Prepare for your Arrival to Canada

Last updated: 10 June 2023

Before you arrive to Canada

This CanadaVisa page is meant to help you prepare for your move to Canada. 

It compiles pre-arrival information for newcomers, including obligations you must meet when landing in Canada, best practices when bringing over your assets, and useful information to make the transition easier. This page also include information about availing taxi services, bringing food items, packing weather appropriate clothing, securing a place to stay, and more.

Table of Contents


All travellers to Canada will need to show certain documents at a border to enter the country. These include a travel document (I.e.: a passport), and a visa or electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to authorise one’s status in Canada. Read below to understand your obligations as a new permanent resident, worker, or student travelling to Canada—as well as how to declare your items, send money ahead of your arrival, and more.

What do I need to know before travelling to Canada as a new permanent resident?

When do I need to travel to Canada by?

All successful applicants who are approved for Canadian permanent residence will receive a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) document, to validate their approval as a new Canadian Permanent Resident (PR). Individuals who have received a COPR must travel to Canada to legally complete the PR process before the expiration of their COPR.

If an applicant is already in Canada, they will be issued an e-COPR through an online portal, which can be printed and used to validate their approval for permanent residence, like a physical COPR.

The validity of a COPR is usually one year, but will be tied to the medical exam, visa sticker, and passport of an applicant (as presented in their PR application). In most circumstances Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) cannot extend a COPR, and so anyone who has not travelled to Canada within the validity period (ie: let their COPR expire before travelling to Canada) will have to re-apply for PR.

If you are from a country that requires a visa to travel to Canada, a permanent residence visa will be issued to you along with your COPR. If your country of origin instead requires an electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), you will have to procure one before your travel to Canada.

If already in Canada, applicants must confirm their new PR status virtually, through the help of an online portal. IRCC will contact applicants from inside of Canada through the email or phone number that they have provided on their application. Applicants must also inform the government if they leave Canada before they have been granted PR status.

What documents do I need to travel to Canada?

New PRs travelling to Canada will need to following documents:

  • Their valid passport;
  • Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) document;
  • Permanent Residence visa depending on country of origin (individuals with a COPR who are from a visa-exempt country do not need an eTA to travel to Canada). A complete list of countries that need either a visa or eTA can be found here;
  • Proof of funds (to the amount corresponding to family size and number of dependants) to show you can provide for your family after landing in Canada;

What do I need before travelling to Canada for the first time as a work permit holder?

For those entering Canada on a work permit, there are a few considerations that should be made to ensure smooth travel and arrival.

Newcomers on a work permit will have to have the following documents with them:

  • A passport;
  • A visitor visa (if needed), or an eTA;
  • Any travel documents that me be relevant;
  • Proof that an individual meets the requirements of their job (like proof of work experience or education)
  • Copy of your employer’s positive or neutral Labour Market Internal Assessment (LMIA) (if needed). If the work permit holder is working in Quebec and needed an LMIA, they will instead need a cerificat d’acceptation du Quebec (CAQ);
  • If one is LMIA exempt but coming to Canada to work with a specific employer, they will need the offer of employment number that the employer received after submitting relevant information in the Employer Portal.

In addition, however, work permit holders may also need to show proof that their work permit has been approved. One way to do this is to show a Letter of Introduction (LOI) (also known as a Port of Entry Letter) to the border services agent at a port of entry.

An LOI is an approval letter that IRCC sends applicants who receive a work permit. This letter is not a work permit in itself, but rather a letter proving that one’s permit has been approved. The letter includes information like:

  • the type of work one does
  • the employer they work for
  • Where they can work
  • How long one can work.

LOIs are given when an applicant has applied online or given IRCC an email address by which to communicate with them.

In addition, newcomers must also convince the border services officer that:

  • They meet Canada’s entry requirements;
  • They will leave Canada at the end of their approved stay; and
  • They have valid immigration medical exam results (if one was needed)—if the results of the medial exam expire before arrival into Canada, then a new one will have to be done before travel.

Note that the border services officer will make the final decision on whether to issue a work permit and allow an individual to enter Canada.

What do I need before travelling to Canada for the first time, as a study permit holder?

Individuals entering Canada to study must:

  • Have a valid travel document, (like a passport);
  • Have the LOI that was sent by the visa office (this letter also contains the permit reference number, which the government then uses to issue the corresponding permit);
  • Have a copy of a valid letter of acceptance from your school;
  • Have letters of reference or any other documents that the visa office asked for;
  • Have a valid visitor visa (temporary resident visa), eTA, green card (or equivalent proof of U.S. status) or any other valid travel document that can allow entry into Canada;
  • Have enough money for their stay (this amount will vary depending on specifics of travel and accommodation);
  • Be in good health;
  • Have no criminal record or immigration-related convictions;
  • Convince an immigration officer that they have significant ties (friends, family, assets, etc.) that will take them back to their home country, and that they will leave Canada once their studies are completed;
  • Have a valid immigration medical exam result (if one was needed)—if the results of the medial exam expire before arrival into Canada, then a new one will have to be done before travel. This applies even if one’s letter of introduction is valid.

International Students are advised to also pay consideration to Canada’s inadmissibility criteria, as this can impact their application and arrival to Canada as well.

Do I need to be fully vaccinated before travelling to Canada?

Though enforced during the pandemic, proof of vaccination is no longer required for travellers entering Canada by air, land, or marine modes. This relaxation of policy also applies to travel within Canada and includes pre-boarding tests and quarantining post-arrival. Additionally, masks are no longer required by the Canadian government when arriving in Canada (though individual airlines or travel providers may have their own separate rules)—however it is strongly recommended that travellers continue to wear a tight and well-fitting mask or respirator.

Individuals who are suffering from symptoms of COVID-19 are still advised not to travel to Canada.

How can I bring important belongings with me to Canada, as a newcomer?

Newcomers are free to bring their belongings to Canada, with extra provision to bring additional items on subsequent trips—however they must fill out a CBSA declaration to legally declare large assets and must pay close attention to border regulations around foods and edible goods. Read on to learn more about CBSA declarations, and what you can bring with you to Canada.

What is a CBSA declaration?

The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) is the relevant government body tasked with monitoring and safeguarding Canada’s borders and enforcing the legitimate travel of goods and people through them.

CBSA declarations are the legal forms through which newcomers can rightfully declare the assets they want to bring into Canada. These declarations benefit newcomers greatly as they are a legitimate vehicle to bring their larger assets into Canada without having to pay taxes on them.

Often newcomers will not be able to bring all of their valuable belongings with them on their initial arrival to Canada. In these situations, new PRs are asked to submit a “Goods to Follow” list, so that all assets that will be brought in later are declared and lawful. Newcomers will present this list to CBSA at the airport, and will in turn be provided a receipt, which must be presented again at the port of entry when the individual does bring said assets into Canada.

CBSA declarations can now be done through the ArriveCAN app as well. This can be done at major participating airports, and up to 72 hours before an individual arrives in Canada.

What happens if I fail to make a CBSA declaration?

If an individual entering Canada fails to declare or falsely declares goods, the CBSA has the authority to seize them. This means that the goods may be permanently seized, or that the owner pays a fine to have the goods returned to them. This fine can range anywhere from 25-80% of the value of the seized goods.

Additionally, the Customs Act gives border service officials the authority to seize vehicles that were used to import goods unlawfully (with a penalty imposed before the vehicle is returned.

If one does not declare tobacco products or alcoholic beverages, CBSA has the authority to seize them permanently.

Lastly travellers to Canada should note that the CBSA keeps a record of infractions. If one does develop a record, this can lead to more detailed customs searches in the future, as well as a loss of eligibility for NEXUS and CANPASS airport programs.

What assets can I bring with me to Canada when I first arrive?

There is no limit to the amount of cash that one can bring on their landing to Canada. While this remains the case, any amount of cash that exceeds $10,000 CAD must be declared to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA)

Additionally new PRs can also bring high-value items (such as jewellery) with them, without having to pay taxes. These items (if exceeding $10,000 CAD in value) do however have to be declared on a list of goods that should be submitted to CBSA when entering Canada. This also follows for goods that are brought in after the initial landing a person makes.

Note however that former residents (including temporary residents on a study, or work permit, or a visit visa)—who may be transitioning from temporary to permanent residence—must declare assets above $10,000 CAD in value and may have to pay applicable duty and taxes on said assets.

As mentioned, if an individual wants to declare further items that they will bring into Canada at a later date, they can also do so with the use of a “Goods to Follow” list, wherein they can declare assets that they will bring into Canada in the future (which will continue to be tax exempt). CBSA will issue individuals with a receipt which they must present in the future whenever the previously declared assets are crossing the border into Canada.

What food items can I bring with me to Canada?

Due to specific agreements, Canada has two different sets of regulations regarding what foods can be brought into the country: one for foods being brought into Canada from the U.S., and one for all foods arriving from all other countries.

For the U.S. the following items are allowed, with their respective stipulations

For foods coming to Canada from countries other than the US, the full list of items are regulations can be found here.

Newcomers can also consult the Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) if their item is not listed in the table below. AIRS can also be used to find out if a permit is needed for any food items being brought to Canada (if the item requires a permit, but one is not issued, it will not be permitted to enter Canada)

How can I send money to Canada before I make my first landing?

Newcomers will only have to declare cash amounts of $10,000 CAD or more—while this is not really a drawback for those travelling to settle in Canada (as even if the cash amount exceeds the limit, there will be no tax due on the cash amount), it can be anxiety provoking for many to travel with so much cash.

If you prefer not to carry such large amounts of money, however, there are a few options to send money to Canada pre-arrival:

  • Certain banks in Canada have specific programs for newcomers, wherein they allow newcomers to open an account online and from abroad. These accounts are sometime investment (non-transactional) accounts and can also help show proof of funds when applying to immigrate to Canada;
  • If a newcomer has trusted friends or family that already reside in Canada, they can send money in advance of their arrival, and then avail it when they come to Canada—which can be done through international money transfer services; and
  • Permanent residents can also make a soft landing (where they land in Canada to allow their permanent residence status to take effect, but do not settle at that time in the country) and open a bank account while they are physically present within Canada. Once this is done it is a relatively simple process to then send money from a foreign bank account to a Canadian one.

What kind of clothing should I pack when coming to Canada?

While the country is often noted for its cold weather and snow, temperatures and climates can vary greatly based on both season and location within Canada.

Winter in Canada can last from late November to late March depending on seasonal shifts. For newcomers arriving during this period, it is advisable to pack warm clothes such as:

  • Beanies/Touques;
  • Overcoat/Parka jacket/ Large coat that can be layered underneath;
  • Sweaters, jackets, and/or jumpers for layering (wool is a popular choice due to its natural ability to regulate body temperature, and general resistance to body odour);
  • Large trousers/jeans that can be layered if so desired;
  • Leggings, long-johns, or other layering material for the legs;
  • Thick, warm socks (wool is a popular choice here as well); and
  • Winter boots (water/snow proof)—many choose to buy footwear once already in Canada, as there are multiple options available at different price points specific to the country’s weather.

On the other hand, Canada (being a country with four seasons) does have warmer months (though they may still be comparatively colder to many regions where newcomers are travelling from). During summer for example, many provinces can have daily weather ranging anywhere in between 16-29 °C (roughly 60-82 °Fahrenheit), often with moderate to strong wind. In peak summer months like June and July, this can rise as high as 30-35 °C (86-95 °F). In these months it is advisable to pack:

  • Lighter jackets/sweaters;
  • Hats/sunglasses as the sun can be quite intense;
  • Sunscreen (if spending extended time outdoors); and
  • Thinner socks.

Intervening seasons of spring and fall (approximately March-May, and September-November respectively) can be a mixture of both summer and winter weather. For example, in fall temperature can fall into the single digits with growing winds, while spring can bring heavy rainfall and even light snow. If travelling to Canada within these periods it is advisable to prepare for a mixture of weather—newcomers may even choose to look at weather forecasts the week of their arrival to better prepare for clothing needs.

Are there local taxi services at major Canadian airports?

There are local taxi services available at all major airports in Canada. For example, Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) runs its own taxi service page, which can be found here. Similar pages can be found at other major airports in Canada, like the Vancouver International Airport (YVR), and the Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL) also have their own taxi service pages, which newcomers can consult when planning their journey.

In addition, there are other travel options from the airport, including busses, shuttle trains to select destinations, and even hotels-run shuttle services.

Lastly ride-sharing applications like Uber and Lyft are popular in Canada. Newcomers can download and use these services upon arrival, even using the free Wi-Fi available at airports to do so.

How can I get a phone/internet plan once in Canada?

Newcomers may choose to look at phone and internet plans that are the most amenable to making international phone or internet calls. Specific consideration, therefore, might be given to phone and internet plans that feature international calling and texting, large data plans, unlimited internet plans, and high-speed download and upload speeds with larger bandwidth.

Many newcomers arriving at major airports in Canada will have the provision of setting up a new phone plan at the airport. Canadian telecommunications providers have a wide range of plans for offer, with features like in-Canada phone and text ability, unlimited data, and international calling. In addition, phone plans can give customers new phones (which they can finance over time with their phone bill payments) or give customers a new SIM card to place in their already owned device (these are known as “bring your own device” (BYOD) plans). It should be noted that BYOD plans tend to be less expensive as the cost of financing a phone is added monthly to one’s phone bill when a new phone is opted for.

New customers will also have to option of choosing between a pre-paid or post-paid plan, the former meaning that the plan is paid for ahead of time, and billed according to usage, while the latter allows customers to pay one a monthly cycle on a contractual schedule. Newcomers should note that some post-paid plans require credit checks with Canadian credit.

Home internet is usually a longer process that comes after finding longer-term accommodation. However, this process is similar and simple, with customers choosing their preferred plan with a carrier, and then contacting them (via phone or online service) to set-up an appointment for a technician to install the internet connection and deliver a Wi-Fi router. Many condominium buildings also have a preferred building provider, usually with faster and easier set-up processes for new home internet.

How can I secure a place to stay in Canada before arriving?

Accommodation will be a primary concern for most people travelling to Canada for the first time. Many newcomers choose to live with friends or family upon first arriving.

There are, however, a range of options for those who may not have friends or family in Canada. Popular choices include:

  • Hotels/motels/guest accommodations;
  • Airbnb or comparable applications that feature short-term rentals
  • Hostel/shared accommodations

Once landed in Canada, newcomers will have to option of renting or buying a home as they see fit. Most real-estate renters/sellers will ask for a range of personal information which newcomers may face unique difficulties in providing landlords and sellers, like prior landlord references, credit score, employment/pay stubs, and bank balance among other relevant information.

For information on finding your first long- or short-term rental or buying your first house as a newcomer to Canada, click here.

Can I start applying for jobs before arriving to Canada?

Newcomers to Canada are free to start applying for jobs even before their official landing or the issue of their permanent or temporary resident visa.

Much of this work will be done online, through networking platforms and video interviews. Newcomers are often advised to update their LinkedIn information during this period, as many Canadian companies will use the platform as a primary method to initially assess applicants. The platform can additionally be crucial for online networking and seminars, which pre-arrival newcomers may find especially useful.

Many employers will also ask (for example on intake forms and applications) whether the individual applying for jobs will require sponsorship to Canada to be able to legally work in the country. New permanent residents should be aware that they will not need sponsorship, as they are legally entitled to work in Canada after making an official landing.

For more on how to prepare for the Canadian job market as a newcomer, click here.

Can I use my international driver's licence while in Canada?

An international driver’s licence can be very beneficial for newcomers arriving in Canada. Depending on specific province regulations and rules, a foreign (depending on country of issue) or international driver’s licence can be used to legally drive in Canada, and even to rent a car.

In Ontario for example, one can drive with an international driver’s licence for up to three months (after which they are required to get an Ontario international driving permit).

Quebec requires their own international driving permit (which must be issued in the country that one’s driver’s licence is issued from), which is valid for the duration of the validity of one’s international licence.

Newcomers are encouraged to investigate the specific rules and regulations around their province of destination, to properly prepare for their driving and transportation needs. For more on driving requirements in Canada, and getting your first licence, click here.

Are government supports available to newcomers in Canada?

The Canadian government runs an extensive system of settlement services which exist at the municipal, provincial, and federal level. Settlement services in Canada are only available to permanent residents, protected persons, and some temporary residents. They include general services like language training and community engagement activities, but also services specifically aimed at helping recent immigrants settle in a new country. These can include employment help, childcare assistance, job-specific language training, and citizenship test preparation (among a wide range of other services).

IRCC has compiled these services into one tool, which can be found here. In addition, the government runs other websites like Compass to Connect, specifically for the purpose of helping newcomers find relevant services close to them. New immigrants can also check their provincial and municipal government’s web pages to learn further about settlement services close to them.

Lastly IRCC runs a variety of services available to new immigrants, pre-arrival. These pre-arrival services also encompass employment services, family and youth programs, information on settlement and life in Canada, and connecting newcomers with mentors.

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