Home British Columbia Immigration Program Before You Move To British Columbia: Guide For New Immigrants And Students

Before You Move To British Columbia: Guide For New Immigrants And Students

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Starting a new life in a different country is an exhilarating experience, filled with hopes, dreams, and perhaps, a touch of anxiety. The journey is not only about relocating physically, but it’s also about cultural transitions, administrative formalities, and starting afresh in an unfamiliar environment. It’s an adventure that’s both exciting and challenging, requiring ample preparation and information. This is particularly true if you’re planning to move to the beautiful province of British Columbia in Canada, known for its spectacular landscapes, vibrant cities, multicultural society, and an economy that offers a wealth of opportunities.

This comprehensive guide, has been specifically curated to help new immigrants and international students planning to start a new chapter in British Columbia. We’ve designed this guide to be your virtual companion that not only provides you with key insights about life in B.C., but also offers actionable tips and resources to help you prepare, transition, and settle down in this stunning westernmost province.

We will take you through the breathtaking geography and climate of B.C, its rich, diverse culture, and robust economy. Then, we’ll dive into the nuts and bolts of the moving process, covering everything from essential documentation to finances, and housing to health insurance. On arrival, you’ll find handy tips about transportation, setting up your home, opening a bank account, and getting a local phone number. We’ll also walk you through the vital aspects of living in B.C., including the acclaimed education system, finding employment, understanding healthcare, and engaging in community and recreational activities.

Whether you are a student stepping into the vibrant world of Canadian academia, a young professional seeking a career breakthrough, or a family aspiring for a higher standard of living, this guide will prove to be a valuable resource in your journey to making B.C. your new home. So, buckle up as we embark on this journey to unravel the essentials of moving to British Columbia!

Understanding British Columbia

Before you embark on your journey to British Columbia (B.C.), it’s important to understand the nuances of this province. Known as the western gateway to Canada, B.C. is a land of natural beauty and prosperous opportunities. Let’s dive deeper to uncover what makes B.C. a coveted destination for immigrants.

Geography and Climate

British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, is defined by its Pacific coastline and mountain ranges. B.C. boasts some of the most stunning and diverse landscapes in the country, encompassing everything from lush rainforests and fertile vineyards to rugged mountains and pristine coastlines.

B.C. is divided into several geographical regions: the Coast Mountains and the Inside Passage’s fjords in the west, the Central Plateau’s farmlands, the Rocky Mountains in the east, and the dry grasslands of the Southern Interior Plateau, which includes Canada’s only desert.

The climate in B.C. varies dramatically across the province. Coastal regions enjoy mild, rainy winters and warm, dry summers. The Southern Interior has hot summers and cold winters, while the Northern Interior has a much harsher climate, with colder winters and shorter summers. Despite these variations, B.C. generally enjoys one of the warmest climates in Canada.

Culture and Diversity

B.C. is known for its rich cultural diversity. The province has a thriving arts scene, with numerous galleries, theatres, and music festivals. B.C.’s culture is also significantly influenced by the Indigenous Peoples who have inhabited the area for thousands of years.

With over 200 ethnic origins reported by B.C. residents as of 2016, multiculturalism is an integral part of B.C.’s identity. This cultural mosaic is reflected in the culinary scene, community festivals, and the emphasis on inclusive policies and programs.

Economy and Opportunities

British Columbia has a robust and diversified economy. Key sectors include technology and digital media, film and television, mining, forestry, aquaculture, and tourism. The province’s tech sector, in particular, has seen remarkable growth in recent years, with Vancouver and Victoria emerging as major tech hubs.

B.C. presents a wealth of opportunities for professionals, tradespersons, and business entrepreneurs. The province is keen on attracting and retaining international talent to meet its economic needs and address demographic challenges.


B.C. offers top-quality education, from primary to post-secondary levels. The province’s K-12 education system is one of the best in the world, with an emphasis on personalized learning. For post-secondary education, institutions like the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University are renowned globally for their research and innovation.

As an international student, you’ll have the opportunity to study in these acclaimed institutions, enhancing your skills and improving your global employability.

Having laid the groundwork about British Columbia, let’s move on to the practical aspects of preparing for your move. Buckle up as we navigate through the processes and procedures that would pave the way for your smooth transition to B.C.

Preparing for the Move

As you embark on your journey to British Columbia, careful preparation can make the transition smoother and more comfortable. This phase encompasses several elements, including legal documentation, finances, housing, healthcare, and much more. Let’s walk through each of these key points.

Legal Documentation

Firstly, make sure you have all your legal documentation in order. Depending on your status – whether you’re immigrating, coming as a student, or for work – there are various forms and documents you will need. These include visas, passports, proof of funds, health reports, educational certificates, work permits, and more. It’s a good idea to have both original copies and photocopies of these documents.

If you are immigrating, ensure that you follow the process outlined by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). For international students, your designated learning institution will guide you through the necessary steps. Workers should adhere to the requirements of their employer and the guidelines established by the Canadian government.


Before you move, familiarize yourself with the cost of living in B.C. This includes housing, transportation, groceries, healthcare, and more. Plan a budget to help manage your finances and ensure you have sufficient funds to cover initial expenses upon arrival. This might include rent and security deposit, furniture, groceries, utilities, and more.

Open a Canadian bank account as soon as possible after you arrive. Most banks offer services for newcomers, including setting up a checking and savings account, credit cards, and more.


Finding a place to live is one of the most important aspects of your move. There are many online resources available to help you find housing in B.C. These range from real estate websites, to social media groups, to websites specializing in rentals. If possible, arrange temporary accommodation for when you first arrive, giving you time to find something permanent.

When choosing where to live, consider factors such as proximity to work or school, access to public transportation, local amenities, and the cost of rent or housing prices within the area.


B.C. has a publicly funded healthcare system called the Medical Services Plan (MSP). As a resident, you are eligible for the MSP, but there may be a waiting period before coverage begins. It’s advisable to have private health insurance to cover any health issues during this period.


If you have children, start researching schools in your chosen area. B.C.’s public education system is divided into School Districts. Each district has a number of Elementary (Kindergarten to Grade 7) and Secondary (Grade 8 to Grade 12) schools. You can find information on the BC Government website about how to enroll your children in school.


If you plan to drive in B.C., you will need a valid driver’s license. You can use an international driver’s license for up to six months. After that, you will need a B.C. driver’s license. You can usually exchange a license from your home country for a B.C. license.

Social Insurance Number

Once you arrive in Canada, one of the first things you should do is apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN). This nine-digit number is necessary to work in Canada or to access government programs and benefits.

This preparation phase may seem overwhelming, but don’t worry, thousands of immigrants have gone through the same process and successfully settled in B.C. Stay organized, follow the guidelines, and you’ll be on your way to starting your new life in British Columbia. Let’s explore what you need to do after you’ve arrived.

Arriving in B.C.

Upon arrival in British Columbia, there are immediate steps that you should take to facilitate your transition into your new life. This can range from applying for essential services and understanding the public transit system to connecting with community resources.

Applying for Essential Services

Essential services in B.C. include utilities such as electricity, water, and internet. Most utilities can be set up online or over the phone. Some may require a deposit, especially if you have no previous Canadian credit history.

For electricity, BC Hydro is the primary electricity distributor. The company offers several account options including residential, business, and industrial. You can set up a new account or transfer service to a new address via their website or customer service line.

As for water and sewer services, these are generally included in your property taxes or rent, so you usually don’t need to set these up separately. For internet and phone, there are multiple providers such as Telus, Shaw, Rogers, and Bell. Shop around to find a package that suits your needs and budget.

Public Transit System

Understanding the public transit system in your new city can significantly ease your transition. BC Transit serves over 130 communities across B.C., while TransLink serves the Metro Vancouver region. They provide bus, SkyTrain (light rail), SeaBus (passenger ferry), and West Coast Express (commuter rail) services.

You can pay for transit services using a Compass Card, a contactless payment system that can be loaded with funds for use across the transit network. The cost of travel depends on the number of zones you cross during your trip.

Applying for a BC Services Card

A BC Services Card is a government-issued identification that is used to access provincial healthcare services. You can apply for a card at an Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC) driver licensing office. If you’re eligible, you can combine your BC Services Card with your driver’s license.

Schools and Education

If you have school-aged children, you’ll need to register them at a school near you. You can do this through your local school district. In addition to mainstream schools, B.C. offers a variety of alternative learning options including French immersion, Montessori, and homeschooling.

Connecting with Community Resources

Finally, don’t overlook the wealth of community resources available for new immigrants. Settlement organizations offer free services such as language courses, employment support, and help with daily tasks. Connecting with your local immigrant services organization can provide a wealth of information and support.

In conclusion, your first few weeks in B.C. will likely be a whirlwind of activity. However, with careful planning and the willingness to seek help when needed, you will be well on your way to establishing a fulfilling life in British Columbia. Welcome to your new home!

Living in B.C.

Once you’ve settled into your new home, there’s still so much to explore in British Columbia. Living in B.C. is about embracing the lifestyle, the culture, and becoming part of the local community.

Embracing the Lifestyle

British Columbia is known for its spectacular natural beauty. From its rugged coastline to the majestic mountains and serene lakes, there are endless opportunities for outdoor activities. Hiking, biking, fishing, skiing, kayaking, and camping are all popular pastimes in B.C. Embrace the active, outdoor lifestyle to truly enjoy all that B.C. has to offer.

The province also has a vibrant cultural scene with festivals, markets, music, and arts events throughout the year. Cities like Vancouver and Victoria are cultural hubs with museums, galleries, theaters, and world-class dining experiences.

Employment and Career

British Columbia’s diverse economy offers numerous employment opportunities. The leading industries are trade, healthcare, professional services, and tech. The province also has significant forestry, mining, and agricultural sectors. B.C. is home to several top universities and colleges, offering a wide range of educational and career development opportunities.

Remember to utilize career resources such as employment agencies, job fairs, and networking events to boost your career prospects. The Canadian government also provides free language training programs for immigrants, which can help improve your employability.

Community Involvement

Getting involved in your local community is a great way to meet new people and feel more at home. This could be as simple as joining a local sports team, volunteering at a community center, or participating in local events and festivals.

Moving to a new country is a significant life change, but it also presents exciting opportunities. By preparing well in advance, understanding what to expect, and being proactive once you arrive, you can make the transition to life in British Columbia smoother and more rewarding.

Living in B.C. is about more than just finding a place to live and a job. It’s about embracing the lifestyle, becoming part of the local community, and creating a fulfilling life in your new home. As you navigate this new chapter, remember that help is available – from government resources to community groups and fellow immigrants, many people are ready to assist you on your journey.

Welcome to British Columbia, a place of breathtaking natural beauty, diverse cultural experiences, and vibrant communities. This is your new home, and it’s waiting for you to explore.

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