Landing And Settlement In Canada – Ontario

This is your official guide to a successful settlement in the province of Ontario.

Any information that you will need in the first days, weeks, and even months of your settlement in Ontario can be found on this page. If you require additional information, it can always be obtained from one of the multiple immigrant serving agencies listed below. Whether you are moving to the city of Toronto, the Nation’s Capital City of Ottawa, or the surrounding areas, this guide will help you get your new Canadian life off to a great start.

Learn more about life in Ontario.

In this Landing Guide to Ontario, you’ll find information on:

General Information on Ontario

Official provincial immigration website: www.ontarioimmigration.ca

Official website of the City of Toronto: www.toronto.ca

Official website of the City of Ottawa: www.ottawa.ca

Health Care in Ontario

All basic medical needs for residents of Ontario are covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). Be sure to apply for your OHIP card as soon as you arrive in order to be eligible for the benefits of this public health insurance plan, as there is a waiting period of at least three months before you obtain your card after applying.

Note: In order to qualify for OHIP, you must be present in Ontario for at least 153 days in the first six months after you arrive.

For information on how to apply for OHIP visit: www.health.gov.on.ca/en/common/system

Or call ServiceOntario INFOline: 1-866-532-3161 (Toll-free) or (416) 314-5518 (in Toronto)

Employment in Ontario

In order to begin working in Ontario as quickly as possible, follow these steps:

  • Apply for your Social Insurance Number (SIN). For information visit: www.servicecanada.gc.ca/en/sc/sin
  • It is important to have your foreign credentials assessed for Canadian equivalency. It is best to do this before you apply for a job, so that you are prepared to provide the information to potential employers. Credentials can be assessed with the Canadian Centre for International Credentials. Visit their website at: www.cicic.ca. World Education Services is another popular credential equivalency company in Ontario. Visit their website at: www.wes.org/ca
    Note: Some regulatory bodies will only accept credential assessments from specific credential equivalency companies. Before you get your credentials assessed, verify which company will be recognized by your professional regulatory body: www.ontarioimmigration.ca/en/working
  • To work in most trades in Ontario, it is required that you have a Certificate of Qualification. You may have enough work experience and sufficient credentials to immediately be granted a Certificate of Qualification. If your experience does not meet Ontario Standards, you will be required to pass a written examination to receive your Certificate of Qualification. For trade certification, begin by contacting Red Seal, a nation-wide trade certification organization at: www.red-seal.ca
  • It is important to ensure that you are fluent in either English or French. Countless institutions across Ontario offer both English as a Second Language (ESL) and French as a Second Language (FSL) courses. For complete listings of courses offered near your new home, visit: www.ontarioimmigration.ca/en/learn
  • The Maytree Foundation is a charitable organization that helps qualified professionals begin working in their field as soon as possible by offering scholarships which aid with the costs of credential assessment, or additional training. To see if you qualify, visit: www.maytree.com
  • The Ontario government also offers services to help newcomers begin working in their profession as quickly as possible. To see if they can be of help to you, visit: www.211toronto.ca/topic
  • Global Experience Ontario helps foreign professionals get started working in their new home in Ontario by providing assessment and translation services, referrals and re-training. Call: (416) 327-9694 or 1-866-670-4094
  • Foreign medical practitioners should contact IMG-Ontario for assessment, training and licensing to practice in Ontario. Visit: www.ontarioimgschool.com
  • Employment Ontario is a government employment placement service, helping employers find the experienced individuals they need, and helping individuals obtain work experience. For information, call toll free: 1-800-387-5656 or TTY (for the hearing impaired): 1-866-533-6339
  • If you are interested in opening a small business, The Small Business Centres of Ontario are government-funded organizations that will help you get started towards your goal. Visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/small-business-enterprise-centre-and-community-based-provider-locations

Following these steps will ensure that you are prepared to begin working in Ontario.

Note: Foreign workers must have valid authorization to work in Canada on either a temporary or permanent basis.

Finances in Ontario

Immediately after you arrive, you should open an account at a local bank or financial institution. Popular banks in Ontario include: HSBC, Scotia Bank, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Bank of Montreal (BMO), TD Canada Trust, and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).

For general information on banking and financial matters in Ontario and the rest of Canada, visit the Canadian Bankers Association website at: www.cba.ca

Money is made of cents and dollars. There are 100 cents in 1 Canadian dollar. Currency is found in coins of:

  • 1 cent ($0.01) called the “penny” – Note: the penny is no longer used in commercial transactions
  • 5 cents ($0.05) called the “nickel”,
  • 10 cents ($0.10) called the “dime”,
  • 25 cents ($0.25) called the “quarter”,
  • 1 dollar ($1.00) called the “loonie” for the Canadian loon featured on the coin, and
  • A two dollar ($2.00) coin called the “twoonie” as it is the equivalent of two loonies.

Bills, or paper currency, are found in denominations of five dollars ($5.00), ten dollars ($10.00), twenty dollars ($20.00), fifty dollars ($50.00) and one hundred dollars ($100.00).

To find out what your home currency is worth against Canadian currency, talk to a representative from a local bank, or visit this popular currency exchange website: www.xe.com

The most used forms of transactions are made with cash currency, cheques, debit banking cards, and credit cards.

If you have children under 18 years of age, you may be eligible to receive the Canada Child Tax Benefit. For information, visit the website for the Canadian Revenue Agency www.cra.gc.ca, or call toll-free 1-800-959-2221.

Schooling and Education in Ontario

In Ontario, all children 18 years of age and under must be registered for and attending school on a full-time basis. Schooling generally begins at age four or five. Most children stay in school until they finish secondary school, generally at 18 years of age.

The school system is generally divided into three levels: Elementary, Secondary and Post-Secondary (either college or university). Some districts or private schools may organize their grade levels differently, though education standards are regulated by the provincial government.

Ontario offers publicly funded Public and Catholic elementary and secondary school systems. For complete information on elementary and secondary level schools, visit: www.edu.gov.on.ca

The academic year for all levels of education begins in September and runs through June for elementary and secondary students, and to April for college and university students. Contact the local school board in your neighbourhood for information on registration, which may take place many months previous to the beginning of the school year.

Toronto District School Board
Tel: (416) 397-3000

Toronto Catholic District School Board
Tel: (416) 222-8282, ext. 5314

Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
Tel: (613) 596-8211

Ottawa Catholic School Board
Tel: (613) 224-2222

French Education: There are publically funded French-language schools for children of families who speak French as a first language.

For information in eastern Ontario, visit: www.cepeo.on.ca

For information in central-east Ontario, visit: http://www.ecolecatholique.ca

For information in central-south-west Ontario, visit: www.csdccs.edu.on.ca

For information in Northern Ontario, visit: www.gno.edu.on.ca

For general information visit: http://www.acepo.org/6793/ministry-memos/sb-memos/site-web-publication-des-biens-immobiliers-en-circulation-dinfrastructure-ontario/

Standard holidays include Christmas and New Year’s holidays in December and January, and a spring break in either March or April. Additional holidays can occur throughout the year. Students have the right to observe religious holidays.

For complete information on post-secondary education in Ontario, visit the Study in Canada Guide.

Obtaining a Driver’s Licence in Ontario

If you are planning on renting, leasing, or buying a car, you must have an official Ontario driver’s licence.

A foreign driver’s licence is valid for 60 days after your arrival. After 60 days, you must have an Ontario driver’s licence if you wish to drive. Some foreign licences may be converted into full Ontario driver’s licences, but most foreign drivers will be required to complete the Ontario graduated licencing system.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has a three-step graduated licensing system, which will take at least 20 months to complete. The system involves a series of written, vision and road tests. Drivers must be at least 16 years of age. For complete details, visit the Ontario Ministry of Transportation website at: www.ontario.ca/driving-and-roads or call: 1.800.387.3445

Note: Every vehicle and driver must have insurance. Contact a local insurance provider to become properly insured before you drive.

Housing in Ontario

If you have never previously visited your new city, it may be best to rent a temporary apartment when you first arrive, until you have had a chance to explore neighbourhoods and decide where you would like to live. It may be beneficial to hire a real estate agent to guide you through the housing process and provide you with knowledgeable advice on the best area for you and your family to live. You could also work with a real estate agent before you arrive, by doing an internet search and contacting one in advance.

There are multiple different housing options in Ontario. Here are explanations of some options:

Apartment buildings are large, multi-unit buildings owned by one person or company where each inhabitant rents a unit. Studio or bachelor apartments are generally one room with a kitchen area and bathroom and are suited only for a single individual. Larger apartments can accommodate families as they have bedrooms and additional living space.

A large multi-unit building where each unit is owned by the inhabitant is called a condominium, and each unit is called a condo. Condos can range in size from small, single-person units, to large multi-level, family sized units.

Often apartments and condos are found in houses that have been divided into separate living spaces.

Houses can be connected in a row, called townhouses or row houses, or detached, as separate, individual dwellings.

Average cost of living varies given size of family, location and income. Housing is generally more expensive in cities like Toronto and Ottawa. As a result, many families choose to live in smaller cities like Kingston or Sudbury, or Suburbs, which are towns located just outside of the city limits where housing is more affordable, are very popular. Suburbs often provide good neighbourhoods, schools, shopping, and healthcare, all within close proximity to the amenities of the city. Housing in the country can be even less expensive, but you will require a vehicle in order to travel for your basic needs including groceries, work, school, and healthcare.

It is important that you take your family, your place of work, neighbourhood and finances into account before deciding on a place to live.

Pets: If you are renting your home or you live in a condominium, it is important to ensure that pets are legally allowed on the premises before you move in with your family pet, or purchase a family pet.

Note: There are explicit rules about immigrating with a pet. Please see “What can you bring to Canada?” below.

What can you bring into Canada?

Canada has strict rules concerning what can and cannot be brought into the country. There are regulations regarding food, alcohol, nicotine products, plants, animals, cars and other products. To avoid problems, be sure to check in advance what is and what is not allowed to come to Canada, as well as what procedures must be followed to bring certain items into the country.

For animals and food, contact:
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Animal Health, Agriculture Canada

59 Camelot Drive
Neapean, Ontario K1A 0Y9
(613)225-2342 (ext:4629)


For automobiles, contact:
Transport Canada
Place de Ville, Tower C
330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N5
(613) 990-2309


Weather in Ontario

Southern Ontario enjoys very warm summers where temperatures can go above 30 degrees Celsius. However, it can get very cold in almost all parts of Ontario in the winter, when temperatures can go below -20, even -30 degrees Celsius. It is very important to ensure that you are prepared for the cold weather. Invest in warm winter clothing, including sweaters, winter jackets, boots, hats, scarves and gloves or mittens. If you do not dress warmly in the winter you will risk becoming ill or getting frost bite. Frost bite is severe damage to the skin caused by exposure to cold winter winds.

Ontarians keep candles and matches, warm blankets, flash lights, first aid kits, and a small snow shovel in their cars and homes in case of emergencies in the winter. In most parts of Ontario your car must have specially designated winter tires in order to legally, and safely, drive in the winter.

Additional Resources/Service Providers in Ontario

For those requiring help choosing a community in Ontario, visit www.settlement.org/ontario. This website provides a wealth of information to help you choose the best Ontario community for you.

Ontario is a very multicultural province, welcoming more immigrants into its cities and towns every year than any other province or territory in Canada. Ontario understands the need for many immigrants to receive help during their settlement in their native language.

There are many services provided throughout Ontario in hundreds of languages. For information, referrals, and answers to your settlement-related questions, please see http://settlement.org/. For information in 11 different languages, visit: www.inmylanguage.org.