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After you arrive in Canada!
So finally, you have made it and you together with your family have managed to land in Canada as a permanent resident or a landed immigrant. This section will outline a few of the essential things that need to be done as soon as possible after arrival.

Permanent Resident Card:
New permanent residents arriving in Canada have to inform the immigration officer at the port of entry of your mailing address in Canada so that the Permanent Resident Card can be sent by mail. This is a relatively new document in existence since June 2002 and replaces the old IMM1000 Record of Landing document. If you don't yet have a mailing address, tell the officer that you will let the immigration department know the details as soon as you have an address. This card is proof of your immigration in Canada and will be required in the future to re-enter Canada if you exit the country for whatever reason. It is a very secure document with your photograph and many other security details to prevent misuse.

Social Insurance Number Card:
This card is also sometimes called the S.I.N. card and is similar to the social security number card in the U.S. Every individual in Canada is eligible for this card and each person gets a unique nine-digit number.

The process to apply is to fill in the application form that is often given to new arrivals at the airport or border crossing. Once this is filled-in, the form can be taken to the nearest Human Resource Development Canada (HRDC) office. The officer at the HRDC office will verify your landing document (IMM 1000 or permanent resident card) and will then accept the application. You will get the S.I.N. card by mail at your mailing address in a few days. It is advisable to apply for the card for all family members, even small children and infants. Their number will then stay with them for life. HRDC is a federal institution so it does not matter which province you move to and there will be an HRDC office there.

The S.I.N. number is required to accept employment because employers need it to remit tax and other deductions to the tax department. Most banks and other financial institutions also need it prior to opening an account.

Health Card:
Health in Canada is a provincial jurisdiction. So you apply to the provincial health ministry of the province you reside in for the provincial health coverage. The general rule is that Canada has universal health coverage for all. However, there are many minor differences between the provincial health programs so you need to check with the provincial health ministry. For example, in Ontario, new immigrants have to prove that they are legal residents and also show that they reside in the province to be eligible to apply for OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) coverage. In Ontario, it takes 90 days from the date of arrival to be officially covered by OHIP. So it is recommended that new arrivals consider purchasing private health insurance immediately after their arrival in Canada for the first 90 days just to prevent any unnecessary medical costs. Hospital and medical care in Canada can be very expensive for those who do not have the government coverage in place.

The provincial health care system allows you to visit most doctors and looks after hospital care and emergencies. Generally, it does not pay for prescription drugs and certain medical therapies depending upon the province (e.g. alternate medicine, chiropractors, etc.). Dentistry is generally not covered.

Bank Account:
As indicated earlier on this page, most banks require a social insurance number prior to opening a bank account for you. As the S.I.N. card can take some time to arrive, this means that you could be prevented from opening an account and depositing the funds that you have brought with you and/or transfer funds from overseas accounts by telegraphic transfer. Some banks will permit new immigrants to open an account with the provision that they inform the banks as soon as they receive their social insurance number.

It is important to start building a relationship with your bank and banker. As you are new in Canada, you don't have a credit rating. Therefore, it might be difficult in some cases to get a loan or even a credit card as the bank does not know you. The best way to acquire a credit card is to request the bank to give you a secured credit card till such time as you have built up your rating. In other words, you can deposit, say $2,000 in an account and the bank can use to it to cover all charges on the card up to that or even a smaller amount.

A positive credit rating is so important to be able to live in Canada. We often recommend to our clients to even take a small loan and pay it off as per the repayment schedule to build up their rating. It is important to take care of all credit card and other bills on time. Then when you need a loan or other financing, it will become so much easier.

Driver's License:
This is a provincial jurisdiction and each province has its own regulations as to the ease of acquiring a driver's license and the length of time it requires. Some provinces allow you to exchange foreign (e.g. U.S. state) licenses for Canadian ones. In some provinces, getting a license is a multi-stage exercise.

The driver's license is essential because it not only allows you to drive a car in Canada but the document is also a useful ID card.
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