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6 pre-arrival tips for newcomers to Canada during COVID-19

By Kelly Dilworth with insights from Munsif Sheraly

If you're planning to move to Canada, you'll save yourself a lot of time and worry by preparing for your move now. That way, you'll be more likely to have a smooth experience adapting to your new home once you arrive.

Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take to ease your transition. Taking action now may even make you feel more prepared. Taking small, actionable steps to improve your situation is a smart way to conquer fear and uncertainty.

“We understand how overwhelming it feels, even in the best of times, to rebuild your life in a brand-new country.”
- Munsif Sheraly, Director, Multicultural Banking, Scotiabank

Here's what to do before you pack your bags for Canada.

Know where you stand as a new Canadian. Check if there have been any changes to Canada's border policy that will affect the timing of your arrival or your immigration status. Visit Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for the most up-to-date information on how COVID-19 is affecting immigration, refugees and citizenship services. If you're a temporary foreign worker, approved permanent resident or foreign student, you may be able to enter Canada even if your home country is under a temporary travel ban. But if your application is still processing, you may have to delay critical steps, such as submitting your police certificate or undergoing your medical exam.

Monitor your health. Canada is denying entry to any new immigrants showing symptoms of COVID-19, such as cough and fever. So don't try to travel until you're healthy, even if you believe your symptoms are due to a minor cold. If you're traveling by air, you'll be asked to submit to a health check before you can board your flight. Your health will also be screened once you have arrived in Canada. If you plan to drive, you'll be required to have your health checked before you leave the border.

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Find a place to stay before you arrive. Don't wait until you arrive in Canada to find a place to live. You'll be required to quarantine for 14 days as soon as you're admitted to the country, even if you're healthy.1 If you haven't found a permanent place to stay, look for temporary accommodations now, such as an extended stay hotel. You will be asked about your quarantine plans when you arrive, so come prepared with a good answer.

Check your eligibility for healthcare and other benefits. Depending on the province, you may not be able to access key social services, such as healthcare, right away. Take the time to research temporary health insurance options before you arrive. You may even need to apply for it well ahead of time. Depending on your income and last place of employment, you may not be eligible for COVID-19-related emergency benefits either. However, you may qualify for other benefits, such as the Canada Child Benefit. Check for up-to-date information about benefits for newcomers.

Draft a budget. If you don't already have a job lined up, you could have a tough time finding work during the pandemic. Since it's still unclear when most of Canada will reopen for business, you should be prepared to live without income for several months. Set up a budget ahead of time that includes all the major expenses you expect to have in Canada, such as rent, utilities and food. In addition, include funds for unexpected expenses, such as emergency transportation or repairs. That way, you'll have a realistic view ahead of time of how expensive it will be for you to live in Canada. In addition, draft a separate budget for start-up living costs, such as rent deposits, kitchen essentials and furniture.

Gather documents. There are a number of documents that you may need once you arrive to rent an apartment, apply for a credit card or driver's license or get a job. For example, a landlord may want to check your credit before they accept your application. But if you are new to Canada, you won't have any Canadian credit history. You may be able to get around this by printing out documents from your home country, such as a copy of your credit score. Generally, foreign credit information isn't accepted in Canada. However, some landlords may be willing to make an exception. Other documents that may be helpful to prepare now include your resume, your educational transcripts or proof of a degree, your driver's license, if available, and your birth certificate.

Bottom line: Canada is a welcoming country for newcomers. But, like any country, it does have a number of rules and procedures that every new resident must follow. Taking the time to learn more about your new country now, will help ease the transition to your new home.

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Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only. It is not to be relied upon as financial, tax or investment advice or guarantees about the future, nor should it be considered a recommendation to buy or sell. Information contained in this article, including information relating to interest rates, market conditions, tax rules, and other investment factors are subject to change without notice and The Bank of Nova Scotia is not responsible to update this information. All third party sources are believed to be accurate and reliable as of the date of publication and The Bank of Nova Scotia does not guarantee its accuracy or reliability. Readers should consult their own professional advisor for specific financial, investment and/or tax advice tailored to their needs to ensure that individual circumstances are considered properly and action is taken based on the latest available information.