Whether you’re immigrating to Canada yourself or are preparing to help a friend, family member, or coworker immigrate, knowing what financial assistance resources are available will be helpful. There are programs offering financial assistance for immigrants in Canada, which can help with the transition.
Can immigrants get financial assistance? What resources are available for immigrants? How can you apply for benefits?
Are There Financial Benefits for Immigrants in Canada?
There is financial assistance available for immigrants in Canada. Many of these resources are the same as what is available to any other Canadian resident who meets the qualification criteria.
Types of Residency Statuses for Immigrants to Canada
Your eligibility for specific government financial benefits in Canada will be dependent on your residency status. But what residency status best describes you (or a person you’re sponsoring)? Some example residency statuses are:
- A Permanent Resident. This would describe you if you intend to remain in the country and have residential ties within it.
- Refugees. This would be your status if you were fleeing hardship or conflicts in other nations. For example, the government has added resources about financial support for Ukrainian refugees in Canada. As a refugee, you could be a temporary or permanent resident depending on your situation.
- A Temporary Resident. This would describe you if you only intend to be in Canada for a set period of time but need (or apply) for resident status for the duration of your stay. You might apply to be a temporary resident if you’re attending a Canadian college from abroad, an employee of a business operating in Canada, or already have a temporary resident permit. Many visitors hold a “visitor visa” (also known as a temporary resident visa) that is good for six months.
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) generally considers someone a newcomer to Canada for the first year of their residency.
Types of Financial Assistance for Immigrants in Canada
So, what resources are available to immigrants? Immigrants have access to the same financial assistance resources that other Canadian residents can access. Some financial support programs that immigrants to Canada may be eligible for include:
- The Canada Child Benefit (CCB). If you are taking care of a legal dependent under the age of 18, you may be able to apply for and earn the Canada Child Benefit. This is a tax-free monthly payment to families that helps with managing the economic expense of raising a child. If you share custody with another parent who is not part of your household, then each parent will receive 50% of what they would have received if they had full custody. Qualification criteria for newcomers to Canada include:
- You live with a child under the age of 18.
- You are primarily responsible for the care and upbringing of the child.
- You are a resident of Canada for tax purposes.
- You or your spouse or common-law partner must be one of the following: a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, a protected person, a temporary resident who has resided in the country for the previous 18 months and has a valid permit for the 19th month (some exceptions apply for permits marked “does not confer status” or “does not confer temporary residence status”), or a person registered (or entitled to be registered) under the Indian Act.
- The Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) Credit. This is a quarterly, tax-free payment to help individuals or families with low and modest incomes offset the goods and services tax or harmonized sales tax that they pay—and may include additional funds from provincial or territorial programs. This payment occurs four times a year and is available to residents of Canada. Applicants must:
- Be a resident of Canada for income tax purposes.
- Be at least 19 years of age or, if under 19, have a spouse or common-law partner or be a parent and live with their child.
- Both of these must be true of the applicant for the month before the CRA makes a payment and at the beginning of the month the CRA makes a payment.
- GST/HST payments are typically made in July, October, January, and April of each year. So, to get a payment in October, you would need to be a resident of Canada aged 19 or older (or have a spouse/common-law partner or be the parent of a child you live with) in September and at the start of October.
- Canada Workers Benefit (CWB). A benefit for those who are working but are making a low income which can be claimed when you file your taxes. This benefit has two parts: a basic amount and a disability supplement. Eligibility for the basic amount means meeting all of the following conditions:
- Earning working income and having a net income below the net income level set for your territory or province.
- Are a resident of Canada throughout the year.
- Are 19 years of age or older on December 31 or live with your spouse (or common-law partner) or your child (who is you or your spouse’s child under 19 years of age and lives with you on December 31—and aren’t themselves eligible for the CWB).
Some exclusions that would make you ineligible for the CWB include:
- Being enrolled as a full-time student at a designated educational institution for more than 13 weeks in the year unless, on December 31st, you have an eligible dependant.
- Are confined to a prison or similar institution for a period of at least 90 days during the year.
- Do not have to pay tax in Canada because you are an officer or servant of another country, such as a diplomat, or are a family member or employee of such a person.
- Refugee Services. These services provide support for moving into Canada for refugees. Under these services, newcomers to Canada can access language assessments, take language classes, get their professional credentials recognized (allowing expert workers to find new employment in their trade more easily), and learn about various community services.
These are just a few of the benefits and services that a newcomer to Canada might wish to apply for. However, it should be noted that some benefits, like the GST/HST and the CWB, are available when you file your first tax return, not before.
What Immigrants Need to Apply for Financial Assistance
If you or someone you know is getting ready to move to Canada as a permanent resident, and you (or they) want to be able to access the various immigrant financial assistance programs, you’ll want to make sure you (or they) have as much documentation as possible.
Documents for travel include:
- Birth certificates
- Passports and other travel documents
- Valid Canadian temporary resident visas
- Additional certificates (marriage, adoption, divorce, death) establishing relationships with family members
- Immunization/vaccination records
- Proof of funds or financial support—bank accounts, cash, certified cheques, bank drafts, money orders, or a written statement from a friend or family member (sometimes referred to as a financial support letter for a visitor visa in Canada)
When applying for financial benefits as an immigrant, it helps to have other documents verifying your identity, health, and trade skills—such as:
- Driver’s licence and driving record documents (if any)
- Education documents (diplomas, degrees, and school transcripts, if any)
- Trade/professional certificates and licences from accredited organizations
- Letters of reference from employers
- Medical records (prescriptions, test results, and other health information useful for disability benefit applications)
If you’re sponsoring an immigrant to Canada and are writing a letter of financial support for them can help ease their transition into the country and can also ensure that officers overseeing the immigration process are satisfied that the immigrant will have sufficient support from friends/family (i.e., you).
Building Credit from the Ground Up as a Newcomer to Canada
As you plan your move to Canada, one key component of getting settled can be overlooked—building credit. Having a good credit score is critical for securing some types of jobs and when you’re applying for a mortgage or rental home. So, it’s time to start building credit as a newcomer to Canada!
Have questions about how you can build credit or pay down debt in Canada? Reach out to one of our certified credit counsellors for answers! Our credit counselling is confidential non-judgmental, and free.
We look forward to helping you build a life in Canada free from debt.
This blog has been sponsored by easyfinancial.
At easyfinancial we believe everyone deserves fair access to credit, and since our inception we have worked with customers like you to make that a reality. We provide financial relief and a second chance when banks aren’t an option.
We choose to see beyond your current situation and look towards your potential for a tomorrow that includes improved credit and financial stability.