Travelling to Canada for the first time as a newcomer? Here is how you can arrive prepared

Julia Hornstein
Published: November 30, 2023

Plane landing

Whether you are coming to Canada as a permanent resident or with a work or study permit, there are certain obligations you must meet when landing in the country.

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All travellers to Canada need to show certain documents at their port of entry. These include a travel document (i.e. a passport) and a visa or electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to verify and confirm a person’s status in Canada.

What do I need to know before travelling to Canada as a new permanent resident?

If approved for Canadian permanent residence, you will receive a Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) document, which validates your approval as a new Canadian Permanent Resident (PR). If you have received a COPR, you must travel to Canada to legally complete the PR process before the expiration of your COPR.

If you are already in Canada, you will be issued an e-COPR through an online portal, which can be printed and used to validate your approval for permanent residence, like a physical COPR.

A COPR is usually valid for one year, but will be tied to your medical exam, visa sticker, and passport. In most circumstances, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) cannot extend a COPR. This means that anyone who has not travelled to Canada within the validity period (ie: let their COPR expire before travelling to Canada) will have to re-apply for PR.

If you are from a country that requires a visa to travel to Canada, a permanent residence visa will be issued to you along with your COPR. If your country of origin instead requires an eTA, you will have to procure one before your travel to Canada.

If already in Canada, you must confirm your new PR status virtually, through the help of an online portal. IRCC will contact applicants from inside of Canada through the email or phone number that they have provided on their application.

What do I need before travelling to Canada as a work permit holder?

If you are on a work permit, you must have the following documents when arriving in Canada:

  • A passport;
  • A visitor visa (if needed), or an eTA;
  • Any travel documents that may be relevant;
  • Proof that you meet the requirements of your job (like proof of work experience or education)
  • Copy of your employer’s positive or neutral Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) (if needed). If you are working in Quebec and need an LMIA, you will instead need a cerificat d’acceptation du Quebec (CAQ)

If your employment in Canada is LMIA-exempt but you are coming to work with a specific employer, you will need the offer of employment number that your employer would have received after submitting the relevant information in the Employer Portal.

In addition, work permit holders may also need to show proof that their work permit has been approved. One way to do this is to show a Letter of Introduction (LOI, also known as a Port of Entry Letter) to the border services agent at a port of entry.

An LOI is an approval letter that is sent to applicants who receive a work permit. This letter is not a work permit itself, but rather a letter proving that one’s permit has been approved.

Newcomers must also convince the border services officer that:

  • They meet Canada’s entry requirements
  • They will leave Canada at the end of their approved stay; and
  • They have valid immigration medical exam results (if applicable)—if the results of the medical exam expire before arrival into Canada, then new examinations will have to be done before travel

Note that the border services officer will make the final decision on whether to issue a work permit and allow an individual to enter Canada.

What do I need before travelling to Canada as a study permit holder?

If you are coming to Canada on a study permit, you must:

  • Have a valid travel document, (like a passport);
  • Have the LOI that was sent by the visa office (this letter also contains the permit reference number, which the government then uses to issue the corresponding permit);
  • Have a copy of a valid letter of acceptance from your school;
  • Have letters of reference or any other documents that the visa office asked for;
  • Have a valid visitor visa (temporary resident visa), eTA, green card (or equivalent proof of U.S. status) or any other valid travel document that can allow entry into Canada;
  • Have enough money for their stay (this amount will vary depending on specifics of travel and accommodation);

As a prospective student, you should be in good health and have no criminal record or immigration related convictions. You will also have to provide an immigration medical exam result (if applicable).

Finally, you must be able to convince an immigration officer that you have significant ties (friends, family, assets, etc.) that will take you back to your home country, and that you will leave Canada once your studies are completed.

What belongings can I bring with me to Canada as a newcomer?

Newcomers can bring their belongings to Canada; however, they must fill out a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) declaration to legally declare large assets and must pay close attention to border regulations around foods and edible goods.

The CBSA is tasked with monitoring and safeguarding Canada’s borders and ensuring the legitimate travel of goods and people through them.

CBSA declarations are the legal forms through which newcomers can rightfully declare the assets they want to bring into Canada. These declarations benefit newcomers, as they allow them to bring their larger assets into Canada without having to pay taxes on these goods.

Newcomers will not always be able to bring all their valuable belongings with them when they initially arrive in Canada. In these situations, new PRs are asked to submit a “Goods to Follow” list, so that all assets that will be brought in later are declared and lawful. Newcomers will present this list to CBSA at the airport, and will, in turn, be provided a receipt, which must be presented again at the port of entry when the individual does bring said assets into Canada.

It is important to note that there is no limit on the amount of cash that one can bring when they land in Canada. However, any amount of cash that exceeds $10,000 CAD must be declared to CBSA.

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