Ultimate Survival Guide for New Immigrants to Canada

December 3, 2021

Documents to Acquire During Your First Week in Canada

Immigrating to a different country is certainly a big deal for anyone. Moving certainly might not have been as tough but, understanding the new laws, procedures, rules, and regulations is.  I was never super organized in getting proper documents beforehand. But, having them gives is certainly to your advantage, especially when it comes to credit score. These are the things that I have figured out over years.  These are the documents that you must get as soon as possible. I would save you some trouble in the future and help you focus on more important things.

Immigration Documents

This is by far the most important piece of document that you must ensure you have right. You'll most likely be given a piece of document that says your status in the country. It could be a study permit, work permit, refugee status, etc.  You must ensure then and there every information in that document is correct, be it your date of birth, name, etc. At this point rectifying any error is just a matter of printing it again. Once you leave the office, the length of procedures increases multiple folds, which is a bit troublesome. It's fine if your immigration document has an error. You must apply immediately to rectify it. Amends are done with form IMM 1436. This is a paper-only method. There is no cost associated with it.

Bank Account

The second most important thing is getting your bank account active and at least getting a debit card. To activate your bank account you'll visit the branch in person and verify all the documents.

  1. For your visit, you'll need an appointment. So, it's important to plan your visit to the bank at least a week in advance. Last-minute accommodations, in most cases, are not possible.

  2. You must carry all the original documents with you for verification. This is the only time when the bank is interested in having a look at your originals. But, you must also double-check with your bank.
  3. You'll need to provide them with your address as well. A temporary address of your Airbnb or hotel will do just fine.
  4. For any future visits, if any, a piece of government ID will do just fine.
  5. You'll get your debit card and you can start using it straight away.

SIM Card

Well, a SIM card cannot be considered as a document but this was my first purchase. So it's worth mentioning here.
Now that you have the means to pay. You can go ahead and buy a SIM card of your choice. I would recommend getting a prepaid sim card for your initial few months and then you may move on to more sophisticated plans.
Caution: post-paid SIM cards often require credit checks. This is a hard credit inquiry and will drop your credit score.
Due to this reason, I never got into post-paid SIM cards.

Over the past 2 years, I have noticed that any deal - "phone + plan", actually costs more in the long run. So, it is always better to buy a new or used phone and stick with a cheap prepaid plan. That's what I have done for years and never really found a better alternative.

I am with Public Mobile, the cheapest carrier for 1.5 years now. Never had any Network issues, even while traveling in remote areas.
They offer me Canada-wide calling and texts for $27 with 3GB of data. This seems to be more than enough, considering I am using WIFI most of the time.

Here is my referral link. You'll certainly get additional benefits using this link

PUBLIC MOBILE Referral Program

Student/Employee ID Card

You certainly don't want to carry your passport around as ID proof all the time. Tough Student or Employee IDs are not considered super authentic but you'll get by just fine in most of the cases. Of course, since most of the universities fall under the government, your Student ID from a University (not private colleges) is usually considered stronger proof. So, I guess this is a good way to get started. You must double-check with your institute for relevant documents they might need. In my case, they asked the following -

  • Study permit
  • Letter of Acceptance
  • Passport

They'll be able to give you the ID card immediately. But, during COVID things were done remotely, so ID cards were being shipped out via mail. Alternatively, they were taking appointments for office visits.

Social Insurance Number

Your SIN number is by far the most important thing for getting started at a job. Every person working in Canada is required to have a valid SIN. Employers also need to have your SIN before they could start paying you. They won't even consider hiring you if you have not sorted out your SIN yet. You can apply for SIN in one of the two ways -

  • Offline - I consider this as the easier method. All you need to do is to go to the office with your documents (work/study permit/PR card along with your passport) and they'll give you the SIN number almost immediately. Usually, an appointment wasn't required before the COVID.  In any major city, there are multiple offices that handle these procedures, so traveling should not be such a big deal.
    I consider offline as ideal because I don't have to explore the form and figure out the right thing to fill in. Getting it done offline was rater a shorter process for me than doing it online the 2nd time.

  • Online - If you want to head to the office, you can follow this link. All you need to do is follow the instructions and fill out the relevant data. Your SIN will be mailed to you within 10 working days.
    Again getting it in 10 days vs immediately in offline method. You can consider either option available.

Credit Card

You must have a credit card! Period!. It helps you build your credit history which will help you in taking loans for a car, house, etc. The sooner you get your credit card, the sooner you'll start building your credit history.
But, a credit card is also something that you want to proceed with caution. Things done wrong will impact your credit score, which isn't a good thing. Maintaining a good credit score is a different blog post. It involves a few does and don't that you need to be aware of. So consider checking that blog post here.

Health Insurance Card

Without health insurance, your medical bills may pile up very quickly to the tune of $100k every easily. This is something that has happened many times with individuals who were not that aware of the medical system. This article discusses a story about a student who was charged over $120k for a stay of about 20 days in the hospital. Full story here

So, it's better to check the policy of your health insurance and things like -

  • Coverage period
  • When will the coverage start? 
    For new immigrants, the coverage usually starts after 30-90 days after landing in the country. You need to check with your insurance provider for their policy.
  • What is covered in your insurance?
    Things like prescription medication, ambulance, eye tests, etc. If there is a plan which offers more value for a marginal increase in cost, you must consider that.
  • How to claim your Insurance?
    You'll need to have your insurance number in order to use it. All you need to do is provide that number when you'll be visiting a clinic and they'll figure out how much they need to charge the insurance provider and you ( if needed). You might need to carry your coverage card and a valid piece of government ID with you.

Dental Insurance Card

Most of the time your insurance provider will include some dental insurance as well. Dental treatments are often not considered super important and therefore the coverage offered is not much. You need to check with your provider to see what is covered and to what extent. Additionally, many individuals opt for additional insurance plans from third parties. That being said, having at least basic dental insurance is a necessity.

If you are an international student, your institute will provide you with health and dental insurance, so you don't need to worry about it.

Have Questions? Feel Free to Reach Me