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Amro Hayek, RCIC

Landing And Settlement In Canada - British Columbia This is your official guide to a successful settlement in the province of British Columbia (B.C.).

Included in this landing guide you will find complete contact information for each government office and immigrant service agency that you will require to successfully begin your new life in British Columbia, whether you are moving to the city of Vancouver, the city of Victoria, or the surrounding areas.

  • Learn more about life in British Columbia.
  • In this Landing Guide to British Columbia, you'll find information on:
  • General Information
  • Health Care
  • Employment
  • Finances
  • Education
  • Getting your driver'€™s licence
  • Housing
  • What can I bring to Canada?
  • Weather
  • Emergency Services
  • Directory of Immigrant-Serving Agencies

General Information on British Columbia

Official provincial immigration website: www.welcomebc.ca/Immigrate

Official city website for Vancouver: www.vancouver.ca

Official city website for Victoria: www.victoria.ca

Visit a local tourism office to obtain a free city map:

Vancouver: Vancouver Tourist Info Centre

Plaza Level, 200 Burrard St.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Canada V6C 3L6

Tel: 604.683.2000

Fax: 604.682.6839

 

Victoria: Visitor Centre

812 Wharf Street

Victoria, BC

Canada V8W 1T3

1-800-663-3883

250-953-2033

Health Care in British Columbia

You must register for the British Columbia Medical Services Plan (MSP) as soon as you arrive in order to receive health care. For instructions, you should call the following numbers:

Vancouver: 604 683-7151 

Victoria: 250 386-7171 or 250 382-8406

Elsewhere in B.C.: 1-800-663-7100

You will not be covered immediately by MSP. It generally takes three months after registration for your healthcare coverage to begin. In the interim, be sure to have temporary health insurance. You can obtain temporary health insurance through a private insurance company. You can locate one of the many private insurance companies in your local telephone book.

When your MSP coverage begins, you will receive a CareCard. You must bring this card with you whenever you visit a doctor or a hospital.

Note: MSP has a monthly fee.

Employment in British Columbia

To legally work in British Columbia, follow these steps:

  • Apply for your Social Insurance number (SIN). For information, visit: www.servicecanada.gc.ca/en/sc/sin/
  • Ensure your credentials are assessed at one of the follow agencies: Canadian Centre for International Credentials: www.cicic.ca The Open Learning Agency (OLA) operates the International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES). ICES will assess foreign secondary and postsecondary certificates for employment. This service costs between $115 and $200. To contact ICES, call 604 431-3402 in the Lower Mainland. Outside of Vancouver, call 1-800-663-1663. Website: www.bcit.ca/ices
  • If you work in a trade, ensure that you have the certifications required by law in British Columbia to practice your trade. For trade certification, begin by contacting Red Seal, a nation-wide trade certification organization at: www.red-seal.ca
  • Register with appropriate provincial regulatory organization for your profession (where applicable). To do so, contact your local Industry Training Authority:
    • The B.C. Business Service Centre will provide you with information and advice about regulations, government help, and training. Address: 601 West Cordova Street in Vancouver. Call 604 775-5525 in Vancouver and 1-800-667-2272 elsewhere in BC Website: www.smallbusinessbc.ca.
    • The Business Immigration Office at the World Trade Centre in Vancouver: call 604 844-1810.
  • Register for language classes, if required to improve your English or French language skills. For English as a Second Language classes (ESL) contact your local Language Assessment Centre:

For people living in Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, New Westminster, North Vancouver and West Vancouver, call Western ESL Services at 604 876-5756.

For people living in Surrey, the Tri-Cities area and the Fraser Valley, call Timeline Data Solutions Ltd. at 604 507-4150.

Elsewhere in BC, contact your local immigrant services organization.

Finances in British Columbia

You should open an account at a local bank or financial institution as soon as possible after you arrive. Popular banks in British Columbia include: HSBC, Scotia Bank, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Bank of Montreal (BMO), TD Canada Trust, and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).

Canadian Money is made of cents and dollars. There are 100 cents in 1 Canadian dollar. Currency is found in coins of 1 cent ($0.01) called the "penny", which are no longer used in commercial transactions, 5 cents ($0.05) called the "nickel", 10 cents ($0.10) called the "dime", 25 cents ($0.25) called the "quarter", 1 dollar ($1.00) called the "Loonie" for the Canadian loon featured on the coin, and a two dollar ($2.00) coin called the "Twoonie" as it is the equivalent of two Loonies. Bills, or paper currency, are found in denominations of five dollars ($5.00), ten dollars ($10.00), twenty dollars ($20.00), fifty dollars ($50.00) and one hundred dollars ($100.00).

To find out what your home currency is worth against Canadian currency, talk to a representative from a local bank, or visit this popular currency exchange website: www.xe.com

Transactions are typically made in cash, or by debit or credit cards. Cheques or money orders are used less frequently, but may be required in some situations.

Note: If you have a low income and children 18 years of age or younger, you may be eligible to receive tax benefits and/or bonuses from the B.C. government. Call 1.800.387.1193 for more information.

Education in British Columbia

All children under 16 years of age must be registered for school in British Columbia. Public schooling for all children under 16 is free and generally begins at age four or five. Most children stay in school until they finish high school, generally at 18 years of age.

The Canadian public school system is generally divided into three levels: Elementary, Secondary and Post-Secondary (e.g. college or university). Some districts or private schools may organize their grade levels differently, though education standards are regulated by the provincial government. The academic year for all levels of education begins in September and runs through June for elementary and secondary students, and to April for college and university students. Standard holidays include Christmas and New Year's holidays in December and January, and a spring break in either March or April. In addition, students have the right to observe religious holidays. Contact the local school board in your neighbourhood for information on registration.

Vancouver School Board: www.vsb.bc.ca, Telephone: (604) 713-5000

Greater Victoria District School Board: www.sd61.bc.ca, Telephone: 250.475.3212

For those who speak French as a first language, French Public schools are available.

For complete information on post-secondary education visit the Study in Canada Guide.

Obtaining a Driver's Licence in British Columbia

If you are planning on renting, leasing, or buying a car, you must have an official British Columbia driver's licence.

The process of licensing varies depending on what sort of driving experience (if any) you had previous to moving to B.C. All licensing and insurance is managed by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). For complete information, visit their website at www.icbc.com.

Note: Every vehicle and driver must have insurance. Contact a local insurance provider to become properly insured before you drive.

Housing in British Columbia

If you have not visited your new city before landing, it may be best to rent an apartment temporarily when you first arrive, and/or hire a real estate agent to guide you through the housing process and provide you with knowledgeable advice on the best areas for you and your family. You could also work with a real estate agent before you arrive, by doing an internet search and contacting one in advance. For example, search 'real estate agent Victoria', if you are planning on moving to the city of Victoria and you will find the contact information for multiple realtors who work in that city. To find housing without the aid of a real estate agent, search through classified ads in your local newspaper or in real estate papers which are generally free. Online classified ads on websites such as craigslist (www.vancouver.craigslist.ca for Vancouver and www.victoria.craigslist.ca for Victoria) and mls.ca are quite popular.

There are multiple different housing options in British Columbia. Below is an explanation of the most popular options:

Apartment buildings are large, multi-unit buildings owned by one person or company where each inhabitant rents a unit. Studio or bachelor apartments are generally one room with a kitchen area and bathroom and are suited only for a single individual. Larger apartments can accommodate families as they have bedrooms and additional living space.

A large multi-unit building where each unit is owned by the inhabitant is called a condominium, and each unit is called a condo. Condo's can be small single personal dwellings, or large, multi-level family dwellings.

Often apartments and condos are found in homes that have been divided into separate living spaces.

Houses can be connected in a row, when they are called townhouses or row houses, or detached, as separate, individual dwellings.

Though average living costs vary given size of family, location and level of income, housing is generally more expensive in cities like Victoria and Vancouver. As a result, many families choose to live in smaller cities like Kelowna, Kamloops or Prince George. Many people choose to live in suburbs which are towns located just outside of the city limits, where housing is more affordable. Suburbs often provide good neighbourhoods, schools, shopping and healthcare, all within close proximity to the amenities of the city. Housing in the country can be even less expensive and is desirable for many families, but you will require a vehicle in order to travel for your basic needs including groceries, work, school and healthcare.

It is important that you take your family, your place of work, neighbourhood and finances into account before deciding on a place to live.

Pets: If you are renting your home or live in a condominium, it is important that you ensure pets are legally allowed on the premises before you move in with your family pet, or purchase a family pet.

Note: There are explicit rules about immigrating with a pet. Please see "What can you bring to Canada?"€ below. 

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