Canadian Immigration Tips: 10 things to do in Canada

Toronto Skyline. Credit: https://wallpapercave.com/w/wp2197413

So you’ve decided to move to Canada. Good for you! Now whether you’ve been approved to come over here or you haven’t started the paperwork yet, you might be wondering where to start when you get here. The following 10 tips are aimed at making your long-term life in Canada easier and more pleasant. The sooner you get them taken care of, the easier things will be for you. If it helps, think of them like a check list. A list of tasks to tick off or cross out.

1-Build Your Credit Rating
This first task will help you with many others. No matter what your financial living skills are, a good credit rating makes your life in Canada much easier. If you want to get a place, whether you’re leasing or buying, your credit rating matters. If you want to get a car, it’s the same. To build good credit, the first step is to start a bank account with a fairly well known bank. With the bank account as a baseline, you can build credit in a lot of different ways. Regular payments to the bank account build your credit, in general. Bonus points if any of the regular money is from a Canadian employer, meaning you have a job in Canada. The same applies to regular deposits from a business you started and registered in Canada. Other things you can do to build your credit is use credit cards rather than cash for your purchases. Then paying off the credit cards on time, of course.

2-Connect With Newcomer Agencies Quickly
Listen/read closely, because I wish someone had told me this when I first arrived in Canada. There are various agencies dedicated to helping newcomers find their way around many aspects of life in Canada. Some of those are governmental, others are non-governmental but supported by Canada’s federal, provincial, regional or municipal governments. The problem with these agencies is that many of them define “newcomers” by a time limit. If you’ve been a resident of Canada longer than a certain number of months, they cannot help you. So connect with the ones you need quickly. For example, Canada’s standard resumes are a little different to the rest of the world. Some of these agencies will help you craft a Canadian-style resume. Others will help you find a job, in various ways. Which brings us to the next point.

3-Get a Job
Once you’re settled, you want to get a job as soon as you can. Even if you don’t see any jobs you really want and you can afford to wait a bit longer. For a country built by immigrants, Canada is oddly inflexible with regards to international experience. Some employers definitely value it, but the emphasis is usually on “Canadian” experience, like work isn’t work anywhere else in the world. So getting some Canadian experience under your belt will help you get the jobs you like later, even if your first few jobs in Canada are less than ideal. If you absolutely cannot find a job, volunteer with any institutions, organisations, or companies who are willing to accept volunteers. Volunteering and interning count as work experience, and volunteer positions are easier to get since it costs the organisation in question almost nothing to give you one.

4-Buy A Place ASAP
Rent is expensive in most Canadian cities, and apart from building your credit, is money you’re not getting back. The monthly fees you pay on your lease are usually equal to or more than the monthly fees you pay when you buy a place. Real estate value in most Canadian cities has historically been a great investment, despite fears of “real estate bubbles bursting”. To buy a place in Canada, most people apply for a mortgage, make a substantial initial payment, and then pay a monthly fee on the mortgage. The initial payment is usually 10%, 15% or 20% of the property value, depending on your credit rating. The higher your credit rating, the lower your initial payment can be. The mortgage is then renewed after some years, with a new monthly fee. The monthly fee can also be lowered based on your better credit rating. Both mortgage buying and long-term leasing require various levels of built-up credit ratings. If you’ve done everything right, your credit is usually eligible for long-term leasing after a few months in Canada, and eligible for mortgage buying after about a year. Unless you have hundreds of thousands of dollars in liquid cash and you’re willing to spend much or all of it to buy property in one payment, your credit rating will be necessary to help you buy a property.

5-Buy A Condo or a Complex Unit
If you’re from my part of the world, or any like it, the legal obligations pertaining to owning a detached house in Canada are strange to you. Usually they require a number of maintenance skills you either lack or hate practicing, or you’d have to pay someone a lot more than you would back home to help you take care of them. And if you escape the legal consequences, the very practical, real-world consequences of successive Canadian winters will always be there to make you regret it. On the other hand, buying a condo or a unit in a complex means that the general maintenance works as well as exceptional repairs are taken care of by the corporation managing the property complex/building, and the pooling of resources means the maintenance fees you pay are lower than if you hired someone to help you with everything in a detached house. With any luck, your complex/building will also have great common facilities like swimming pools, gyms, indoor and outdoor courts, meeting/computer rooms, party rooms, billiard halls, and more. And the headache of maintaining all that will not be on you.

6-Pick Your Location
This tip is related to the two other tips above it. Because of immigration, Canada is a growing country, and in growing countries there are certain communities that grow faster than others. Whatever type of property you buy, buy it in a town with a lot more potential growth projected in its near future. When you buy in a town with a lot more potential growth, you can safely assume that your property value is going to skyrocket within a few years, without worrying about the real estate bubble bursting. If you buy in locations with high demand but little room for growth, it’s a bigger risk. Sure, your property value might increase more quickly, but then again, demand might die and slump your property value for a few years. Or leave it exactly the same. One of the great locations to buy in Canada are smaller cities and townships with a University campus (or even more than one) and a lot of undeveloped land. Universities are usually a pretty solid indication of a town’s projected growth, and one of the major factors driving it. There are other factors you could watch for, but that’s as solid a lead as any.

7-Get What You Pay For
Canada’s taxes are comparatively higher than many countries, and no, not a lot of those taxes are well-spent. However, one of Canada’s greatest and consistently underused results of high taxation is the presence of significant public entertainment venues. If you’re saving money, skip the coffee place, hit the local library. Great coffee if you want it, but you don’t “have” to order it (and it’s cheaper), more comfortable seating than most cafes, rooms you can reserve for free to use as “offices” or study rooms, free use of computers and the internet. If you’re looking for things to do or people to meet, hit the local community centres. There are often free classes or a wide variety of sports activities you can participate in, and those that aren’t free are often very low-cost. There are also a number of glorious public parks that you can enjoy at no cost at all. Odds are, there’s one near you. Some of them close in the winter, but in the summer, these sprawling patches of urban and suburban greenery are a sight to behold. Aside from that, the taxes you pay guarantee you a certain, though less than optimal, level of free medical care, and unemployment pay for a certain period if you ever lose your job, until you find work again.

8-Get a Tax-Free Savings Account

If you’ve followed my advice thus far, you’ll have started a bank account with a well-known bank and they’ll have told you this already, but I’ll mention it anyway. There’s a type of bank account available to every Canadian Permanent Resident or Citizen with a limit on the amount you can deposit per year with certain tax protections for all the money inside of it. Known as a TFSA or a Tax-Free Savings Account, there’s a maximum amount of money you can deposit in the account, both in total, and (once you’ve had it more than one year) per year. I won’t bother you with the financial details about it, mainly because talking about bank accounts makes me sleepy, but the gist of it is, for every year you live in Canada, the amount of money this account can hold increases, and trust me, it’s going to come in very handy.

9-Invest In a Good Winter Coat
500 dollars seems like a lot of money for a good winter coat right? And it is. But if you buy the right winter coat, spending between 500–650 dollars means you won’t have to buy another one for almost a decade. Maybe more. Mine’s been with me 8 years so far and served me well. Yes, I’ve bought other coats for style, occasionally. But I haven’t “had” to. It’s still in excellent shape. But you’re shopping for more than longevity. You’re also shopping for warmth and insulation. I live near the Greater Toronto Area. Southern Ontario. Relatively warmer than other parts of the country. But winters here can still get crazy. Some winter nights have hit -40 degrees Celsius. Not often. But whether or not you live somewhere this happens often, you don’t want to be caught outside unprepared when it does. A little water-resistance is also important. You might not live somewhere very rainy, so complete waterproofing isn’t always paramount, but getting snow on your coat will get it a little wet whenever you step somewhere warm. This is water damage you want to avoid.

10-Get a Car
Unless you live in a major city and work very nearby, you’re going to need a car. Distances in Canada are pretty vast, and driving makes a lot of financial sense in a number of scenarios, whether you’re running errands, going to work, taking a trip, or going out somewhere. You can either buy a car outright, lease a car, or get a lease-to-own car contract. The benefits of the latter is that you can choose to buy a brand new car that’s only been driven by you at a reduced value after the lease runs out, or you can return it and lease another brand new car so you don’t need to worry about maintenance. Consider getting winter tyres for the winter. Snow in general, and melting snow in particular, make the roads extremely slippery, and often enough, unless you’re driving at half the speed limit, all-season tyres won’t cut it. Some cars also offer excellent heating options without being too costly, such as seat-warming. This will be very useful driving in Canada.

These are just some tips about what I think might help anyone looking to move to Canada. They’re written from the perspective of an Egyptian immigrant who was privileged enough to arrive in Canada with certain financial blessings. I hope you found them helpful and relatable. If you’d like to hear some more tips from a similar perspective, please reach out to me by messaging at: https://www.facebook.com/AlAlfyOfficial/ and I may write another article about this topic.

Writer, Commentator, Pharmacist, Some-time poet. Love me. I command it.

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