Financial Tips to Getting Settled in Canada

Packing up your bags and suitcases and moving anywhere else in the world is a daunting and often unsettling experience. While the goal is to settle in a new land, there are countless things to worry about upon arriving in your new country of residence. While some countries are more straightforward to settle in than others, the burden of essentially having to start from scratch can weigh heavily on people.

Aside from figuring out where you’re going to live and where you’re going to work, to be able to support yourself and your dependents, you also have to deal with a completely new financial system. In this guide to getting settled in Canada, we’ll outline all the steps you need to take if you’re thinking about immigrating to Canada. Whether you’re exploring a Work Permit or Permanent Residency in Canada, our goal is to distill the process down, so you have a better understanding of what’s required of you and of the process itself.

Firstly, if you’ve just immigrated to Canada, congratulations! Canada is the land of the free and is home to the friendliest citizens in the world. If you’re unsure of where to begin your financial journey in your new home country, don’t worry, as we’ll try and outline as many of the things new immigrants need to consider when moving to Canada. In addition, we’ll discuss getting your first credit card without a credit history, setting up your first Canadian bank account, and mortgage incentives for new immigrants. 


Getting a Work Permit in Canada

One of the biggest reasons foreigners look to Canada as an ideal place to live is its high quality of life. Canada affords foreigners excellent job opportunities. If you’re looking to work in Canada, you can apply for a work permit. You’ll need to have this particular permit before you arrive in Canada. There is a common misconception that foreigners can come to Canada and then apply for a work permit while they’re here, but that is simply not the case. Do not make this error; you’ll be turned away at customs upon your arrival in Canada!

So, now that you know that you need a work permit before landing in Canada, what else should you know about this work permit? The biggest thing to know is that there are two distinct types of work permits in Canada, and foreigners looking to apply should generally understand the one for which they’re applying.

The first type of work permit is called employer-specific. An employer-specific type of work permit means that a foreigner must meet certain conditions to apply for it. These conditions include:

  • The specific name of your employer for whom you will work while in Canada;

  • How long you can work in Canada;

  • The exact location from where you will be working (if applicable).


An employer-specific work permit often occurs for foreigners working for a specific company in their home country, but their company also has other offices worldwide. This foreigner could either request or may be asked to transfer to Canada to continue their employment. Another scenario where an employer-specific work permit could happen is if a university graduate in London, England, lands a job at an accounting firm in Toronto, Canada. In both cases, the employer in Canada would likely facilitate the process to ensure they comply with Canadian laws.

The second type of work permit foreigners can apply for in Canada is an open work permit. With this work permit, foreigners are not bound to work for any specific employer so long as the employer they end up working for is not an ineligible company or one that works in the adult entertainment business (i.e., strip club, escort services, etc.). As it pertains to what an ineligible company is, it is one that the Canadian government has found to have been non-compliant with the employees they hire. The Canadian government has identified these ineligible companies and they regularly update the list.

While both work permits may seem to be very straightforward, it’s helpful to know that there may be more conditions you’ll need to meet to qualify for either one.


Getting a Permanent Residency in Canada

Canada is home to a culturally diverse population, and in many cities, a true melting pot of cultures, ethnicities, and people is prevalent. Canada is a great country to live in because no one person defines who or what a Canadian person is. Instead, Canada is home to a collection of different people from all around the world, and each person plays a role in giving Canada its collective identity.

Since Canada is a true melting pot of cultures, the Canadian government is bombarded with requests from foreigners who want to apply for permanent resident status in Canada each year. Here is just a quick overview of how the process plays out and what to expect.

First off, to attain permanent resident status in Canada, you must be invited to do so through a program called Express Entry. You can think of Express Entry as a university that receives tens of thousands of enrollment applications each year but can only admit a few hundred. Universities must then do their due diligence and filter through all the applications to accept the few hundred candidates they think are most worthy of admission. Express Entry is precisely like this. First, they must take all the applications they receive and essentially rank them according to factors such as age, education, work experience, and more. Then, after they’ve considered all these factors and narrowed their list, they invite candidates to apply for permanent residency in Canada.

If you received an invitation to apply for permanent residency in Canada, there are some critical things you need to keep in mind as you submit your application. The most important thing to remember is that your application invitation is only active for 60 days from when it is received. If you submit your application after the 60 days have elapsed, your application will not likely be considered, so it’s crucial to organize yourself quickly.

With your application, you will also need to supply several important documents to support your application. Some of these documents include your birth certificate, proof of funds, a marriage certificate (if applicable), and more. This is a complete list of documents you’ll need to submit. In addition, you must ensure that all your answers are truthful and that all the fields in the application are filled out correctly. It’s imperative that once you complete your application, you review it once again and, if possible, have a close friend or family member check the application as well. After submitting your application, it takes roughly six months to be processed, but it could also be shorter or longer. 


Getting a New Bank Account in Canada

One of the more stressful things to manage, especially while living in a foreign country, is finances. After all, you need money to sustain yourself and your dependents, if you have any. So one of the first things you’ll want to do after you’ve settled into your new home in Canada is to open up a bank account. Fortunately for you, Canada’s banking system is excellent, and Canada is home to some of the best banks in the world. All of Canada’s “big 5” banks rank in the top 60 of the largest banks in the world by market capitalization. What this means is that you can expect top-notch banking options and services and excellent customer care.

Among the fantastic customer care you’ll receive at most of the banks in Canada, you’ll also find some terrific banking options for people new to Canada. These banking options are catered explicitly to newcomers, and you’ll need to meet specific criteria to be able to open up any one of these accounts. Here are just a handful of these newcomer accounts that the big 5 Canadian banks offer. Just note that you are not limited to just these five options as Canada also has several other banks, credit unions, and even online banks where you can register for an account. 


Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Newcomer Advantage

This newcomer plan is offered to both permanent residents and international students and offers no monthly fees for the first 12 months.


Toronto Dominion (TD) New to Canada Banking Package

TD is the second-largest bank in Canada. This newcomer package applies to permanent and temporary residents so long as they have been in Canada for under two years. You can expect no monthly fees for the first six months and unlimited debit card transactions.


Scotiabank StartRight Program 

Scotiabank’s newcomer banking plan is available to newcomers within their first three years of residency in Canada. This plan comes with no monthly fees for the first 12 months and waives up to $139 on Scotiabank credit cards for the first year.


Bank of Montreal (BMO) NewStart Program

BMO’s newcomer plan accommodates newcomers to Canada. It will allow newcomers to open up this account within their first five years in Canada. This plan also comes with no monthly fees for the first year and unlimited debit card transactions.


Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) Welcome To Canada Banking Package

The last of the newcomer plans; CIBC also offers this banking solution to newcomers up to the first five years of their residence in Canada.

To get started, it’s best to go to your closest bank and speak to a representative there. This is likely the best way for you to open up this account because you’ll probably need to provide documentation to ensure you meet the conditions set forth to open up any of these accounts. The documents you’ll likely want to bring with you include your permanent residence card, your work permit, forms of government-issued identification, and your social insurance number (SIN).


Financial Perks for New Permanent Residents in Canada

After you’ve signed up for your first Canadian bank account, you might want to start exploring other financial needs you’ll encounter. Two of the most pressing things are signing up for a credit card and paying off a mortgage.

There is a common misconception about credit cards that you must have some sort of credit history to register for a credit card. After all, your credit history is the most critical factor in determining if you’ll be granted a credit card in the first place and if you’ll be able to get a higher credit limit on that card. However, when newcomers come to Canada, their credit history in their previous residence may not transfer over to Canada. So that would mean that newcomers would not be able to get a credit card in Canada as they would essentially have no credit history, right?

Wrong!

Newcomers are eligible to register for a credit card in Canada without a credit history. In addition, many newcomer banking plans also offer newcomers the privilege of writing for specific credit cards associated with that particular bank. These credit cards are likely essential and might not offer a bevy of incentives to register for one. However, registering for one of these credit cards is a great way to build your credit score in Canada. As long as you pay off your credit card balances on time every month and your purchases are reasonable, you can use these credit cards as a stepping stone to perhaps a different credit card with more benefits.

If you’ve made up your mind and decided you want to put down some roots in Canada as your future forever home, getting a mortgage may be on your mind. If it is, there are several options available to newcomers. However, it should be noted that every newcomer’s situation in Canada is different than everyone else. With that in mind, a mortgage is slightly easier to secure if you’ve received permanent resident status in Canada.

Newcomers to Canada need to know that there are two types of mortgages: a typical mortgage and a New to Canada Program mortgage. A standard mortgage is one where you’ve received permanent residence status in Canada, have established a good credit history during your short amount of time in Canada, and can place a down payment on your new home of at least 5% of the purchase price. Newcomers who aren’t permanent residents yet but have submitted their application and are currently on a work permit in Canada can also qualify for this type of mortgage.

Newcomer permanent residents in Canada that have not established a solid credit history yet are eligible for the New to Canada Program mortgage. Various organizations such as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Genworth Financial, and Canada Guaranty offer this type of mortgage, which provides special assistance to newcomers who cannot secure a typical mortgage in Canada.

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