5 things to do after arriving in Canada

Updated: Jan 16

So much uncertainty and anxiety is involved in moving to a new country. There are new laws, cultures, languages, foods, smells, and people. Unfortunately, while you're getting used to all of these changes in your life, you will also need to get a lot of bureaucratic tasks completed to ensure you're ready to integrate fully in society.

Victoria building
Downtown Victoria

Here are 5 things you should consider doing shortly after arriving in Canada:

1. Get your Social Insurance Number

A SIN number will be critically important in the years ahead for many things, such as getting a job, paying taxes, building a pension, applying for social services, receiving employment isurance (EI), and more.

You can go directly to a Service Canada office with your immigration paperwork and identification. These days, they don't give physical cards to reduce the risk of identity theft, but you'll receive paperwork with all the information you'll need. It is recommended that you keep these documents in a safe space and do not share your SIN number with anyone over the phone (this is a common scam). It's a good idea to memorize your new SIN number.

2. Get a local cell phone number

Canada has some of the highest mobile phone rates in the world. This problem is even reported on regularly on the national news. You will want to get set up with a number in the area code where you'll be making the majority of your calls.

Furthermore, when you apply for jobs, it'll be important to have a number the employer can easily call. International numbers from outside of the US and Canada will have an unfamiliar series of numbers that will raise a red flag. If someone who is in the position to hire you isn't willing to pay for the expensive international long-distance fees, then they might skip over you.

3. Open a bank account

Anyone living in Canada has the right to a bank account. It doesn't matter whether you're unemployed, homeless, or have bad credit. Canada's banking regulations are some of the best in the world, and these regulations help ensure your money will be safe and you'll have access to it if needed.

It is also important to be able to cash your paycheques easily and freely. Some who do not have a bank account resort to predatory financial institutions, which will cash your cheque and take a big fee for their services. These types of institutions also offer loans at exorbitant interest rates, and so they are best avoided.

4. Download important apps

Cell phones are important tools to get information. It will be very helpful to have a personal suite of apps to help you navigate daily life.

Google Maps or a similar GPS app can make life a lot easier. Whether you're walking, biking, driving, or taking public transit, 99 times out of 100, a good GPS app will be able to manage your route for you. You can also search for businesses and services around town, read reviews, and set up your daily commute.

Banking apps are also helpful. You'll be able to keep track of your finances easily, deposit cheque with a photo, and tranfer money on the go.

Email apps are very useful, too. Cell phones typically come with a built-in mail app, but you can download another that you're comfortable with. It is a good idea to regularly check your emails, especially if you're waiting to hear news of a job offer or a request for more information from a government body. Having you emails sent to your phone makes this easy. Don't let important emails go unanswered for too long. And remember to check your spam filter every once and a while; sometimes important emails can end up there.

5. Contact a settlement agency

Settlement agencies, like the Victoria Immigrant & Refugee Centre Society, offer excellent services and supports to ensure you're making progress towards being a confident and prosperous member of the community.

Their specialized staff can help with navigating the path to permanent residency or citizenship, offer English language instruction, employment services, volunteer opportunities, and workshops of various topics.

It's also a great place to meet friendly, kind-hearted people. In these organizations, you'll typically come across people from all over the world - both clients and staff. Many newcomers to Canada make their first and longest-lasting relationships in settlement organizations through workshops, classes, networking events, and volunteering.

If you do these 5 things within your first week in Canada, you'll be well on your way to feeling more at home. It is a lot of running around, but it's a good idea to sort this out sooner rather than later. After you're done, though, you let out a well-deserved sigh of relief.

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