The National Landing Guide provides you with the settlement information you will require no matter where you decide to live in Canada.
In this Landing Guide to Canada you'll find information on:
- General Landing Information
- Documents to bring with you when you land
- Additional documents you may need to bring with you
- What you can bring into Canada
- Permanent Resident Cards
- Schooling and Education
General Landing Information
The Principal Applicant must land in Canada before or together with the accompanying spouse and/or dependents, and all of you must land before the date of expiration on your Permanent Resident (Canada Immigration) Visa.
If you have not explicitly applied for immigration to the province of Quebec, you may land at any port of entry to Canada that is not in Quebec. You will risk refusal if you try to land at a port of entry in Quebec without a Quebec Selection Certificate (a document that allows you to immigrate to Quebec, commonly known as a CSQ). If you are immigrating to Quebec and have a CSQ, you may land at any port of entry in Canada. For a list of Canada Border Services Agency offices with immigration services, please see this page.
Documents to bring with you when you land
When you land in Canada, you should bring:
- A Canadian immigrant visa and Confirmation of Permanent Residence for each family member traveling with you;
- A valid passport or other travel document for each family member traveling with you;
- Two copies of a detailed list of all the personal or household items you are bringing with you; and
- Two copies of a list of items that are arriving later. (Note: The lists should state how much your personal and household items are worth.)
- You must also bring with you enough money to cover living expenses such as rent, food, clothing and transportation for a six-month period. You may be asked to show proof of funds.
Make sure that your documents are available to show immigration officials, and not packed away in a suitcase. For more information on two-copy lists, please see this page.
Additional documents you may need to bring with you
Depending on your circumstances, you may be asked for some of the following documents as well, so make sure you have them with you:
- Birth certificates or baptismal certificates; marriage certificates; adoption, separation or divorce papers, death certificate for a deceased spouse;
- School records, diplomas or degrees for each family member travelling with you;
- Trade or professional certificates and licenses;
- Letters of reference from former employers;
- A list of your educational and professional qualifications and job experience (this is also called a résumé);
- Immunization, vaccination, dental and other health records for each family member;
- Driver's licence, including an International Driver's Permit if applicable;
- Photocopies of all essential and important documents, in case the originals get lost (be sure to keep the photocopies in a separate place from the originals); and
- Car registration documents (if you are importing a motor vehicle into Canada).
What can you bring into Canada?
Canada has strict rules concerning what can and cannot be brought into the country. There are regulations regarding food, alcohol, nicotine products, plants, animals, cars and other products. To avoid problems, be sure to check in advance what is and what is not allowed to come to Canada, as well as what procedures must be followed to bring certain items into the country.
For automobiles, contact:
Place de Ville, Tower C
330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N5
Permanent Resident Cards
You must apply for a Permanent Resident Card as soon as you land in Canada. You will need this card if you leave Canada and wish to re-enter by commercial carrier. You will be given application forms when you land in Canada, and you must provide a Canadian address that the card can be mailed to.
If you do not have a mailing address in Canada yet, you can provide the mailing address of a friend or relative in Canada who can forward the card to you. It usually takes approximately two months for your application for a Permanent Resident Card to be processed.
Learn more about residency obligations.
In order to work legally in Canada, you must have a Social Insurance Number (SIN). Immediately after arriving, ensure that you apply for your SIN card. You may be given a SIN card application form for yourself (and your family members) upon landing, but in case you do not, you can apply at your nearest Service Canada Centre. For information, see this page.
It is important to have your foreign credentials assessed for Canadian equivalency. It is best to do this before you apply for a job, so that you are prepared to provide the information to potential employers. Credentials can be assessed with the Canadian Centre for International Credentials: www.cicic.ca
Register with appropriate provincial regulatory organization for your profession (where applicable).
Register for language classes, if required, to improve your English or French language skills.
Open an account at a local bank or financial institution as soon as you can after arriving. Popular banks in Canada include: HSBC, Scotia Bank, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Bank of Montreal (BMO), TD Canada Trust, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), the National Bank of Canada, and the Laurentian Bank. You can look up these banks on the internet before you arrive to get an idea of the services they have to offer you, or you can drop by your nearest location after arriving in Canada.
You should also consider meeting with a financial adviser at the bank to discuss your financial goals. The adviser can offer you information about buying property in Canada, paying for schooling in Canada, planning for your retirement, and many other financial concerns you may have.
Canadian money is made of cents and dollars. There are 100 cents in one Canadian dollar.
Currency is found in coins of:
- 1 cent ($0.01) called the "penny",
- 5 cents ($0.05) called the "nickel",
- 10 cents ($0.10) called the "dime",
- 25 cents ($0.25) called the "quarter",
- 1 dollar ($1.00) called the "loonie" for the Canadian loon featured on the coin, and
- 2 dollars ($2.00) called the "twoonie" as it is the equivalent of two loonies.
Bills, or paper currency, are found in denominations of five dollars ($5.00), ten dollars ($10.00), twenty dollars ($20.00), fifty dollars ($50.00), and one hundred dollars ($100.00).
Schooling and Education
All children under 16 must be registered for school. Schooling generally begins at age four or five. Most children stay in school until they finish high school, generally at 18 years of age.
The Canadian public school system is generally divided into three levels: Elementary, Secondary, and Post-Secondary, either college or university. Some districts or private schools may organize their grade levels differently, though education standards are regulated by the provincial government.
Consult the landing guides for each province to learn more about the education systems in place across Canada.
The academic year for all levels of education begins in September and runs through June for elementary and secondary students, and to April for college and university students. Standard holidays include Christmas and New Year's holidays in December and January, and a spring break in either March or April. Additional holidays can occur throughout the year.
Contact the local school board in your neighbourhood for information on registration, which may take place many months previous to the beginning of the school year.
If you have not visited your new city prior to your arrival in Canada as a permanent resident, it may be best to rent an apartment on a temporary basis when you first arrive, and/or hire a real estate agent to guide you through the housing process and provide you with knowledgeable advice on the best area for you and your family to live.
There are many factors to consider when choosing where to live, such as proximity to workplaces or schools, cost of living in the area, proximity to amenities, crime rates, and so on.
There are multiple housing options in Canada. Apartment buildings are large, multi-unit buildings owned by one person or company where each inhabitant rents a unit. Studio or bachelor apartments are generally one room with a kitchen area and bathroom and are suited only for a single individual. Larger apartments can accommodate families as they have bedrooms and additional living space.
A large multi-unit building where each unit is owned by the inhabitant is called a condominium, and each unit is called a condo. Condos can range in size from small, single-person units, to large multi-level, family sized units.
Apartments and condos are often found in houses that have been divided into separate living spaces.
Houses can be connected in a row, called "townhouses" or "row houses", or detached, as separate, individual dwellings.
Average living costs vary, depending on the size of your family, your location, and income. Housing is generally more expensive in cities. As a result, many families choose to live in "suburbs", which are towns located outside of the city limits, where housing is more affordable. Suburbs often provide good neighbourhoods, schools, shopping and healthcare, all within close proximity to the amenities of the city. Housing in more rural areas can be even less expensive, but you will most probably require a vehicle in order to travel for your basic needs including groceries, work, school and healthcare.
Pets: If you are renting your home or you live in a condominium, it is important that you ensure pets are legally allowed on the premises before you move in with your family pet, or purchase a family pet.
To find housing without the aid of a real estate agent, search through classified ads in your local newspaper or in real estate papers, which are generally free. Online classified ads on websites such as craigslist.org and mls.ca are very popular.
Most Canadian cities enjoy very warm summers where temperatures can go above 30 degrees Celsius. However, it can get very cold in almost all parts of Canada in the winter, when temperatures can go below -20, even -30 degrees Celsius. It is very important to ensure that you are prepared for the cold weather. Invest in warm winter clothing, including sweaters, winter jackets, boots, hats, scarves, and gloves or mittens. If you do not dress warmly in the winter you will risk becoming ill or getting frost bite. Frost bite is severe damage to the skin caused by exposure to cold winter winds.
Canadians usually keep candles and matches, warm blankets, flash lights, first aid kits, and small snow shovels in their cars and homes in case of emergencies.
In most parts of Canada, your car must have specially designated winter tires in order to legally, and safely, drive in the winter.
Disclaimer: This guide is a compilation of information from multiple sources. Though the information is maintained and updated regularly, the law firm for Campbell, Cohen is not responsible for information that may have changed. This is not a government document. Neither the federal nor the provincial governments were involved in the making of this guide.