Moving To Canada

So you’ve made the decision to move to Canada. You have your visa, your passport and your determination to succeed: what next?

Moving to a new country (while almost always a rewarding experience) can prove time consuming and stressful. When relocating, there is a lot to think about – from finding a place to live to transferring your money and more. Because this can at times seem overwhelming, we have created handy guides to guide you through the relocation process. If you have already arrived in Canada, you will still find lots of useful information relevant to settling in the country.

While some tasks can be completed when already in Canada, some tasks need lots of preparation in advance of your move, for example importing your pet to Canada, so we recommend preparing for your move as much as you can in advance.

You can also connect in person with organizations that can help you move to and settle in Canada at the Newcomers Canada events.

 

 

HEALTHCARE AND HEALTHCARE INSURANCE

 

Canada’s Universal Health-Care System

Canada’s health insurance system is designed to ensure that all residents of Canada have access to health care. All Canadian citizens and permanent residents may apply for public health insurance. When you have public health insurance, you do not pay directly for most health-care services. Instead, all Canadians share in paying for them through taxes. When you use public health-care services, you must show your health insurance card to the hospital or medical clinic.

Instead of having a single national plan, Canada’s health-care program is made up of provincial and territorial health insurance plans. All of these plans share certain common features and standards. However, there are differences, so it is important to know what medical services and procedures your province or territory covers because it may not be the same in other areas.

All provinces and territories, no matter where you live or where you might be travelling in Canada, will provide emergency medical services free of cost, even if you have not yet obtained a government health card. Restrictions may apply to some newcomers depending on your immigration status which you can verify this here. In an emergency situation, go to the nearest hospital. If you go to a walk-in clinic in a province or territory where you are not a resident, you might be charged a fee.

 

Private Health Insurance

Government health insurance plans provide access to medically necessary services. However, you may need private insurance – often called supplementary health insurance or extended benefits – to pay for health needs that government plans do not fully cover. The most common types of supplementary health insurance plans are extended health plans. These cover expenses such as prescription medications, dental care, physiotherapy, ambulance services and prescription eyeglasses. Most provinces and territories do not cover the costs of these items, but some may cover a portion of the expenses. If you work, you may receive supplementary coverage for these health needs from the company or organization you work for.

You will also need private health insurance if you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. You may need to provide proof of this upon arrival in Canada, so if you are on a temporary work visa, Working Holiday visa etc. it’s often best to have health insurance in place before you come to Canada.

 

Getting a Health Card

To access health care in Canada, you will need a health insurance card provided by your province or territory of residence. You must present this card each time you access medical services. For information on how to obtain a health insurance card, visit our Important Documents section.

Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know

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

 

TRAVEL INSURANCE

It’s highly recommended to purchase travel insurance when moving abroad. Travel insurance can protect you when you lose your luggage, miss a flight, have your passport stolen, get injured and more.

There are several different types of travel insurance, including single trip, multi-trip, business insurance, backpacker insurance and more. You can purchase insurance as an individual, as a couple or as a family. It’s important to shop around for the best deal when buying insurance.

 

Purchasing Insurance in your Home Country

For many people, especially those on temporary visas, this is an easier and usually cheaper option than purchasing insurance in Canada. Many insurance companies in your own country will be happy to insure you while you are on your travels and often have very good deals. However, it’s important to be aware that many companies will only renew or extend your policy if you are in the country. This can prove awkward if you are unable to return to your home country to do this.

Sometimes, people can find that their private health insurance policy covers them for illness and injury sustained abroad. Check your health insurance policy to ensure you are not paying for cover you already have. However, health insurance will not cover lost luggage, passport etc.

 

Purchasing Insurance in Canada

There are many insurance companies in Canada that provide travel cover, often these policies can have limitations, such as only covering people for short periods of time. In addition, many insurance providers do not cover those who are not permanent residents or Canadian citizens. In some cases, the companies that will insure non-residents usually offer expensive policies.

 

Other Options

Some travel agents, tour operators and visa specialists offer travel insurance as part of a deal (along with a visa, bank account etc.). While this can sometimes work out as good value, it is still important to shop around. You may be able to get a much better insurance deal with another provider.

 

Tips
  • Read the terms and conditions of your policy carefully. There is often small print in policies that many people are not aware of; for example if you return to your home country before your policy is up your insurance will be null and void.   
  • Consider what you will be doing when abroad. For many people travelling to Canada, they plan to backpack, hike, ski etc. On many standard travel insurance policies, these types of activities are not covered. Most insurers will offer extra cover for ‘high risk’ adventure activities, but at a high cost.
  • Keep a copy of your policy with you while travelling. This will be extremely important if you need to make a claim. Most insurers have 24 hour claim help lines that you can call if necessary.

 

RENTING A HOME IN CANADA

Moving house or apartment is difficult at the best of times without the added complication of being in a new and unfamiliar country. Renting before buying is always recommended as it will allow you to find your feet and to find out what type of property and area suits your lifestyle before making such a substantial financial commitment.

If you are planning to rent a home in Canada, a useful Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) publication to look at is Renting Your First Home in Canada: What Newcomers Need to Know.

 

Finding a Property to Rent

When looking for property, it’s important to shop around and take a look at different neighbourhoods and areas before committing to a rental lease. Every neighbourhood is different, e.g. some being more family friendly with easy access to schools, and some being closer to nightlife.  Rental websites and estate agents can be a good place to start looking. Websites such as Navut can assist newcomers when making a decision where to live in Canada.

Prices for renting property can vary greatly throughout Canada, with the larger cities such as Toronto and Vancouver being the most expensive. Rent is usually paid monthly.

It’s important to note that most properties in Canada are unfurnished when you begin renting them, and you therefore may have to spend money buying furniture. Alternatively, you could ship your furniture and belongings over to Canada from your home country.

Where possible, begin your research before you arrive in Canada and have some property viewings set up. It’s also recommended to bring references from previous landlords with you, stating that you are a responsible tenant that pays rent on time. This can give you an advantage in a competitive Canadian rental market.

 

Tenants and Landlords

Landlord and tenant responsibilities can vary in different provinces or territories. CMHC provides fact sheets that describe aspects of the rental process and related laws in each province and territory. The fact sheets also include contact information for provincial and territorial rental authorities and related links. You should read the fact sheet related to the province or territory where you live if you plan to rent a home. You can find the fact sheets at www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/reho.

 

Moving in and Signing a Lease

When you agree to rent a property, you and your landlord should sign a lease. A lease is a written rental agreement that outlines all the terms you and your landlord have agreed to. It is a legal document, so make sure you read and understand what you are signing.

Depending on the province or territory, a landlord may ask you for a rental deposit when you sign the lease. The deposit is usually equal to the cost of one month’s rent. This deposit can be used if you do not pay the rent or to cover damage you cause to the apartment or house you are renting. When you move out, your deposit is either returned to you or used to pay for your last month of rent. Every province has different rules about deposits. For example, in Ontario, the deposit can only be used for unpaid rent and not to pay for damages. In Quebec, landlords are not permitted to ask for any deposit.

For more details, read the fact sheet for the province or territory where you live, available at www.cmhc.ca.

Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know

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

 

BUYING A HOME IN CANADA

As Canada is a fairly expensive country, buying property in Canada can be expensive and may require a home loan. Unlike some other countries, you do not need to be a citizen or permanent resident in Canada to purchase property. The only restrictions that apply are provincial restrictions on how much land you can purchase. As these vary, it’s best to check with the government of the province you are planning to buy property in.

 

How to Buy a House

To get an idea of what type of property is available and how much it will cost to purchase, check out real estate websites such as Realtor.ca.

It’s recommended to hire a realtor or estate agent when looking to buy property. In Canada, realtors will dedicate their time to finding the right property for you. Realtors also have the added benefit of knowing the property market inside out, so they can advise you on houses that are good value, overpriced etc.

Before you make an offer to purchase property, you must obtain a pre-approval letter from the lender you plan to use for your mortgage. This letter will provide proof that you can finance your purchase. Lenders usually look at income and expenditure before providing someone with a pre-approval letter.

Once you have negotiated a price, a written agreement will be drawn up. When both parties are satisfied with the agreement, a closing day (or completion date) will be set when the full amount is paid to the seller and you can move in to your new property.

 

Getting a Mortgage

When applying for a mortgage in Canada, you will need to provide proof of income and be able to pay the required deposit. You will also need to undergo a credit check. Many Canadian banks will accept a credit check from your home country. All of this is important to ensure you will be able to pay for your mortgage.

The required deposit can be between 25% and 35% of the property’s value. Banks generally approve loans on a case by case basis.

It’s important to obtain insurance for the property, as most mortgage providers will require this to approve your loan.

 

MONEY TRANSFER

Whether you’re sending money back home to cover a mortgage or transferring money to your new location to pay for an apartment deposit, you will most likely have to deal with money transfers and currency exchange at some point.

 

How to Transfer Money

There are two ways to exchange and transfer your money; you can use a bank or a money transfer specialist. Specialists trade in foreign currency every day and are able to advise you on trends and buy/sell patterns. Ensure you shop around banks and money transfer companies to get the best rate and lowest fees, and always ensure the company you use is regulated to ensure you are covered when sending your funds internationally. Most companies calculate their fee by charging a small percentage of your money transfer. One added benefit of money transfer specialists is that if you have the time, you can leave your money to sit in an account while you wait until the exchange rate improves to your liking.

It is possible to bring cash on your person when travelling to Canada, but for the safety and protection of your funds it is recommended that when moving money to Canada, it should be done electronically. If you are bringing more than $10,000 cash with you to Canada, you must declare this to the Canada Border Services Agency upon arrival in the country.

 

SHIPPING & MOVING

If you’ve decided to bring more than just a suitcase with you to Canada, you will most likely need to arrange for international shipping. There are various ways you can bring your personal goods to Canada, depending on the size and quantity of what you’re planning on bringing with you.

Household goods are transported around the world by various means, depending on the quantity of goods for shipment, urgency of delivery and cost considerations. There are two main ways to ship goods to Canada; air and sea. As with most relocation preparations, if you plan your shipment in advance it will make moving country easier and often, cheaper.

 

Sea Freight

Shipping goods by sea is usually cheaper than by air, and is generally very reliable, but takes significantly longer than air to arrive from your home country. Sea freight is ideal for those who wish to transfer large amounts of goods, particularly furniture, motorbikes, cars and other large items.

If you decide to use sea freight, you will either be using a container or a groupage system (also known as consolidation). Containers are best used when you have a large amount of items to be shipped. You can usually choose from a 20 foot or 40 foot container. Groupage is used when you do not have enough items to fill a whole container, and instead group your items together with others in a container.

 

Air Freight

Air freight is a better option for those who wish to transport a small amount of goods, such as extra luggage, in a short space of time. In addition, it’s usually easier to access a nearby airport than a major port. However, this convenience means it is generally more expensive to ship goods by air.

 

Import Rules & Regulations

When entering Canada, it’s important to have a list of the goods you are shipping with you, and the goods that will be imported after your arrival. If you do not declare all your goods, you face the possibility of paying import tax. This list is given to a border official upon arrival to Canada.

It is prohibited to import certain items into the country, e.g. firearms, food, plants and more. There are also restrictions on alcohol and tobacco, but these can vary between provinces.

For the most up to date list of rules and regulations, see the website of the Canada Border Services Agency.

 

BANKING IN CANADA

Banks and other financial institutions such as “credit unions” and “caisses populaires” are safe places to keep your money. If your financial institution is a member of the Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation, the government insures the money in your account up to a maximum of $100,000 (go to www.cdic.ca for more information).

A bank account allows you to write cheques, use ABMs to pay your bills, receive funds through direct deposit or use a debit card for purchases. You can get help with these services at your bank branch during business hours. You can also have access to many of these services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at an ABM, or through telephone or Internet banking. Telephone and Internet banking are very common ways for Canadians to do their banking transactions. Ask your bank for details.

 

Opening a Bank Account

In Canada, you have the right to a personal bank account, even if:

  • You do not have a job;
  • You do not have money to put in the account right away;
  • You have poor credit rating; or you have been bankrupt.

To open a bank account, you must go to the bank in person and present acceptable identification pieces. The documents you present must be original (not photocopies) and in good condition. Identification that has expired is not valid. When you open a bank account in Canada, you will need to provide appropriate identification.

Remember: Unless the personal bank account you are opening pays interest, you do not need to provide your SIN to the bank. Note: You do not have to have a permanent address to open a bank account. However, if you do provide an address, the bank may ask you for proof that you live there. An example of such proof would be a recent electricity, cable or telephone bill that includes both your name and address. If you do not have acceptable identification, contact your federal, provincial or territorial government for information on how to get the pieces of identification you need.  

 

 

Main Types of Bank Accounts

Chequing accounts allow you to write cheques and usually include the use of a debit card. They often have lower transaction fees than a savings account and may or may not have a fixed monthly fee. You will need a chequing account if your employer uses payroll deposit. Payroll deposit allows your employer to deposit money directly into your chequing account (without of course being able to take out money).

Savings and investment accounts are helpful if you want to save money because they provide higher interest than chequing accounts. With these accounts, you may be allowed to make only certain types of transactions or a certain number of transactions. Additional transactions may be expensive. That is why most consumers who open a savings account also have a chequing account for their day-to-day banking needs.

There are many investment opportunities available in Canada. To learn more about investments, contact your bank or consult the FCAC website at ItPaysToKnow.gc.ca.

 

Debit Cards

Debit cards are accepted in many places and are a popular form of payment in Canada. They are a safe, convenient way to pay for purchases directly from your bank account (direct payment). Make sure that you have sufficient funds in your account when you use direct payment. When you use your debit card in stores, or at an ABM that is not owned by your financial institution, you may be charged an additional fee.

For tips regarding the use of your debit card, consult the FCAC website.

Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know

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

DRIVING IN CANADA

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, the Government of Canada website.

Source: Welcome to Canada: What you should know

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

 

IMMIGRATION AGENTS

For some people, the process of applying for a visa can be quite complicated and time consuming, so they look for outside help when lodging an application. Although it can be overwhelming when you first look at all the types of visas on offer, it is possible to apply for visas by yourself through the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.

If you decide to work with an immigration agent, make sure they are a member of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council. There have been many reports of unofficial agents charging unsuspecting customers thousands for visa advice and lodging visa applications, which is illegal. Similarly, if you decide to use an immigration lawyer, ensure they are a member of a Canadian territorial or provincial law society.

When you have chosen an immigration agent or lawyer, you must inform CIC. You can do so by downloading and filling out a Use of Representative form.

What Can Immigration Agents Do for You?

Immigration agents can:

  • Explain the visa options available to you, help identify the most suitable visa to apply for, and provide advice on immigration law
  • Assist you with extending your visa, applying for permanent residence etc.
  • Prepare documents for your visa application
  • Lodge a well prepared application to CIC
  • Can contact CIC to ask questions on behalf of your application

Remember that an immigration agent cannot fast-track your application or influence the outcome of your application. Only CIC can make decisions about visas.

 

Benefits of Using an Immigration Agent

If your case is particularly complex or you are not confident submitting an application independently, it can be worthwhile to employ the services of an immigration agent. Immigration agents generally have an extensive knowledge of the visas available and how the system works, as well as knowledge of current immigration law.

 

 

BRINGING YOUR PET TO CANADA

It’s understandable to want to take your pet with you on your move abroad. However, it’s important to be aware that Canada has a number of regulations when bringing your pet into the country.

 

How to Transfer Your Pet

The requirements for transferring your pet into Canada vary depending on the type of animal, age of the animal and where the animal is travelling from. For a full list of requirements, see the Canadian Government website.

For pets such as cats and dogs, it is usually sufficient that the animal is vaccinated and does not have serious infections such as rabies. You will also usually be required to present a vet certificate from a registered veterinarian verifying the above information. Once the animal is accepted by the authorities as being healthy, you will not need to quarantine your pet cat or dog.

However, there are stricter regulations on other types of animals. For example, turtles and tortoises require an import permit to enter the country, as they can transmit infectious diseases. As the requirements of each animal vary, it’s always best to check with the Canadian government before making plans to import your pet. The government has a handy import reference system, where you can find out importation requirements.  

 

Tips
  • It is sometimes advisable to use a specialist pet transfer company when transferring your animal.  
  • If transporting your pet by plane, check in advance with the airline what their pet transfer policy is. Many airlines have special requirements, e.g. using a special pet carrier.
  • Pet carriers must be large enough for the animal to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. They should also be well ventilated. If in doubt what kind of carrier your pet needs, speak to your veterinarian.
  • If bringing your pet into the country via a vehicle, remember pets are not allowed roam freely in the back of a pick-up truck or van.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended in a vehicle, particularly if temperatures are very hot or cold. If you must, only leave the animal alone for a short period of time and ensure it has access to water and fresh air.
  • Make sure your pet is wearing ID at all times (e.g. collar with contact information).

 

TAX REFUNDS

One thing to consider before moving abroad is claiming your tax back. Many people leaving their home country are unaware that they may be eligible to claim their tax back, which can often be worth a significant amount.

Every year you are allocated a certain amount of tax credits. If you leave the country during the year and do not avail of all your tax credits, you can claim a refund on both your unused tax credits and a refund of the tax you have paid that year. This is a great way to pocket some extra money before moving abroad.

 

How to Claim a Tax Refund

There are numerous different companies and websites that assist people in getting their tax back. It’s generally quite simple to find out if you are owed money, and how much you will be refunded. For most, all you will need is a wage statement (such as a P45) from your employer, outlining how much tax you have paid. Once you provide these forms for a tax refund company, they will be able to inform you how much you are eligible to receive.

To claim the money back, you can contact your local tax office. However, this can involve lots of paperwork and can be time consuming, which is why many people choose to avail of tax refund companies to do it for them; usually for a small percentage of the money they are refunded.  Tax refunds usually take a few weeks to be processed and sent to you, but this will depend on the country you are claiming from.

Keep in mind there is usually a time limit to how long you can wait before claiming tax back (e.g. 6 years), so do not wait too long after you have finished working in your home country.

 

IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS

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

 

Apostilles

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.

 

Tips
  • 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.ca, Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2013

 

Helpful Links


CIC Website
Realtor Website
CDIC Website

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