This guide is based on my own experience moving here from Vietnam, so it presumes that you are immigrating to Halifax from another country as a permanent resident.
So you just got your Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR), yay! Congrats! Just be sure to bring that with you when you travel to Canada.
The first thing to do is to book a flight ticket to Halifax, you might have done that already, that’s fine. Otherwise, just go to Skyscanner and find your best deal there.
Halifax has Stanfield International Airport (YHZ) which you can book a direct flight from a couple of major cities such as NYC, Sydney, Chicago, Frankfurt, Boston, Dublin, etc. But still, it’s a relatively small airport, it could be a bit pricey, so the best deal you can get is to transit in Toronto, probably at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ), the biggest airport in the region. The transit flight YHZ-YYZ takes around 2 hours.
Tips: Be careful with Westjet. I flew with 3 bags and only one bag arrived with me while the other two got lost somewhere in Toronto. Only after I reported the lost baggage to Westjet, one bag came after one day and the last one came three days later. I ran out of clothes to wear for two days 😦
Finding a place to live.
It’s a wise choice to start looking for an apartment around 2 – 3 months prior to your landing. Why? Because it’s really hard to find a good apartment to move in within a short period, and it’s nearly impossible to find one that you can move in immediately. Maybe it’s just my experience, in Vietnam, you can find an apartment in the morning and move in in the afternoon of the same day, but it doesn’t work that way here in Halifax. My arrival was on July 1st, but instead of looking for an apartment in May, I waited until the mid of June just to freak out knowing that there are no good options available. I paid my price, I spent my first 11 days in Halifax at 3 different Airbnb homes at a total cost of $2300 while going out everyday viewing apartments before I can finally move in on the 12th day. So I can only suggest you to start looking early.
Tips for looking for a house? Go on Kijiji, the biggest classified ads site in Canada. You might find a good deal there as I did.
If you ever encounter the name Harbour View Apartments, ran away and don’t look back. The price might seem to be a great deal but it’s not worth it. When in a hurry, I found it and quickly applied, deposit check sent. I read the reviews two days later just to find out that place is full of bed bugs and cockroaches. It has bad ratings everywhere (1.something out of 5). Other than that, Killam Properties could be considered. Their apartments are mostly new, clean and tidy, people seem nice too, we also applied once and unfortunately, our application got denied for no reason. Sad!
But you haven’t arrived yet, you can find and hire an agent to do the viewing and sending a deposit for you. There are some, but I never used their services so I’m not sure about the process, I did it after I arrived, remember? If things are not going well with that, you can go my way, stay at an Airbnb and find later.
After the first landing in Canada, you need to tell the immigration officers that you want to land as a permanent resident and they will walk you through the process. Normally, it won’t take long. In my case, all they asked were my COPR, my passport, and an address in Canada which can be used to deliver the PR card later, then sign on the COPR, and the whole process took only 5 minutes or even less. Because I didn’t have a permanent address before landing so I gave them my lawyer’s office address, and the card arrived at her office around two weeks later. You can also check the current processing time for your PR card here.
If you arrive at Halifax Stanfield Airport in the day time, you can catch a bus to the city, but after around 6 pm, there’s no bus and you have to take a taxi.
For more information, visit: https://halifaxstanfield.ca/transportation/bus-services/
After collecting your luggage, look out for the information desk at the right corner near the way out, come there and ask for taxi services.
You’re in Halifax, now what?
There are some documents you should get:
1. Picking up the PR Card. Like I mentioned, the card will arrive at the address you provide to the border officer. Just give it two or three weeks.
2. Have a Social Insurance Number (SIN). Bring your passport and COPR to Service Canada (Service Canada Centre – 6206 Quinpool Rd, Halifax, NS B3J 3V1) to get a SIN.
3. Apply for a Health Card. It’s a benefit of a Canadian citizen or PR to have your health care covered by the gov. In Nova Scotia, it’s called MSI, and you will be provided a card to show whenever you need a health check. You can either call in 1-800-563-8880 and provide your personal information or apply in person. If you call in to apply, MSI will send out the application form to your address, you fill it and send back to them. While it might take around 10 days for sending the documents back and forth, you can apply in person and get the card within a couple of minutes. So I recommend going to the MSI office. Just remember to bring your passport and COPR (or PR card if you already have it).
4. Nova Scotia ID Card. It would be helpful to have an addition Id card with you, just in case. This card can be used to replace your PR card or passport in many cases, such as flying to other cities within Canada or showing ID at the liquor store. You can get one at Access Nova Scotia. After the application is done, the card will be delivered at your address within 14 days. If it does not arrive after 14 days, call Access Nova Scotia.
There are some Classes you need to keep in mind:
- Class 7: Learner’s License. You basically can’t drive unless you have an experienced driver to go with.
- Class 6: For driving motorcycles and motor-driven cycles. Though it’s not commonly used.
- Class 5N: You can drive cars, pick-up trucks, sport utility vehicles and vans having a seating capacity of less than 24, but with some restrictions for 2 years
- Class 5: The most common license after you hold Class 5N for 2 years.
For more information, visit Service Nova Scotia – Registry of Motor Vehicles
Since you are a new resident, you’re allowed to drive in Nova Scotia in 90 days after you arrived, only if you already had a driver’s license before. After 90 days, you can either exchange your old license for a Nova Scotia license, or apply for one.
If you have a valid regular Driver’s Licence from the United States can usually exchange your licence for a Nova Scotia Driver’s Licence, and you do not have to take a road test (Driving Examination). This applies to Class 5 licences.
Other Countries with a Reciprocal Driver’s License Exchange Agreement with Nova Scotia:
- Austria: Regular Class 5 driver’s licence.
- Germany: Regular Class 5 driver’s Licence.
- Isle of Man: Regular Class 5 or Class 6 driver’s licence.
- South Korea: Regular Class 5 or Class 6 driver’s licence.
- Taiwan: Regular Class 5 driver’s Licence.
- United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: Regular Class 5 or Class 6 driver’s licence.
You can exchange your old license for a Nova Scotia driver’s license, but it needs to be in English. If it’s not, use a certified translation service and bring along the original license to Access Nova Scotia.
If your case does not fall into any of those above, you have to start over again, apply for a driver’s license as a beginner. Here’s the process:
Start with the basic. There’s a handbook which includes everything you need to prepare for the test. You can either download it from here for free: You can download the handbook from here: https://novascotia.ca/sns/rmv/safe/handbook.asp
Or you can buy the hard copy at Access Nova Scotia for around $10.
After learning from the handbook, you should be able to take the first test. There are two parts, the rules test and the sign test. If you score at least 16/20 for both, you pass. Then you will have your first license called Class 7, or the Learner’s License. There are so many limitations on this license so technically you can only use it for learning and practising purpose.
After having the Class 7 license for 6 months, you can apply for the road test. You can also shorten this period by three months by taking a long course from a professional training centre (designated organization). If you already have at least 2 years driving experience, you can apply for the road test as soon as you pass the written test, you just need to show your old license and explanation letter to prove your driving experience. Once you pass the road test, you have the Class 5N license, or the new driver’s license. There are still some restrictions on this license but you’re free to drive basically.
After holding the Class 5N license for 2 years, you can exchange it for a Class 5 license, or a driver’s license. Now it’s officially you are a licensed driver.