1. Get a SIN.
It stands for social insurance number. It’s similar to a Tax File Number, and is your most unique identifier. You can get one at the airport after you are granted your work permit by the border control officer. If you don’t, you can also walk in to any Service Canada location and get one. You don’t need an appointment, but you will need to bring your passport, your work permit/visa and any other forms of identification you have (even if they’re not Canadian).
2. Open a bank account.
The big banks here are:
- TD Canada Trust
- RBC (Royal Bank of Canada)
- CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce)
- BMO (Bank of Montreal)
All of them have “newcomer to Canada” account offers, some with perks like no fees for the first year and a newcomer’s credit card. You will need to go into a branch to open them. Again, bring your SIN and all your identification, as well as your work permit.
There are also two online, branchless banks here that don’t charge account fees.
You can’t get a credit card here without a credit score, which you can’t get without a credit card! Or some form of credit history showing you pay bills on time. If you’re new to Canada, you won’t have that yet. A newcomer’s credit card is one option. The other is to get a secured credit card such as the guaranteed Mastercard from Capital One. You pay a deposit and are given a credit card with a very low limit. Once you have proven that you are a responsible credit user, your deposit will be returned to you and you will get an offer to increase your credit limit.
3. Get a phone number
As a newbie to Canada, you will not be eligible to apply for anything that requires a credit history, because you won’t have one yet. That includes post-paid cell phone plans. It’s because without a credit history, companies don’t know if you’re reliable and pay your bills on time. So unless you can get someone to open one for you under their name, you’ll have to go with pre-paid, which isn’t a big deal as most companies have better deals if you bring your own device. Check out:
Prices vary differently between each company. And be aware that each different province/territory will have a different pricing system for phone plans , even with the same company.
Once you’re all set up, you need to find somewhere to live. Read next: Home Sweet Home: Finding Housing in Toronto