The before-departure preparation is not to be taken lightly when it comes to immigration. Good planning can make the difference for you and your family. Here is some information that will o help you prepare as best as possible before your departure to British Columbia.
Advice 01Know your future province
It is strongly advised to explore tourist sites to collect general information on the province such as the climate, geography, tourist attractions, important cities, history, etc. For tourist information in French, visit www.tourisme-cb.com.
Advice 02Job opportunities
Learn about job opportunities in the province. Consult our page on employment to see how we can help you on this subject.
Advice 03Steps on settling in in British Columbia
For steps on settling in in British Columbia, you will need official documents translated into English. It is preferable to obtain a sworn translation of them in your country of origin in order to avoid significant expenses in Canada. Here are certain types of important documents to translate into English:
- Birth certificate or deed
- Driver’s licence
- Marriage certificate
- Diplomas and certificates
- Recommendation letters, if necessary (employment reference letters which can be useful for your future recruiting)
- Vaccination report
Advice 04Your accommodation
Think in advance about your temporary accommodation. It will put your mind at ease upon your arrival. Indeed, it could take several days to find permanent housing that suits you.
Check our housing section to learn more.
Advice 05Think about purchasing some Canadian Dollars
Think about purchasing some Canadian Dollars to pay for your first purchases. Note that it is possible to exchange money at the airport, at lare city centres and in banks.
Check our money and finances section to learn more.
Advice 06Practise your English
Practise your English. You will be able to take language courses once you’ve settled in.
Check our education section to learn more.
At the airport
At the International Vancouver Airport, there is a reception service for new immigrants which is inside the immigration zone in Canada. It's called Community Airport Newcomers' Network (CANN). You will be able to obtain basic information there on the various services that you will need to get settled in in Canada.
For more information, visit the CAAN website.
Reception and support in French
Horizon British Columbia welcomes you and directs you in French to answer all your questions about your status in Canada, housing, employment, health, education, community life, and more. Contact us as today to set up an appointment with our advisors.
Check our housing section for advice for temporary or permanent housing.
The Medical Services Plan (MSP)
You should apply for your MSP as soon as you arrive in British Columbia. These procedures take time (approximately three months), which is why it's important to get started as soon as possible.
For more information on this subject:
Enroll your children in school as soon as possible. Note that it is not necessary to wait to have permanent residence to do it. If you arrive after the start of the school year, you will have to hurry with the process so that your children miss as few classes as possible.
Check our education section to learn more.
The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) is a monthly social security benefit provided to families for children under 18 years old. Several conditions apply.
For more information on the Canada Revenue Agency, please call 1-800 387-1194 (toll free) or visit its website.
Resource and services guide for newcomers
A resource and services guide to newcomers in British Columbia is published by the provincial government in French. This guide provides information on the various centres that provide assistance to newcomers, such as MOSAIC or ISS off BC, which offers a wide range of services to immigrants. Whether you are looking forinformation on language courses, job search or translation services, they can provide you invaluable assistance as you settle in.
03Money and finances
Be aware of
To provide for your needs during the first months of your arrival in Canada, you will probably bring money with you. However, initial expenses can be numerous when the time comes to finding housing and buying household items. It will be important to be careful with your money and to understand how to handle your finances as in Canada.
Canadian currency is the Canadian dollar (CAD). It exists in coins and bills. Any monetary instrument (bank shares, securities, drafts, cheques) or money in cash of a value equal to or more than $10,000 CAD (or the equivalent in foreign currencies) must be declared with the Canada Border Services Agency on your arrival to Canada.
There are three types of financial institutions where you can open an account: banks, savings banks and trust companies. Banks and trust companies are established throughout Canada.
Mutual savings are generally local, as it is the case for Desjardins for Quebec and Vancity for British Columbia.
Four types of accounts are generally used: chequing accounts (or current accounts), savings accounts, chequing-savings accounts and term investment accounts.
Many Canadians handle their banking operations by telephone, online and on their smartphones, without going to the branch.
Banks and currency exchange outlets make it possible to send money to most countries. Check with each banking institution on the countries they serve and fees requested.
Taxes and tax returns
In Canada, governments receive taxes and tax returns, of which a part is used to finance services to the population. Thus, in addition to withholding tax, you must pay provincial taxation of many products and services you buy. These are added to the price shown.
On the other hand, aid programs exist to provide financial support to families with children and with moderate income, or even unemployed people. Visit immigrant assistance services in your location to know more about these aid programs.
Before coming to Canada, you should purchase some Canadian dollars.. This money could, for example, help you pay your transportation and food needs during the trip.
Learn about credit card user fees, if you have one from your country of origin.
Obtaining a credit card without a Canadian credit history may be complicated. Obtain information on how secure cards from financial institutions.
You should open a bank account as soon as you are able to when you arrive in British Columbia.
Before choosing a financial institution, learn about the various types of accounts offered as well as related service fees and interest rates.
Declare in writing (by filling out the declaration letter which will be given to you on your flight to Canada) or verbally to a border service agent the money that you have when you arrive in Canada.
Public and private education institutions in British Columbia offer French and English courses. Enroll your children in school as soon as possible after you arrive in Canada. It is not necessary to wait to have permanent residence to complete the enrollment process.
School in French
In Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensures that French-speaking parents have since 1982 the right to educate their children in their mother tongue. Two types of programs are available in the public schools of British Columbia: the French-speaking program and the French immersion program. These programs are free and generally benefit from a transportation service.
The French-speaking program
- Teaching is done entirely in French
- English courses are generally offered from 4th grade onwards.
For more information on the conditions of eligibility and to obtain the list of the French-speaking schools, contact the British Columbia Francophone School Board.
French immersion program
This program offers some courses in French. The number of courses in French varies according to establishments. The objective of this program is to teach French as a second language.
To obtain the list of the schools offering French immersion programs and the different options available for you, visit the various school districts.
The French International School of Vancouver offers a course of studies in French, from kindergarten to high school, which meets the standards of France's Ministry of Education.
Elementary and secondary school
In British Columbia, school is mandatory for children aged 5 to 16. There are two levels of education:
-Elementary (from kindergarten to grade 7)
-Secondary (from grade 8 to grade 12)
Children can go to kindergarten as of age 5.
Those under five,, can be enrolled in pre-kindergarten. The list of francophone pre-kindergartens is available at British Columbia Federation of French-Speaking Parents. Please note that pre-kindergartens aren't free.
In specific cases where children cannot attend regular schools due to disease or because they live too far away, certain francophone schools offer distance education programs. Contact the British Columbia Francophone School Board for more information.
Distance courses as well as an educational service, from high school to college levels, is also offered by Éducacentre College.
Post-secondary level (colleges and universities)
Post-secondary level establishments offer French programs. You can contact the institutions directly to learn more about their programs and courses.
Simon Fraser University (SFU) offers some French courses in the level of higher education or professional education. Please contact the Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs of the university SFU (BAFF) for more details on their Frenc language programs.
Educacentre College is an option if you are interested in continuing your studies in French. The centre also offers language courses, hotel, computer programming, first aid, and more.
It is recommended that you have a good command of the English language if you wish to settle in British Columbia..
LINC Program (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) is an English training program for immigrants (born outside Canada). These adult courses for are free and target the oral and written learning of English while focusing on acquiring essential knowledge for a newcomer: healthcare, housing, work, banking s, legal and political system, as well as other aspects of Canadian society.
To complete a placement test or for further information on courses, contact:
For residents of Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Richmond, South Delta, Burnaby and New Westminster:
Western ESL Services
LINC Assessment and Referral Centre
208 – 2525, Commercial Drive
Vancouver (B.C.) V5N 4C1
Tel.: (604) 876-5756
Fax: (604) 876-0134
For residents of Surrey, North Delta, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Maple Ridge and Fraser Valley:
Surrey Language Assessment Centre
LINC Assessment and Referral Centre
202 – 7337, 137th Street
Surrey (B.C.) V3W 1A4
Tel.: (604) 507-4150
Fax: (604) 507-4155
Éducacentre College offers a LINC program. For more information, visit their Website or call the toll free number 1-800-747-4825.
It is sometimes necessary to resume studies to acquire new knowledge or to improve the knowledge you already have. These continuing education courses are often offered part-time, allowing students to work at the same time.
- Éducacentre College offers training courses and professional development courses.
- Courses are offered in English through the “Open Learning Agencies” or via “School District Adult Learning Centres”.
- You can contact the universities and colleges of the province directly to find out more about their continuing education programs.
School fees and financial assistance
Elementary and secondary public schools are free. Colleges, institutes and universities are paid.
People who do not have the financial means to pay for tuition fees can request student loans from the government or benefit from certain aid programs.
Contact the financial assistance office of the school institution you will be attending or British Columbia's Ministry of education to obtain information specific to your situation.
Other available aid programs:
- Provincial financial assistance programs d for students of Canadian citizenship, protected persons, and for permanent residents
- British Columbia subsidies
- Scholarships or research grants funded by private companies, banks or individuals.
Looking for housing
The search for housing can sometimes be a headache for newcomers, but several resources exist in order to promptly help you find a place that suits your needs as well as your budget.
At the start of your search, you will notice that many abbreviations are used to describe residential specifications. Here are some examples of the abbreviations used:
- Apts = apartments | apartments
- t/h = town house | maison de ville
- bst = basement | sous-sol
- br = bedrooms | chambres à coucher
- n/p = no pets | pas d’animaux
- n/s = no smoking | non-fumeur
- refs. = references | demande de références
- appls = appliances | appareils ménagers fournis
- inc. utils = utilities included | utilités comprises (chauffage, eau, électricité)
- d/w = dryer and washer | sèche-linge et lave-linge
Several residence advertisements are in the “Classified Ads / Property Rental” section of several newspapers and Internet websites.
Newspapers to check: Georgia Straight, Vancouver Sun, The Province and the newspaper of your municipality.
Websites to check: Craigslist, Kijiji and Used Victoria (for Victoria only).
It is important to verify that the advertisements are realistic and well documented (detailed descriptions, photographs) before starting any actions with the owners.
After having spotted a location you like, make sure that it aligns with your financial situation.
When visiting various residential establishments, find out about the amount relating to charges, or utilities. This amount may or may not be included in the rent amount. If these utility charges are not included in your rent, you will have to contact the relevant companies to arrange for your connection to gas, hydro (electricity), water, etc. You may also have to pay the related connection charges. As such, the real cost of your housing will be higher than what is posted online.
Main companies used:
- B.C. Hydro and Terasen for heating and electricity
- Telus or Shaw for telephone lines, internet connection and television
When you have found your ideal home, you will have to wire a security or damage deposit. This amount should not exceed half of the monthly rental amount.
This deposit is a guarantee that allows the owner to cover any expenses of possible damage or breakage in the residence. If you leave the residence and it is in the same state that it was in upon your arrival, the owner will refund you this amount or will deduct it from your last month’s rent of your lease.
Pay one month in advance?
You will also have to sign a lease agreement. In Canada, this contract is called Tenancy Agreement. It is the contract you sign with the owner when you rent a home. It indicates, in writing, the rules of the lease as well as the responsibilities and the rights of the two parties. You can sign a lease at any time during the year.
- If you wish to change housing, you must give a one month notice to the owner and cancel your telephone, gas, etc. subscriptions and/or transfer them to your new address. ??? 2 months, right? Unless having completed a year in the residence
- You are expected to clean the house and return it in the same state that you received it in. Otherwise, the security deposit you wired won't be able to be refunded back to you.
- The post office offers a service thanks to which you can have your mail go to your new address by changing your address at the post office, provided you pay certain expenses, if you want your mail to be sent to your new address.
Your housing rights and responsibilities
When you rent an apartment or a house, it is important to know your rights and responsibilities in order to benefit from everything to which you are entitled and avoid confrontations with the owner.
HYPERLINK "http://www.bchousing.org/"BC Housing Management Commission regulates housing standards. Call 1-800 257-7756 toll free to speak with an agent (tip: you can wait for the end of the greeting message and request the service in French).
In Canada, you cannot be refused housing because of your ethnic origin, skin colour, age, birthplace, religion, sex, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, handicap status or income. On the other hand, an owner may not grant you housing if you smoke or if you have pets.
For more information on your rights as a tenant, consult the HYPERLINK "http://www.tenants.bc.ca/factsheets/French%2520TSG.pdf"Tenant's survival guide.
If you think you're being victim of discrimination, contact:
- Tenant’s Right Action Coalition: 1-800 665-1185 (English service)
- B.C. Human Rights Coalition: 1-877 689-8474 (English service)
- B.C. Human Rights Tribunal: 1-888 440-8844
Finally, know that the owner does not have the right to enter your residence without your agreement (unless it's an emergency). The owner must provide you with a 24-hour advanced notice.
- In case of litigation you can contact the legal assistance service (in English) The Legal Services Society at (604) the 601-6100 or on http://www.lss.bc.ca/.
- Upon signing the lease agreement, make sure that the owner provides you with a number to call if you need emergency repairs.
- The owner must pay for repair expenses, except if the damage is caused by the tenant.
It is advised to tenant insurance to protect your assets (furniture, jewels, electronic devices, etc.)
To meet with an insurance advisor, visit:
- IBABC (Insurance Brokers Association of B.C.)
- The Directory of French services, to find a francophone insurance advisor
Living in Vancouver
Rent and real estate prices in Vancouver can astonish anyone. Indeed, Vancouver is one of Canada’s most expensive cities in which to live. Here are some tips for finding relatively affordable housing in the area.
- The most expensive districts are the downtown area (downtown), Yaletown, Gastown, Coal Harbour, West-End, Kitsilano and Shaughnessy. It is still however possible to find bargains in these highly-demanded districts.
- All of Greater Vancouver (i.e. Vancouver and its suburbs) is served by an effective public transit system, facilitating the movement suburban residents.
- Neighbourhoods are less expensive if they are far away from the downtown area. This is why the suburbs of Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey and Coquitlam generally offer more affordable housing options.
- To reduce your rent expenses, think about sharing accommodation. Advertisements websites like Craigslist and Kijiji list people searching for roommates under the rooms or shared housing sections.
Finding employment is an important stage for all newcomers. There are several ways to find work. You should think about what type of employment for which you would like to apply prior to your arrival in Canada. Look for companies which interest you and start building a professional network on social media, like LinkedIn.
The job search
- Find an interesting job offer
- Prepare a cover letter and a custom resume.
- Send in your application, usually by email or through an online system.
- The employer selects candidates for an interview.
- Meet the employer for the job interview.
- A second interview is sometimes necessary.
- The employer often asks for the contact details of 3 people to act as personal references.
- The employer selects the candidate. The majority of employers will notify all candidates whom they interviewed of their decision.
Where to look
- In companies and organizations that interest you
- Online employment websites
- Employment fairs
- Small advertisements section in newspapers
Useful tip: volunteering, largely beneficial
To improve your English or French
To have local references
To acquire professional experience in British Columbia
Networking is essential
- 80% of job openings are not posted publicly: it is the secret employment market. Networking helps you to reach these positions.
- Participate in events organized by the sector association of your field
- Follow the companies and associations of your sector on social media.
- Set up professional information appointments with people of your field.
- Make business cards.
Who can help me?
We can guide you in your search for employment. Work BC can also guide you.
- Upon your arrival, go to the Service Canada office to obtain your Social Security number (mandatory to work).
- You need to be able to communicate effectively in English to have a job interview.
- Knowing French can be an asset to find work in B.C.
- It is very often necessary to start with an entry-level job to have access to the secret employment market.
- The chances for a promotion are many and frequent.
- Write your resume according to current Canadian standards.
Some job banks in British Columbia.
- A career in mining BC (Mining Sector)
- BC Jobs (in English)
- Charity Village (Non-profit sector, in English)
- Craigslist (Small advertisements, in English)
- Crewlink (Construction sector, in English)
- Go2hr (Tourism sector, in English)
- Job banks (Canada Service)
- Indeed (in English)
- JobGurus Canada
- The Canadian Heritage Information Network (Heritage sector)
- Work BC (in English)
- Wow Canada Jobs (in English)
Beware of fraud!
Do not provide your Social Security number, permanent resident number, your age or date of birth, your driver's licence, health insurance or your banking information when you look for work. Any necessary information will be shared during the first working day.
Sources et ressources
- In connection with the standards of work:Welcome BC
- For the cover letter: Canada Service — Employment-Letter
- For the résumé: Canada Service — Employment — Resumé
- To choose personal references: Canada Service — Employment — References
- To prepare for an interview: Canada Service — Employment — Interviews
The population of British Columbia is relatively linguistically diverse. The amount of people having neither French nor English as their official language increases year by year. The Francophone BC community also includes a good number of French-speaking people whose mother tongue is not French, but who use it as a main language in their everyday life.
In Canada in general and in British Columbia, in particular, there are various types of transport for short and long distances.
Public transit system
Use Google Maps or any other reputable Internet map system, plan your journey by public transport.
Greater Vancouver Area
The Greater Vancouver public transit system is managed by TransLink::
- SkyTrain (urban railway grid system)
- SeaBus (ferry connecting the downtown area and Northern bank)
- West Coast Express train (suburban trains connecting the cities of East Metropolitan Vancouver)
Public transport is paid. You are advised to obtain a Compass card, which is very practical since it stores funds and monthly passes. All you have to do is tap the card on card-readers on buses and in stations to pay for your ride.
Public transport in Victoria is managed by BC Transit, which operates many bus lines.
Visit your municipality's website to know more about the public transport offered.
Driving a car in British Columbia, requires a valid driver's licence.
Your driver's licence issued from your country of origin is valid for 90 days following your arrival if you present proof that you have at least two years of driving experience. At the end of this period, you must obtain a provincial driver's licence.
The holders of a French driver's licence can simply present themselves in person at the ICBC offices to obtain their valid British Columbia permit. Click here to consult the list of the documents to present.
Here is an outline of the stages to follow to obtain a driver's licence in B.C.:
- Preparation for the highway code examination
- Theoretical examination of the highway code
- Driving tests
Note: the procedure is simplified for the holders of driver's licences from one of the following countries: list of the countries with simplified procedure.
For more information on obtaining a driver's licence, consult the ICBC site.
Religions in British Columbia
Canada is made up of an ever increasing religious diversity, fruit of the protection of the religious freedom. Such changes are also illustrated in B.C., where immigrants modify the landscape today and enrich religious pluralism in the province. According to the first section of the 1982 Canadian Charter of the Rights and Freedoms, all Canadians are entitled to freedom of thought, belief, conscience and religion.
Different types of faith
Due to their European heritage, the majority of the people who first arrived in British Columbia declared themselves as being Christians. Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Baptist churches are the most popular Christian churches in British Columbia.
Following the waves of Asian immigration which occurred in the 80s and 90s, many other religions are practised more and more in British Columbia, namely Sikhism, Buddhism, Islamism and Hinduism.
Even if Christians, as a whole, continue to be by far the most practised religion in the province, the Sikh population grows quickly than any other religious community. Indeed, the total Sikh population in Greater Vancouver has increased to almost 60% since 2001, followed by Buddhism as the third larger faith group, and Islam, the fourth.
Places of Worships
A place of worship is a place in which practitioners of a religion meet to pray and celebrate their faith. Places of worship are considered sacred in the eyes of believers. They have a particular architecture suitable for the religion and the beliefs which they represent.
Lastly, it should be noted that a growing number of British-Columbians claim not to have any religious affiliations.
With a population of 4,5 million inhabitants (including 2.3 million in Vancouver and 368,000 in Victoria), British Columbia is the third most populous province in Canada after Ontario and Quebec.
Out of the ten provinces which make up the country, British Columbia is the most westerly. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean in the west and surrounded by the awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains in the east, British Columbia embodies perfectly its motto Splendor sine occasu - “immaculate splendor” in English.
Plan your holidays in British Columbia
- If you want to embrace the British Columbia pace of life, we suggest discovering its regions and appeals. Consult the tourist information websites: http://tourisme-cb.com/
- http://www.hellobc.com/ (in English)
Attractions for all tastes
We are eager for you to discover landscapes of incredible beauty, cities, and enthralling holiday resorts in order to take part in the many suggested activities, such as skiing, whale and marine life sightings, wine tasting without forgetting, of course, eating out.
British Columbia is not only a destination of choice for adventurous travellers, it also home to Canada’s third largest metroplis, Vancouver. Vancouver hosts each year many international exhibitions and attracts thousands of tourists fond of chic boutiques and extraordinary restaurants.
Medical Services Plan (MSP)
British Columbia has a state health insurance and hospitalization insurance system: the Medical Services Plan, or MSP. It is a system intended solely for the residents of the province. Immigrants and refugees also have the right to subscribe to it.
Registration to the MSP
It is very important that you apply for your health insurance card as soon as possible upon your arrival. It normally takes approximately 3 months to receive it. During this time, you are advised to contract with a private insurance company.
You can obtain the application form online from (in English) the Ministry of Health’s webesite.
The information telephone lines of the MSP also offer a service in French upon request:
- Vancouver: 604-683-7151
- Victoria: 250-382-8406
- Elsewhere in British Columbia: 1-800 663-7100 (toll free number)
The card is personal. Carry it with you for doctor’s appointments or hospital visits.
Registering for health insurance isn't free. Monthly expenses are applicable and these vary according to the marital and financial status of the person.
- For people with moderate income, the payment amount is reduced under certain conditions. Contact the MSP offices or visit its website to have an idea on the amounts which you will have to pay.
- For refugees sponsored by the federal government, coverage is free.
- Asylum seekers are not entitled to apply for state health insurance. They can however count on an emergency aid. Obtain information from the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to learn more on this subject.
In the event of an accident or a serious health condition, go to the emergency department at the nearest hospital.
Call for an ambulance by dialing 911. Tip: you can get an interpreter by saying “French”. The ambulance ride is not free, but the expenses can be covered later on.
If you need an interpreter, check with the hospital and/or go with an English-speaking person.
Hospitalization is free for permanent residents. Asylum seekers require approval to have their medical expensed paid by the Interim Federal Health Program of the Ministry for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
Find a doctor
There are two main categories of doctors in Canada: general practitioners (family practitioners) and specialists. The general practitioner is the expert who you see regularly and who can, if necessary, refer you to a specialist.
To find a French speaking health professional, consult the Réso Santé directory.
Community healthcare in French
- Visit the website in French of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) for information on healthcare in French.
- The BC Nurse Line (1-866 215 4700) is a health information telephone service. It is possible to get a French-speaking interpreter for this service. A nurse answers health questions 24/7, for free.
- The Health-Guide is a free handbook answering more than 200 current health problems. You can check it online or order a copy by calling 1-800-465-4911.
- For pregnant women, a midwife service is available in French. For more information, contact the South Community Birth Program by calling 604-321-6151.
- There are public health centres in several large city neighbourhoods. Families can benefit from the opinion of a doctor or a nurse by showing their health insurance card. Contact details for these centres can be found in your city's phone book or the yellow pages.
Other health professionals
- Dental and the optometric expenses, as well as those of other health professionals (massage therapists, physiotherapists, etc.) are not covered by the medical insurance system. Expenses can be paid by an employer or individual private healthcare insurance plan.
- The Healthy Kids Program covers certain expenses for children under 19 years old. Check with a doctor for more details on this subject.