll grow and say cheers to growth!
If there’s a process i have missed, please feel free to add that in the comment section and share your experience as well; or if there’s any other subject you’ll like me to post about, just mention it in the comment below!
Cheers to growth!