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Useful Facts For Newcomers To Vancouver British Columbia


CURRENCY: Coins - 1c. 5c. 10c. 25c. $1 $2; Bills - $5. $10. $20. $50. $100. $.1000

MEASUREMENT: Temperatures in Celsius - Distances in Kilometres - Weights in grams and kilograms - Liquids in millilitres and litres.

GOVERNMENTS: Municipal (or City), Provincial, Federal.

DOCUMENTS: Long before you leave collect:- birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage certs, separation or divorce papers, education diplomas/degrees, trade or professional papers/certs, drivers license, medical records, dental /optical prescriptions, references from employers, records of immunisation (particularly for children), copies of passports and at least 5 copies of Immigrant Visa.

FINANCE: You must have settlement funds of $10,000 per person plus $2000 per dependant.

Estimate of money required for four to six months after moving expenses paid:- 1 adult - $25,000, Couple $30,000, Couple with child under 10 - $33,000, over 10 - $35000. Add $1000 for each additional child under 10 and $2000 if over 10.

Rent (2 bedroom) - $900 Heat (if extra) - $75 Electricity - $65 Laundry - $35

Phone - $40 Medical Insurance -$100 TV - $40 Bus pass - $100 Entertainment - $200 Food - $600 Misc - $200. Total - $2355

LANDING: You may bring any personal property. Best to have receipts and serial numbers of any expensive items and a list of everything with brand names and serial numbers where possible.

Any prescription drugs in original packaging. Leave electrical stuff behind, Canada has 110 voltage and converters burn out quickly. Pal video cassettes will not play in Canada which uses the VHS system. No firearms, phone 1 800 731-4000 for more info.

Animals other than seeing eye dogs - Check with Canada Food Inspection Agency Import Service Centre Fax 604 541-3373 also at

ARRIVAL: Obtain street map, phone book and yellow pages. Obtain Social Security Insurance application form from Immigration Officer and take it in person to Human Resources Canada office. Find accommodation (see Renting). Choose a doctor and after three months apply for health card, (application forms available at doctor's office). Select a bank or Credit Union. Carry lots of change for buses ($1.75)and phone (25c.)

*Emergency phone is 911 (no charge) for police, fire, ambulance or resuscitation.*

Enrol children 5 - 16 in public or private school as soon as possible. Phone school board office to find out where. If children are under 18 file a tax form to receive Child Tax Benefit.

RENTING ACCOMMODATION: May be best to rent until you feel settled. Walk or drive around the area you are interested in, watching for signs "For Rent" Read newspaper classified ads, bulletin boards at Community Centres and Laundromats. Expect to pay a deposit to be deducted from first months rent and if you rent the suite you will have to put up a damage deposit to be returned when you vacate in good order. Get receipts for these deposits. Increases in rent can only be levied after 1 year of tenancy and can only be raised once a year there after. Privacy is provided by law and landlord can only enter with your permission or in an emergency. Some landlords require a one-year lease.

*PHONE: Phone Telus as soon as you have accommodation to have a phone installed; you will need it*. Unlimited local calls are included in the monthly fee, shop for competitive long distance rates. Don’t give out personal info or credit card numbers to tele-marketers.

GARBAGE: Usually picked up weekly by City, check day and details with neighbour or landlord. A recycling programme may be in effect. Most bottles and pop/beer cans are returnable for money.

CHILD DAY CARE: Available at licensed centres and cost ranges from $45 to $90 depending on age.

SCHOOL: 90% of children attend tax funded public schools. Private schools are available at some cost. Enrol children age 5 - 16 in school as soon as possible. Phone the School Board Office to find where. You will require birth certificates, immigration papers, health and any previous school records.

CHILD BENEFITS: For families earning less than $18,000 per year, BC Family Bonus pays up to $105 per month for each child under 18. If you earn over $18,000 the amount paid is reduced proportionately. Phone 604 669-7815

RENT: Rough guide, 1bedroom apartment - $700 month, 2bedrm - $900, 3bedrm $1000 up. Somewhat less as you move out of the City. An apartment or suite should have a cooking stove and refrigerator. Rent may or may not include light and heat, be sure to confirm. Pay extra for phone or TV cable.

FOOD PURCHASE: Prices will vary and should be displayed on each item or on the shelf. Large supermarkets are generally cheaper than small convenience or corner stores.

CONSUMERISM: It is against the law to fix prices with competitors therefore prices in stores will vary for the same item. It pays to shop around for larger items. Prices displayed however are usually firm except for cars and houses. Always assume a lower price for these than first quoted. Location is the key to house pricing, expect to pay at least $300,000 up in Vancouver declining slightly as you move outside the city.

*BANKS: Everyone has a bank or credit union account.* Select one near home or work. They offer chequing and saving accounts, credit and debit cards and automated banking machines. Try to pay off credit card balances each month as interest rates are high, A good credit rating is critical, work to build it up with major store credit cards. Major credit cards available from banks are Visa and MasterCard

INSURANCE: If you buy a home, your mortgage company will insist you insure it. It’s your decision whether you insure the contents and personal property though it's wise to.

*HEALTH: BC has a three-month residency requirement for medical coverage. Obtain medical insurance to cover this period.* Under age 65 prescription drugs are not covered by BC med. insurance up to $800 then they pay 75%. Eyes are covered for one test every two years. Routine dental care is not covered but dental surgery required due to accident, infection or congenital problems is. Many employers have group medical coverage for their employees.

EMPLOYMENT: Create a professional looking typed resume. This can be done for you by resume people (in yellow pages). You will need all credentials and references (leave copies only). Some professions will require Canadian certification which may take extra training to obtain. You will need a phone number. Sources of jobs are:- Canada Employment Centres, newspapers (Vancouver Sun Careers and Classified Ads), Internet (, also you can send a letter with your resume to companies in your field. Tell everyone you know or meet that you are looking. File resumes with employment agencies, check Internet, ie, Canada Human Resources Research your field at the library to obtain a North American feel for it.

EMPLOYMENT NOTES: After 1 year, employees are entitled to 1 day holiday with pay per month worked. In addition, BC has nine statutory holidays with pay or overtime in lieu. Employees are required to contribute to Employment Insurance (in case you become unemployed), Canada Pension Plan (for your old age), and your employer also pays Workers Compensation Insurance for work-related accidents.

INCOME TAX: Deducted by law by your employer if you make over $7000 per year. If you become self employed you should submit 25% of your estimated annual tax bill every three months to Canada Customs and Revenue using an instalment form.

DRIVING: A foreign license is valid for six months. You must carry this when you drive and produce it with vehicle registration and insurance for police. To obtain a Canadian license go to a Motor Vehicles Office, obtain a Rules of Road booklet and learn it to pass the written test. You will then have to pass a road driving test. Seat belts must be worn by all persons and the driver is responsible for this.

FRAUDS: It is usually advisable not to do business at your door or with unsolicited phone callers. Always avoid callers that say you have won money or prizes. Never call numbers unless you know who they are or hold long conversations with unknown people, you may receive a large long distance charge. Never dial any number at the request of an unknown caller.

Web site for General Information related to immigration procedures in Canada,

* Items marked by asterisks are considered to be important.*

This information is provided by the Society of St George of Greater Vancouver. We are volunteers offering free settlement information and advice to British immigrants.