1. Applying for a Work Permit or Visa
If you are thinking about moving to Greater Montréal for a certain time and for a specific job, you only need temporary worker status. You will be given a work permit that will allow you to work from one to three years for an employer. Your work permit may be renewed under certain conditions, but for a total period not exceeding five or six years. If you wish to work for another employer, you will need to apply for a new work permit.
If, on the other hand, you are considering working here and settling down, you will need to apply for permanent residence (visa). Valid for an unlimited period of time and for all the members of your family, permanent residence status gives you the same rights as those of a Canadian citizen, except for the right to vote and to hold a Canadian passport.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
2. Opening a Bank Account
Several banks allow you to open an account before you arrive in Québec without having to deposit any cash. This allows you to be up and running as soon as you arrive. Regardless of the financial institution you choose, you will be given:
- a debit card, to pay for day-to-day purchases at retailers and to make cash withdrawals at ATMs;
- online banking access, to view your transactions and pay regular bills (e.g. phone, electricity).
In Canada, credit cards are separate from your bank account. Each month, you will receive a statement listing your expenses, the amount payable, the due date, and the rate of interest that applies to any unpaid balances on the due date. Obtaining a credit card may be difficult if you have no credit history in Canada, but your financial situation and employment may be taken into consideration by the issuing bank.
Main Canadian banks:
3. Finding Housing
You may want to start out by renting a furnished apartment by the week or month to get a feel for the different neighbourhoods and assess your needs. You can then rent an apartment or a house by signing a 12-month lease with the landlord. Most leases begin on July 1, which makes this date the big moving day! Your rights and obligations as a tenant are regulated by the Régie du logement du Québec, the province’s rental board. In 2013, the average rent for a 4½ apartment (two bedrooms, one kitchen, one bathroom) was about $710 a month.
For more information:
4. Obtaining a Social Insurance Number (SIN)
This unique nine-digit number is required to work, study, receive government benefits and pay income tax.
5. Registering for the Québec Health Insurance Plan
To benefit from free health care, you need to register with the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec as soon as you arrive in Québec.
Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec
6. Obtaining a Quebec Driver’s Licence
You may be able to keep your original driver’s licence under certain conditions, but in most cases, you will need to obtain a Québec driver’s licence. Depending on your country of origin, you will be given a Québec driver’s licence in exchange for your current licence or after passing a driving test.
Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec
7. Enrolling Your Children in School
In Québec, all children aged 6 to 16 must attend school. The school year, which lasts about 180 days, begins in late August or early September and ends in June. The Québec school system is made up of:
- A public school system, from kindergarten to university. Primary and secondary school education is free for both Québec residents and for children of foreign workers with a Québec work permit. Public schools are also available for the English-speaking community.
- Private schools recognized by the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport. However, tuition fees are applicable and each school has its own admission requirements.
Temporary foreign workers have the option of sending their children to French- or English-language schools for the duration of their stay. Children enrolled in the French-language school system who are not fluent in French can attend orientation classes free of charge to help them make the transition to regular classrooms.
To find a school:
Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport
8. Finding a Daycare
In Québec, most of the early childhood centres (known as Centres de la petite enfance – CPE) are subsidized by the government and cost $7 a day per child. However, places are limited and waiting lists can be long.
You may choose to place your child with a home child care provider. Some charge the same reduced rates as the early childhood centres. Other non-subsidized daycares may cost more, but they entitle you to tax credits. In all cases, the training of daycare personnel and the quality of the services are regulated by law and regularly monitored.
9. Learning About Your Income Tax Obligations
Personal income tax: Montréalers, like all other Québecers, are required under Canadian and Québec laws to pay income tax based on progressive tax rates. If you are employed by a company, income tax will be deducted at the source, directly from your paycheque. Furthermore, each year you are required to file an income tax report to claim certain expenses, benefit from exemptions, and include your income from foreign sources. Tax treaties aimed at avoiding double taxation have been signed with certain countries.
- In addition to the usual personal exemptions, foreign workers are entitled to exemptions for income tax paid abroad.
- Foreign researchers and experts taking part in a company’s research and development activities are entitled to a variable five-year tax holiday on provincial income tax.
Sales tax: In most stores and restaurants, the posted prices DO NOT INCLUDE TAXES. The two sales taxes (the 5% federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the 9.975% Québec Sales Tax (QST) are added to the bill. Companies and self-employed workers may recover these taxes for products and services required for their business operations.
10. Other Useful Resources
Staying in touch with your country of origin
Embassies are located in Ottawa, but a fair number of consulates are based in Greater Montréal to meet the needs of expatriates and foreign nationals (e.g., passport renewals, consular ID cards, voting in certain countries’ elections).
Getting settled in Greater Montréal
There are many organizations and associations set up to help newcomers settle in Québec and assist them with their linguistic, cultural, social and professional needs.