The Basics: Living in Canada and Ontario

Moving to Ontario

Welcome to Ontario, Canada’s most diverse province.

Ontario has a population of over 14 million people and around half of them are immigrants from over 200 countries, speaking 130 different languages. Ontario is often referred to as the “economic motor” of Canada built mainly by the hard work of newcomers and immigrants. There are 445 towns and cities in Ontario, so how can newcomers choose which city they want to live in? It’s as simple as visiting the municipal websites of each city or town (for example, Toronto.ca). It’s also recommended that you organize a trip to explore these areas to find one that works for you. Some major destinations for newcomers in Canada include the Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa (the capital of Canada), Hamilton, Windsor, London, and the Niagara Falls region.

If you want to figure out what kind of support system the government offers newcomers, you can check out newcomer settlement and community support programs in your area. ServiceOntario is an organization that provides information on Ontario government services.

If you need help in your language, the government of Ontario offers interpretation services to help newcomers use government and other community services.

So let’s say you’ve exhausted all possible resources and found a city or town that you want to live in, what now?

Finding a home in Ontario

You have the following options in Ontario:

You can rent a property. This is where you are the tenant and the property owner is the landlord. You can buy property, where banks and institutions charge you interest rates, mortgages and loan fees for buying a house or condo. There’s also cooperative housing, where more than one tenant contributes their time to upkeep and maintenance.

The province of Ontario has many different options to help those that are in desperate situations. You can live in a boarding home. This is usually one room and sometimes includes services like meals or laundry but it’s usually temporary and there are usually multiple tenants living together. If in a state of emergency, a newcomer may temporarily stay at an emergency shelter or hostel. Some shelters and hostels offer support such as counselling and refer people to legal, health and other services. You can also apply for subsidized housing which is a government program that basically charges people rent depending on how much money they make.

Finding a school

Once you find somewhere to live, it’s time to find a school for your children. Ontario’s public schools help prepare people for a lifetime of success. They are free and divided into elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools.

Taking part in community life and volunteering

Once you find a school for your children, it’s time to join the rest of the community and take part in community life. Volunteering is a great way for newcomers to get involved in the community while potentially gaining valuable work experience. Volunteering will also help newcomers develop job skills and find contacts. Newcomer settlement agencies may also be able to help you find volunteer opportunities.

Transportation Services

Getting around in Ontario depends on the city you live in.

There’s public transportation in almost every city or town in Ontario depending on where you live. Ontario public transportation systems often include buses and trains. Some systems include streetcars and subways (such as the TTC).

GO Transit connects different regions in Ontario with buses and trains. GO Transit links communities in the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton area and other communities to the east, west, and north of Toronto.

Ontario driver’s license

If public transportation isn’t your thing, you can also get a valid Ontario driver’s license. If you buy a car, you will need to carry the papers that show vehicle ownership, proof of auto insurance and your driver’s license with you at all times.

Ontario has different kinds of driver’s licenses for motorbikes, cars, commercial vehicles, etc.

If you don’t have a driver’s license, for most people, the two-step process of getting a license in Ontario takes at least 20 months. An Ontario license includes a vision test, a written test of the rules of the road (available in several languages), and two road tests. To apply for a driver’s license in Ontario, you need to be at least 16 years old.

Once you pass these tests, you get a G1 license. You are considered a beginner driver and need to practice driving and gain experience over time. Most people enrol themselves in driver’s ed (driving school) within this time. Some of the benefits of driver’s ed include safer driving, practice for the road test, reduced waiting time (8 months instead of one year) and reduced insurance rates.

Foreign driver’s license

If you hold already hold a foreign driver’s license, it’s valid for 60 days after you arrive in Canada which gives you time to get your Ontario driver’s license. You’ll need identification and driver’s license documents and will have to pass a vision test and a written test covering Ontario’s traffic rules. No road test is required.

Ontario Health Services

To begin finding health care coverage in Ontario, you can register with Ontario’s Health Care Connect service and have a nurse find a doctor or nurse practitioner. In addition, you can use the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario‘s Find a Doctor and search and choose “Advanced Search” to find a doctor near you (by city/town or postal code).

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP)

Once you’ve found a doctor, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) pays for many medical services, including regular visits to the family doctor. To receive health care services through OHIP, you must be a resident of Ontario. However, there’s a waiting period of three months to obtain an OHIP card and coverage. Your local newcomer settlement agency can help you get an OHIP card and provide additional information. In Canada, you need a health insurance card specific to the province or territory you live in. And you need to present the health card each time you receive health services.

Health coverage for protected persons or refugee claimants

According to the Government of Canada, in some cases, the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) provides temporary health insurance to:

  • refugees
  • protected persons
  • refugee claimants

This temporary care covers you and your dependents until you are eligible for health plan coverage through your province, territory or private plan.


Doha Hanno Publicist, Parsai Immigration Services

If you wish to visit or move to Canada, please fill out our free assessment form. We will review the form for free, but we will contact you only if we find an opportunity for you. Alternatively, you may book a consultation session. Consultation sessions are not free, but you will receive formal advice from a licensed practitioner.

Disclaimer:
This article provides information of a general nature only. It may no longer be current. It does not give legal advice. Do not rely on it as legal advice or immigration advice. We cannot be held responsible for the content of these articles. If you have specific legal questions, you must consult a lawyer. If you are looking for immigration advice, book an appointment. All the characters in the articles are fictional, unless otherwise clearly stated. Any resemblance in names, dates, and places (whether individuals, organizations, regions, or countries) is coincidental.

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Doha Hanno

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