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When moving abroad, there’s a range of important documents you will need to bring with you. It’s important to keep these with you while on your travels.

Pre-Arrival Checklist

Below is a list of documents you will need to bring with you to Canada, depending on how long you plan on staying and what you plan to do. Naturally, documents such as your visa and passport are essential, whereas other documents will depend on the person, their planned activities and their visa type.

  • Visa
  • Valid passport for the duration of your visa
  • Passport photos
  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Bank details and bank statements from your home account
  • Debit & Credit Cards
  • Health & Travel Insurance Policies
  • Driver’s License  
  • Copies of your CV/resume
  • Copies of skills qualifications/certificates
  • English or French Language test results (if necessary)
  • Letters of reference for employers, landlords etc.
  • Medical Records
  • Shipping company paperwork/delivery times (if using a shipping company)
  • Pet information/Vaccination Certs from your vet (if importing pets)
  • In Case of Emergency Contact List
  • Home Country Consulate/Embassy address and contact details


It can be a good idea to obtain an apostille stamp on your important documents (birth cert, marriage cert etc.). An apostille is an authentication stamp that proves your documents are legitimate. You can obtain an apostille from either your home country’s government that issued you with your documents, or from an apostille agency.


  • Make hard copies of all your important documents, particularly your passport and visa. Keep one set in your home country if possible, perhaps leaving them with a friend or family member. Bring copies with you to Canada as well, but keep them separate from the original documents. Copies are very useful should any of the original documents get lost or stolen. 
  • Make digital copies of your documents. Scan your important documents onto your computer and save them either onto your computer or a USB/external hard drive. Again this can be very useful if you lose the originals or hard copies of your documents. 
  • ·         Store all documents and copies (both hard and digital) in a safe place at all times.   

Post-Arrival Checklist

Social Insurance Number (SIN) 

You should apply for a SIN as soon as possible after you arrive in Canada. A SIN is a nine- digit number provided by Service Canada on behalf of the federal government. You will need this number to work in Canada or to apply for government programs and benefits. You must present one of the following documents when you apply for a SIN: 

Permanent residents: 

  • Permanent resident card from CIC: this is the only acceptable document if your permanent residence application was processed in Canada.
  • Confirmation of Permanent Residence AND visa counterfoil affixed to your foreign passport or travel document. 

Temporary residents:             

Work permit from CIC, Study permit from CIC or Visitor record from CIC indicating that you are authorized to work in Canada. 

To apply for a SIN, simply gather the documents you need and take them to your nearest Service Canada Centre. The Service Canada agent will need to see the original documents (not copies). If your application and documents are in order, you will get a SIN in one visit. For more information about the SIN, visit Service Canada

You can also call Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218 (select option 3) or visit a Service Canada Centre in person (see the Blue Pages of the telephone book for Service Canada. 

Health card

In Canada, governments pay for many aspects of health care using money collected from taxes. This means that you do not pay for most services when you go to a doctor, clinic or hospital. For more details on Canada’s health-care system, see the section on Health care in Canada.

You will need a health insurance card to get health care in Canada. You must present this card each time you need medical services.

Applying for a government health insurance card

You should apply for a health insurance card from your provincial or territorial government as soon as possible after you arrive in Canada. You can get an application at a doctor’s office, a hospital, a pharmacy or an immigrant-serving organization. You can also get the forms online from the government ministry responsible for health in your province or territory. When you apply for your health insurance card, you will need to show identification such as your birth certificate, passport, permanent resident card or Confirmation of Permanent Residence.

In most provinces and territories, each family member receives his/her own card with a personal health identification number. You must carry the card with you and present it at a hospital or clinic when you or someone in your family needs health services website for a location near you).

Driving licences 

To drive a car in Canada, you will need a driver’s licence. It is illegal to drive without a licence and the penalties for doing so are very high. 

In Canada, provincial and territorial governments issue a driver’s licence and you must get a licence from the province or territory in which you live. This licence will allow you to drive anywhere in Canada. You must have it with you whenever you are driving. If you have a valid licence from your country of origin, you will probably be able to use this to drive in Canada for a short period after arriving. 

If you plan to use a foreign driver’s licence in Canada, you should get an International Driving Permit (IDP) in your country of origin. An IDP provides a translation of your licence into a variety of languages, including French and English. The process for getting a driver’s licence in Canada depends on the province or territory in which you live and on your driving background. You may need to pass a written examination on the rules of the road (study guides are available) and one or two driving tests. You may choose to pay for driving lessons to prepare for the driving tests (see the Yellow Pages or search the Internet). Once you have a licence, it will have to be renewed periodically (see the expiry date on your licence).

To learn more about applying for your Canadian Driver’s Licence, click here. 

Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know 

www.cic.gc.caCitizenship and Immigration Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2013.