New to Canada? Here’s What You Need to Know

First of all, welcome!

We are happy that you have found us at, and we hope that you will find the information here useful as you begin your new life in Canada.

As a newcomer, 211 can help you learn about Ontario and services to support you.

About 211 Ontario

211 Ontario (211) is telephone helpline (dial 2-1-1) and website that provides information on community, social, health and government services in Ontario for all residents, including new immigrants and refugees. 211 helps to navigate the complex network of human services quickly and easily, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in over 150 languages.

As a newcomer, 211 can help you learn about Ontario and services to support you. We are here to answer any questions you may have – about government services, to employment programs, health supports, settlement services and more. If you would like to speak with us in your native language, when you call 2-1-1 ask for an interpreter in the language you want to speak in. Then hold on the line while we bring an interpreter on the call.

Below, are the types of questions newcomers frequently ask our 211 Information and Referral Specialists. Following are also some websites that can help newcomers answer these questions themselves.

  • Where can I find English classes?
  • How do I find work in my field?
  • How do I have my credentials assessed?
  • How do I enroll my children in school?
  • How do I get around my new town or city?
  • How do I apply for OHIP card?
  • How do I apply for my Social Insurance Number?
  • I need medical care now. Where should I go?
  • How do I obtain an Ontario Driver’s Licence?
  • How do I meet people?
  • How do I prepare for a Canadian winter?
  • Where can I find a permanent place to live?
  • How do I get my kids involved in sports or other recreational activities?
  • Who can help me with this form in my language?
  • How do I file income tax?
  • How do I open a bank account?
  • How do I obtain a credit card in Canada?
  • I have been feeling down for a while. Is there a way I can get counselling?
  • How do you celebrate different holidays here?
  • I just found out I’m pregnant. How do I get prenatal care?
  • I think my employer may be breaking the law (e.g. not paying me overtime). Where can I get help?
  • I need to know more about my rights as a tenant. Who can help me?
  • I have a consumer complaint. Where do I complain?
  • How do I become a Canadian citizen?
  • I cannot find any place to rent because I’m a newcomer and don’t have any credit history. I don’t have friends or anyone who would be my guarantor. Who can help me?

Are there any resources on settlement assistance?

Newcomers to Canada can visit Service Canada’s newcomers page, which contains helpful information at the federal government level.

If you are new to Ontario specifically, is an excellent resource that provides answers to some common questions from newcomers to Ontario and Canada. If you have a specific question, you can post it in the discussion forum, found here. provides multilingual information for newcomers to Ontario.

The Government of Ontario’s newcomers page also provides a wealth of information related to language training, interpreter services, employment opportunities and more.

Finally, every Ontario municipality or region has an online Local Immigration Portal (LIP) to help newcomers to the community navigate the local services it provide . Find the LIP in your community here.

How do I learn English/French?

Below are some valuable resources that are available to help newcomers learn or improve their English and French language skills:

  • The Government of Canada provides government funded language classes if you are a permanent resident or a protected person. Click here to learn more.
  • offers helpful and multilingual information on how to learn both English and French.


How do I apply for OHIP?

OHIP, or the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, is provincially-funded health care coverage. According to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, to be eligible for OHIP coverage, you must:

  • Be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or among one of the newcomer to Canada groups who are eligible for OHIP as set out in Ontario’s Health Insurance Act;
  • Be physically present in Ontario for 153 days in any 12-month period;
  • Be physically present in Ontario for at least 153 days of the first 183 days immediately after establishing residency in the province; and
  • Make your primary place of residence in Ontario.

To read more, visit the Ministry’s OHIP page, here.

Other Common Health Care-Related Questions

How do I find a family doctor? suggests several ways you can find a family doctor, including:

Read more about Health Care Connect on the Government of Ontario website here.

How do I find prenatal care?

If you are pregnant and you do not have health care coverage, it can be a very expensive and stressful experience. Fortunately, there are options.

Community Health Centres (CHCs) have health professionals such as doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners on staff. If you do not have OHIP, you may be able to get health care services at a CHC. Find more information here.

In Ontario, midwifery care is free to all residents, allowing newcomers to access essential prenatal care. Newcomer women are referred to clinics by CHCs or organizations that provide services to immigrants and refugees. Learn more here.

How can I access children and family services?

In many Ontario communities there are several local agencies available to help newcomers and their families adapt to life in Canada. Please click on the following resources to learn more:

  • is a website dedicated to newcomer youth, with information about daily life in Ontario, schools, immigration, employment, health care and more.
  • Locate your local YMCA, and ask about their newcomer youth programs.
  • Call 2-1-1. Settlement agencies provide a variety of programs which may include child and family programs.


Other Common Children and Family Services Questions

How do I apply for the Canada Child Tax benefit?

The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help them with the cost of raising children under age 18. If you are applying for the first time, you may need to provide supporting documentation, such as proof of immigration status in Canada and proof of birth for children born outside of Canada, or children who were born in Canada but are 1 year of age or older. Read more here.

How do I enroll my children in school?

In Ontario, public elementary and secondary schools are free of charge. Click here to learn more about how to enroll your children in Ontario’s schools.

How can I sponsor other family members?

If you are a citizen or permanent resident of Canada and at least 18 years old, you can sponsor certain relatives to come to Canada. Learn more here.

Are there programs in my community where my child can do activities and I can meet other parents?

In addition to programs at your local YMCA, many communities have summer programs for kids that focus on sports, art, science and more. Click here to learn more.

How do I open a bank account in Ontario?

In order to open a bank account, you must go to the bank in person and show acceptable identification. You can find a list of acceptable identification here.

The Canadian Bankers Association is another excellent source of banking information for newcomers. To learn more about opening a bank account, obtaining a credit card, or to read more on banking for newcomers, click here.

If you are a newcomer to Ontario and have any questions, call 2-1-1 to speak to a knowledgeable 211 Information and Referral Specialist.

Other Common Financial Questions

How do I file income tax?

According to, there are several different ways to file your tax return. Click here to learn more. You can also visit Canada Revenue Agency’s page on completing income tax as a newcomer here. For a helpful video on how the tax system works in Canada, click here.

Where can I obtain financial/income assistance?

Click here to access information on the Government of Canada’s Resettlement Assistance Program, and the Immigration Loans Program.

In Ontario, financial help is also available through various government programs. To see if you qualify, click here.

How do I find work?

Ontario has a strong economy, and there are many job opportunities for newcomers. Click here to access’s helpful pages for job seekers who are new to Ontario. has detailed information and tips on finding and applying for a job, resume writing, interview preparation and more. Click here.

Other Common Employment Questions

How do I apply for a Social Insurance Number?

The Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a nine-digit number that you need to work in Canada, or to have access to government programs and benefits. A SIN is issued to one person, and it cannot be legally used by anyone else. Click here to learn more.

I think my employer may be breaking the law. Where can I get help?

According to the Government of Canada, each province and territory has its own legislation when it comes to employment standards. Most workers in Canada are protected by the employment laws of their province or territory. To read more about worker’s rights in Canada, click here.

If you are currently working, but have been fired or laid off – or you think that perhaps your employer may be breaking the law – this page explains your rights under the Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA). It also contains helpful links concerning your rights at work and basic working conditions.

Where can I find a permanent place to live?

There are Housing Help Centres across Ontario. A variety of community services, like shelters and drop-in program can also provide help to find a place to live. They can also help with application forms and more. There are also a number of supports to help you keep your new place by providing information on your legal rights as a renter, talking to your landlord, rent bank loans, tax return clinics and emergency utility bill relief programs.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation provides information for newcomers in eight languages to help them understand the rental and buying a house processes in Canada. Click here to access this information.

If you are a newcomer to Ontario and have any questions, call 2-1-1 to speak to a knowledgeable 211 Information and Referral Specialist.

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