Landing and Settling in Quebec
For newcomers to Canada still choosing where to settle or who want to learn more about their destination province, this guide will help you explore everything from housing options and employment to emergency services and taxation in Quebec, Canada’s only predominantly French-speaking province.
Table of Contents
- What are the benefits of living in Quebec?
- Housing in Quebec
- Commuting in Quebec
- Employment in Quebec
- Healthcare in Quebec
- Education in Quebec
- Weather in Quebec
- Emergency Services in Quebec
- Newcomer Services in Quebec
- Taxation in Quebec
- Things to Do in Quebec
- Contact CanadaVisa and Cohen Immigration Law for Assistance
To start this guide, we will outline some of the benefits that newcomers can look forward to when they settle in Quebec. Among those benefits is Quebec’s unique French-speaking character, culture and community, as well as the province’s notably strong economy.
From there, this guide will explore the following key subjects with respect to settlement in Quebec: housing, commuting, employment, healthcare, education, weather, emergency services, newcomer services, taxation and fun/leisure. Again, whether you are undecided on where you want to live as a newcomer to Canada or want to learn more about Quebec as you prepare to immigrate to Canada’s only majority-French province, this guide will give you a kickstart on all the information you need as a soon-to-be newcomer to this country.
Quebec is a particularly unique settlement location compared to Canada’s other provinces and territories due to its unique place as Canada’s only majority-French region. That is not to say that French is not spoken in other parts of Canada, but Quebec is the only province in the entire country that is predominantly Francophone. This means that this province has a uniquely French character, culture and community that may be a draw to many immigrants. Some examples of this uniquely French character include local cuisine, attractions and festivals designed to celebrate the French language, which can be found across the province.
Note: This could be beneficial to immigrants who come from French-speaking countries already as well as those who would like to become bilingual in French and English, which provides its own set of advantages with immigrant employability (more on employment in Quebec later)
Another benefit of immigrating to Quebec is the province’s strong economy. In fact, some projections estimate that Quebec alone accounts for roughly one-fifth of Canada’s entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Quebec’s GDP also continues to grow annually, which is a suggestion that employment in the province will also increase over time, as more people are hired by companies to fulfill the growing demand for products and services.
Quebec, Canada’s second most populated province (population over 8.7 million), is home to over 3.7 million residential properties and housing structures. This means that Canada’s only predominantly-French-speaking province also has one of the country’s largest housing markets.
Because newcomers to this province will usually rent (rather than buy) a residential property when they move to Quebec, we like to remind incoming Canadian immigrants that housing prices and property types in any region of Canada, including Quebec, vary based on the size of your family and the community you choose to live in.
Please consult this rentals.ca National Rent Report (updated monthly) to see average rental costs for both one and two-bedroom units in different cities across Canada, including Quebec’s three biggest Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) - Montreal, Quebec, and Sherbrooke.
As most newcomers to Canada tend to settle in the several largest CMAs within any province, it is worth mentioning that, in the province of Quebec, the population of the above three CMAs is as follows:
- Montreal: over 4.3 million
- Quebec: more than 840,000
- Sherbrooke: 230,000+
Before you start to understand commuting in Quebec, it is important to learn about arriving in the province for the first time as a newcomer to Canada. To help you with that, CanadaVisa has prepared an Arriving in Canada guide which includes information about the airport arrival process as well as the names of Quebec’s two international airports.
To discuss day-to-day commuting in the province of Quebec, it is important to first acknowledge that at least 76% of residents in each of the province’s three largest CMAs live less than 500 metres from some kind of public transit. In other words, more than three in every four people living in these CMAs can easily access some mode of public transportation.
Despite this ease of access, over 75% of CMA residents in each of these three communities use a car, van, or truck as their main commuting vehicle. In Sherbrooke, more than 79,000 residents use one of these vehicle types to travel from one place to another. In the CMA named after the province itself, Quebec, that number is over 264,000. Finally, in Montreal, more than 1.1 million residents commute primarily using a car, truck or van.
While most of the residents in Quebec’s biggest CMAs opt to commute using a car, truck or van, each of these regions has a public transportation system that can connect residents to other parts of their community and province.
In Sherbrooke, public transportation is handled by the Société de Transport de Sherbrooke (STS) system while the CMA of Quebec has the Réseau de Transport de la Capitale (RTC) transit system. Finally, Montreal has the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) network of buses and subways to help move residents around the CMA.
Getting a Quebec Driver's License
Newcomers to Quebec who would still prefer to not use public transit can operate a motor vehicle as long as they are at least 16 years of age. All drivers in Quebec must also possess a valid government-issued license, valid insurance coverage and carry their original ownership permit while behind the wheel.
For your first six months as a new Quebec resident, you may operate a motor vehicle using the driver’s license obtained in your home country. Still, the Canadian government highly recommends that all newcomers to Quebec (as well as the rest of Canada) also carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) while their international license is being used.
At the end of that six-month period, newcomers to this province will be required to obtain a provincial driver’s license from the Government of Quebec to continue operating a motor vehicle.
There are two ways to go about this process. First, newcomers from eligible countries with which the province has a reciprocal licensing agreement can complete a Driver’s License Exchange in Quebec. Otherwise, newcomers to this province must obtain a driver’s license outright.
In Quebec, the process for obtaining a driver’s license depends largely on the type of vehicle the licensee would like to operate. In other words, Quebec has different steps, eligibility criteria and testing methods for drivers who want to operate passenger vehicles (class 5), motorcycles (class 6A, 6B, 6C and 6E), “heavy” vehicles (class 1, 2 and 3) and more.
Please visit this link from the Société de l'assurance Automobile du Québec and click on the appropriate vehicle type to learn more about how to go about obtaining the type of motor vehicle license you would like to have as a resident of Quebec.
Anyone looking for general information about Driving in Canada as a Newcomer can visit this CanadaVisa page to learn more about many driving topics in this country, including buying vs renting a car, the dangers of driving a car without insurance and what to do after getting into a motor vehicle accident.
Quebec’s three largest industries by employment are Trade occupations (635,000+), Healthcare and Social Assistance (535,000+) and Manufacturing (440,000+). These are the same primary industries of employment that are present in Ontario.
For help with finding a job in Quebec, including resources related to career planning and management, visit the Government of Quebec’s Employment page.
The sections below will provide more detail on this province’s three biggest employment sectors.
Employees in trade occupations include retail and wholesale trade workers, who purchase large quantities of goods with the intent to resell them in smaller quantities. These jobs, both on the wholesale side and the retail side, can be found in a large number of industries including grocery and electronics. The difference between the two types of trade occupations is that wholesale traders perform work where they resell items to other wholesalers or corporations. Meanwhile, retail trade industry employees focus on direct-to-consumer sales.
The healthcare and social assistance industry in Quebec employs doctors, nurses, mental health professionals and other workers whose job is to take care of the mental and physical health needs of the members of their community. This could mean employees in this industry across Quebec (and across Canada) deal with anything from family issues to depression, anxiety, broken bones and every other health issue in between.
Finally, Quebec’s third largest number of employed persons can be found in the manufacturing industry, where people work as mechanical engineers and appliance technicians, for example. These employees help Quebec in many ways, including with the important task of building and maintaining the infrastructure that the province needs to operate on a daily basis (ex. transportation equipment or appliances and machines).
Resources to help you find a job in Quebec
Quebec Government Job Portal: https://www.quebecemploi.gouv.qc.ca/plateforme-emploi
Employment Assistance Services: https://www.quebec.ca/en/employment/employment-assistance-service
Employment Integration Program for Immigrants and Visible Minorities (PRIIME): https://www.quebec.ca/en/employment/employment-integration-program-immigrants-visible-minorities
In the province of Quebec, newcomers over the age of 18 must wait up to three months before they are eligible to receive public healthcare coverage from the province. At the end of the waiting period, any newcomer to Canada that resides in Quebec can receive free healthcare if they have a valid health card.
Note: Canadian newcomers from a country that has signed a social security agreement with Québec may not be subject to the standard waiting period for health coverage eligibility
In Canada, public healthcare is funded through a universal healthcare model that is jointly funded by local resident taxes.
To apply for a health card in Quebec, it is recommended that you begin by using this link from the Government of Quebec. This resource will ask you several questions about your personal situation in Quebec in order to guide you to the right set of instructions for health insurance in the province. For example, there is a different set of rules and guidance provided by the Government of Quebec for people who are settling in the province permanently, immigrants who have come to Quebec as seasonal workers and those who are accompanying immigrants on a study or work visa.
The eligibility conditions for health insurance in Quebec also depend on your status in the province. Please visit this link to determine if and when you are eligible for public healthcare coverage in the province.
Generally, a provincial health card allows the holder to avail public health services for free at the point of use.
Important: Certain medications (ex. prescription drugs) and treatments will still need to be paid for out-of-pocket by the recipient of the treatment/medication etc.
It is also important to understand that although every province and territory in Canada has some kind of public healthcare coverage, each province individually decides what services to offer to its residents.
In the case of Quebec, where the province’s public health insurance plan is administered by the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ), the following services are covered:
- General practitioner and specialist physician services (only by those who have not withdrawn from RAMQ)
- Medical examinations, consultations, diagnostic procedures, therapeutic procedures
- Medical procedures (e.g. surgery) and anaesthetics
- Cortisone, eye drops
- Diagnostic mammogram, vasectomy
- Urine and glycemia tests
Visit the following hyperlinks to find out more about prescription drug coverage in Quebec and aid programs for people with sight or hearing impairments, whether they need hearing aids, visual aids, ocular prostheses or eyeglasses.
The Canadian government recommends that all residents of Quebec purchase private health insurance alongside the benefits they receive through public healthcare coverage. To learn more general information about health insurance and the healthcare system in Canada, including information on how to search for healthcare providers in your area, visit our CanadaVisa page called Get Healthcare in Canada: A Guide for Newcomers.
Children in Quebec enter the provincial education system around the age of six, the time when most children begin kindergarten.
The following sections will discuss the education system in Quebec, both as it relates to students who are in the kindergarten through 12th-grade stage of their journey and to students who decide to pursue further studies through post-secondary education.
K-12 Education in Quebec
Residents of Quebec can send their children to school for free (until the end of high school) through the province’s public education system. If a parent decides to go down the public education route, their child’s education will be funded through tax dollars paid by people around the province, allowing them to avoid out-of-pocket costs. For parents who can afford and desire to do so, Quebec also has private and other independent (ex. boarding school) education options. However, these options will require parents to pay for tuition out of pocket directly to the institution of choice.
This CanadaVisa page called A Newcomers’ Guide to Education in Canada will provide newcomers with key information pertaining to the general Canadian education system, including content about enrolling =g your child in school, the Canadian grading system, common school events/activities and the Settlement Workers in School (SWIS) program.
Like most provinces and territories across Canada, the Quebec education system teaches different subjects and focuses on different learning objectives at each stage of the childhood education journey.
For instance, the preschool stage focuses on early childhood development achieved by “learning through play.” In fact, the Quebec Ministère de l'Éducation outlines, through this online resource, all of the aims and development strategies put in place for preschool-aged children in the public education system across the province.
Moving into elementary school, the province’s Ministère de l'Éducation also provides a curriculum breakdown of the subjects that will be taught to children in this stage. Generally, the learning areas covered by this province in the elementary school system include Languages, Mathematics, Science, Technology, Social Sciences, Arts and Personal Development.
Finally, as students in Quebec’s public education system transition to high school, the province begins to reinforce many of the same learning subjects that they initially taught in elementary school, while also adding career development focused learning to the curriculum. A more complete breakdown of the secondary school curriculum is available from the Quebec Ministère de l'Éducation here.
Post-Secondary Education in Quebec
Canada’s second most populated province is also the home province of Canada’s second highest number of Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs) in any province or territory. This means that newcomers to Canada can find suitable programs for their post-secondary educational needs in communities of many sizes, from Amqui (population roughly 6,000) to Montreal (population over 4.3 million).
Among the more than 430 DLIs in the province of Quebec, many institutions offer Canadian newcomers access to programs that would make them eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) upon successful program completion. The value of a PGWP is high for Canadian newcomers who are not presently permanent residents in this country, as these permits are designed to allow the holder to acquire Canadian work experience. This work experience acquired in Canada will be key for newcomers who want to eventually become permanent residents and settle in this country.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has an online resource that displays all DLIs across the country, which is filterable by province/territory. Please access that IRCC tool through this link.
This CanadaVisa page on How to Dress for Canadian Weather provides an overview of the four distinct seasons that make up Canada’s weather. Please visit the hyperlinked page to read more about the differences between spring, summer, winter and fall in Canada, while also learning about essential clothing items that will help you best handle each season’s unique outdoor conditions.
Keeping in mind that every Canadian province and territory has regional weather variations depending on the time of year, each season in Quebec has a general standard of weather conditions. These conditions will require newcomers to the province to learn the proper way to dress depending on the time of year.
In general, every calendar year in Quebec starts with snow and cold temperatures during the winter, as the effects of the season – which begins in the latter half of December and ends in mid-March – continue to be felt across the province. During this time, residents of Quebec should do their best to use a layering technique when dressing to go outside, as this is one of the best ways to stay warm during the frigid winters that are characteristic of most of this country.
At the end of the winter, Quebec transitions into the spring season with the rest of the country. This is the time of year when temperatures often begin to rise and the weather gets progressively warmer as we move into June, which marks the end of spring. Despite the warmer daytime temperatures, Quebec’s spring season is usually characterized by moderate to heavy amounts of rain. This is true of most of Canada as well. Appropriately, some of the most essential pieces of clothing required for dressing to handle this weather include rain-resistant jackets and footwear that will keep you dry as you try to enjoy the transition period between Canada’s coldest and warmest seasons.
The end of spring means that summer is on the horizon in Quebec. This season typically begins around the third week of June and ends in the second half of September. This is the time when residents of Quebec can put away the clothes designed to keep them warm and instead take advantage of the warm weather by wearing mostly breathable fabrics that help them sweat as little as possible. These fabrics are among the essentials of summer wear in Quebec because they allow you to stay dry. Newcomers to Canada should also be wearing clothes that protect them from the sun (hats etc.) and buy some comfortable footwear (ex. open-toed shoes) to wear during this part of the year.
The period between the middle of September and mid-to-late December is Canada’s (and Quebec’s) fall or autumn season. This season is generally the exact opposite of the spring because, during that season, cold temperatures make way for warmth. During the fall, which is typically when weather conditions in Quebec are the windiest, warm temperatures start to become less frequent and a cold atmosphere takes over as the province gets closer to the winter. In the face of these colder, windier environments, it is important that newcomers to Canada gather essential wind-resistant clothing along with warm, insulated clothes that are best to start layering with. The layering during the spring will be lighter than in the winter season, but this strategy should still be practiced as the weather gets colder during these months of the year.
Emergency services in Quebec can be accessed by dialling 9-1-1. This will provide residents of Quebec access to local assistance, including police, fire services and ambulances. Non-urgent health consultations can be done over the phone by calling 8-1-1 in Quebec.
Quebec has many resources that can aid newcomers to the province with their settlement journey. For instance, Accompagnement Québec “is a free and personalized service” that aids immigrants with tasks ranging from settlement in the province to learning French. In addition, the Government of Quebec provides an online resource that allows newcomers to search for a local service provider that suits their needs and objectives. Filterable by type of service, region/city, and service language, newcomers to Quebec can use this tool to find a local settlement service provider to help them with their transition to life in the province.
More generally, the settlement service finder tool created by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) notes that one Quebec-based organization, Actions interculturelles de développement et d'éducation (AIDE) inc., offers settlement services to newcomers out of Sherbrooke, the third most populated CMA in the province. For more about AIDE, visit the hyperlink above.
Note: AIDE is a Francophone service provider
In Quebec, the provincial government charges a total sales tax of 14.975%. This figure combines a standard Goods and Services Tax (GST) at 5% and a Quebec Sales Tax (QST) of 9.975%.
The other key taxation figure that newcomers (and all residents) in Quebec should be aware of is the province’s income taxes. Like the rest of the country, these rates are variable and the amount that you will pay back to the government annually will depend on how much money you make in a year.
Visit this link, from Revenu Quebec, to learn more about income tax in the province and visit this CanadaVisa page to gain a better understanding of everything you need to know about Filing your Personal Income Tax Return in Canada as a newcomer to this country.
All newcomers to Canada want to do more than just work for a living in their new home. In other words, all Canadian immigrants share a desire to integrate into their new society, part of which involves experiencing some of the unique things that they can only get involved with in their new Canadian home.
For newcomers to Quebec, examples of these quintessentially Canadian experiences may include such things as a hike on one of the many trails in Mont-Tremblant during the summer, an area that also transforms into one of Canada’s most renowned skiing locations in the wintertime. Both equally great family activities, these are just two examples of some fun and exciting things to do with your family as a newcomer to this province.
On top of fun things to do, Quebec also gives newcomers the opportunity to celebrate and uplift their cultural roots through heritage months and other celebratory events that take place throughout the year. For example, the Western Quebec School Board celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month annually in October.
For more information on cultural events and days in Quebec, a Google search will reveal different events in your community that are being organized to commemorate different cultures across Quebec.
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