Landing and Settling in Ontario
This guide is for newcomers to Canada considering the potential of settling in Ontario.
Use this page to learn about everything from housing and commuting to healthcare, education, taxation and fun/leisure in Canada’s most populated province.
Table of Contents
- What are the benefits of living in Ontario?
- Housing in Ontario
- Commuting in Ontario
- Employment in Ontario
- Healthcare in Ontario
- Education in Ontario
- Weather in Ontario
- Emergency Services in Ontario
- Newcomer Services in Ontario
- Taxation in Ontario
- Things to Do in Ontario
- Contact CanadaVisa and Cohen Immigration Law for Assistance
Going through this guide, you can expect to learn about some of the primary benefits that come with settling in Ontario. These include a variety of employment opportunities as well as a large population of newcomers that could simplify your transition to life in Canada.
From there, explore different key areas of settlement in Ontario. These topic areas include housing, commuting, employment, healthcare, education, weather, emergency and newcomer services, taxation and fun and leisure, all as you prepare to decide where in Canada you would like to settle (or if you are looking for more information about your chosen settlement destination) as a newcomer to this country.
As a newcomer to Canada, Ontario provides unique benefits with respect to employment opportunities, a choice of preferred lifestyle, and a significant population of newcomers to ease the transition to life in Canada.
Ontario is renowned as a province with great employment opportunities. As the highest-populated region in Canada, many of the world’s biggest companies – both domestically and globally – operate in Ontario. This means that newcomers looking for work in a variety of employment sectors (more on employment below) can look to Ontario as a viable settlement option regardless of their job industry.
Newcomers to Ontario will also have the ability to choose where to live based on their preferred lifestyle thanks to the province’s diverse communities. In other words, as a newcomer to Canada, you have the option to settle in either a rural community or a metropolitan one, depending on what better suits you and your family. For instance, those who want a more laid-back and quieter lifestyle may look to settle in a community such as Stratford. Meanwhile, Toronto is an obvious destination of choice for families who prefer to live amongst the hustle-and-bustle of Ontario’s more “city-like” communities.
Finally, Ontario is home to Canada’s largest population of immigrants among all 13 provinces and territories. This is often a great part of the province’s newcomer appeal because Canadian immigrants tend to gravitate towards settlement locations where they can find people with similar journeys and lived experiences. This has been shown to make an immigrant’s life significantly easier when it comes to their own adjustment to Canadian life.
Ontario’s housing market is sizeable, largely due to the significant number of people living there. In fact, over 15 million people call Ontario home, and more than 5.4 million housing properties are scattered throughout the province.
For newcomers to Canada, the journey to finding housing will typically focus on renting for the short term. Although the types of properties available for rent throughout Ontario and their prices will vary based on the community you choose to settle in and the composition of your family (number of parents, kids etc.), this rentals.ca National Rent Report (updated monthly) outlines the average rental costs for one and two-bedroom units in different cities across the country.
In Ontario, as is the case with Canada as a whole, most newcomers to this province settle in a province’s largest Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs). In Ontario, these areas include Toronto (population over 6.6 million), Ottawa-Gatineau (Ontario population* over 1.1 million) and Hamilton (over 821,000).
Note (*): Ottawa-Gatineau is split between Ontario and Quebec, with the Quebec portion of the CMA accounting for over 355,000 people
Resources to help you find housing in Ontario
The Government of Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/page/find-your-local-service-manager
For information on your initial arrival into this province, including the names and locations of Ontario’s several international airports, please visit Arriving in Canada.
With respect to day-to-day commuting in this province, in each of Ontario’s three largest CMAs, at least 80% of residents live less than 500 metres from a “public transit access point.”
This means that most residents of these communities can easily access a bus, subway station or other mode of public transportation.
Still, over 80% of CMA residents in each of these three regions use a car, van, or truck as their main mode of commuting. In Hamilton, more than 221,000 residents use one of these vehicles to move around the community. In the Ontario portion of the Ottawa-Gatineau CMA, that number is over 241,000. Finally, in Toronto, more than 1.4 million people that live in the CMA opt for a car, van or truck as their main mode of commuting.
Despite this heavy use of cars, vans and trucks, many Ontario CMAs have established networks of subway trains, buses and above-ground trains that make up their public transportation systems.
As an example, using the CMAs we’ve already discussed, Hamilton has its dedicated Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) system while Ottawa-Gatineau has its Ottawa-Carleton (OC) Transpo system, which is run by the OC Regional Transit Commission. Finally, Toronto has the Toronto Transit Commission’s network of buses, streetcars and subways to get residents where they need to go.
Getting an Ontario Driver's License
If you are an Ontario-bound newcomer who would prefer to drive a car rather than take public transit, you must be 16 years of age. In addition, you must have a valid government-issued license, valid insurance coverage and be in possession of your original ownership permit while behind the wheel.
For your first 60 days as a resident of Ontario, you may operate a motor vehicle using your driver’s license obtained in your home country.
Note: It is highly recommended that you also carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) during this time
Once those 60 days are up, you must apply for and receive an Ontario driver’s license to continue operating your vehicle. To do this, you must either obtain a driver’s license outright or apply and be approved for a Driver’s License Exchange in Ontario.
Click here to learn more about the process of a driver’s license exchange in Ontario, including which newcomers to Canada are eligible for an exchange in Ontario, as each Canadian province and territory has a different set of steps and requirements for this process.
The process of obtaining a driver’s license outright in Ontario, if you cannot or do not want to complete an exchange, involves passing three tests. The first is a written examination that tests your knowledge of road rules and road signs. That is referred to as a G1 Test. The following test, called the G2 Test, is the first of two practical driving examinations taken by new drivers in the province. The final G Test is a highway driving exam that allows those who pass to drive all around the province on all types of roads. Click here for more information about Ontario’s driving test structure and getting a driver’s license without an exchange as a newcomer to Canada.
For more information about operating a motor vehicle in this country, including a discussion about insurance, renting vs buying a car, and more, visit our dedicated page on Driving in Canada as a Newcomer.
In Ontario, the three largest industries in order of employment are as follows:
- Trade occupations
- Healthcare and social assistance
To learn more about finding a job in Ontario, visit the provincial government’s Employment Ontario page.
The sections below will provide more detail on Ontario’s three biggest employment sectors.
In this instance, trade occupations, which fall under Ontario’s larger group of service-producing industries, include retail and wholesale trade jobs. In other words, over one million Ontario residents in the wholesale trade industry are employed in jobs where they purchase large quantities of goods with the intent to resell them in smaller quantities to other businesses or wholesalers. Wholesale trade occupations can be found in a variety of industries, including grocery, electronics and household goods. The same is true for the retail trade industry, which employs people who sell items directly to consumers, rather than to another business or wholesaler.
Ontario's healthcare and social assistance industry employs more than 780,000 residents in jobs ranging from doctors and nurses to social and personal care workers. Persons employed in this industry are vital to the health and well-being of the public who call this province home, as these workers are the ones who take care of handling everything from physical health to mental health and anxiety. Therefore, the strength of this industry is key to the well-being of all people who live in Ontario and across Canada, meaning that this province will always be searching for people looking to get into this employment sector.
Finally, more than 670,000 people who live in Ontario are employed in the manufacturing industry, which also falls under Ontario’s larger group of service-producing employment sectors. Jobs in this industry include such titles as mechanical engineers and laboratory technicians. Manufacturers are key to the Ontario and country-wide economy because of their ability to help the province (and the country more largely) create more goods, which can be sold in exchange for money that can be re-contributed into the economy and used to benefit the province in other ways.
Resources to help you find a job in Ontario
Government of Canada Newcomer Job Bank: https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/findajob/newcomers
Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development: https://www.ontario.ca/page/ministry-labour-immigration-training-skills-development
Employment Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/page/employment-ontario#find-a-job
Ontario is one of just two Canadian provinces and territories that do not require newcomers to wait to be eligible for provincial healthcare coverage. Instead, any newcomer to Ontario that possesses a health card can receive free healthcare, funded through a universal healthcare model using the taxes that residents pay annually.
- A completed Registration for Ontario Health Insurance Coverage form and three of the following from the approved list of qualifying identification documents:
- One original document that proves your Canadian citizenship or OHIP-eligible immigration status
- One document (original, printed or digital/electronic document as noted on the list) that proves your residency in Ontario
- One original document that proves your identity)
With a health card, public health services are typically free for all Canadians at the point of use, although certain medications (ex. prescription drugs) and treatments will require the recipient to pay out of pocket. In addition, each province individually decides what services to offer as part of its public healthcare insurance package.
In Ontario, the provincial healthcare plan is called OHIP (the Ontario Health Insurance Plan). It covers the following medical services.
- Visits to doctors
- Hospital visits and stays
- Laboratory testing in community labs or hospitals
- Medical or surgical abortions
- Some in-hospital dental surgeries
- Some optometry (eye-health services)
- Podiatry (foot-health services)
- Ambulance services
- Costs incurred for travel to obtain health services if you live in northern Ontario.
Please click the appropriate following hyperlink to find out more about the documents required to obtain a health card in the province, how to renew an expired health card and details about coverage on medications in Ontario.
The Government of Canada recommends that all residents of Ontario buy private health insurance to supplement public healthcare coverage provided by their home province/territory. To learn more about healthcare in Canada, including what is not covered by Canadian healthcare and how to get private health insurance, visit Get Healthcare in Canada: A Guide for Newcomers.
From the time that the children of newcomers to Ontario reach the age of six, they begin to participate in the province’s education system.
Note: Ontario has more than 400,000 licensed childcare spaces across the province
K-12 Education in Ontario
Starting in kindergarten, Ontario residents can send their children to school for free until they graduate high school if they opt to put their child through the public school system. For more information about all levels of education in Ontario, the provincial government provides many additional resources through its Education in Ontario page online. Otherwise, newcomer parents in Ontario can send their child to a private school or an independent boarding school, but these options will require parents to pay for tuition out of pocket instead.
Click here to read more general information about the different education options available in Canada, as well as important information about enrolling your child in a Canadian school, participating in school events and parental involvement in their child’s education.
The goals of Ontario’s education system differ at the elementary school level and the high school level. Visit the website of Ontario’s Ministry of Education for specific details on key things to know such as school registration, student assessment/report cards, and additional resources.
Generally, in elementary school, the Ontario curriculum focuses on laying the foundation for success in the future. Subjects taught at this level include arts, language, mathematics, health, science and social studies (among others). The latest details on what is included in the scope of each subject taught in Ontario elementary schools can be found at this link.
With a greater focus on preparing students for life after high school – both into their post-secondary education or their careers – the high school curriculum in Ontario focuses on some of the same subjects as the elementary level (arts, English etc.) but also expands to teach those in grades 9 through 12 about business studies, computer studies and so much more. A key part of the high school curriculum in Ontario is the focus placed on career education and guidance, as students at this level prepared for their post-secondary education and beyond. Please click here to find out the latest available information about Ontario’s secondary school curriculum.
Post-Secondary Education in Ontario
As Canada’s most populated province, Ontario offers over 500 Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) for newcomers to Canada. With programs offered at institutions in smaller Ontario cities like Owen Sound and the province’s more populated cities like Toronto, it is likely that all newcomers to Canada will be able to find a program and educational pathway that suits their needs and goals.
Among the over 500 DLIs in Ontario, many also offer programs that would enable Canadian newcomers to be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). This type of permit is immensely valuable for non-permanent resident newcomers to the country who eventually desire to make the temporary resident to permanent resident transition. This is because a PGWP allows the permit holder to acquire Canadian work experience, which will be key to their eligibility for Canadian permanent residence in the future.
Ontario experiences a similar pattern of seasons as the rest of the country.
For an overview of the weather in Canada, including how to dress depending on the season, visit How to Dress for Canadian Weather.
Generally, each season in Ontario brings with it a unique set of weather conditions that require residents of the province to dress differently compared to other seasons throughout the year.
Note: There are variances in the weather within the same season in different parts of Ontario, as some of the province’s more southern regions may be warmer in the Summer while the more northern regions may have milder weather, even in the summer months.
Speaking about Ontario as a whole, the yearly calendar starts and ends with winter. This season typically starts in the last week and a half of December and continues until the middle of March. During this time, residents of Ontario can expect good amounts of snow and cold, frigid temperatures. It is best to use a layering technique with clothing to stay warm during this time of year.
From the end of winter until the middle of June, Ontario transitions into spring. This is where the temperature begins to rise, and the weather gets progressively warmer as we move into the middle of the year. The daytime will also become longer and warmer in the spring while nights are still often colder than usual. However, Ontario usually experiences significant amounts of rain during this season. For that reason, dressing for the weather will likely mean using a lot of rain-friendly items like raincoats and waterproof shoes, as well as light sweaters to best handle the milder temperatures.
The end of spring marks the beginning of summer in Ontario, which typically goes from the third week of June until the second half of September. This is when the weather in Ontario is at its warmest, allowing residents of this province to wear t-shirts, sandals and shorts for most of the day when the sun is out. Breathable fabrics to stay dry, clothes that protect you from the sun (hats etc.) and comfortable, sun-friendly footwear (usually open-toed shoes) are recommended during this part of the year.
Finally, when the summer ends, Ontario transitions into fall (or autumn) between mid-September and mid-to-late December. This season is typically the exact opposite of the spring, as warm temperatures make way for a descent into colder temperatures as the province prepares itself for the cold and snow to come. This part of the year is also usually when conditions in the province are the windiest, meaning that being outdoors will require the use of warm layered clothing, wind-resistant jackets and waterproof footwear, among other things.
Ontario residents can use their phone to dial 9-1-1 if they ever need the help of an emergency service department, whether that be police, ambulance or fire services. For non-emergency calls from anywhere in Ontario, residents can dial 1-888-310-1122 for general inquiries and more information from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).
Particularly in Ontario, the provincial government offers settlement services to Ontario-bound newcomers through settlement agencies that can be contacted by phone at 2-1-1 or by visiting www.211ontario.ca. These settlement services are available for newcomers before they come to Ontario, during their move to the province and after they settle in their new home.
Available settlement services in this province can help newcomers with everything from finding housing to enrolling their child in school and opening a bank account or finding a job.
For a list of Ontario-based settlement agencies, which can be filtered by region, please visit this link.
Beyond Ontario-specific resources, IRCC provides government-funded national services to newcomers who need help with many tasks, including but not limited to:
- Looking for a job
- Getting a language assessment
- Registering for language classes
- Finding a place to live
- Signing your kids up for school
- Learn about community services
IRCC also provides newcomer services specifically for certain groups of newcomers, including women, seniors, youth and members of the 2SLGBTQi+ community.
A full list of IRCC-funded newcomer settlement services, which can be filtered by type of service desired and province, is available here.
Two of the primary types of tax in Ontario are sales and income tax.
The Ontario sales tax is called the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), having replaced the previous Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST, 5%) and the Retail Sales Tax (RST, 8%). Therefore, the HST rate in Ontario is 13%.
Income taxes in Ontario vary based on the amount of money made by an individual each year. In other words, rather than a set amount, income taxes are charged based on income tax brackets where Ontario residents who make more annual income pay higher taxes back to the government. Click here for more information on income tax in this province.
For information on how to file a personal tax return every year, visit Filing your Personal Income Tax Return in Canada.
Newcomers to Canada do not simply aim to move here for the purpose of working. They also want to enjoy the opportunities for fun and leisure afforded to them in their new home.
To that end, Ontario provides some of Canada’s most iconic experiences for newcomers. Niagara Falls, for instance, is in Ontario and is one of the most popular family attractions in the entire country. The same can be said about visiting the CN Tower.
In addition, Ontario has a multitude of different days and occasions designed to commemorate every heritage as well as multicultural events (especially in big cities like Toronto), where newcomers can celebrate with others in their community. For instance, many communities across Ontario partake in Diwali celebrations (celebrating Indian traditions) as well as Lunar New Year events to celebrate Chinese heritage.
A Google search of holidays in your community will return many results of events and activities that newcomers to Canada can participate in to keep in touch with their cultures even in their new home in Ontario.
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