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There are many things to take care of before you embark on your move to Canada. Finding a location, a job, a city, a place where you will call home are all things you’ll want to take care of ahead of time. Showing up unprepared and without resources can be stressful as well, which is why one of the most important items on your “to-do” list should be setting up a bank account prior to your move.


Scotiabank’s StartRight® Program1 gives you the opportunity to apply for an account from 16 countries. Once you have set up your account from your home country, you can wire, transfer or send your funds to your new home without the need to travel with cash or cheques that could be lost or stolen.

The Scotiabank StartRight® Program, was created for Canadian Permanent residents from 0–5 years in Canada, International Students and Foreign Workers. It allows you to open a Scotiabank International Account, which is an account opened from outside of Canada. More information about the Scotiabank Investment account can be found here.

These accounts allow a transfer of up to $50,000 CAD3 into your new account safely and securely. The banking system in Canada is one of the most reliable in the world and you can take one headache off your plate knowing your money is safe upon your arrival to your new home. Also, the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) provides insurance to protect eligible deposits made to CDIC-member banks. This is another level of security that allows you to sleep at night while you are preparing for your move.

Another reason many people consider opening a bank account before they arrive in Canada is related to immigration issues. Oftentimes, immigration officers will ask about your ability to support yourself once you enter Canada. Having a bank account already in place allows for a “proof of funds” that demonstrates that ability. Proof of funds shows that you have the minimum amount of settlement funds to support you and your family (even if your family will arrive at a later date) when in Canada.

Banks in Canada will typically require you to be a resident of the country however the International Account from Scotiabank, while allowing the initial transfer, is a non-transactional account. To apply you must:

  • Be an individual who has been approved to come to Canada as a Permanent Resident, International Student or Foreign Worker
  • Must be a minimum of 13 years of age to apply (Note: Applicants planning to reside in the province of Quebec must be the age of majority to apply)
  • Be coming to Canada within 18 months from the date of application not be coming to Canada on a tourist/visitor visa.
  • Confirm that the account will not be used by a third party, and that you will not receive instructions from a third party with respect to the use of this account.

You will need the following information with you:

  • Your passport
  • Your date of arrival in Canada
  • Your Canadian Visa/Landing Document Number

What about once you arrive? What then?

Ok. So you’ve used your International Account as a proof of funds and as a way to transfer funds safely and securely. Upon arrival you’ll need to open a chequing account to access your funds for all your banking needs.

Read more: How to start off the right financial foot in Canada


A Variety of Options

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the different types of bank accounts in Canada. You’ll have a variety of needs and goals and will want to know your options. There are many types of chequing accounts:

  • Standard chequing: This type of chequing is the most common and allows you to spend your money through a debit card, paper cheques, and online bill pay.
  • Interest-earning chequing: Select chequing accounts will earn a small amount of interest on account balances. Expect to need a Canadian Social Insurance Number (SIN) for tax purposes on interest earned.
  • Student/teen account: Using a student chequing account while you are enrolled in university is ideal and available for non-residents. This chequing account typically offers little to no monthly account fees and reduced overdraft and transaction fees.
  • Senior package: Senior chequing accounts can also have lower fees but also limited free transactions.

And many savings accounts:

  • High interest-earning savings account: You will need to provide a SIN for tax purposes on interest earned.
  • Tax-free savings accounts (TFSA): Non-residents who have a SIN through employment are eligible to open a TFSA. However, non-residents will be subject to a 1% tax for each month the contribution stays in the account. This account is not taxed in Canada if you withdraw from it, though your home country might have other tax laws in place if you plan to withdraw and use the money later. Also, your savings will not grow if you leave Canada.
  • Foreign currency savings accounts: This allows you to easily do transactions in U.S. dollars or Euros without large exchange rate fees.

Putting Down Roots

The StartRightTM Program has many features that will help you transition your account and get started in a low fee environment. For example, the program offers no monthly account fees on a Preferred Package chequing account for the first year4 and no-fee international money transfers5.

Having a Canadian bank account is also an important tool that will help build a credit history, which is crucial for accessing loans, mortgages, and credit cards in the future. Establishing a positive credit history can help you in the future when you need that first car or are looking for a home for you and your family.

There may even be times when bills will start accruing prior to you living here. For example, if you have made a large purchase of furniture, for example, or other home items from a Canadian retailer, you can start paying bills while living in your home country prior to your arrival.

If you are receiving a paycheque from an employer even before you arrive here, you can start a direct-deposit payment system into your new account.

Preparation is a key tool you can use when making the journey from your home country to Canada. One of the ways to prepare is thinking about your finances and how best to manage them in your new chosen home. By opening a bank account early, well before you get here, you are getting a foot in the door of your new home, and putting down roots that will help you navigate your and your family’s needs. Start today.

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