Your financial checklist as a newcomer to Canada

If you’re new to Canada, you’re not alone. Just under a half million people immigrate to Canada each year. And there are lots of things to get used to—besides the snow! Every country handles finances differently, from healthcare to taxes to retirement. Here are a few tips on managing your new financial situation.

Welcome to Canada!

Now fill in a bunch of forms.

Isn’t that how it feels? Unfortunately, getting your life set up in a new country requires applying, registering, joining, and signing up for a lot of things, such as:

  • Legal and immigration status
  • Healthcare
  • Bank accounts and savings plans

We'll help you start to become familiar with some of the critical financial steps to take as you settle into life in Canada. 

1 Getting a Social Insurance Number

In order to get a job, a bank account, government programs and services, and many other of life's necessities, you'll need to register with the government and get a Social Insurance Number (SIN). This is similar to the Social Security Number in the United States, Resident Identity Card in China, and Aadhaar number in India.

2 Healthcare—because what's more important than your health?

Getting signed up for Canada’s healthcare system is probably a good thing to prioritize. The good news is that as a landed immigrant in the country, you have access to the same public healthcare coverage as permanent residents.

The Government of Canada also lays out the basics for you on its website. The laws do vary from province to province (not just for healthcare, but for a lot of things), so it’s best to look into what’s offered in your province, as well.

3 Retirement and savings plans

Every country has a different system for helping people to fund their retirement years. In Canada, you'll receive some retirement benefits from the government, but you'll also likely need to supplement that with your own savings. Fortunately, there are a few kinds of savings plans you can get that allow you to invest and to gain some tax benefits while you save, not only for retirement, but also for a house and for your child's education:

Type of plan

What’s it for?

Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP)

Save money for you and your spouse’s retirement. Plus, contributions can be used to reduce taxes.

Tax-free savings account (TFSA)

Add, remove and invest a set amount in this account without being taxed when your investments grow, or you remove money.

First home savings account (FHSA)

Save a set amount for buying your first home, tax-free.

Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP)

Save for your child’s post-high school education and receive government contributions.

You can get one of these plans on your own, but many employers offer these same plans as group plans, making it even easier for you to save. Your employer might also offer you access to a financial advisor, which is a valuable benefit. A financial advisor can explain all these new programs, as well as helping you understand the Canadian way of doing things, how to manage your finances, and how to choose the investments in your savings plan.

4 Taxes

As a Canadian resident you'll have to pay taxes. You'll not only pay taxes through your paycheck, you'll also have to file a tax return for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) every year and fill in some financial details to see if you've paid too much—or not enough.

The Government of Canada has a dedicated section of its website with what you need to know as a newcomer to the country. The website provides you with some helpful information:

  • Who newcomers to Canada are
  • What money you could get from the CRA
  • When you need to do your taxes
  • Free tax help available from the CRA
  • Be aware of tax scams
  • Learn about Canadian taxes

If you have access to a financial advisor, they can also help you understand the taxes you pay and how to file.

5 Opening a bank account and credit card

You’ll need to open a bank account and apply for a credit card in order to pay bills, receive a pay cheque, and begin establishing a credit history. Your credit history is an important part of your credit score, a tool that helps determine if you’re able to receive a loan or mortgage, along with the interest rate for repayment.

You can open a new account at a bank and apply for a credit card, even if you don’t have a job yet. Just be sure to ask about fees and penalties.

How to open a bank account

A few tips for getting settled in your new home

Moving to a new country is a big step—full of excitement, adventure, and undoubtedly, some uncertainty. Understanding how government programs, healthcare, retirement, and taxes work is another big step that can help you feel more comfortable in your new home.

Of course, you’re not expected to understand everything right away. Even people with decades in the country have trouble keeping up with the latest financial updates. If you're a member of a Manulife group plan, you have access to a Manulife PlanRight® advisor who can help you understand the financial system in Canada, your responsibilities and how to make the most of what’s offered.

As a newcomer, they can help you and your family make financial decisions based on your specific goals, needs and plans for the future. Your advisor will explain anything unfamiliar, highlight what’s important, and connect it all to what matters—using language that's straightforward and easy to understand. Schedule your first meeting today.

The commentary in this publication is for general information only and should not be considered legal, financial, or tax advice to any party. Individuals should seek the advice of professionals to ensure that any action taken with respect to this information is appropriate to their specific situation.