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Moving to Canada? Here's how to prepare yourself financially before and after you arrive

Everything you need to know about money before you make an international move to Canada.

Butter tarts or Beaver Tails? Coquitlam or Corner Brook? Skating the canal in Ottawa or taking in the view at Niagara Falls?

Of all the decisions you'll make when you move to Canada, how you manage your finances is one of the most essential. Everything from your travel and buying goods in your new community to how you save for your first home or retirement depends on starting out with a strong financial footing. Use these tips to set yourself up for success in Canada.

Before your move

Managing your finances begins before you get on a plane. Work your way through this list and make a financial plan before you board, and you'll land prepared to begin your new life in Canada.

Organize your paperwork

As a newcomer, you may have to provide details about your money and other assets. Gather all of your paperwork on your personal finances in advance. If you have accounts with several banks, consider consolidating and simplifying. Make sure you have documentation for any assets like investments or houses you own.

Get proof of funds

Some newcomers to Canada, like those in the federal skilled workers or skilled trades programs, are required to show proof of funds as part of their visa entry requirements. This is money you can access to support yourself and your family while you settle. These funds must be in your name and available to you on request, so things like homes you own or other investments don't count. You can provide proof of your financial situation with a letter from your bank or financial institution.

The amount of money you need to have in your bank account before you move to Canada depends on the size of your family and changes every year, but the minimum amount for a single person in 2022 is $13,310.1

Bring money with you

It's a good idea to have money when you land. Bring cash, but also keep some funds secure in traveller's cheques, bank drafts, money orders or in a bank account you can access with a debit card. Carry a major credit card you can use in case of emergency. Note that if you're travelling with more than $10,000, you must declare this to the border officer when you arrive.

The amount you'll need depends on factors like the size of your family, whether or not you have employment, how much you'll be paying in rent or to buy a home, the cost of living in your new community, and any other expenses you might have.

Housing costs

Housing will be your biggest expense when you arrive in Canada. Get a sense of the cost by searching rental ads in local papers or on social media, or sales on in your new community. If you're renting, be prepared to pay a refundable security deposit of around one half of one month's rent, up front. If you buy, consider using a local real estate agent to help walk you through the steps and expenses.

Cost of living

Your cost of living might be different than what you're used to. Living expenses include household utilities like electricity, heating, water and internet, plus clothing, groceries and a cell phone. Transportation costs vary depending on where you live and whether you buy a car or use public transport.

Other expenses

Take into account other possible expenses. For example, if you're an international student or have just arrived, there may be a waiting period of up to three months before you can use your provincial health insurance. You can buy private health insurance in the meantime or pay for procedures and prescription drugs yourself.

Having fun

Finally, you'll want to have money to explore your new home! Make sure you've got a little extra set aside to visit local events, see the sights and taste new foods.

Learn about the Canadian banking system

You'll need a local bank account so start your research now. The sooner you open an account, the sooner you can start building your credit score, which can help you get loans, credit cards or a mortgage. The higher your credit score, the more lenders feel they can trust you.

Scotiabank has a program specifically designed for newcomers, called StartRight, which allows you to open an account before you arrive. If you need to show proof of funds, you can deposit them here, and once you're in Canada, you'll get one free year of the Preferred Package chequing account, unlimited free international money transfers and access to credit cards and mortgages designed for newcomers (terms and conditions apply; credit is subject to approval).2 Scotiabank advisors will work with you to create a personalized financial plan for free.

Once you arrive in Canada

Welcome to Canada! These next several months will be full of excitement and new challenges, but you can relax knowing that your finances are in order.

Start banking and prepare for taxes

If you haven't already, now's the time to open a bank account. At a minimum, you should have access to a savings account and an everyday chequing account so you can pay bills and make purchases. Start saving now for an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. Get a credit card that offers you rewards so you are earning points as you spend.

Once you're working, you'll be responsible for paying taxes. Don't worry! An accountant can help you set everything up properly. Your employer will deduct money from your paycheque that goes toward your tax bill, or, if you're self-employed, you'll need to put that money aside yourself. A high-interest savings account is a good option for this money.

Set up your investments

You can reduce the amount of taxes you'll pay if you invest your money in a registered savings account like a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP), which helps you save for retirement, or a registered education savings plan (RESP), which helps you save for your child's education. Another thing to consider is that any money you earn in a tax-free savings account (TFSA) is not taxed, making it a good place to start saving for a down payment or to meet other financial goals.

Non-registered accounts like GICs with good interest rates and mutual funds, securities and bonds are also effective ways to grow your investments. With so many options, it's a good idea to speak to an advisor at your bank for more information about what you're eligible for and how to set up the accounts you need.

Build credit

In Canada, your credit score can help you get rental housing, loans and services like cell phone plans. Unfortunately, your credit history from your home country doesn't count so you'll need to establish a new one. The fastest way is to use a credit card responsibly by making at least the minimum payment, on time and every month. Your timely payments are reported back to the credit bureaus, which help grow your credit score.

Congratulations! You're well on your way to financial success! Want some help pulling it all together? Visit us at StartRight for tips and tools on how to plan out your financial life in Canada.

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.