Guide to financial planning for immigrants

Starting from scratch

Millions of immigrants come to Canada and quickly discover that getting established financially isn’t easy


This article was updated on June 27, 2017.

Last year, Canada welcomed more than half a million newcomers to our country as immigrants, international students and temporary foreign workers. In the last five years, most of the new permanent residents came from Asia and the Middle East, although a large proportion of new immigrants also came from Africa, the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America.

Canada may be the best country in the world to live in, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to get established. People come to Canada dreaming of obtaining greater financial security and opportunities for themselves and their families, but they often spend years struggling to build up credit, find a decent job and grow their wealth.

As Canada’s personal finance magazine, MoneySense wants to help newcomers get established as quickly and painlessly as possible. In the article that follows, we provide a quick overview of the most important things you need to know in order to build a strong financial future in Canada. We’ll tell you the essential things to do during your first days in the country, and show you how to get a head start on getting a job, building credit, taking care of your family, buying a home and investing. Along the way, you’ll meet people who have been through the immigration process already, who share their tips for making the transition easier.

Even if you’re a long-time citizen, if you’re new to investing, or buying insurance, or you’re trying to establish a strong credit history for the first time, this report is for you. When it comes to our finances, we’re all beginners at one time or another, and every beginner can use a helping hand.

Getting started

MoneySense offers tips on what newcomers should do when they first arrive to Canada

What to do during your first few weeks in Canada:

  • Apply for your Social Insurance Number (SIN). You will need this to get a job and to get access to government programs and benefits.
  • Apply for the Canada Child Benefit, a tax-free monthly payment given to parents caring for children under the age of 18.
  • Apply for a provincial health card. If there is a waiting period in your province before coverage starts, take out private medical insurance to cover you for the first few months.
  • Find an immigrant settlement agency close to your home and inquire about employment and English language programs.
  • If possible, set up your Canadian bank account before you leave your home country. Ask if the bank will waive fees for new immigrants in the first year.
  • “When wiring large amounts of money from your home country, ask your bank for a preferential exchange rate,” says Ngoc Day, a financial planner at Macdonald, Shymko & Co. For smaller amounts, shop for the best rate on currency exchange company websites.
  • Wealthy immigrants might want to consider talking to a Canadian accountant who specializes in estate planning and immigration. Under Canadian tax law, you must pay tax on your worldwide income or on all capital gains earned. A financial specialist may find ways to help minimize the tax owed to the Canada Revenue Agency.


1. Overview
2. Get job experience
3. Build a credit score fast
4. Property buying tips
5. Pay less tax
6. Invest wisely
7. Insurance to buy
8. Finding childcare
9. Avoid scams
10. Free resources
11. Getting started checklist