10 things to do when you start your new life in Canada

Canada has many wonderful opportunities for newcomers. To help you take advantage of these opportunities, we have put together a list of important things you should do within the first year of your arrival.

In the first week

Apply for your Social Insurance Number (SIN)

If you want to work in Canada, open a bank account, or access government programs and benefits, you will need a Social Insurance Number (SIN). Apply in person at your nearest Service Canada Centre. When you apply, you will need to bring documents with you that prove your identity and legal status. Find out which documents you’ll need to bring with you.

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Protect yourself with medical care

All Canadian citizens and permanent residents get public health insurance to cover their medical care. Health insurance cards are issued by the government of your home province or territory. For details on how to apply for health insurance, visit Service Canada

Keep in mind that there may be a waiting list. If you can’t get public health insurance immediately, you may want to apply for temporary private health insurance. For more information, visit Settlement.org.

Set up your finances

As soon as you arrive, you should open a bank account. With a bank account, you can keep your money safe, and buy things and pay bills easily. You’ll want to choose a bank that has a branch near you, with opening hours that suite your schedule, and lots of automated bank machines so that you can access your money easily.

CIBC has the banking products you need as a newcomer to Canada.

In the first month

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Get to know your community

Canada has many organizations that are dedicated to helping newcomers find a place to live, look for work, learn English or French, and more. For free immigrant services in your community, visit Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Public libraries, community centres and ethnic associations also offer helpful information, and have activities that you can join. Taking part in community activities is a great way to build new friendships.

Look for work

A good place to start your job search is your local Service Canada Centre. They have lots of helpful information, offer interview training, and can help you with your résumé. Plus, they have an online job bank you can use. Learn more about finding a job in Canada.

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Register your children for school

All children living in Canada are entitled to a free elementary and secondary school education. To register your child in school, you will need to provide proof of your child’s age and your current address. Some schools will want to test your child’s math and English language skills to see if extra support would be helpful. To begin the registration process, contact your local school. Learn more about Canada’s school system.

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Find a doctor and dentist

Many Canadian doctors are very busy and do not accept new patients, so it may take some time to find a doctor. Ask friends and neighbours for recommendations. You can also get help by contacting an Immigrant service centre. If you need urgent medical care and you have not yet found a family doctor, visit a walk-in clinic or hospital.

Ask your friends and neighbours if they can recommend a good dentist, too. If they can not help you, contact a Dental Regulatory Authority or Association in your province or territory

Find a permanent home

When you first arrive in Canada, you may be staying with relatives or friends or in a hotel. However, you will probably want to find a home of your own as soon as you can. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) can give you information about renting and buying.

In the first year

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Get a driver's licence

If you have a driver’s licence from your home country, you may be able to legally drive in Canada for a few months, but you will eventually need to get a Canadian driver’s licence. To get your licence, you will need to take a road test and a written test. Each province and territory has its own application process.

Improve your language skills

Your ability to communicate with other people in Canada is important. Good communication will make it easier for you to find work, do your banking and shopping, get medical attention, speak to your children’s teachers, make new friends, and more. If you do not speak English or French fluently, you may be able to take free classes offered by qualified, experienced teachers through the Government of Canada.