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  • Writer's pictureThis Maple Life

Settlement Checklist: Services and Resources for Newcomers in BC, Canada

Updated: Feb 25

After what was probably a long process, your bags are packed, you have said goodbye to the country that you once called home, and now you are taking a direction that not many people have the courage or the meaning to follow. But you did it and are ready for this new chapter of your life, which we sure hope will be an amazing one.


But what's next? You find yourself wondering because these life-altering decisions are not so easy. Take a deep breath and read on, because here you'll find a settlement checklist of things to do as soon as you get to BC, Canada. Let's start, shall we?



Vancouver skyline, clouds, trees, lake

Table of Contents


Settlement Checklist for Newcomers in BC

Visit your Local Settlement Agency

A settlement agency will be important to visit because they will help you to:

  • Look for a job.

  • Making new friends

  • Register for language classes.

  • Assist you in accessing government or community services.

  • Understand the local culture and customs.

  • Understand your rights in Canada.


You will receive services and programs from this organization to make settling in Canada easier. Its programs and services are confidential, free (in most cases), and available to newcomers, permanent residents, temporary residents, naturalized citizens, refugees, and refugee claimants.

It is essential that you look for the organization closest to you, as settlement services are frequently offered by community organizations. Along with English and French, a variety of other languages are also available for the provision of services.


Some Settlement Agencies in Vancouver are:




Apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN)


To be eligible to work in Canada, you must obtain a social insurance number. You also need one to apply for government benefits and programs.


To apply:

  • You can submit an application online,

  • In person at a Service Canada Centre.

  • By mail.

The documents you will require will depend on your particular circumstances, so be sure to examine their specifications in advance to have them prepared.

It's crucial to remember that your SIN number is private; avoid using it as identification and understand how to keep it safe.


Register for the Medical Services Plan (MSP)


All BC residents are required to be registered, and having medical insurance is extremely vital. While you wait for your application to be approved—which could take up to three months for non-refugees—be mindful of purchasing private health insurance.

It is important to know that MSP only covers essential healthcare services like doctor visits, diagnostic tests, and treatments. It does not, however, pay for dental work, physiotherapy, or appointments with optometrists.


To apply you need to contact:

Health Insurance, BC

Vancouver Area: (604) 683-7151

Toll-free 1800 663-7100


Learn more about the health care system in BC here.


Open a Bank Account

Bank of Montreal entrance, blue
  • Research different financial institutions in Vancouver to find the bank that best suits your needs.

  • Choose a convenient bank branch in Vancouver.

  • Contact the bank for information on account opening requirements, such as identification documents and proof of address.

  • Schedule an appointment with a bank representative at the selected branch and complete the account application forms.

  • Prepare an initial deposit according to the minimum amount required.

  • Discuss with the bank representative the additional services that interest you, such as debit or credit cards, savings accounts, and online access.


To learn about opening a bank account for a child, check out this post.


Find a Place to Live - Renting

  • Identify the type of housing you are looking for: Different types of housing, including single-family houses, duplexes, townhouses, apartment buildings, condominiums, and apartments/suites, offer various features and ownership arrangements to accommodate diverse preferences and needs.

  • Figure out your budget and desired area: Rental rates in BC can vary widely. Research the average prices in different neighbourhoods to set realistic expectations. Some things to take into consideration: commute time and monthly travel costs, nearby schools, grocery stores and activities, walk and transit scores, noise and crime levels and personal priorities (sqft, proximity to the core, etc)

  • Look for housing: The most common websites used are Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace however other websites you can check are Zillow, RentBoard, Kijiji, RentFaster, and Realtor.

  • Prepare the required documents & submit the application: Landlords may ask for proof of income (such as employment letter and/or bank statements), credit report, references and identification.

  • Sign the lease agreement & pay the security deposit: Landlord can charge a maximum security deposit of half a month's rent. If the landlord requests a pet damage deposit, it should not exceed half of one month's rent.



Remember:

  • It is illegal for landlords to request a deposit from tenants before both parties have signed a Residential Tenancy Agreement.

  • Never pay a deposit before viewing a rental unit.

  • Before moving in, walk through the residential rental unit and complete an inspection report with your landlord.

  • It's illegal to charge more than half of the monthly rent as a deposit for renting a property.


Important Resources:


The Residential Tenancy Branch is a government entity that offers information, dispute resolution, and multilingual support for landlords and tenants, serving as a resource for renting inquiries and landlord-related issues in British Columbia. To contact them you can call them toll-free: 1 800 665-8779 or visit their website gov.bc.ca/landlordtenant.


Discrimination:

Landlords must not discriminate against tenants based on protected characteristics, such as race, religion, disability, or income source, as it is against the law, with some exceptions (such as age-restricted and disability-specific buildings or places with rules against pets and smoking). If you have any discrimination complaints, contact:


BC Human Rights Clinic Vancouver

Area: 604 622-1100

Toll-free: 1 855 685-6222

Email: infobchrc@clasbc.net

Website: bchrc.net


Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre (TRAC) Lower Mainland Tenants’ Rights

Information Line / Tenant Hotline

Vancouver area: 604 255-0546

Toll-free: 1 800 665-1185

Website: tenants.bc.ca


Apply for the Canada Child Benefit for Children Under 18 Years Old

If you have kids under the age of 18, you can apply for The Canada Child Benefit, which is a monthly payment to help families with young children.


According to the government of Canada, in order to qualify, you must meet all of the following conditions:

grassy area, girl running from behind, Vancouver skyline on the back, ocean
  • You live with a child who is under 18 years of age

  • You are primarily responsible for the care and upbringing of the child See who is primarily responsible

  • You are a resident of Canada for tax purposes

  • You or your spouse or common-law partner must be any of the following:

    • a Canadian citizen

    • a permanent resident

    • a protected person

    • a temporary resident who has lived in Canada for the previous 18 months, and who has a valid permit in the 19th month other than one that states "does not confer status" or "does not confer temporary resident status"

    • an individual who is registered, or entitled to be registered under the Indian Act

  • Through birth registration

  • Online through My Account

  • By mail


Register your Children for School

The school cycle begins annually in September, allowing children to enroll in kindergarten in the year they turn 5 years old. To complete the registration process for your child, the following documents are required:

  • Child's birth certificate.

  • Child's immunization record.

  • Proof of residence address, such as a BC Hydro receipt, rental agreement, rent payment receipt, or internet/cable receipt.

  • Proof of Status in Canada for both parents and children.

  • School reports, with certified English translations if necessary.

Please ensure that you fill out the form corresponding to the city in which you reside. The options are as follows:


Check this post to familiarize yourself with three different types of learning approaches in BC.



Apply for a B.C. Driver's License

First, you need to visit the ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) website and schedule an appointment to process your license.


Prepare the required documents to bring with you to the appointment, including:

  • Valid identification (e.g., passport, permanent resident card)

  • Your current driver's license from your country of origin

  • Proof of driving experience (such as a driver's abstract or a letter from your previous insurance company)

  • Pay the license fee during the appointment.

As a newcomer, it is important to check the ICBC website to see if your country has an agreement for a valid license exchange with BC. If such an agreement exists, you may be able to simply exchange your current license for a BC license.


If your country does not have an agreement with Canada, you have the option to surrender your valid license from your country and proceed to take both the knowledge and road tests to obtain a valid BC license.


Learn more about driving in BC in this post.


Register for English Classes

If English is your second language or if you simply feel that you would benefit from English classes, at Mosaic, they offer free LINC courses. Another bonus is that, once you can apply for citizenship, those courses serve as a language test for your application.


They have two types of programs:


1. Online classes for mothers where the requirements are:

  • Have access to a computer and internet

  • Being a mother and having your child at home

  • be new to Canada

  • not be a Canadian citizen

  • speak at CLB 3 or 4 level

girl writing, book open, pen

2. The LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) program is a program for newcomers offered by IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada), to support newcomers with English to start their life in Canada. To participate in this program, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Permanent residents 17 years or older (PR Card)

  • Newcomers approved for permanent residence

  • Convention refugees


Conclusion

In conclusion, embarking on a new journey in a foreign country like British Columbia, Canada can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. However, with the right guidance and resources, settling down and starting a new life can become a smoother process. This settlement checklist provides a roadmap for newcomers, ensuring that essential services and resources are not overlooked in the early stages of arrival.


Remember, while this checklist covers essential aspects of settlement, there may be additional tasks or resources specific to your circumstances. Embrace this new chapter with optimism, patience, and the knowledge that numerous services and resources are available to assist you in making a successful transition to your new home. Welcome to British Columbia, Canada, and may your journey be filled with growth, opportunity, and fulfillment.




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