Welcome to Canada …

Newcomers Guide


This guide attempts to capture the experience of the past migrants and provide you the benefits of the insights. This will not supersede any guide you have/will receive from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada – Canadian Government. This should not be considered as all inclusive. As this is compiled by the past migrants from Sri Lanka, particularly the alumnus of the University of Peradeniya, you will find considerable practical value. This will be updated time to time based on any new information. This guide essentially deals with the things you need to know/prepare before arrival and things you have to pay attention for settling down on arrival. This guide will also provide useful web links and contacts.

—- Before Arrival —-


Personal Documents

All Personal, academic, professional, educational documents must have officially certified translations unless the originals are in English or French language. Collect the school transcripts from the school of the children (& translate officially if required). Make sure you establish right contacts in the university in case you need to get down the official transcript of your degree/diploma.

Driving License, Insurance and recognition

Having a Sri Lankan driving license is helpful. On arrival you can drive up to 90 days Driving license is issued by each province. The adult’s license is a 03 step process but may slightly vary depending on the province. In Ontario, G2- Theory test, G2 – First practical test allowing driving with some limitations, G – Full license to drive anywhere any time. Canada driving license is also an acceptable form of identity (Most institutes ask for two forms of identity for any proof) For a Sri Lankan driving license, you are allowed to take the G driving test only one time provided you have successfully completed G2 Theory test. If you fail you have to take the G1 test and G test thereafter. If you process an unexpired driving license from USA or a few other countries specified by Canada (ref. …) you can exchange it for a full license. Canada only recognizes North American Insurance history for Auto Insurance. Please make sure you bring proof (Old Policy etc.)

Recognition of Foreign qualifications and experience

Canada relies heavily on their own qualifications and Canadian experience in the job market particularly when it comes to a job in line with your education and experience. Most professionals need to follow program leading to certificate, diploma or new qualifications to find a position in a recognized profession. Many such programs are available at a cost (student loans are available). Volunteering or finding a placement is a way to gain Canadian experience.

Language proficiency

English (or/and French) language proficiency, particularly the spoken part of it is a huge enabler for a job seeker. Any student who has studied in the Canadian system for less than 04 years needs to do an additional English test to get admission to any university. Some training on English proficiency before arrival will help

Banking/credit history

Banks offer new comers small credit facilities and credit/debit cards with limitations. Good credit history (no default payments etc) will enhance your credit worthiness

Medical Facilities

Permanent Residents are entitled to free consultation, testing and hospitalization. However such service is not provided free of charge during first 03 months. Therefore taking a medical insurance for everyone for the first 03 months from the date of arrival is a must. That will also help you to register with a family doctor

Goods/Personal belongings

You must prepare a list of personal belongings you will bring to Canada. Part of them can be brought as accompanying luggage subject to airline baggage/weight limitations. The other part (if you so wish) can be shipped separately by sea transport or air transport. If you chose to send a separate shipment, the content must be itemized and valued. You must bring this list with you for, on arrival declaration purposes

—- On Arrival at the port of entry (Airport, Seaport, Overland from USA)—-

At the port of entry

You will be first directed to a separate immigration area. You have to produce the passport, immigration documents issued by the Canadian authorities and proof of funds (cash or certified cheques) and the address in which you will stay (Note: each Canadian address has the house number/Unit number, Street name, City, Postal Code, Province) Please make sure your name entered in the records tally with your name in the passport

Goods/Personal belongings

As a first timer, you will be permitted to bring the personal belongings. If you have shipped them separately please make sure you declare the list (The list you prepared at the time of sipping the goods) and get it endorsed by the Customs authorities. This document should be kept securely as it is needed to clear your shipment at the customs when it arrives.

Documents issued by the immigration authorities on arrival

Please keep them securely as they will be the only documents you will have as a proof of migration until you receive the Permanent Resident (PR) card and Social Security Card. These documents will be needed later for Citizenship applications/PR extension etc.

—- Post Arrival—-

Proof of Address

Most Canadian authorities require you to produce a proof of your address. The contract you sign to obtain a dwelling house/apartment/Part of a house will be an acceptable address. A Bank statement, Utility bills etc in your name are also acceptable addresses of proof.

Bank Account and Credit Cards

Most banks have programs to accept new customers and issue limited credit cards. The bank branches can be found in your locality. HSBC is the only foreign bank that operates in Sri Lanka has branch net work in Canada (small network)

Canada Health Card

You have to make an application to get Canada Health Card. Application can be obtained from the nearest ‘Service Canada’ office. Apart from the immigration documents, you should have two forms of identity and proof of address

Canadian Permanent Resident Card and Social Insurance Card

You will receive both these cards for each of the family member after 4-6 weeks from the date of arrival to the address you have indicated at the time of arrival. If they are delayed over 8 weeks, you must follow up using nearest Service Canada office. Please verify the name and also note the dates of expiry. Social Security number is unique to you and should not be disclosed. Both cards should be kept in a secure place

Driving License

If you have a Sri Lankan Driving license you can drive up to 90 days. In the mean time you can initiate obtaining Canadian driving license as described in the section 03 – Before Arrival section. In order to make the driving license application, first you must get your driving experience certified by the nearest Sri Lankan Diplomatic mission. The certificate is issued on production of your Sri Lankan driving license at the diplomatic mission subject to a small fee.

Canadian Qualifications

Canadian job market mostly prefers Canadian qualifications and experience. A predetermined Canadian experience and studying is required to obtain Canadian qualification in any profession.

Canadian Job Market

Canadian job market is very volatile and highly competitive. Well thought out approach is required to enter the job market. Development of a good resume and a cover latter is a good beginning for a job seeker.

School Admission

Canadian system mostly operated on two school basis (Primary School and High School). Children are admitted only from the catchment area. Free school bus service is provided within that area. Schools year normally begins in September and run till end June with breaks in between before summer vacation. Past school transcript is a must for school admission.

Child Care

Young children are always expected to be under adults care. If not they should be kept at the day care centers which operate at a fee till parents return from work.