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To DOs for Your First Month as an International Student in Canada

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Canada remains a sought-after destination for global scholars due to its exceptional education quality, relatively affordable tuition fees, the chance to work during studies, and the pathways to immigration after graduation.

Recent data from the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reveals that by December 31st, 2022, the count of international students holding valid study permits had reached an unprecedented 807,750.

With a wave of additional students expected to land in Canada for the upcoming fall semester,  we have meticulously crafted this handbook to aid international students in navigating their first month in Canada’s educational landscape.

Want to study in Canada and need help figuring out where to start? We’ve got you covered. In Green Light Canada, our professional immigration consultants are ready to assist you every step of the way. Fill out our Free Assessment Form now, and we’ll contact you for an initial consultation.

Accommodation and Housing

While numerous international students can find lodging through their Designated Learning Institution (DLI)—the exclusive authorized educational body in Canada for international students—many will need to search for housing near their university or college campuses.

A highly beneficial resource for international students is their respective educational institution’s housing portal. Typically, these online bulletin boards are maintained by schools, enabling students, faculty, and authorized users to post advertisements for various rental properties.

Alongside school-provided assistance, international students can explore rental options on popular social media and classifieds websites, including:

  • Kijiji: Canada’s premier classifieds site offers a range of rental listings that users can tailor to specific regions
  • Facebook Marketplace: Similar to Kijiji, this platform offers greater transparency between users due to its integration with Facebook.
  • Realtor.ca: A well-known website for rentals and real estate purchases, Realtor.ca showcases listings from various sources, granting insights comparable to those of real estate agents. Users can also directly contact agents and rental companies.
  • Hiring a Realtor: Although pricier, enlisting a realtor can alleviate the stress of house hunting. It’s important to note that realtors only receive payment upon finalizing a successful rental agreement or purchase. This means you shouldn’t incur realtor fees during your property search.

Keep in mind that landlords often prefer year-long leases, particularly when they’re unfamiliar with the tenant. Furthermore, a credit score is typically requested to evaluate rent-paying capabilities. However, international students without a Canadian credit history can find solutions, such as having a trustworthy individual in Canada co-sign or act as a guarantor. Additionally, prospective tenants can offer a larger deposit (usually the first and last month’s rent), which might substitute for a credit history based on the landlord’s preferences.

When searching for off-campus housing, commuting convenience is a significant factor for international students. Apps like Transit and online tools such as Google can be invaluable in understanding potential residential transportation options.

Financial Banking

Upon your arrival in Canada, it’s crucial to promptly establish a bank account for your daily expenses, bill payments, and potential work during your studies.

In Canada, various banks, credit unions, and international banking options are available across major cities, all offering comparable service quality. Selecting the right bank depends on your preferences, though Canadian banks generally deliver similar standards.

To open a bank account as a newcomer, you’ll generally need specific forms of identification, which vary between banks. Commonly, international students should present the following:

  • Study permit
  • Passport (with student visa)
  • Student identification
  • Letter of Acceptance from your Designated Learning Institution (DLI)
  • Proof of residence
  • Central Canadian banks typically provide tailored banking packages for both newcomers and students.

Consider acquiring a credit card as well. These cards provide financial security, spending tracking, and credit-building opportunities. Credit is significant in Canada, influencing approval for substantial or recurring purchases like mortgages, rentals, and phone plans. Many financial institutions extend specialized cards and offer them to international students and newcomers with limited incomes and credit histories.

Ready to continue your studies in Canada? You’ve come to the right place. We’re here to help you pave the way through your visa. Fill out our Free Assessment Form now, and our professional immigration consultants will get back to you.

Mobile Communication

Numerous international students opt for a local cell phone number to maintain connections with friends and family.

Cell phone plan costs differ based on plan duration and inclusions, often featuring student-specific offers. Factors like device inclusion, call minutes, and data are essential when selecting a plan. International students might require plans with international call options.

Typically, new plans are arranged during purchase, whether at stores, kiosks, or airports. You can secure a plan online via a service provider if you have an appropriate credit history.

Students without a Canadian credit history might face eligibility hurdles for post-paid plans with certain carriers. However, some providers conduct international credit checks for post-paid plans. In the absence of credit history, international students can choose prepaid plans.

Acquiring a Social Insurance Number (SIN)

A Social Insurance Number (SIN), a nine-digit code, is essential for employment and accessing government programs and benefits in Canada. Obtaining a Canadian SIN offers several avenues.

An efficient choice is an online application via the e SIN portal, providing a secure space to submit your SIN application and digital document copies.

Alternatively, in-person applications are available. Service Canada holds SIN clinics at educational institutions or community organizations. If online or clinic options are inaccessible, scheduling a Service Canada Centre appointment with the necessary documents is an option.

Alternatively, you can mail completed SIN application form and required documents to the Social Insurance Registration Office.

Once processed, Service Canada furnishes a paper confirmation containing your SIN number.

Office Hours

Frequently overlooked, engaging with professors and school staff during office hours is an underappreciated facet of higher education.

These designated hours offer more than just a chance to introduce yourself; they present invaluable prospects to engage with an experienced expert in your field one-on-one. While schedules and demand can lead to potential crowding, the time invested often brings rewards, encompassing casual conversations to comprehensive assistance with course-related matters.

Student Support

Depending on your educational institution, various support services are available exclusively for international students through Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs).

Your school’s international education center or equivalent international student office provides various resources, from language training to housing assistance and special international student events. Moreover, these centers often link to other school departments offering additional aid.

For instance, your school’s career center can be invaluable. Given that international students can work unrestricted hours until the end of 2023, career centers can offer aid with resume building, mock interviews, networking events, and more.

Early acquisition of your student identification card is recommended. This facilitates the school registration process and can grant you benefits at external stores, such as preferential pricing and unique plans. A famous example is the SPC Card program, which provides access to discounts at numerous stores spanning various shopping categories when coupled with a student ID.

Many schools initiate a club week at the beginning of the academic year. Unlike traditional first-year orientations, this week showcases all school clubs, attracting potential new members and enabling individuals to find like-minded groups. Whether it’s a cultural club uniting people from similar countries, a fandom, or a hobby-based club, club week is an excellent opportunity to forge new friendships and establish connections.

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