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7 Things You Need to Know about Immigrating to BC

October 7, 2021BY Dale Carroll

British Columbia is one of the best places in Canada to immigrate to. Yet no matter where you go, there are sometimes learning curves, logistical issues, and culture shock to navigate. 

As immigration lawyers in British Columbia, we are invested in making your immigration journey. That’s why we wanted to put together this guide. 

#1) You may need new professional credentials.

Many people who immigrate to British Columbia aren’t able to work in their old fields right away, even if they immigrate under a skilled worker express entry program. This is because your old professional license doesn’t always translate across borders. The process is called the Foreign Qualifications Recognition (FQR) or Foreign Credentials Recognition (FCR) process.

Even some of our attorneys had to go through this! They were recognized as lawyers in their own country and then had to come here and pass the bar. 

To get the most recent list of regulated professions in British Columbia, visit this website presented by the Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement. This site will also tell you which regulatory body governs your profession, which gives you a good idea of where to go for more information. Each regulatory authority typically publishes its process on its website, but you can also contact them via phone or email. 

You may be surprised by which professions will require you to get a new license. It’s not just doctors and lawyers. For example, architects, carpenters, chiropractors, and cosmetologists may all need to get new licensing as well. 

In some cases you will have to pursue new training and education, called upgrade or bridge training. In most cases you will be expected to pay an application fee. 

British Columbia does offer a pair of low-interest loans to help immigrants pay recertification costs. These are the Career Paths for Skilled Immigrants program and the Foreign Credential Recognition (FCR) Loan Project

The Career Paths program can also help you get certified or find employment closely related to your field while you wait for certification. Taking advantage of this program can help you make valuable personal contacts in Canada. 

#2) You should open up a credit card account.

When you immigrate to British Columbia your old credit report no longer applies. You’ll get a new Canadian credit report. This can be great news for immigrants who had shaky credit in their home countries, bad news for those who had stellar credit in their home countries, and confusing for individuals whose nations didn’t use credit reports at all. 

Note that moving to Canada won’t absolve you of your debts in your home country. Your creditors will still be able to come after you here, so make a plan for getting your debt paid off.

One of the fastest ways to get credit is to apply for a secured credit card. If you use a recertification loan that will add to your credit mix and help you build a good score.

You don’t want to become over-leveraged of course, but having a good credit score is going to be vital if you want to own a home here in British Columbia.  

#3) You have just 90 days to get a British Columbia driver’s license.

Unless you’re visiting Canada as a tourist, are here on a student visa, or are a temporary foreign worker under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), you will need to get your driver’s license switched out.

To do this, you’ll need to provide your driver license history: you’ll need a minimum of two years to get a full-privilege license. You’ll need to sign up with IBCB, which is the British Columbia mandatory car insurance program. 

British Columbia does have reciprocal license agreements with many countries, making the switch easy for many drivers. If you’re not from a reciprocal license country you’ll have to take a knowledge test and a road test. It’s a good idea to brush up on local traffic laws. 

#4) You might have to wait to get on British Columbia’s health plan.

You’ll want to apply for the Medical Services Plan (MSP) the moment you arrive in British Columbia, but you’ll still be required to go through a waiting period before your coverage starts. Enrollment is mandatory. 

We recommend getting short-term private health insurance while you wait. 

You’ll also want to enroll in UBC, which can offer extended health insurance, dental care, basic life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance, disability benefits, and a pension plan. It also gives you access to the employee and family assistance program which is a confidential and voluntary counselling support service. 

#5) Housing can be expensive.

British Columbia has the highest cost-of-living in Canada. There are places in the province that have lower costs of living, but overall costs remain high.

Be sure you research the cost of housing and are ready to absorb it before you immigrate. Having several months of expenses tucked away into a savings account can be a lifesaver. You’ll need a deposit and first month’s rent to secure an apartment. 

Having a 20% down payment saved up can help you buy almost as soon as you secure credit.

#6) There may be services available just for you.

BC offers lots of services for immigrants. For example, ISS of BC will help you learn English, prepare your children for school, and even provide you with free legal advice. 

Don’t be afraid to explore these services. Even wealthy, highly-educated immigrants find immigration to be challenging. These services can really help smooth your path. 

You can even find help at the airport thanks to the Community Airport Newcomer’s Network

#7) Community centers and houses of worship can be a lifeline.

Immigrating can feel lonely. You’re leaving everything you’ve known behind and are striking out for something new.

Many cities in British Columbia have community centers where you can tap into fun activities, meet people, and volunteer. And because British Columbia is so diverse, you’re likely to find a house of worship that matches your faith. We encourage you to dive in there, too, so you can start to find people as quickly as possible. 

Immigrating to BC?

Want to take advantage of the BC Provincial Nominee Program, the BC PNP Express Entry Program, the BC PNP Skills Immigration Program, BC Entrepreneur immigration, or any of the many other programs that can get you into BC?

We can help. Our attorneys have decades of immigration experience. We even have native speakers of Mandarin and Punjabi right here on staff, which means you can get caring help that’s clear and easy to understand. 

Make your first appointment and get the help you need by calling our Surrey office at (604) 394-2777 today.

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