First Steps in Canada: Checklist for a Newcomer

You have now landed to Canada, what is next for you? Coming to a new country could really be a stressful process, though you may have friends or relatives that can provide you with an idea of what you can expect when you arrive to your “new home.” Hence, having a plan or knowing what to do on your first few days is a good start.

Here are a few things that we suggest a new immigrant should try to do on their first weeks in Canada:

IMMIGRANT SETTLEMENT CENTRE

Look for an immigrant settlement cetre in your community that will be a great help for you in settlement, finding a job or to get a language or skills training that you may need. We came out with a list of new immigrant resources for this purpose.

FIND A PLACE TO STAY

If you already have temporary accommodation after landing like your friends and relatives house it is still best that you also learn about the housing and start looking for longer-term rental or know how to buy a house or a condominium.  You can find information about renting an apartment, buying a house and more by visiting the CMHC section on Housing for New Comers

GET YOUR PERMANENT RESIDENT CARD

If you are a new permanent resident, you do not need to apply for a permanent resident card. A card will be automatically sent to the address that you have provided whe you applied for your permanent resident status to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada.  Ensure that you have provided your complete and correct address so you can be sure that you will receive your permanent residence (PR) card in the mail.  If you did not provide your Canadian mailing address when you became a permanent resident, you must send it using IRCC’s Online Tool within 180 days of immigrating. If you do not, your card will be destroyed and you must apply for a new one and pay the $50 processing fee.

EXPLORE THE TOWN OR CITY THAT YOU ARE IN

Obtain a street map and telephone directory to help you get to know your place and how and where to search for establishments and services.

AVAILABLE TRANSPORTATION

Learn about the available transportation options in your town or city, most Canadian cities have local bus service as a way of public transport. In Winnipeg, the public bus transportation system is called Winnipeg Transit, you can visit Winnipeg Transit for details of bus fare rates, route maps and schedule information. Taxi service is also available, there are are several taxi companies in Winnipeg, three of the well-known Taxi service companies  are Unicity, Duffy’s and Spring Taxi.

TELEPHONE CALLS AND KEEP IMPORTANT NUMBERS

Learn how to make telephone calls and keep important numbers handy. In Canada, the most important number that you should memorize is the national emergency telephone number – 911. This number can be dialed free of charge from any telephone.

CHILDREN TO SCHOOL

Enroll your children to school.  If you have kids, research about the school system in Canada and find out how will you be able to register your kids in a school. Going to school is a basic right of every child in Canada, children aged 5 to 16 must go to school. There are various ways to educate your children, you can enroll your kids to a public school, a private school or you can also home school them. For information about education services in Winnipeg visit Winnipeg School Division.

OPENING YOUR BANK ACCOUNT

Open a bank account. Start a relationship with a financial institution like a bank as early as possible. Seeing a bank financial advisor is a good way of arranging your finances and your  first step in building a credit history.  Most banks in Canada, like BMO Bank of Montreal, TD Canada Trust and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has banking program to help newcomers with their financial needs in starting in Canada.

MOBILE PHONE

Get a mobile phone. It doesn’t matter whether you are getting a post-paid (monthly plan) or a pay-as-you-go type plan, as newbie, you need to be accessible. Having a mobile phone becomes more important once you start with your job-hunting or you start looking for your apartment, wherever you are, you will be accessible to potential employers as well as to landlords.

HEALTH CARE

Look for your family health care provider. It is important that you also ensure that someone will look after your health conditions, which can either be a family doctor or a nurse practitioner. You can ask your friends or other people you know who can provide you with the names of their family doctor that you can come to. You can visit Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s website to find out how you may be able to find your family’s health care provider.

IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS

Secure your important documents.   Among the important things that you should have are:

  1. Social Insurance Number (SIN).   The 9-digit number that you need to work in Canada and to avail the government services and benefits.  Applying for a SIN is one of the first things that you should do as soon as you arrive.  You can apply for your SIN at your nearest Service Canada point of service.  In applying for your SIN, you must provide a primary document to the agency, for immigrants (permanent residents) you can present either your  Permanent Resident Card (if already available);  Confirmation of Permanent Residence AND visa counterfoil (attached to your passport) or Record of Landing.
  2. Manitoba Health Card. To avail the health benefits or medical care, you must be able to present this card to any health institution.  Manitoba Health issues a white paper card (with purple and red print)containing some of your and your family (spouse and children) personal information.  The card also contains another 9-digit life time identification number or PHIN (Personal Health Identification Number).  This card will not be automatically issued to immigrants even if you landed as permanent resident, one must register to Manitoba Health to be covered.
  3. Driver’s License.  If prior to moving to Canada you have held a Driver’s license, Autopac will determine the Class and Stage of licence you should hold in Manitoba.  You must present your drivers license to Manitoba Public Insurance

Apply for the following benefits for your family:

  1. Manitoba Child Benefit Program (if applicable).  This is an  income supplement offered to Manitoba residents who have dependent children under the age of 18 and whose family income is below certain level and  are receiving Canada Child Tax. A parent must submit an application to Manitoba Child Benefit to apply for this benefit.
  2. Canada Child Benefit (if applicable).   The Canada child benefit (CCB) is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help them with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age.  The amount of CCB calculated according to the information provided on the Income Tax and Benefit Returns, payment is normally issued every 20th day of the month.  New immigrants should complete an application form to avail this benefit.  Details about Canada Child Benefit can be obtained at Canada Revenue Agency
  3. Child Care Subsidy (if applicable).  This program is applicable for low income families, in order to qualify for child day care subsidies, the parents must show a need for child care and family income must be below a certain amount.  Application for this subsidy should be forwarded to Child Care Subsidy Intake and Inquiry.

Enrol in the Entry Program.  Entry program is an orientation program especially designed for new immigrants.  It is a series of orientation classes that aims to inform immigrants about the way of life in Manitoba to help them adjust. This orientation discusses about law, employment, school system, health and getting around Manitoba.  Again, you must register in this program to ENTRY Program. You will be required to present your PR Card or landing papers and MB Health Card upon registration.

These are just some of the things that a new comer in Canada can start doing. Like every other immigrants, there are a number of things that you need to do in starting a new life in Canada, just always remember, if you are unsure of something always ask and do your own research. Good luck and welcome to Canada!

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