Newcomers Survival Guide: Vancouver Edition

Newcomers Survival Guide: Vancouver Edition

Arriving in a new country is not always easy.  You can find yourself completely out of your comfort zone wondering where do I even start?  Newcomers to Canada, whether you come as a worker, Permanent Resident or an International Student in Canada, there are steps you must take to start your new experience in Canada. Here at Norteway we help you make your Canadian experience easier and hassle-free with our New Arrival Survival Guide: Vancouver Edition.

SIN (Social Insurance Number)

The Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a nine-digit number that you need to work in Canada or to have access to government programs and benefits. A SIN is issued to one person only and it cannot legally be used by anyone else. You are responsible for protecting your SIN.

How to apply. You must provide a valid primary document that proves your identity and legal status in Canada.

If the name indicated on your primary document is different than the name you are currently using, you must also provide supporting documents as Marriage certificate, Divorce certificate, Notarial certificate, etc.

 If you are applying for someone else, you may need to provide additional documents. Only are acceptable original copies, photocopies are not allow. If the documents are issued in a language different than English or France, you must provide a valid translation.

** The translation must have a legal declaration and signature issued by the Translator.

The SIN application doesn’t have any cost and you can do it by in person and in some cases, by email.

To apply for your SIN, to obtain a confirmation of your SIN or to amend your SIN record, simply gather all the required original documents and take them to the nearest Service Canada office. If everything is in order, you will get your SIN during your visit and you will not need to part with your documents.

More info at:

Source: Freepik

Bank Account

Opening a bank account in Canada is necessary to keep track of all your income and save for your future plans here.  Employers will require your bank account for direct deposit of your salary when you begin employment.  If you are working, very employers will pay your wages by cash.

In addition to being safer, it can be helpful you need to provide proof of your economic stability whether to rent a place to live, lease a car, get a cellphone, future visa applications, among others.

What documents do you need? If you are not a Canadian citizen, you will need the following documents to open a bank account:

Valid passport and your permanent resident card and/or immigration papers (temporary residence permit, study visa, work visa, permanent residence confirmation IMM5292 or IMM5688).

Each bank has specific requirements, so it is advisable to first approach the bank where you want to open the account to check the papers you need. In addition you can also schedule an appointment to be attended by an account executive who can help you.

More info at:

Source: Freepik

Health Insurance

All B.C residents, for 6 months or more (including international students), must enroll in Medical Service Plan (MSP).

MSP covers the cost of basic medical care in Canada, with most doctors and hospital services. In most cases, you will not have to pay for medical services when you show your BC Service Card. MSP does not cover dental care, prescription medications, eye care or corrective lenses, or travel. For a complete list of your medical and health care benefits, visit the MSP website

Where to apply. You can apply by online filling the available form at oficial MSP website, in person in the nearest ServiceBC office or by email.

**Norteway’s tips: If you are new to Canada, apply for MSP as soon as you arrive. Your coverage may start three months after your arrival date in British Columbia. You should get private health care insurance while you wait.

More info at:


As you have already seen, Metro Vancouver is very well connected in what is transportation.

With more than 1,800 square kilometers, Translink provides a wide range of services and programs for residents and businesses in the area. These include an extensive bus system throughout the region, SkyTrain rapid transit, SeaBus passenger ferries, West Coast Express train switches and HandyDART for passengers who cannot use conventional transport. In partnership with municipal partners, it also provides the main road network and a network of bicycle lanes that serve the different parts of the region.

To use this transport service you can buy a daily ticket or obtain a Compass card.

Source: Translink

What is Compass? It’s the rechargeable rate card that works everywhere in Metro Vancouver. It is convenient, easy to use and safe.

Where to buy it? You can buy a compass card in the following points:

  • Compass card vending machines located in: SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express stations, Terminals of BC Ferries Tsawwasen and Horseshoe Bay and 18 stores of London Drugs
  • Online at
  • Calling 604.398.2042
  • Compass customer service at Skytrain Stadium-Chinatown station
  • West Coast Express customer service, second floor, Waterfront station

Where to load? Compass Card online at, at a Compass vending machine or by phone at 604.398.2042

How much? The Compass card has a different price depending on how much you want to use it and how far you want to go. Check the prices at:

Norteway’s tips: Register your Compass card as soon as you buy it on the official Compass card page. So you can keep track of all your trips and in case of loss you can transfer your amount to another Compass card that is in your name.

More info at:

Source: Freepik


To activate your mobile phone, your phone must be unlocked for international use. If this is not the case, you can unblock it on specialized pages or by contacting the cell phone company in your country of origin where you purchased the device.

You can buy a SIM card with a Canadian phone number at any of the phone companies known as Telus, Bell Mobility, Rogers, Fido, Freedom, etc.

Then to add mobile data or balance for calls, will depend on what you deem appropriate. There are plans for all budgets and you can choose between signing up for an annual plan or paying monthly.

The documents required to hire a mobile phone plan will depend on the company you choose.

**Norteway’s Tip:  Be mindful of long-term contracts – most are 2 years with device balance penalties if you cancel early.  The contracts can provide you with a subsidized cost of the phone you want to activate, but if you cancel early, you may need to pay this subsidy or a portion back for breaking your contract.

Source: Freepik

Driver’s License

After moving to Canada, you must switch your foreign Driver’s License to a valid B.C Driver’s License within 90 days.  International students, tourists staying for up to 6 months and some foreign workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program are exempt from this 90-day requirement.

Your current driving record from home should prove at least two years of driving experience, otherwise you will need to enter the graduated licensing program with restrictions.

Depending on where you are from, you may need to take a knowledge and road test.

For more information on Driver’s Licensing, refer to

I hope these information will help you and make it much easier for you to arrive in Canada.

If there is a topic that you think can be added to this guide, write it on the comments and we will include it in future posts!

If you would like to come to study, work, live, travel to Canada, contact us today.

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