Many people ask me questions on the initial settlement in Winnipeg as a Permanent Resident or an International student. I have tried to answer the questions here based on my experience in Canada. I have tried to cover everything including the comparison between expenses and income in Winnipeg and other major cities like Toronto and Vancouver. Please do read this and post me for any other questions or concerns you have. Please check other blogs on this website for other information on settlement and job search options.
Note: I am not a lawyer or an Immigration consultant and neither do I provide any official advise around any of the government rules and regulations. All the words down are jotted based on my personal experience in Canada and I do not promote use of any organization or product through my work on this website.
It can be quite intimidating when someone arrives in a new country and knows NO ONE, NO ONE at all. There are so many worries that struck your mind every moment. There are issues like accommodation, phone connection, bank account, commuting facilities, initial college formalities, social circle search, appropriate winter clothing, part time jobs and many more. All these things look simple but they actually add to the headache if not taken care of properly.
During my term in Winnipeg (or say in Canada), with my struggles, I have figured out that all these things can dealt with very easily if you have proper guidance and support. All these things need to be done in a specific sequence in order to save time and money. I did not have anyone in Winnipeg to help me and I realized there is a need to setup such help for all of you reading this post.
1. SIN Number: If your study permit allows you, the first place to go would be Service Canada where you can get your SIN number from. SIN is Social Insurance Number and this number is important to get if you plan to work in Canada. For more details on what SIN is, please visit Service Canada Website. You just have to take your passport, program enrollment letter and your study permit to the center to apply for your SIN number.
2. Health Card: Every International Student to Canada is eligible to get a Health Card (please check their website for any exceptions). Health card is needed to get your health record established in Canada and get free check ups. These are provincial health cards and you should check their website for any exceptions to what is not covered. You just need your permit, passport and program enrollment letter for the Health Card.
3. Student ID: The student ID is obtained from the admin department of the University of College that you are attending. The student ID will make you eligible for student discounts on various things including the bus pass discounts.
4. Bus Pass: After you have your student ID, you can go and get your bus pass at a discounted rate from the college campus only. The only requirement to get a cheap pass is your student ID. Bus Pass is important because the commute in Canada is one of the most expensive ones. A bus pass gives you the flexibility to travel 24*7 on any route given the bus service is available. Hurray... now you have the bus pass and you will not have to spend a lot of money on your bus tickets.
5. Bank Account: Before you get any other facility that involved money, you need to have your bank account. There are different student account packages in market (mostly all free) with different banks. The major banks are RBC, BMO, CIBC, TD and Scotiabank. Book an appointment to get your bank account and get a credit card as well. Once you have your bank account, you can get your mobile phone connection or cable connection for home.
6. Telephone (Mobile) Connection: There are many different cell phone network providers in Canada. The connections here might seem expensive but across different companies, they come to almost a same price. The two different ways to get a connection is just a network sim card and bring your own phone or buy a phone with the sim connection on contract. Buying a phone with sim gets you into a contract and you can't break the contract unless you pay the phone cost. For more information, please visit the respective websites of the telephone service providers. The major companies are Fido, Rogers, Bell, Virgin, Telus and Koodo. All these are national service providers. You will need your permit, your passport and your banking information (credit card if possible) to get a connection. Some companies will not provide connection without a credit card, but that also depends which outlet you go to.
7. Social Circle Search: Canada is a multicultural country and it promotes more and different people to come and settle here. With such diversity, it becomes difficult to find people of your country of origin. Though my personal suggestion is to try and become a universal citizen and meet people from different races and countries. You will find many people who will be more than happy to accept you as a new member in the group and will be friends with you. To find people from your own community, you can search Facebook groups and get contacts from there.
8. Winter Clothing: Transitioning from positive 25 degree Celsius and above temperature to negative 25 degree Celsius and below can be a nightmare for most of the people coming to Canada. Moreover, this can be little expensive as well. Canada is known for its harsh winters but that does not mean people die at every 100 meter. Lol.
There are proper facilities and resources to save us from this cold weather. All the indoor places are heated, the major bus stops are also heated, even buses are heated and for us we have proper clothing designed and readily available in market to beat this winter. The winter clothing includes winter jackets, winter boots, toques, gloves and inner thermal wears. You need not bring so many warm clothes from your home country if you are not landing in winter. The winter clothes from your country will probably be a joke for Canada's winter. All the winter gears are equally important and you should buy these once you are here. Buying these will not be an expense, but will be an investment for you for future years. The jackets can range roughly from $150 to $700 depending on the brand. Even though most of those jackets will be good for -40 degrees Celsius, people do buy good brands as per their budget. Few of the major stores your can get nice winter wear stuff from are Sears, Hudson's Bay and Walmart. There are other stores as well but they can be little bit pricey.
9. Part Time Jobs: Now this is one of the most frequently asked questions and I have decided I will answer this question in a separate blog that I have planned specifically for job search. Please check the website for more information on this.
10. Accommodation: Everyone thinks its super easy to finalize a place to live before even landing to Canada, but its actually not. Unless you know someone, no one will finalize a place for you because the landlord will demand for a deposit amount to hold the place for you. On top of that what if you don't like the place? Or you found a friend before reaching here and you two decide to live somewhere else? Or you actually found a better place after finalizing the first one?
There are so many ifs and buts, and that is why the answer is that its better to finalize the place once you have landed. Be ready to stay in a hotel for a couple of days and then go and find a place; best and more reliable method.
The two options of renting are a house and an apartment (or a condominium). The houses will not really need a strict lease and you can leave the place after a couple of moths if you want to by just giving a notice period as mutually agreed between you two, before leaving to get your deposit money back. The apartments are handled by the realty companies and they get a year lease signed with you that cannot be broken. Most importantly, renting an apartment is not easy as the realty companies want a credit history for the customers renting in Canada. The best choice for a new comer student is to get into a house setup or if really need to go to an apartment, then either find a co-signor to sign the lease or find the rare of rarest realty companies that do not ask for anything and just lease the apartments. The house rental for a room can be from $300 to $550 a month including or not including the utilities. The apartments can be leased from $650 to $1600 per month depending on the apartment and number of rooms and the locality and facilities there.
11. ISIC: International Student Identity Card is for all the International students and helps them get discounts on many things especially on the travel tickets. Please ask your university of college's international student department about this card and they will be able to help you on this.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS COMING SOON
For any concerns or queries, please write to me.
Image 1: http://stormindia.blogspot.ca/2012/06/canada-student-partner-program-spp.html