Canada is a vast country defined by its breathtaking wilderness, modern city living and diverse, tolerant communities - a unique combination that's hard to find anywhere else. HSBC has had a presence in Canada1 since 1981, so we know a thing or two about helping people settle in to the country.
You might be doing just a bit of light research into a move. Or maybe you're already several steps into your relocation. Whatever stage you're at, this guide will acquaint you with some of the essential info you need to make a successful start to life in Canada.
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From the moment you land in Canada, you'll want to reach out to family back home, friends or potential employers. You'll probably also be keen to explore your new city. One of the best ways to do this is to get connected with the mobile and internet provider that's best for you.
In Canada, communications are regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). Find out more at: https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/home-accueil.htm
Internet - There are many good internet service providers (ISPs) in Canada but your options may depend on where you live. Often, there are bundles that include a landline connection and TV packages, so shop around for the best deal. When you apply for internet service, you may need to provide documentation that includes your current Canadian address and Canadian bank account details, phone number, Social Insurance Number, and a valid, government-issued photo ID, such as your passport. Check with your ISP before you apply as there may be different requirements for each company.
Mobile - The best plan will depend on your needs. You can choose from a pay-as-you-go SIM card that you top up with your credit card or cash, a SIM-only deal, or a handset with a contract. Canada is known to have some of the most expensive mobile plans in the world, so brace yourself if you are the kind of person who likes to use a lot of data!
As Canada is such a large country, there might be additional charges if you call outside your city. If you think you'll need to make regular long-distance calls, check with your prospective mobile provider about how high the charges are likely to be, or look for a plan that includes coast-to-coast free calls.
Top tip: Find a mobile plan as you shop. In Canada, nearly every shopping mall has counters selling plans for all the major mobile providers. Simply walk up and make your enquiry!
Canada has a huge range of accommodation – from smart city apartments and large suburban villas to beachside properties and log cabins in the forest. But unless you've arranged to stay with family or friends when you first get to Canada, it's likely you'll need temporary accommodation as you get set up. Here are some ideas.
Organising accommodation before you arrive may seem daunting. Consider searching the internet for local accommodation options, such as home rentals and hotels. If you are arriving in July or August, you might even be able to stay in a university dorm while you find your feet. It's also useful to speak to friends, colleagues and family members on the ground, and to visit local real estate agents to see what's on offer in the neighbourhood where you plan to live.
Once you've arrived, there are a number of ways for you to find longer-term accommodation. Many realtors have sites that will give you a good indication as to how much you can expect to pay for rent. It's also worth looking at local social media groups.
Top tip: Go through a fee-free agent. Real estate agents charge neither the buyer nor the renter, so you can use their services for free to help you find a place to live.
Once you've found your perfect space, you'll need to sign a rental agreement with the landlord. As such, it's a good idea to ensure you have sufficient funds available to cover the cost of setting up your new home. With HSBC, this is easy. You can open an overseas account before you leave your home country and then transfer all the Canadian dollars you'll need to get started.
To start renting, you may need to show a letter from your employer indicating your income, a bank statement to show you have enough rent to cover several months' rent, and references from previous landlords. Your landlord will probably also conduct a credit score check. As a newcomer to Canada, you won't have a local credit score yet, so you might be asked to pay a higher deposit.
Before you get to Canada, it's a good idea to get your finances in order. You'll need to have enough funds to cover the cost of setting up your new home and getting connected. At HSBC, we're here to support your banking needs so that you get off to the best possible start.
You will also need to apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) in order to work legally in Canada. The Canadian SIN is similar to a Social Security number (SSN) in the US; the Aadhaar card in India; and the Hong Kong Identification Number in Hong Kong, for example.
This nine-digit national identification code gives you access to government programs and benefits. Once you're in Canada, applying for your SIN is straightforward: you can do it online or by mail.
Find out more about how the Social Insurance Number works
Top tip: In Canada, credit cards and debit cards are widely accepted, but it's always a good idea to carry some cash with you for smaller day-to-day purchases.
In most instances, you'll need to get a work permit in order to take up employment in Canada. There are two types available: the open work permit, which allows you to work for any employer in Canada; and the employer-specific permit. These cover temporary workers, business people, and caregivers on the Live-in Caregiver Program. Open work permits are more difficult to obtain and are only issued in specific situations. It's more likely you'll be applying for an employer-specific work permit, which states the permitted location and duration of your employment.
If you're planning on studying as an international student at a Canadian university, you will need to apply for a study permit. While this permit allows you to study, it doesn't let you enter the country - you will still need to apply for a visa. Eligible students who graduate from designated learning institutions can then apply for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.
Whichever route you choose, we recommend you start your research early and prepare all documents and fees in advance.
When you move to any country, there's always so much to learn. You won't be expected to understand everything in your first 90 days. However, we've chosen some of the essentials that you need to know before you move to Canada to ensure a smooth transition in your new home.
Finally, depending on where you live, you might be in for a bit of a shock once winter approaches. Canadian winters can dip well below freezing, so you need to be prepared. Make sure you have adequate winter coats, sturdy shoes and sweaters if you are spending any time outside. Rest assured you can find everything you need for a Canadian winter, in Canada!
We hope you find this guide useful in getting you off to a great start during your first three months.
Taking the plunge and moving to Canada doesn't have to be a scary experience. With the right level of planning and support, you will make a success of the experience. At HSBC, we're here to help you get everything right in your first 3 months, and beyond. Good luck, and we can't wait to join you for the next chapter of your life here.