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Calgary - Sharing landing experience

Discussion in 'Settlement Issues' started by PonJoub, Sep 11, 2017.

  1. 1st part :

    Hi All,

    If this could help others guys, I am sharing my landing experience in Calgary (as I have not seen so many info about Calgary landing ...). Please note, this is only my personal experience and I could have done better or worse but this is what and how I did. It can work (or not) for other guys ...

    Landing preparation:
    I prepared the following docs :
    - Passports
    - COPR
    - Detailed list of goods (basically, I have prepared a detailed list of all the items on a printed Excel sheet (i.e. detailed by suitcase => 6 suitcases in total) then I filled the BSF186 form out with summary of all the 6 suitcases (e.g. clothes, electronics, Toiletries etc ...) and I have mentioned that I have attached a detailed list for further information.
    - and any other docs that are always useful one day or another such as birth certificate, marriage certificate, child health record booklet, copies of passport, driving license + international driving license, etc ...
    - in the plane, the steward gave us the declaration form to complete that we submit at our arrival in Calgary

    Landing :
    I landed in Calgary on August 15th 2017 with my wife and 10 months old baby.
    Flight from France directly to Calgary.
    Our flight arrived in Calgary around 2:40PM then we went to the 1st immigration check (in the visitor line. You will see many nice airport agents with their local "cowboy" attire that will guide you), we presented our documents (passport + COPR) to the immigartion officer then she told us to pick our luggage up and then to go to the Immigration counter (bureau E, however I am not sure whether it is actually "E" or another letter ...) to finalize the landing.
    However, this immigration counter can be packed so as an advice, once you pass the first immigration check and before your reach the luggage carrousel => try to find this Immigration counter on the left side at the end (you cannot miss it => it is written in big on the wall) => then check if there are many people inside the room (it is clearly visible from outside this room because there is a big glass window) => if there are many people => go into this room to check and take a queue line ticket before collecting your luggage (it will save you lot of time while you pick your luggage up).

    Unfortunately, I was not aware about that so I picked up my luggage first then we went to this immigration counter so with our queue ticket number => we waited for in the immigration waiting room about 1h/1h15 before being received by an immigration officer. and I can tell you that when you have a baby especially after a long flight => this 1h/1h15 looked like an eternity ...

    The immigration officer was very formal but nice. He just asked us what is the purpose of our presence so we told that we are here to do our landing for PR so he just requested our passport and COPR (he just asked us if we ever committed any crime and if we have already been refused entry in Canada => obviously ... our answer was ...no ...). He told us that it will take approx.10-15 minutes for him to do his stuff in their system and told us to wait for in the waiting room and he will call us back once done.
    After 10 minutes, he called us back and told us that everything was OK and presented us briefly the "package" of "rights and obligations" as a PR. Once done, he asked us if we had any questions then he congratulated and welcomed us and wish us all the best for our new life in Canada. So, excluding the waiting time, the process with this immigration officer took 15-20 minutes max.
    He, then, told us that we were good to go so we took all our luggage (total 6 suitcases) and went to the exit where were located the Customs agents. They just asked us our completed declaration form and told us that we are good to go (no question at all despite our 6 big suitcases! not even asked for the detailed list of goods!).

    At almost 5PM, we were out and ready to start our new life.

    So to conclude, this landing was very smooth. A bit long (especially when you had a long flight with a baby who did not sleep at all during the flight ...) but overall very smooth.

    Note : regarding the PR card, since we didn't have a permanent address and we didn't want the PR cards to be sent to our friend in Canada (Montreal), we told the agent that we will open a UPS store mail box and would like the PR cards to be sent over there. So he just gave us a form to complete and to fax to CIC once we have the address where we want the PR card to be sent. (just FYI, you can open a UPS store mail box from overseas as long as you are OK to proceed to the payment with your debit/credit card by phone or E-transfer. As I was not really confident about that, I have just decided to open the UPS store mail box once I will be in Calgary).

    Please note again, this is my experience but it could be totally different for other people ... because we have noticed that some others guys in the immigration waiting room spent much more time with the immigration officer (I am not sure if they were also PR or under work permit, refugees, etc ...)

    After landing :
    Before we left our home country, we booked 3 nights in an hotel just nearby the airport (more convenient for us) before moving in an AirBnb apartment closer to Downtown that was available to move in 3 days after our landing. We took it for 1 month so that we had enough time to find a more suitable place to live.

    SIN number :
    we went early in the morning (once opened at 8:30AM) to the Service Canada Centre (Harry Hays building) in Downtown. There was already a long queue but before joining the queue, one agent asked the purpose of our visit. We told him that we were there to get a SIN number. He told us to go to a dedicated counter (with no queue). They asked us the COPR and passport to register in the system then asked us to wait until our name is called. 10 minutes after, our name has been called by an agent and then we finalized the process. It took approximately 20-30 min to finalize the SIN process with this agent (not sure whether this is a standard timeline but this is what happened to us).
    Then once we got the SIN number, we went to the registered agent to get the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP)

    Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP):
    Once our SIN # obtained, we went straight away to a registered agent to get the AHCIP.
    We were told that we need to present a document proving that we have residency in Alberta.
    Unfortunately, except having a temporary airbnb and a mail box in UPS store we could not provide them what they required.
    For x, y, z reasons, 2 agents of this office told us that the UPS store address that we have cannot be accepted but if we present a bank statement showing this UPS store address => it would be accepted ... But of course, at this very moment, we did not have a bank account yet ...
    So we couldn't finalize the AHCIP process ... Luckily, the same day, we had our appointment to open a bank account (will be described after) so that we could provide this UPS store address to the bank to reflect on our bank statement.

    Once we got the bank statement from the bank (reflecting the UPS store address mail box that we have), we went back to the registered agent to get the AHCIP and once all the documents were submitted, they finalized in the system and we got our AHCIP insurance number (in case we need it for any medical matters).
    The AHCIP cards have been sent to our UPS store mail box and we received them about 10 days after our application.
    Useful note, the AHCIP coverage starts from the day you apply (even if you only have the AHCIP number but not the AHCIP card yet). However, just to make sure, it is preferable to get a personal health insurance for the first 2-3 months just in case the AHCIP does not cover any potential unexpected medical problems ...
    FYI, we managed to get a family doctor quite fast (thanks to a person I met (networking is really important) with just our AHCIP number (not yet received the AHCIP card at that time) and it was free of charges.
    However, unfortunately, we also very recently experienced the 911 and due to vomiting and difficulty to breathe when vomiting, my son (10 months old) was transported by ambulance at midnight from our temporary airbnb apartment to the Alberta's Children Hospital and the guy in the ambulance told us that we will receive in few days an invoice for the ambulance transportation. He told us that it would be around 300-400 CAD ... (I am waiting for this invoice ...). However, we did not pay anything at the Alberta's Children Hospital but we waited for around 3h before seeing the doctor ...
    nlonguk, KoKo_, NOBI2018 and 10 others like this.
  2. 2nd part :

    Bank Account :
    In the same day that we obtained our SIN#, we had our appointent to open 2 bank accounts (for me and my wife). Due to a friend working at BMO, we decided to go with this bank (as they also have new comers program ...) but maybe we should have gone to RBC or TD ...
    Basically, just to provide a picture of my situation. Before landing in Canada, I managed to secure job (with correct package) from overseas (thanks to my previous company that has worldwide branches and with whom ex-colleagues I kept excellent relationship). I will only be starting on Sept. 18th.

    To open a normal bank account for new comer => it was very easy and we got our debit card straight away.
    However, as you all may know (or not), in North America, one of the most important thing is to get a good Credit History / Score ! Without any credit history, you may struggle to obtain some financing plans (credit, lease, sometimes requested by landlords to rent a house/apartment, etc ...)
    And also, many things can only be paid by credit card (renting a car, etc ...) ... so even though we can live without a credit card, it is almost a "must" to get one if you want to get credit history.
    It has been 4 weeks I applied for my credit card and I have still not received it ! BMO keeps asking me details about my employment or they have doubts because they don't know me, etc ...). I am just wondering how other new comers (not being as lucky as me with a job) do ?

    May be I took this matter the wrong way, but I have to admit that all these financial / banking systems in Canada (and USA) start really to piss me off ! I had the chance to live in different countries in the world but this is the first time ever that I am facing so much troubles with financial matters! Despite, I submit different documents showing that I am OK/good (financially speaking) => it is like I am a 16 or 18 years old guy who has to prove to every one that I can be trusted !
    How many times I was told that banks or financial matters (credit/lease/ etc ...) would rather deal with someone that has no money and that they know he/she is a bad payer rather than to deal with someone who has some money to spend but they know nothing about ...!

    Not sure whether this is the same with other banks but now I start thinking to already change my bank !

    As I mentioned above, this is my experience and everyone will have different cases ... but I am just wondering how hard other people who do not have the same "luck" than me (getting a good job before landing, having comfortable savings, etc ...) struggle ...

    Anyway, to recap, getting the SIN# + open a bank account + getting the AHCIP could be done in 1 day (if well organized).

    Driving license :
    you can go to any registered office to change your home country driving licence to an Alberta driving license. Please note, you can change it (without re taking the tests) only if your home country has a reciprocal agreement with Canada. Otherwise, you may have to re-take all the tests...
    Advices : before leaving your home country, get an international driving license because here in Alberta, if not in English, the registered office will require you to provide an international driving permit with your original home country driving license.
    If you don't have an international driving permit, you will have to get a certified translation (into English) of your home country driving license !
    Note, even though Canada is officially bilingual (English and French), even if your home country driving license is in French => in Alberta, you will be required to get it translated in English by a certified translator ! This is what I have been told by 2 different official Albertans registered offices.
    Also another important note, when you change your home country driving license to an Alberta driving license, you will be required to surrender your home country license + International driving permit (they will be destroyed) because it is forbidden to have 2 different driving licenses (i.e from 2 countries) in Alberta (and most probably in all Canada)
    Basically, you can find all the information on the Alberta road transportation regulation website.

    Buying a car :
    Calgary is a kind of "car" city. You can live without a car in Calgary but if you can afford I suggest to get a car asap ...
    In this topic, I am just sharing my experience so that other people can share theirs as well(if they want) => I do not pretend to provide any advices ...
    From day one, we decided to get a brand new car or used car if not too much kilometers & good deal.
    As expected, none of the main car dealerships (FORD, DODGE, TOYOTA, HYUNDAI, MAZDA, etc ..., etc ...) accepted to provide any financing plan (credit or lease) because I have not started my job yet (despite I will have a correct package) and especially because I have no credit history in Canada.
    It was either buy cash a car or bye-bye !
    However, after checking on Internet, I have found out that one of the NISSAN representative offers program for newcomers! So I went to this car dealership and after hours of discussion and "negotiations" => the bank of NISSAN finally approved a financing plan (car lease) on 4 years terms but at the condition that I do a down payment of approx. 30% of the value of the car ... to be honest, it was much more than I planned but since we needed a car + we wanted a reliable car (especially for the winter) + it was an excellent opportunity to start quickly building a good credit history => we accepted and now we got our car on which I know we should be OK (reliability, maintenance, warranty, etc ...) for the next 4 years.
    It was a kind of "win-win' deal (from my point of view) because for me and based on my usage => at the contrary of a house, owning a car is not a good "investment" because of the depreciation year after year.
    Finally, financially speaking, it is like if I was buying a cheap used car but adding a monthly lease (which is half the cost if it was under a credit of 84 months) but at the end, the car is new ...
    Again, this is how I did. I am not saying that it is the best (or worst) way to do it.

    I am pretty sure there are much better plans that I may find out in the coming weeks, months or years

    House :
    After intense researches (even before moving to Canada) => despite some "difficulties" we came across during our different apartment/house visits (credit history required, no children allowed, proof of employment, etc ...), we managed to find quickly our house to rent. We were lucky because the landlord seems to be nice and he was looking for a small family exactly like us. He had many visits before meeting us but the feeling was good and we signed the lease agreement the day after we visited the house.
    Finding the accommodation was the main topic as I wanted my 10 month old baby boy to not being moved from one place to another place constantly.
    nlonguk, KoKo_, juli.m and 5 others like this.
  3. 3rd part :

    Daycare for our baby :
    We managed to find quickly the daycare for our baby boy. We visited 5 daycares and they all had a spot for our baby.
    However, based on the different discussions we had with the 5 daycares, we have noticed that for the age 6 to 12 months => it looks to have enough space but for the age 13 to 19/24 months => it seems to be more troublesome to get a spot if you apply directly to any daycare.
    Since our baby has joined the daycare in the age of 6 to 12 months => he will automatically have a spot for the age of 13 to 19/24 months old, etc ... So I guess that some parents may face difficulties getting a spot for their 13 to 19/24 months old kid(s)
    Just to share about the rates we got (for 5 days a week), the range was around 1300 to 1800 CAD per month for the 5 daycares we visited. You can most probably find cheaper than that depending on the area you live ...

    So far, after almost 1 month here in Calgary,
    The city is nice but this city is kind of "car" city (i.e. moving all around the city without a car can be troublesome or really time consuming ...).
    Having lived in different cities around the world, in my opinion, the public transportation is not the main asset of this city.
    In less than 1 month, despite having our 10 month old baby (it can take longer time to do things with a baby because of his life rythm (nap, meals, playing etc ...), we have done most of the main steps to settle down correctly. Still many things to do but at least I know now that my wife and baby boy have a correct place to sleep and we did our best to make it happen.
    My wife has not started yet to look for a job. We have the chance to be able to prioritize the installation first. However, she will start looking for a job next week.

    The 2 only things that I would do differently would be :
    1) to come alone first to make all the main steps for the installation much faster. And then, 1 or 2 months later => get my family to join me

    2) get more prepared about all these bank/financial system which can be very troublesome ...

    I hope this post could help other people who plan to land in Calgary.

    Wish all the best to all.

    nlonguk, NOBI2018, yoge and 14 others like this.
  4. Thanks for the write up. Will help everyone. Had a few questions of my own hope it's not too taxing to answer :).

    Regardin the hunt for a place to stay(medium to long term):

    1) what were the landlords/management (that rejected) looking for?
    2) the landlord that finally agreed what did he ask for?
    3) did you hunt on the usual suspects like mls, realtor, PadMapper, view it or kijiji or even Craigslist?

    Just as a new immigrant without any credit history or job or references getting a place to rent will be the main hurdle.

    4) Also, what would recommend to carry when going on a apartment viewing:

    Like a "rental resume"? bank statements? That's pretty much it one'll have in terms of documents without a job or rerefences.

    5) I would be apprehensive sharing my SIN with every landlord. Were you asked to share it for a check?

    Thanks once again for your detailed post.
  5. Hi RookieMistake,

    1) Actually, since we had the chance to find the house in less than 2 weeks, we were lucky to not be "officially" rejected because we signed our lease before getting answers from other landlords. However, during our discussions with the different landlords, they "unofficially" told us what they were looking for and give their profile preferences. So we found out that when you have young kids, many landlords said that they would prefer not have children nor pets. But when you apply for a apartment/house => be prepared to wait for 1 week or more before getting a reply from the landlord (even though the ad says that it is urgent ...)

    2) our landlord did not ask us anything ... which was quite "suspicious" for us at first sight! but after many discussions with the landlord (the feeling was good so we took the chance) and knowing that the initial lease is only for 1 year (renewable) => we moved forward with this house before losing it (as the landlord showed us all the text messages he received from applicants to know the status of their house rental applications ... => not sure whether this is ethically correct but it was good for us so whatever is good for us => we take it!)

    3) we have been searching on the different usual websites you mentioned.
    However, I focused more Rentfaster.ca because the website is well done (in my opinion) and you have many filters (how many parking you need/ what type of parking/furnished or not/ under 18 allowed or not/ etc ... etc ...) + the map showing where are located the apartments/houses => so you can filter very quickly & easily what is good or not for you.
    The others website were also good but not as good as rentfaster.ca (again this is just my opinion). For instance, kijiji you have so many ads on it but the filters are not that good so you can waste time by reading irrelevant ads or identify quickly if the apartment/house matches your needs ...

    4) basically, when you go visiting an apartment/house => if you are interested, the landlord will send/provide you an application form to fill in and return to him/her asap. So for the visit itself, I don't think you need to bring any specific documents but be prepared to be able to provide whatever they request to optimize your chances (credit history if you have one / previous landlord references if you have / employment contract or letter of offer if you have / etc ...)
    But I have noticed that the most important thing is to get a good feeling with the landlord because for the house we got, we were most probably not the best profiles compared to others applicants (as we are new immigrant, not started to work yet, a really young kids that could potentially damage the house (scratching/holes/drawing on the walls etc ...) but we did our best to get a good feeling with the landlord so that he "likes" us.

    maybe I should not tell that here but this is a matter of facts, we are all humans ... most of the time we prefer to do things in which we are the most comfortable in it. This is the same for landlords ... even though one is not racist, most of the time a chinese would prefer to deal with a chinese, an indian would prefer to deal with an indian, a philippino with a philippino, a french with a french etc ... Unfortunately (or fortunately ... it depends on how the outcome is good for you), we don't live in a teddy bear or Disneyland world ...
    Our landlord is Canadian but originally from China and Malaysia. But since we had the chance to live in these both countries, we were able to talk about these 2 countries so I presume that this helped us to have a good feeling with him ...

    5) you are right, your SIN is confidential so do not share it unless really necessary (you will be asked by your employer, the bank or when you try to get a financing plan to get a car)
    Btw, I have noticed that when you want to get a financing plan to get a car => one of the first thing that the car dealership asks is your SIN # and based on the first number of your SIN #, they can tell you straight away whether your application for the financing plan will be rejected or if there is chances to get approved. It seems that the SIN# starting with number "6" are OK (our SIN# starts with "6")

    Coming back to the landlord, in the application form they ask for the SIN # but it is optional (this is based on the application we filled out so I am not sure whether this is a standard practice) => so since it was optional => we did not provide it but I guess that it could play against or for you depending on if you provide this info ...

    Another thing, obviously getting a suitable place to live is one of the top priority.
    However, as I mentioned, Calgary is a car city and has some long distance range to cover (you can drive easily 50-100 km per day). So I would suggest, you focus first (from overseas try to get some contacts) on how to get (buy or borrow with a friend you may have in Calgary) a car in your budget because for us, we rented a car (SUV because of all the stuff we have) for 1 month and it cost us approx. >2000 CAD => so it can easily affect your savings ... fyi, we rented with AVIS (we are used to rend AVIS worldwide because the price is correct and they offers us conditions that others don't do ...) but I am pretty sure you can find cheaper price than AVIS but the conditions may be different (2nd drivers to pay extra even if married, limited kms, etc ... etc ...)

    To be honest, my main concern here when we arrived was more about how to get a good car in our budget very quick without having to pay by cash.
    Getting the house was only the priority # 2 because most of the time , there are solutions to find an accommodation in our respective budget.

    Good luck
    nlonguk, Koguiking, Onpoint and 2 others like this.

  6. Nice. Thanks so much for giving such a detailed report especially as we have few details on Calgary as you noted. I hope more people will share their experiences and demystify the different banking systems.
    PonJoub likes this.
  7. Hi PonJoub,

    Thanks for such a detailed response. Will surely keep all that in mind when we go for our apartment hunts.

    Have a good day!
    PonJoub likes this.
  8. Good Day House, Please I need clarification. I intend to booking a flight to Alberta (because that where I will want to reside) but the airline I intend to use is stop at Montreal, Pierre E.trudeau which is in Quebec. When I was reading FAQs on one website I found out that Generally, the holder of a Canada Immigration Visa may enter Canada at any port of entry without difficulty. However, if you first enter Canada at a port of entry in the province of Quebec, you must have been accepted by Quebec and have a valid Quebec Certificate of Selection (CSQ) or be prepared to document your clear intention to reside in a province other than Quebec. Quebec is not part of the express entry scheme.

    So my question is: What is the implication of this? Will it be challenging to “document my clear intention to reside in a province other than Quebec”?
  9. You will be landing in Montreal. Create your own thread!
    hamgha likes this.
  10. No you won't have a problem. A friend of mine did the same thing. Landing formalities were done at Montreal then he caught his flight to Winnipeg. I would be doing the same also.
  11. Hello - Do any of you know if there is a Service Canada booth in Calgary (or) Edmonton Airport? If there is one, do they stay open on the weekend? I tried to find this information online but don't see anywhere. People on this forum mentioned about Service Canada booth in Toronto Airport. I want to know because we are planning to land in the weekend and it would be great if we could get SIN done at the airport. Thanks in advance for any input.
  12. Hi

    1/ No, there is only one Service Canada office at an airport and that is Toronto.
  13. Thank you for your response.
    J.Efe likes this.
  15. Hello - did you comment any? I don't see your comment

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