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Early Days as an Immigrant

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I have come a long way from the day I started dreaming about Canada. It took a lot of research, paperwork, and submissions to come this far.

I was very nervous when the Canadian immigration took more than “normal” time to call for the passport stamping. From the day that I started the process for immigration I was ready for the move. But that wait was torturous.

Why was it taking such a long time?

Who knows what’s going to happen?

When I finally received my passport with that stamp, I was ecstatic. However, the initial euphoria was swiftly overtaken by confusion and uncertainty.

Am I doing the right thing?

Will Canada live up to my expectations?

Will I regret my decision?

Hi! My name is Jennah. I recently moved from my country of birth Lebanon to London, a city near Toronto in Ontario province.

A bit about me – just like many of you, immigrant friends, I dreamt of being in Canada with my family in the hopes of giving them a better life. My reasons may not be the same as yours. Our decisions are personal yet similar – that longing for a better future, for a safe place to live, grow and thrive.

Here are some steps I took that, I hope, will be useful for you – prospective immigrants, ready to embark on this journey.

Research: Do your research on anything and everything. From the grocery store to the transit system, from renting to room sharing options. If you are a student, look for fellow international students – seek a community. The Canadian government prioritizes immigration, thus has a lot of resources available to help you through the transition. Find a suitable organization in the area you are going to live that will guide you at every step.

Finding accommodation: Newcomers use short-term accommodation, like hotels and Airbnb to see what living in Canada is about. For a few weeks or months, they rent a place to explore what neighborhood they want to live in and find a home that fits their needs and budget. If you’re looking to rent in Canada and you’re coming from overseas, it’s important to consider your rental options. In major cities like Toronto, average vacancy rates are less than 1%, so it can be difficult to find an apartment if you’re on a short-term lease. While small-scale landlords may specialize in renting to foreign tenants, you may find that larger housing authorities and companies are more likely to be open to foreign candidates. I also saw that location plays a key role in the rent. The city is more expensive than the suburbs.

Learning about the cost of living: When I checked about the cost of living, I saw that the living costs vary vastly between different places. Before moving, it’s important for us to realize the differences in costs of living between where you live currently and the city you will choose to be in Canada. What may cost $100 in one city will likely cost $40 in another. Add to the daily expenses, the larger costs such as rent, cost to buy a car, insurance for the vehicle, cost of internet and phone services and additional federal and provincial taxes. Keeping those costs in mind will help you manage your money more wisely. Oftentimes the cost of living can be a determining factor in where you choose to build a base.

For example – Ontario is a huge province. Toronto in Ontario is a hub and one of the most common places where immigrants land first. Because of its popularity, the city is more expensive than many other places in Canada. However, if you choose to live in places like Edmonton, AB or Moncton, NB things will be relatively cheaper.

Banking: Canada’s financial ecosystem is made up of Canada’s six largest banks, who serve a vast majority of the country’s citizens. The Big Six is a term that refers to Canada’s six largest banks: the Royal Bank of Canada, the Toronto-Dominion Bank, the Bank of Nova Scotia, the Bank of Montreal, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (or CIBC), and National Bank of Canada. In addition to these banks, there are a few digital-only banks such as Tangerine, Simplii Financial, and PC Financial.

These Canadian banks offer newcomer banking packages that are tailored for permanent residents and international students. This means they have better access to information about your specific situation and can provide additional support for newcomers.  Some of these banking packages designed for students and newcomers to Canada have bonus features such as low or no credit score checks, student banking discounts, and free or discounted banking foreign exchange services.

Before opening an account at a bank, you must have the following:

  • A passport
  • CoPR (if applicable)
  • A Social Insurance Number (SIN) or Student Number (if you are a student).

Bringing money to Canada: Don’t be the person who forgets to check the currency exchange rate. Before you transfer money to Canada, it’s important that you check with your bank or foreign financial institution in your home country for details on how much money you can take out of the country. Most banks provide online services that make it easy to transfer your funds years before you arrive. Additionally, a pre-arrival bank account can help to set up your finances in Canada as soon as you’re ready — allowing you to start spending money immediately after arrival. Cash, stocks, bonds, debentures, treasury bills, banker’s drafts, cheques, international money orders, travel cards, or travelers’ cheques can all be used to supplement your funding. You can also check with your bank in your home country for an existing relationship with any Canadian bank. Some banks do, and this can help you conveniently transfer your money between accounts while you transition into your new Canadian life.

Healthcare in Canada: If you move to Canada as a newcomer, you need a health insurance card to access medical services. Each province issues these cards for its residents. If you’re in Ontario, you need to apply for a health card at Service Ontario. If you’re in Alberta, you need to submit an application to Service Alberta. While most medical care in Canada is covered by the public health insurance plan, there are some things that fall under provincial jurisdiction, including prescription drug coverage. Some provinces, like Ontario and British Columbia, have a waiting period of up to three months for their residents before they can access the public health-care system. However, in Alberta, you’ll be eligible to use the provincial health insurance plan upon arrival.

Stay tuned as we take you along this journey.

As always, The Immigrant Life is here for you. Connect with us. Contribute to a vibrant immigrant community.

This article was Written by Binny George.

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