You are ecstatic having received your Permanent Resident visa to Canada and have bright dreams in your eyes. This exuberance is somewhat tempered on account of so many unknown things that you have to tackle and what if's to land. Some of the Immigrants are extremely brave to resign and sell their existing possessions in their home country but are apprehensive whether their first landing shall go as planned. Here is a little account of my experience of landing in Canada at the Toronto Pearson International Airport and the experiences of few others that I know. To keep it a bit more systematic, I would like to categorize this post into two important elements: Preparation for arrival and actual arrival.
Preparation for arrival/landing
Flights: I am a bit particular about the hospitality that you get in flights as well as apprehensive of long duration flights. As much as I wish I could afford that business class seat, hitting the realities, some of us need to plan well in order to secure a comfy ride in economic class. Try to get yourself a direct flight (Delhi to Toronto) or one with a single stopover and overall travel time of 18-20 hours as beyond that it kind of gets a bit taxing on the body. Though Air Canada direct flight is good being a short flight, Emirates is an equally good option. Have heard good reviews about British Airways but no first hand experience. Try to avoid flights via Hong-Kong as the flight from Hong-Kong to Toronto takes a long time of almost 20 hours and sitting inside the cramped seating arrangements for such a long time can be quite frustrating. August to September is a rush time with a lot of students and tourists travelling to Canada from India and flights tend to become very very expensive during this time, if not booked in advance. If you are travelling during this time, try to book well in advance to save yourself some valuable cash.
Documents: There is not much clarity on the documents that you should bring for your planned landing as a Permanent Resident. I usually prefer to err on the side of caution but that's just my pain point.
- Proof of Funds: For proof of funds, the guiding principle should be being able to demonstrate minimum required funds and their instant availability. From past experiences, Immigration officers tend not to dwell or investigate the proof of funds questions a lot apart from a cursory questions like "How much funds are you carrying?". To be stumped and rejected admission due to lack of minimum required proof of funds especially when you have quit your job and said bye-bye to all your loved ones is a perfect plot for a nightmare. Frankly, I am yet to come across such a case so you may please reassure your nerves. But the onus is on you to plan it right. I brought a substantial portion of my funds on a Forex card and some part in cash. I also bought a Bank Certificate stating the amount of funds in CAD, stamped and signed by an authorised bank official in my home country. Whether you should bring the minimum required funds in an extremely liquid format like hard cash or a forex card is a decision I leave to you. For get the official version please read this link: "Do I need to include proof of funds for express entry".
- Travel Documents: Carry your passport along with the Confirmation of Permanent Residence Form that you would have received with the PR Visa. If you are landing in a province that does not provide free healthcare coverage right from day one, get yourself insured. I would any day recommend Canadian banks for buying insurance having experienced their pro-active handling of cases. You can read more about understanding healthcare. You may also bring an extra set of PR Visa photographs that you can hand over to the immigration officer at the time of landing.
- Packing and Goods to follow: Immigration is an important milestone in life and moving with all your stuff in one go is sometimes not possible. You can bring rest of your goods in your subsequent trip or have them shipped to your Canadian address. Canadian Government allows to waive off any customs duty or tax on them if you declare the list of goods that will follow in a form. Please have this form ready and you will only be allowed to submit such a list, the first time you do your official landing. Please read this Form B4-Goods to Follow link to get more useful details.
- Employment: I also bought a copy of some of the important documents like my educational qualifications, past employment letters, WES Evaluation and IELTS Score result sheet. You can also bring some reference letters.
- Driving License, Experience Letter, International Driver's permit: Remember to bring your original driving license (which should be a smart card) and your Driving Experience Letter or Extract. Read how to apply for Driving License in Ontario and how to get your extract letter. Get an International Driver''s permit in case you plan to drive in Canada right from day one.
Medicines: Since a lot of people land in Toronto where healthcare is not free till you spend some time here, you may want to bring your medicines. Medicines anyway are not free and you need to pay to buy them even with free healthcare coverage. Getting a prescription here is quite difficult and an expensive proposition. So buy the medicines that you might need for a couple of months and get a prescription for them. You shall be required to produce the prescription letter for the medicines to be officially allowed.
Miscellaneous stuff: Get a Travel adapter that works in Canada, have a credit card that allows international transactions (better inform the credit card company well in advance so that your card does not get blocked). In case you are landing during winters, get your warmest jacket along with the warmest accessories as temperature during winters can be as low as -35 Celsius degree. Plan well in ahead by looking at weather channels to see what kind of weather you would be facing once you land.
You can avail free in-person and online pre-arrival services sponsored by the Government. For more details and to check if you are eligible please visit this official link.
CoPR stamping and application for PR Card: Once you land, you would have to complete the customary immigration checks for international travelers. After immigration, be careful and look out for signs marked for travelers who are doing their first landing as a permanent resident. This is where your COPR will be checked and stamped. The immigration officer might ask you some questions like the amount of proof of funds and if this is a temporary landing. In case you say it is a temporary one, the Officer may decide not to file your landing as a permanent resident since your intention is to stay "temporarily". There are different views on this but I had a friend who was almost rejected a PR status due to this reason. He was making his first landing by driving in his own vehicle from the US.
You shall also be asked about the address at which you want your PR card to be mailed. Please note that PR Card arrivals takes almost 3 months (Check current processing times here). In case your stay address is temporary, you have the option of calling Canadian Immigration Agency (CIC Client Support Centre at 1-888-242-2100 from within Canada) or changing your address using a web link. Please read this official link Change my address. A PR card has your photo on it and that's why you have to submit a photograph during landing. When I had landed, a large number of PR cards were getting delayed as the photos submitted were getting rejected due to lack of conformity with guidelines. Remember, in case your photographs are rejected, it can almost add 3 more months of wait time for you to get your PR Card. I chose to submit an extra set of photographs during my landing, just in case my original got rejected. I did not do so for my wife and her first set of photographs was rejected leading to a 3 month delay in getting her PR Card. There is no need to worry in case of a delay if you have to travel outside Canada and don't have your PR Card yet as you can file for a PR Travel Document (PRTD) at the designated local Visa processing centre. In case you are doing a soft landing, you may prefer to ask someone in your network to physically bring your PR Card to you instead of a courier service. There are some accounts that I read online wherein someone's courier was confiscated as PR card is a extremely critical document of identity leading to a complicated situation. Please not I don't have any first hand account or experience on this. You may read more on Applying for Permanent Resident Travel Document. The stamped COPR at landing is an important determinant of your status as a Permanent Resident of Canada and please be careful in storing it.
Apply for SIN: Social Insurance Number is a critical part of your Canadian identity as the code reflects your status as a Permanent Resident. All employers are required to ask your SIN before giving you employment and maintain a record. The immigration officer may direct you to the counters where you can apply for a SIN and you shall be instantly given the coveted number. Memorize/Store the number carefully. Read this official link to know more about Social Insurance Number.
Applying for your Health Card: Permanent Residents are protected by a free healthcare plan by the Provincial Governments. Your status of availing such healthcare services requires a provincial health card number like the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). But the protection only kicks in once you have been physically present in Ontario for 153 days of the first 183 days immediately after establishing residency in the province. Though you can apply for OHIP Card immediately after landing but you will be given a OHIP number and card only after your eligibility is fulfilled. Read more about the documents and eligibility for OHIP. Read here to understand the Canadian Healthcare System.
Cost of healthcare is prohibitively expensive for those not covered by this government protection and hence it is very strongly recommended that you purchase a suitable insurance plan even before boarding your flight to Canada.
And you are done!! Relax as you come out of the airport all set.
Airport to residence: There are a lot of options to travel from the airport to your designated place of stay in Toronto and it depends on your personal circumstances. Read this article to understand transportation in Toronto. To plan in advance, Google map has an option where you can find the available modes of transportation as per your landing time. So in case you are landing at midnight, you can use this option to look at available public transportation options. Some of the travel options can be:
- Uber: In case you have a lot of luggage with you, you need to book UberXL or other taxis. Goes without saying that it is an expensive mode of travel. Toronto Pearson Airport has a free wifi service and you can simply connect to them to book one. I had an android phone but even after connecting to the wi-fi I was not getting access to the internet. The problem was that just after connecting to the airport wi-fi, a browser should open where you have to accept the Terms and Conditions. When I used Chrome browser to open the Terms and Conditions page, it was not showing up due to security related issues. But when I used the default Samsung browser, Terms and Conditions check box was displayed and I opted in and could use the internet.
- UP Pearson Express Train: There is a also train service from Toronto Airport to Union Station (hub of train travel at Toronto) called UP Express. with an adult fare of $12.35. The train will leave you at Union Station and you should plan your next mode of transport from there accordingly.
- Public Transit: There are Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) bus services from the Airport to the City. It is most economical option with fares as low as $3.25. But the frequency of these buses are low and a lot of changing of buses may be required for you to reach your eventual destination. In case you are determined to save some money, please spend some time researching very well on public transit and especially TTC. I shall cover a detailed article on TTC later.
- Self-driving: In case you have your International Driving License permit, you can rightaway rent your car at the airport and drive. You may be able to do that with your home country driving license as well. But please know that traffic rules in Canada are vastly different from a country like India and I would highly recommend not to take this option unless you have some experience under the belt. Vehicles are driven on the right side of the road with their steering wheel on the left hand side.
I hope this article is useful to you and helps assuage some of your nerves and plan your landing ahead.
Thanks for reading.