Welcome to Canada! Some people like to spend the first day of their working holiday exploring their new country. Others, like to get all of the necessities out of the way before their jet lag has even worn off. If the second example is you, this guide will provide the step-by-step process to your first day of your working holiday.
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1. Apply for your Social Insurance Number
To be able to work in Canada, you must have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN for short). This is a 9 digit number that can only be applied for in-person once in Canada.
The process to get your SIN is quick and simple (and also completely free).
First, find your nearest Service Canada office and bring your passport and work permit. No appointment is necessary. The length of wait depends on demand on the day, but the actual process takes less than fifteen minutes. Your SIN will be printed onto a piece of paper immediately – don’t lose it!
2. Open a bank account
In most Canadian cities, it should be possible to open a bank account without an appointment. Make sure you have your passport, work permit and SIN to hand.
After opening your account, you can then transfer money over from your home country. The cheapest and easiest way to do this is by using an online money transfer service such as Transferwise or CurrencyFair.
When choosing a bank, consider both convenience and cost.
Bank accounts fees in Canada
This may come as a shock to some working holidayers, but most Canadian banks charge customers a monthly or annual fee for an account. Luckily, most of the ‘big 5’ banks offer newcomer deals.
CIBC, for example, has a ‘Welcome to Canada’ package with no monthly fees for the first year.
For banking that is always free, check out local credit unions as well as primarily online banks such as Tangerine or Simplii Financial. These alternatives may require Canadian ID (driver’s license or ID card) to sign up.
If you enter my ‘orange key’ – 52249338S1 – when signing up for Tangerine, you’ll receive an extra $25 ($50 if they have a promotion running!) into your account with your first $100 deposit.
The cities will have many branches of the so-called ‘big 5’ banks (CIBC, RBC, BMO, Scotiabank and TD) but smaller Canadian towns may only have one or two of these. If your final working holiday destination is not the city you arrived in, check what branches are available in your new town.
There is usually a fee for using an ATM not owned by your bank, so choosing the wrong account can be a costly mistake!
3. Set up a new cell phone plan
The big three cell service providers in Canada are Telus, Bell, and Rogers. There are a handful of other providers (Koodo, Fido, Chat-R) who are ‘child’ companies of the three major players and a few independents (Freedom Mobile).
Most providers have their own standalone store (or mall booth), while others can be found within electronic stores such as Best Buy.
When choosing a cell phone provider, first make sure they cover the area where you plan to live and travel. For example, Freedom Mobile (Canada’s fourth largest provider) has very limited coverage outside of Canada’s main cities.
Before making a decision, speak to a few different providers. I personally use Koodo as they have flexible plans and have good signal almost everywhere in Canada. Use this link before you sign up with them and you’ll get a discount.
Cell phone plan options in Canada
- Pay as you go – Only pay for what you use. Bring your own cell phone or purchase a new one upfront.
- Monthly no-fixed term contract – A no commitment plan for a certain amount of minutes/texts/data every month. Bring your own cell phone or pay an additional fee every month for a new one.
- Long term contract – A plan up to 2 years in length, with a fixed amount of minutes/texts/data every month. New phone usually included.
4. Apply for Canadian ID (optional)
It is useful to have Canadian ID while living in Canada, and not just for buying booze! If you plan to buy a vehicle or drive while in Canada, you can solve two problems at once by applying for a local driver’s license.
Some countries have reciprocal agreements with Canada which allows the process to be a simple swap.
Most provinces and territories also have an ID card program for non-drivers.
Keep in mind
Driver’s licenses and ID cards are issued provincially so the rules and regulations in Vancouver (BC) will be different to Toronto (Ontario).
Some provinces and territories require substantial residency proof (utility bills, tenancy agreement etc) while others just ask for an address to put on file.
5. Search for accommodation and work
Finding accommodation and work are likely to be your biggest challenges while on a working holiday in Canada. Starting to look on your first day is definitely not wasted time!
At the very least, keep an eye out for work and job adverts while exploring the city. Something important to keep in mind is the fact that most rental tenancies start on the 1st of the month.
Padmapper is my go-to website for finding accommodation rentals in Canada.
A busy first day of your working holiday in Canada
If you managed all of that on your first day of your working holiday in Canada, buy yourself a Caesar or Canadian craft beer to celebrate!
Now is the time to chill out a little and explore your new home. Take a break from the accommodation and work search for a few hours and go enjoy Canada!
Reading this before leaving for Canada for your working holiday? Remember to buy travel insurance for the length of your intended working holiday – it is a requirement of the IEC program!
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