Landing and Settling in Prince Edward Island
For Canadian newcomers considering Prince Edward Island (PEI) as their destination province, this guide will outline key information newcomers need to know.
Learn about important subjects such as housing and commuting, as well as education, emergency services and taxation in Canada’s smallest province.
Table of Contents
- What are the benefits of living in Prince Edward Island?
- Housing in Prince Edward Island
- Commuting on Prince Edward Island
- Employment in Prince Edward Island
- Healthcare in Prince Edward Island
- Education on Prince Edward Island
- Weather in Prince Edward Island
- Emergency Services in Prince Edward Island
- Newcomer Services in Prince Edward Island
- Taxation on Prince Edward Island
- Things to Do on Prince Edward Island
- Contact CanadaVisa and Cohen Immigration Law for Assistance
This CanadaVisa guide to settling in Prince Edward Island will begin by outlining a few of the unique benefits newcomers will get by settling in this province, known for its beaches, agriculture and quiet lifestyle. Most of these benefits revolve around quality-of-life advantages available to residents of this province, including the safety of the province, which makes PEI an ideal place to raise a family.
Moving from the benefits of settling in PEI, this guide will explore key topic areas that are imperative to understand before moving to any part of Canada. More specifically, this page will provide an overview of housing, commuting, employment, healthcare, education, weather, emergency and newcomer services, taxation and fun and leisure in PEI as you prepare to come to Canada as a newcomer.
Newcomers to Canada that choose to settle in PEI can expect to experience great advantages with respect to their quality of life, as PEI is renowned across Canada as one of the best places to raise a family. This is thanks in large part to the province’s quaint and intimate communities, as well as the highly regarded safety of the province and the simplicity of travel.
As the least-populated province in all of Canada, PEI is one region where newcomers can largely avoid the busy nature of Canada’s more metropolitan cities. In PEI, however, this luxury extends beyond more than just most individual cities, as most of the province shares this “small” lifestyle quality. Full of quieter and more intimate communities, the province of PEI is an ideal place to settle for Canadian newcomers who want to live away from the hectic lifestyle of more generally urban provinces like most of Ontario or British Columbia.
Newcomers to this province will also benefit from the low crime rate of this province, which is another reason PEI is a great place to raise a family. All parents want their children to be able to grow and develop in safe environments where they do not need to worry if their children will come home safe after spending time outdoors with their friends. PEI’s tight-knit community-based lifestyle and low crime rate will make this less of a stressor for newcomers to Canada who choose to move to this province.
Finally, on a more personal lifestyle note, another quality-of-life benefit that comes with living in PEI is short commutes to work and “non-existent rush hours.” Newcomers to Canada are most often coming to this country for a multitude of reasons, one of which is the opportunity to earn more money and live a better life than they may have back home. To do this, newcomers must find work in Canada and will often need to commute to get to their job. This becomes a lot easier in PEI when the small size of the province affords newcomers (and all residents) a simple and painless way to get to and from work every day.
Note: Shorter commutes to and from work also aid in raising a family, as it allows for people to often spend more time with their families
Due in large part to PEI’s small population of just 170,000+, the housing market in this province is rather small. In fact, there are just over 64,000 total housing properties across the entire region.
Note: As newcomers to Canada typically focus on renting a residential property rather than buying one when they first move to this country, it is important to emphasize that the different types of properties will be available for each newcomer coming to PEI. This is because property types, as well as their prices, will depend largely on what community you settle in and how many people you live with.
This rentals.ca National Rent Report, updated every month, provides average rental costs for one and two-bedroom units in different cities across the country.
In PEI, like Canada in general, most newcomers will settle in the region’s largest two or three Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs). However, PEI is unique because the Government of Canada does not list any CMAs for the province. Instead, PEI has two Census Agglomerations (CAs). These areas are the capital city of Charlottetown (population over 86,000) and Summerside (population of 18,000+).
Resources to help you find housing on Prince Edward Island
Immigrant and Refugees Services Association: https://www.irsapei.ca/en/0700-housing
Government of PEI: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/topic/finding-housing
Before you worry about commuting in your day-to-day life as a newcomer to PEI, it is vital to understand the initial airport arrival process to this province. For more information to help you with this process, please visit this CanadaVisa page called Arriving in Canada.
Note: Statistics Canada (StatsCan) does not carry data regarding the proximity of PEI residents to local public transportation
StatsCan data indicates that more than 90% of residents in both of PEI’s CAs use a car, van, or truck as their main mode of commuting. In Charlottetown, more than 29,000 residents primarily use one of these vehicles to move around the province. In Summerside, that number is over 6,000 people.
The prevalence of commuting using cars, vans and trucks explains why residents of PEI do not have as many public transportation options as people in other provinces might have, but it is important to know that the provincial government still provides public transit options to its communities.
In large part, public transportation in PEI is operated through T3 Transit. Other public transportation options can be explored through the Government of PEI’s page on Public Transit from the Executive Council Office.
Getting a PEI Driver's License
PEI-bound newcomers who are looking to drive a car rather than take public transit must first acknowledge several key eligibility criteria. First, all prospective drivers in the province of PEI must be at least 16 years of age. In addition, to operate a motor vehicle in PEI, you must have a valid government-issued license, valid insurance coverage and always possess your original ownership permit when driving your vehicle.
For your first four months as a newcomer to PEI, you may operate a motor vehicle using your driver’s license obtained in your home country.
Note: Both the provincial government of PEI and the federal government of Canada advise newcomers to Canada to also carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) during the period that they are using their home country’s driving license in Canada
Upon the conclusion of this four-month period, newcomers to PEI are required to obtain a provincial driving license should they want to continue driving in this province. There are two ways to go about this. Newcomers can either complete a Driver’s License Exchange or obtain a new provincial driver’s license from PEI’s department of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Note: Not all newcomers will be eligible for a Driver’s License Exchange in PEI. Eligibility will depend on if the home country of the newcomer has signed a reciprocal licensing agreement with PEI’s provincial government.
The process of obtaining a driver’s license in PEI for the first time involves following “the three-year Graduated Driver Licensing Program, which is a requirement “before you will be issued a Class 5 driver’s license.” The first step in this process, however, is Getting an Instruction Driver’s Permit.
Please click on the above-hyperlinked page for more information on Instruction Driver’s Permits and click here for some key FAQs from the Government of PEI regarding the licensing process in this province, including the variations in this process depending on the different classes of driver’s licenses.
Newcomers to Canada looking for general information about Driving in Canada as a Newcomer, including their options for renting vs buying a car, can visit the hyperlinked CanadaVisa page.
In PEI, the three industries that employ the most people are as follows:
- The Trade industry employs over 12,000 residents of PEI
- The Public Administration industry employs over 9,000 people
- The Healthcare and Social Assistance sector also employs over 9,000 people
The paragraphs to come will take some time to explain these three industries and what types of jobs are contained within each sector.
The Trade industry, which falls under a larger category of service-producing employment sectors, includes jobs in retail trade and wholesale trade. In both of these occupational categories, the main job responsibility of workers is to purchase large quantities of goods and resell them in smaller quantities, either to other businesses/wholesalers (wholesale trade) or directly to consumers (retail trade). People working in both wholesale and retail trade occupations can expect to find work in a variety of industries, including grocery, electronics and household goods.
Employees in the public administration employment sector tend to work in jobs that have them engaged in activities of a governmental nature. In other words, people who work in these types of jobs play a role in the function of the government, either at the federal level, provincial/territorial level or in the scope of local, municipal or regional government. Public relations managers, policy managers and education directors are just some examples of the job titles held by employees in this sector.
The healthcare and social assistance industry in PEI employs doctors, nurses, personal care workers, mental health professionals and many other types of mental and physical health specialists. The core responsibilities of those who work in careers within the healthcare and social assistance sector involve tasks related to maintaining the well-being of those they serve, both from the perspective of physical health (broken bones, illnesses etc.) and mental health (controlling depression, anxiety, stress and more).
Resources to help you find a job in Prince Edward Island
Immigrant and Refugees Services Association: https://www.irsapei.ca/en/employment-resources-for-newcomers
Beginning from when a newcomer to PEI completes three months of residency in the province, any newcomer to this region can receive free healthcare if they possess a valid provincial health card, as healthcare across Canada is funded through the country’s universal healthcare model using public tax dollars.
The process of applying for a health card in PEI as a newcomer involves using this online form or submitting all required documentation with a completed PEI Health Card application to either PEI Medicare or any Access PEI centre.
Please note that the application and document requirements for a PEI health card may vary based on your status in Canada (whether you are a permanent resident, student, temporary foreign worker etc.)
Please review the “What do I need to complete the online form?” section of this Government of PEI page for more details.
A valid provincial health card allows Canadians living in any province or territory to access public health services in their region of residence for free at the point of use.
Note: Some medications (ex. prescription drugs) and treatments will require the recipient of such treatments/medications to pay for the item/service out of pocket.
It is important to keep in mind that each province’s government decides which medical services to offer within the public healthcare insurance package available to residents with a health card. PEI’s public healthcare plans cover the following:
- Physician and hospital services
- Drug plans*
- Home care, palliative care, long-term care; addiction and mental health services, and drug programs**
- Dental public health services
- Chronic disease prevention and management
- Public health nursing
- Diabetes program, community nutrition, cancer screening programs, speech-language pathology services, etc.
- Ambulance services***
* - Drug plan coverage depends on the individual’s income level
** - For these services, a portion (up to the full cost of the service) may be covered
*** - Ambulance services are generally not covered by public health, but Island residents in certain situations may be able to have these costs subsidized
Please click on any of the following hyperlinks for more information related to one of the following topics about health cards in PEI.
Eligibility and Renewal: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/health-pei/pei-health-card
Note: The Government of Canada strongly advises all residents of PEI to search for and buy private health insurance to supplement public healthcare coverage provided by their home province/territory. This is because public healthcare plans do not cover all medical needs and because newcomers will still require health insurance coverage while they are waiting to become eligible for a provincial health card.
For our comprehensive guide to healthcare in this country, including information about private healthcare options, visit Get Healthcare in Canada: A Guide for Newcomers.
In PEI, children enter the mandatory portion of the Canadian education system around the age of six when they begin kindergarten.
K-12 Education in Prince Edward Island
Starting in kindergarten, there are two primary routes newcomers to Canada can explore when it comes to putting their child through the Canadian education system.
For general information about the education system in this country, including important information about enrolling your child in school and what you can do to stay involved in your child’s education as a parent, please visit our page called A Newcomers’ Guide to Education in Canada.
The first (and more common) option involves sending your child to school for free by putting them through the public school system.
Note: Parents of Canadian school-aged children can take advantage of this public school system from the time their child enters kindergarten until they graduate high school.
The second option for parents in Canada is sending their child to a private school or an independent boarding school, although these options will require tuition to be paid out of pocket rather than being funded collectively through Canadian tax dollars (like it is in the public school system).
PEI’s expected learning outcomes, curriculum and programs of study differ at the elementary school level vs the high school level. For that reason, the provincial government has provided this online resource to the public, which breaks down the province’s outlined curriculum for students in kindergarten all the way until 12th grade.
Important: The resource hyperlinked above breaks down PEI’s curriculum for kindergarteners, then provides a grade-by-grade curriculum from first to ninth grade and concludes with a shared document for grades 10 through 12.
For parents of students in kindergarten, grade 1, grade 2, grade 3, grade 4, grade 5, grade 6 and grades 7-9, the Government of PEI also outlines a framework of specific curriculum outcomes, which can be viewed at the appropriate hyperlink.
Post-Secondary Education in Prince Edward Island
Despite being Canada’s smallest province, PEI is home to more than 20 Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) for Canadian newcomers. These DLIs operate in 13 different cities across the province, ranging from the capital city of Charlottetown to Wellington (population of around 400 people).
Most of the DLIs in PEI also offer programs that would make Canadian newcomers eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). The value of this type of permit is immense for non-permanent residents in Canada because it allows the permit holder to acquire Canadian work experience, which will eventually make them eligible for Canadian permanent residence.
PEI experiences the same four-season pattern as the rest of Canada – winter kicks the year off, followed by spring, then summer and fall, before the year also ends with a return to winter.
For an overview of the weather in Canada, CanadaVisa has created a dedicated age called How to Dress for Canadian Weather.
Understanding that there are always regional variances in the weather within a single season in PEI, especially because some communities are closer to the surrounding bodies of water than others, each season of the year brings with it a general set of weather conditions. These general conditions will require PEI’s residents to dress differently for each season, which will be outlined below.
The start of every year (and in fact, the end, as winter begins in late December and ends in mid-March) brings the winter season to PEI. This time of year typically calls for a lot of snow in the region, as PEI is said to average over 100 inches of snow every winter. In this province, snow typically falls from November until April (more on that later). PEI winters also tend to be cold and windy. The winter season will typically require residents of this province to do their best when it comes to layering their clothes, as this is a great way to stay warm during the coldest part of the calendar year.
Once the winter ends in the middle of March, although snow in PEI may fall until April, the province transitions into its spring season. From mid-March until the middle of June, the snow that accumulates across this province will melt and residents will begin to see milder temperatures. At the same time, the natural beauty of this province will begin to reappear, as flowers bloom and trees blossom again while the weather gets progressively warmer. It should be noted that, despite the improving weather compared to the wintertime, PEI does see a lot of rain during this part of the year. This means that it is generally now that residents across this province will need to prioritize wearing clothing that will keep them dry and comfortable in wet conditions, including items like raincoats and waterproof shoes.
The end of spring marks the beginning of summer in PEI. This season officially kicks off around the second half of June and continues until the middle of September. This is the time of year when most residents of PEI will take advantage of PEI’s beaches, as this province is known to have the warmest waters north of the Carolinas in the United States. Summer is the ideal time to wear t-shirts, sandals and shorts for most of the day. Still, it is crucial that we mention the importance of prioritizing breathable fabrics that will help you stay dry as well as clothes that protect you from the sun (hats etc.) and comfortable footwear.
The last new season that PEI moves into is fall (or autumn), which officially occurs between the middle of September and late December. This season is typically the exact opposite of the spring, as nearly all-day warm temperatures turn into cooler mornings for the most part. As a reminder, PEI experiences snow starting in November, meaning that the latter part of the spring season may sometimes include this typically winter type of weather. Generally, the fall/autumn season in PEI is usually when the province experiences its windiest weather, which means that this part of the year is a time to begin layering your clothing again, also adding wind-resistant items like jackets and waterproof footwear to your wardrobe.
To avail emergency services in PEI, including fire, police and ambulance, residents of this province can dial 9-1-1. For non-emergency health information and advice from a registered nurse, PEI residents can dial 8-1-1 for Telehealth or 7-1-1 if they are hearing-impaired.
A list of other emergency numbers, including for mental health crises and child protection services, can be found on this Government of PEI page.
Newcomer services in PEI can be availed through the province’s Immigrant and Refugees Services Association (IRSA). IRSA provides newcomer settlement services ranging from the time an incoming immigrant is in the pre-arrival stage (upon approval to move to Canada) until they are ready to take the Canadian citizenship test. PEI’s IRSA also offers settlement services in French.
211PEI can also help newcomers to this province find settlement services in the area.
Beyond settlement service providers available through resources from the provincial government, IRCC also provides residents with government-funded settlement services nationally across Canada. Whether you need help finding a job, learning English or French, or enrolling your child at school (among other assistance), this online resource from IRCC provides a list of all service providers in Canada (filterable by type of service and location).
Note: IRCC also offers specific services tailored to women, seniors, youth and members of the 2SLGBTQi+ community. Those services can also be found through the above-linked resource from IRCC.
Newcomers to PEI need to pay particularly close attention to two types of taxes – sales and income tax.
In PEI, the sales tax on consumer goods and services is 15%. This is the province’s Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which combines PEI’s Provincial Sales Tax (PST, 10%) with a Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 5%.
Like every other province or territory in Canada, income taxes in PEI depend on how much an individual resident earns in a tax year. Typically, those with a higher annual income will pay more in taxes to the government during tax season. For more information on income tax in PEI, visit this link from the Government of Canada.
Use this CanadaVisa page to learn about Filing your Personal Income Tax Return in Canada.
Beyond simply working hard to build a better life for themselves in Canada, newcomers to PEI also want to enjoy the many opportunities they have at their disposal to experience fun and leisure in their new home.
Fortunately, PEI has no shortage of fun and exciting experiences for newcomers to the region. A great example of this is the famous Ann of Green Gables Heritage Place. Centred around the world-renowned story by PEI’s own L.M. Montgomery, this 19th-century farm and museum is a great place to visit and discover the history behind this iconic piece of Canadian literature.
In addition to attractions like the one above, PEI celebrates Canada’s multicultural makeup and history during its annual DiverseCity Festival, celebrating the country’s mix of cultures, heritage and backgrounds with a full day of music, food and dance.
A Google search of multicultural holidays in your community will show you many events and activities across PEI that newcomers to this province can participate in to keep in touch with their cultures throughout the year, even though you may no longer be in your home country.
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