Immigrating to Canada – Here’s a checklist

Immigrating to Canada?

Canada has a lot of great things going for it. It’s a place that prides itself on it’s multiculturalism and diversity, indeed more than fifty per cent of the population of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is from a visible minority. It’s safe, even the biggest cities, with lots of opportunities in art, tech, business, and healthcare. If you’re considering a move abroad, immigrating to Canada may be for you.


If you’re planning on moving to Canada, here’s a checklist to keep handy as you make your move.

  • Research the Province or Territory you’re moving to

What’s the weather like? How much is the cost of living? What’s employment like in your chosen field? Are you moving for school? How do you apply to university? Or how do you enrol your kids? Are there big barriers you’ll want to start working on now, like language?


  • Your Canadian Immigrant Visa

Apply for your Canadian Immigrant Visa (or the type of visa that makes the most sense for you) and get your Confirmation of Permanent Residence. This link will give you all the information you need to get started.

  • Get copies of ALL important documents

Start collecting originals or copies of all important documents. Passports, driver’s licenses, health reports, immunization records, certificates and diplomas from schools and professional organizations, birth, marriage, and divorce certificates may all be required down the road. Start pulling this information together. Take photos and make digital copies too so that if anything is lost, you have an easier time replacing these pieces. Get as much of these translated into English or French. You’ll need an English or French translation of your driver’s license notarized in order to apply for a Canadian equivalent.


  • Make a list of what you’re bringing

Understand what you can and cannot bring to Canada. Generally personal and household goods are duty-free but certain equipment and vehicles may be subject to a duty tax. Learn more on this government website. You’ll want to make a comprehensive list of what you’ve packed and what is being shipped to meet you later. This list will be reviewed when you arrive by Canadian officials.


  • Save up your pennies

This is obvious one. But do your research on the cost of living in the locale you hope to be living in. You’ll want to have six months to one year’s living expenses saved up before your move. If work is harder to come by or something shifts, you’ll be so glad for the buffer. As well, once you arrive in Canada you’ll need to start from scratch building up a credit rating, so having cash on hand will be vital to getting you up and running.


  • Do you need Health Insurance?

Do your homework to find out if the visa you’re arriving on entitles you to health care right away, after a waiting period, or not at all. If the latter two scenarios apply to you, you may want to buy supplemental health insurance.

  • Get a Canadian mailing address

Before you arrive you’ll need to make arrangements for some accommodations. Even if it’s a hotel for the first week, two or three, you’ll need a landing place. An address will be requested at Canadian customs when you arrive. If possible also try and set up a mailbox, some places will allow you to do this remotely. You will need a mailing address to apply for your Permanent Residency Card once you arrive.


  • Research certification, registration, licensing of your occupation

If you’re hoping to continue working in your current profession, research what certification, registration and licensing is required to work in your field in Canada. In some cases you can get started on applying for these credentials before you arrive.


  • Don’t forget about the weather

The weather in Canada can be pretty harsh. Some places see winter for most month’s of the year, others are far more temperate, but grey and rainy. Understand exactly what your destination’s seasons look like. Depending on when you arrive, you’ll want to ensure you’ve packed the right kind of clothing.


You’ve arrived! Now what?


  • Put your money away

You’ll want to open a bank account as soon as possible. Keep your funds safe and start building a credit rating.


  • Apply for health care

Whether and when you’re entitled to health care varies by province and territory. Be sure to do your research and diligently follow the steps to ensure you are on track to receive coverage as soon as possible. If you are a landed immigrant, in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, you’re covered from the day of your arrival. The other province and territories have waiting periods.


  • Find more permanent housing

Find an independent property manager or real estate agent that specializes in finding homes for new Canadians. Tell them about your priorities in the community you hope to settle in. Lean on their expertise to find a suitable longer term housing option, whether that’s a rental or purchasing your home. PS We specialize in this! Feel free to give us a call!

And while their expertise is going to be vital, explore your new city or town. Walk through neighbourhoods, visit local parks and community centres, chat with people, find online community groups, and visit independent shops to get a sense what each community has to offer. Toronto, for example, is very much a city of neighbourhoods. Walking through the city can feel like walking across the world.


  • Driver’s License

If your driver’s license was in a language other than English or French it will need to have been translated and notarized prior to your arrival. Bring this to your local provincial transportation office to transfer it over to a license from your new home province.


  • Start building a credit history

Most banks offer a new Canadian credit card. You’re best off applying for an unsecured credit card, but if this isn’t possible, a secured credit card (one that requires you to put money down as a deposit), will also do. Also, apply for a mobile phone as soon as you can. In both of these instances, be sure to pay your full bill on time each month. A good credit rating will take you far in Canada.


There you have it. This list will give you a head start on what to focus on as you plan your big move to Canada. It’s a big, bold move to make, but I think you’ll find a community that welcomes you with open arms.


Want to read more? Check out our Moving to Toronto, neighbourhood round-up right here.

Sabine Ghali

Sabine Ghali

Helping real estate investors build wealth over time

Sabine Ghali, Managing Director at Buttonwood Property Management, Award Winning Real Estate Broker and an Entrepreneur at heart. Sabine is on a mission to help investors create real estate wealth over time in the Greater Toronto Area. Sabine is published in a number of media outlets, including Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Gulf News, among many others.