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Moving to Canada? Here's a checklist for your first 3 months

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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Getting set up


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:

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.

In the first 90 days

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.

What you'll need to start renting

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.

Learn more about opening an overseas bank account


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.

Banking and finance

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.

Opening a bank account

Whether you're looking to live or study abroad, you will need a bank account to pay bills, receive your salary and to have access to cash.

If you're already an HSBC customer or moving to Canada, you can apply online. You'll be asked to upload supporting documents, so this journey is easiest to complete via a mobile device.

Find out if you're eligible for an HSBC Canada account

Not sure which account suits you? Learn more.


Building a good credit history in Canada

Your credit score from home may not be transferable to Canada, so it's important to start building a solid credit history when you arrive. You want to ensure you have a good foundation, because employers and landlords may access your credit profile to check your application suitability.

Visit the the Government of Canada's website to learn more about why your credit score is so important.



As soon as you start working in Canada, you will be liable for tax on your income. Technically, you become a resident of Canada for taxation purposes when you establish residential ties to the country, which is usually considered the date you arrived in the country.

Being a taxpayer in Canada brings with it substantial benefits and credits, including childcare. You'll find more information about how income tax in Canada works on the Government of Canada website.

Find out if you're eligible to enjoy the benefits of being a Canadian resident


Social Insurance Number

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.

Immigration and identification

Arriving in any new country can be a daunting experience. Luckily, the Canadian government has created a comprehensive website that should answer most of your initial questions. The key thing to note is you will need a visa to enter the country before you apply for work or study permits.

Find out more about Canadian immigration



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.

Learn more about Canadian visitor, student and work visas

Feeling at home

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.


Canada's healthcare system is publicly funded, with universal healthcare2 provided on the basis of need rather than the ability to pay. That said, only Canadian citizens and permanent residents, as well as some foreign workers and international students, will have access to it. As a newcomer, you are unlikely to have coverage for the first three months, so consider taking out health insurance before you arrive in the country.

Understand how healthcare works in Canada



Children in Canada usually start at kindergarten before enrolling in elementary and then high school. There are plenty of options available, including free public schools, paid private schools and home schooling. The language of education can be English or French, depending on which province you're living in. Take time to read up the school board pertaining to your particular province.

When it comes to tertiary education, you can find out what courses are available at Canada's universities by visiting the government of Canada's list of designated educational institutions.

Learn more about school life in Canada here


Are you applying for a Canadian study permit? Certain foreign students, including those from mainland China, India, Pakistan and the Philippines, can have their permits fast-tracked through the Canadian government's Student Direct Stream (SDS) program if they meet the eligibility requirements.

To participate, you will need a Canadian bank account. The HSBC Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) program helps you fulfill the financial criteria for your application by showing proof of funds.

Check out our International Student GIC Program


Winter weather

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!

Wrapping up your first 3 months

We hope you find this guide useful in getting off to a great start in Canada. At HSBC, we're here to give you the right level of planning and support so you can make a success of the experience. Learn more about our international services to see how we can help.

Ready to open an overseas account?

We can tell you the best way for you to apply for an overseas account. Simply select your current location and where you would like to open an account. We'll then walk you through the steps.


HSBC Holdings plc has prepared this article based on publicly available information at the time of preparation from sources it believes to be reliable but it has not independently verified such information. HSBC Holdings plc and the HSBC Group (together, "HSBC") are not responsible for any loss, damage, liabilities or other consequences of any kind that you may incur or suffer as a result of, arising from or relating to your use of or reliance on this article. The contents of this article are subject to change without notice. HSBC gives no guarantee, representation or warranty as to the accuracy, timeliness or completeness of this article. 


This article is not investment advice or a recommendation nor is it intended to sell investments or services or solicit purchases or subscriptions. This article should not be used as the basis for any decision on taxation, estate, trusts or legacy planning. You should not use or rely on this article in making any investment decision. HSBC is not responsible for such use or reliance by you. Any market information shown refers to the past and should not be seen as an indication of future market performance. You should always consider seeking professional advice when thinking about undertaking any form of prime residential or commercial property purchase, sale or rental. You should consult your professional advisor in your jurisdiction if you have any questions regarding the contents of this article.