You’ve made it. After all the dreaming, the planning, and the constant refreshing of your MyCIC account, you’ve finally arrived in Canada.
You’ve done some unpacking, and the roommates in your hostel seem nice. But what to do next?
Here are some of the essential things you’ll need to do during your first week in Canada.
1. Get your SIN
Your Social Insurance Number is a nine-digit number that you’ll need to work in Canada. It’s similar to the PPS number in Ireland, the National Insurance Number in the UK, or the Tax File Number in Australia. If you’re in Canada on a temporary visa, your SIN will begin with a ‘9’.
You can apply for a SIN at any Service Canada office, and if the queues are short, you should have it all sorted in about 30 minutes. Be sure to bring your work or study permit with you.
Our SIN guide has more information on what you’ll need.
2. Set up a bank account
Banking in Canada is convenient, but many account types will have charges that may be higher than you’re used to paying at home.
Nonetheless, it’s important to get one set up so you can manage bills and debit card payments, and avoid potentially costly withdrawals from your home account.
Bear in mind that each of these banks usually have monthly fees associated with their chequing accounts (known as ‘current accounts’ in other countries). The average Canadian will spend $220 in fees each year.
With Tangerine, you can avoid these fees, and because they’re a subsidiary of Scotiabank, you can still have free access to Scotiabank ATMs all over Canada. They’re great for newcomers to Canada who are looking to save money, and you can view their chequing account here.
For more on Canadian banking, including details of how to transfer money at the best rates, see our guide.
3. Get a local cell phone plan
There’s nothing enjoyable about researching and comparing phone plans. It’s even less enjoyable when you’re jet-lagged, and inclined to explore your brand new surroundings.
But this exploring will be made easier when you have a local data plan, and can find your way on Google Maps. The earlier you get a local phone, the more you’ll avoid costly roaming charges from your home provider. And if you’re on a two-year visa, and considering entering a two-year contract, you’ll want to align these as best you can.
Bear in mind that caller ID, and even receiving local calls, can incur charges. Our cell phone plan guide goes through what you need to look out for.
4. Begin your apartment search
If you have no Canadian credit history or local references (like most immigrants), you may be at a disadvantage, as some landlords will give preference to applicants who can provide these. If you come across this, you’ll just have to keep trying until you find a landlord who’s more flexible.
In my experience, it also helped to make enquiries using a Canadian cell phone – I found landlords far more likely to answer a local number compared to calls in my first few days from my Irish phone.
Websites like Craigslist and Kijiji will have listings. Padmapper also acts as a good aggregator. Some of these listings will be out-of-date – usually, the only way to tell is by calling or emailing the person who put up the posting and find out.
Check the ‘Where to live in…’ sections in each of our City Guides for information on the different neighbourhoods you’ll have to choose from in your area.
5. Make friends
Once the dust settles on all the errands you have to do, it’s time to get to know some people and start building a solid network of good friends and acquaintances that can help you feeling truly at home in your new city.
There are a large number of Facebook groups where you can introduce yourself and say hello. Our City Guides and Living sections also have nationality-specific guides if you’re looking to meet up locally with someone from back home.
6. Be good to yourself
You’ll be jet-lagged. You won’t know where the best place is to buy your daily conveniences. You’ll occasionally struggle with the knowledge that your entire support network is several time zones away. And the grind of apartment-hunting won’t match the months of Utopian daydreaming you did when you planned this whole adventure.
That’s okay. Remember that it’s normal to be cranky when you’re tired, and it’s normal after a few weeks in a hostel to miss having your own bed. Don’t beat yourself up about this, and remember that other travelers are in the same boat.
7. Tick something off the bucket list
Between the stress of winding down your life back home, and the stress of setting up your new life here, it can be easy to forget how exciting this whole thing actually is.
Balance your jet lag and your studious efforts to build a life in Canada with reminders of why you decided to travel in the first place. Go to the top of the CN Tower, climb the Grouse Grind, rent a car for the weekend and explore. Do something you’ve been dreaming of.
You’ve arrived. Get out there and see the city.
- Save yourself time and money on your travel insurance for Canada. Read Our Guide.
- Know someone who’s looking for work? Check out our Jobs Board.
We’re asking the Moving2Canada community what your tips are for newcomers.
For people going to Toronto:
1: Swap your drivers licence at a Service Ontario office (within 3 months), and be aware they take your existing licence away – so make sure you set up other things where you would need to show ID before you do this
2: Take your OHSA online training. Mandatory training for any job in Ontario. Ontario Health and Safety Awareness. It helps you learn your rights as a worker in Ontario. The quicker you get it out the way, the better.
3: take your ‘Smart serve’ training, again, a mandatory training if you are going to get any job involving serving alcohol.
4: add your OHSA certification and smart serve to your resume.
What tips would you add? Join our IEC forum and leave a comment.