Important things to do before and after you arrive in Canada

To be prepared for your life in Canada, there are important things to do before and after you arrive. Not every item will apply to you, but it can give you an idea of how to get ready.

If you are a refugee, you will receive information and help from the Government of Canada during the immigration process.

Before you arrive in Canada

  1. Get and bring to Canada all official documents belonging to you and the family members who are immigrating with you.

    Common documents include:

    • birth certificate or baptismal certificates
    • passport
    • marriage, separation or divorce papers
    • adoption records for adopted children
    • death certificate for a deceased spouse
    • school records, educational diplomas and certificates, including transcripts listing the courses you took to obtain a degree or certificate
    • medical records (prescriptions, test results, x-rays, allergies, etc.) and dental records
    • letters of reference from former employers
    • car registration documents (if you are importing a motor vehicle into Canada)
    • photocopies of all essential and important documents in case the originals get lost (be sure to keep the photocopies in a separate place from the originals)

    If you have family members that will be immigrating at a later date, you should also bring copies of their documents with you.

    You may not need these documents immediately, but it is better to bring all your official documents in case they are needed in the future. It is often much more difficult to obtain these documents after you have left your country of origin.

    Translate your documents

    If your original documents are not in English or French, you will need to get them translated. The language and type of translation (general, certified, notarized, etc.) will depend on the place you chose to live and what you need the translations for (education, health, legal, work, etc.).

  2. Make an effort to improve your English or French if neither one is your first language.

    Communication skills may be your most important tool to settle successfully in Canada and find a job.

    Read more on these topics in the sections Improving your English and French as well as Employment and income.

  3. Plan where you will stay during your first days in Canada. Make arrangements to stay with family or friends, or book a hotel in a central location. For information on temporary accommodation as well as how to rent or buy a home in Canada, read the section on Housing.

  4. Get ready to find a job in Canada by doing the following:

    • Get a copy of your educational diplomas and certificates.
    • Get letters of reference from your past employers.
    • Learn about getting your credentials assessed.
    • Find out if your profession is “regulated” or “non-regulated” in Canada.
    • Learn how to search and apply for jobs in Canada.

    For an introduction on what you need to know about finding employment in Canada, read the section on Employment and income.

  5. Learn about the education system in Canada. Take note of deadlines for applying and registering at schools, colleges and universities. For information about schools for your children as well as education opportunities for you, read the section on Education.

  6. Learn about health care in Canada, and get private health insurance. Private insurance pays for emergency medical costs until you obtain government health insurance in Canada.

  7. Learn more about the province and the city or town where you will settle.

  8. Learn about seasons as well as the weather in Canada and bring appropriate clothes with you.

  9. Learn about Canadian laws as well as your rights and responsibilities when you become a resident of Canada.

Crossing the border

You must have some documents with you enter Canada. Without these documents, you will not be allowed into Canada.

  1. Essential documents:

    • a Canadian immigrant visa (if applicable) and a Confirmation of Permanent Residence for each family member travelling with you
    • a valid passport or other travel document for each family member travelling with you
    • two (2) copies of a detailed list of all goods (personal or household items) you intend to bring into Canada as settler’s effects (showing the value, make, model and serial number if the item has one). Divide the list into two sections: the goods you are bringing with you and the goods to follow. Learn more about bringing goods to Canada
    • Two (2) copies of a list of items that are arriving later and their money value.

    Do not pack these documents in your luggage. Keep them with you at all times.

  2. Disclosure of funds

    Tell a Canadian official when you arrive in Canada if you are carrying more than CDN $10,000. If you do not tell an official, you may be fined or put in prison. These funds could be in the form of:

    • cash
    • securities in bearer form (for example, stocks, bonds, debentures, treasury bills)
    • negotiable instruments in bearer form (for example, bankers’ drafts, cheques, travellers’ cheques or money orders)

    Find out more about your responsibilities to disclose funds.

  3. Customs declaration card

    Before you arrive in Canada, you may be asked to complete a Customs Declaration Card. You must complete this card before you meet with customs and immigration officials, even if you are not a Canadian citizen. If you are travelling by air, it is a good idea to complete the card before you leave the airplane.

    What to declare

    Use the Customs Declaration Card to declare the following:

    • Any items that you must pay duty on, including alcohol, tobacco and gifts that you are bringing into Canada.
    • Any business goods, plants, food, animals, firearms or other weapons that you are bringing into Canada.
    • Any amount of money more than CDN $10,000 that you are bringing into Canada.

    Do not use this form to list the personal and household goods that you are bringing with you or are following you to Canada. You will show your lists of those items separately to a customs officer.

    Declare all items

    If you do not tell an official that you are carrying items that should be declared, you may be fined or put in prison. The money you declare can be in the form of cash, securities in bearer form (for example, stocks, bonds, debentures or treasury bills) or negotiable instruments in bearer form (for example, bank drafts, cheques, travellers cheques or money orders).

    Visit the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) website to find more information about Moving to Canada.

  4. Interview

    When you arrive in Canada, you will have to go through two screening interviews. If all your documents are available and in order, your interviews should be over quickly:

    First interview — official documents

    An officer from the CBSA will greet you. The officer will ask to see your visa and travel documents. The officer will also check to make sure that you and any family members travelling with you have the proper travel documents. The officer will inquire about your health and will ask you questions similar to those on the immigrant application form.

    Be prepared to answer these questions:

    • Are you traveling with your family?
    • Have you been convicted of a serious crime in your home country?
    • How long do you plan to stay in Canada?
    • How much money do you have with you?
    • Are you healthy?
    • Have you been to Canada before? Were you required to leave?

    After you complete your first interview, you will meet with another officer from the CBSA. This officer will check the items you are bringing with you. At some ports of entry, you will work with the same officer twice.

    Second interview — personal goods

    The second interview is for you to declare what you are bringing with you into Canada.

    The officer will ask to see your declaration card. You must tell the officer you have arrived in Canada to immigrate. At this point, the officer may direct you to another area for the customs procedure.

    You must give the officer the list of goods you are bringing with you and the list of goods that will be arriving later. The officer will go through both lists with you and may ask questions about some of the goods. The officer may also inspect your luggage.

    Be prepared to answer these questions:

    • What are you bringing with you to Canada?
    • Do you have any live animals or plants with you?
    • Do you have any firearms, ammunition or fireworks with you?
    • Do you have any meat or dairy products with you?
    • Do you have any fresh fruits or vegetables with you?
    • Do you have any items from endangered species?

    Do not give false answers

    You must answer all the questions truthfully. It is a serious offence to make a false statement. If you make a false statement you may not be allowed to stay in Canada. If you are well prepared and you have no items that are not allowed in Canada, the process will go quickly.

    If there are no difficulties, the officer will sign your Confirmation of Permanent Residence and authorize your entry into Canada as a permanent resident.

In your first two weeks in Canada

  1. Learn about the different resources and sources of information available to help you settle in Canada.

  2. Call or visit an immigrant-serving organization in your city or town to learn about the services they provide.

  3. Apply for important documents like:

    • a Government health insurance card, so you can receive medical care in Canada. You should apply as soon as possible after arriving in Canada.
    • a Social Insurance Number (SIN). You cannot work in Canada without a SIN.

  4. Give Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) your new Canadian address, so that you can receive your permanent resident card in the mail.

  5. Open a Canadian bank account.

  6. Explore your city or town, and learn about the transportation options available.

  7. Learn how to make telephone calls and access the Internet.

  8. Memorize the national emergency telephone number: 911. If you experience a medical or other type of emergency, call for help.

In your first two months in Canada

  1. If you do not have a job, you should start looking for one quickly. You can get information on job postings, on how to adapt your resume for Canadian employers, on mentorship programs, etc., at local immigrant-serving organizations.

  2. Improve your English and French.

  3. Learn about housing and how to search for a place to rent or buy.

  4. Read about education in Canada to learn things like how to register your children in a school and options available to improve your qualifications and skills.

  5. Obtain a Canadian driver’s licence if you plan to drive in Canada.

  6. Learn about Canadian laws as well as your rights and civic responsibilities as a resident of Canada.

  7. Find a doctor or health-care centre where you can go for your medical needs. Make an appointment for a medical check-up and vaccination update when you receive your government health insurance card.

Immigrant services in your area

Our interactive map will help you to search for immigrant services in your area.
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