- Find a place to rent – We recommend you become aware of your rights as a renter or tenant.
- Get basic services such as mobile phone and Internet.
- If you came as a Permanent Resident: provide Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) with your Canadian address, so that you can receive your PR card in the mail.
- Familiarize yourself with your city, walk around, use the transit system, and learn about the available services.
- Apply for a government Health Insurance card.
- Find out about medical services in your area.
- Apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN). You cannot work in Canada without a SIN.
- Open a Canadian bank account. Most major banks have special plans and offers for newcomers, including access to a credit card. It’s important to start building your credit as soon as possible.
- Call or visit an immigrant-serving organization and learn about the services they provide.
- Register your kids in school.
- Obtain a Canadian driver’s license if you plan to drive in Canada.
- Learn about the education options available to improve your qualifications, as well as English or French language skills.
This video by the Government of Canada summarizes the most important steps for Your First Two Weeks:
- Find a settlement services agency that suits your needs.
- Have your credentials assessed, e.g. by World Education Services.
- Improve your language skills
- Basic training (free) for adults via the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) Program. For French training, the Program is called Course de Langue pour les Immigrants au Canada (CLIC). These are funded by the federal government and delivered by school boards, colleges and local organizations that provide services to newcomers.
- There’s also specialized training for profession-specific language, provided at colleges and local organizations.
- Inquire about programs/courses at local colleges or universities: it’s important to learn new skills and prepare for certification exams.
- Check the online job listings, paying attention to the requirements (certifications, skills, etc.)
- Contact your professional association; register to keep up to date on the profession and industries in which you’d like to work.
- Take a look at immigrant professional associations. Most are led by volunteers (newcomers as well as long-term residents) who provide invaluable support and guidance. In Toronto and GTA, there is TRIEC PINs which we are part of.
- Ask friends and family living in your area for any leads on jobs.
- Start volunteering to acquire Canadian experience and expand your network.
- Network very actively in your community and industry, as well as online. If you made connections on LinkedIn, try to meet them in person.
A side note on “Canadian Experience”
You may have heard of the infamous “Canadian experience” which puts internationally-trained professionals in a Catch-22 situation: they can’t get a job in their profession because they don’t have “Canadian experience”, and they can’t get “Canadian experience” because no one will give them a job.
Actually, there is no in-depth understanding of the concept… when you dig deeper and ask questions about it to immigrants, Canadian-born employees, and even senior-level people, they give different explanations. For some, Canadian experience equates to actual work experience in Canada and/or having Canadian credentials, and for others, it’s more about the knowledge of the culture, customs, and nuances in Canada. Some people say it’s both!
While it can be hard to grasp the real meaning, when you’re a newly-landed immigrant, the best you could do is to find a mentor, do some volunteering, and conduct information interviews with people who have been in Canada for a long time. The people you meet through these activities will give you their insights and advice.
There might be some “blind spots” that you could work on. Proactively ask others for their feedback on how you communicate, especially if your style (i.e., wording, expressions, body language) is appropriate for the Canadian job market. Also ask them what you could do to understand the environment and profession better, and reflect on those conversations. There’s always something you can learn from others!
In 2019, we did a webinar about Debunking the Canadian Experience Myth which has received good reviews. There’s also a very informative video where Dr. Lionel Laroche discusses how to understand Canadian employers to improve your job search efforts.
This topic has been debated and discussed for several years. The government as well as many employers understand the situation have developed various initiatives to support the recruitment and retention of immigrants to Canada, such as internships, mentoring, job fairs focused on diversity, etc. Therefore, not everything is lost! Please keep high hopes that there is a good job for you!
If you live in a multicultural city like Toronto or Montreal, you may wonder, what’s Canadian culture, really?
Speaking very broadly, Canada has two distinct societies: the French-speaking and the English-speaking. However, since it’s such a multicultural country, you will find a lot of variations. The children of immigrants will be bi-cultural and exhibit behaviours from both their parents’ culture and the Canadian culture. Therefore, whenever you meet a person, it’s recommended that you observe their body language and communication style to learn more about them instead of trying to categorize them as Canadian or non-Canadian.
- Canadians are generally thought of (and consider themselves) less aggressive and less excitable than their neighbors to the south. Never say that Canada is the same as the United States.
- Do not use the term “Native Americans” to refer to indigenous peoples. Canadians refer to these groups as “people of the First Nations.”
- Do your homework about Canada: learn its history, geography, and current affairs. Recognize that important regional differences exist in Canada.
- Punctuality is demanded for business meetings and social occasions. If something comes up, you are expected to let others know immediately.
- Shake hands and introduce yourself when meeting Canadians for the first time. Always shake hands firmly when meeting or departing.
- Eye contact is important. No need to stare, though! Just focus your eyes on the speaker, breaking the eye contact every 2-4 seconds but keep looking in their direction.
- Smile when you talk with someone. Canadian work style tends to be relaxed and informal.
- Many workplaces are “scent-free environments”, because scented products such as cologne, perfume, and deodorant can trigger allergic reactions such as respiratory distress and headaches. Be aware of the offices you visit or go for an interview.
Updated December 26, 2019
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