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Top 5 financial benefits new immigrants must know about in Canada

Immigration is the need of the hour for Canada because immigrants contribute to the economy and create jobs for Canadians. In lieu of the workforce, Canada offers some of the best living experiences and benefits in the world. In my previous posts, I explained my reasons to move to Canada. In this post I have listed down the top 5 financial benefits new immigrants must know about.

Free Healthcare and Provincial Drug Benefit Programs

Canada has a decentralized, universal, publicly funded health system called Canadian Medicare. Health care is funded and administered primarily by the country’s 13 provinces and territories. Each has its own insurance plan, and each receives cash assistance from the federal government on a per-capita basis. Benefits and delivery approaches vary. All citizens and permanent residents, however, receive medically necessary hospital and physician services free at the point of use.

While primary care is free, there are out-of-pocket expenses for Dental, Vision care, Physio Therapy, prescription and Over the Counter (OTC) drugs etc. which are expensive. You can take personal insurance or opt-in for employer-led insurance for such requirements.

Provincial Drug Benefit Programs – Each provincial and territorial government offers a drug benefit plan for eligible groups. Some are income-based universal programs. Most have specific programs for population groups that may require more enhanced coverage for high drug costs. For instance in British Columbia (where I live), residents may be eligible for 12 PharmaCare plans. One can be covered under multiple plans at the same time.

Free Education & Canada Learning Bond for RESPs

Primary education (until High School) is free for all children in Canada. This is applicable even if you are a temporary resident (work/study permit). This is a huge saving as you don’t have to care about the financial burden to educate your children. In India, I was spending almost 20% of my salary on school associate fees for my kids.

In addition to free education, you can open a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) for your child’s post-secondary education. This fund can be withdrawn for funding the college, university, apprenticeship, or other schooling costs. Under the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG), the government of Canada matches 20% on the first $2,500 contributed annually to an RESP, to a maximum of $500 per beneficiary per year. The lifetime maximum per beneficiary is $7,200, up to age 18.

There is also a provision for low-income households, where the government may add to your child’s RESP via the Canada Learning Bond. The Government contribution is $500 for the first year and $100 each subsequent year your child continues to be eligible for a maximum of $2,000.

Student Aid

Most of the new immigrants in Canada start with survival jobs. This is because the prior experience may not be relevant and most employers look for prior Canadian experience in a similar field or relevant education.

Canada has strict rules for each profession, and one cannot work in those fields unless proper licencing is acquired. Fields like Healthcare, Finance, Real Estate, Legal etc. have their own regulatory bodies and are governed by strict laws. During my stint at a college, many newcomers struggle to get good jobs just because they did not have adequate education.

Acquiring an education in Canada is expensive and this is where the Canada Student Financial Assistance Program (CSFA Program) comes as a great help. CSFA program helps students pay for their post-secondary education by providing Grants and Loans. The Program works in partnership with provinces and territories to deliver student aid. Funding is available to students that:

  • are full- and part-time
  • are from low- and middle-income families
  • have dependants
  • have permanent disabilities

A student can apply for grants and loans and if approved, grants need not be paid back to the government as long as you successfully complete the program you enroll into. Whereas loans come at a very low interest rate, in fact, no interest was charged to the students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

No payments are expected during the study period and once you complete the program, you get 6 months grace period before you start paying back the loan. Generally, students have 10 years to pay back the loan taken.

Child Care Benefit

We all know that raising kids is expensive. To support families, the government of Canada offers Canada Child Benefit (CCB) to most Canadian parents. It is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age.

You must apply for the CCB if you have child(ren) under the age of 18. You must meet all of the following conditions:

  • You live with a child who is under 18 years of age
  • 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 any of the following:
    • a Canadian citizen
    • a permanent resident
    • a protected person
    • a temporary resident who has lived in Canada for the previous 18 months, and who has a valid permit in the 19th month other than one that states “does not confer status” or “does not confer temporary resident status”
    • an individual who is registered, or entitled to be registered under the Indian Act

As per the data available on more than $26.6 billion were paid between Jul 2020 to June 2021. The specific amount of money you can get is determined based on your family’s status and income. However, the calculator may give you some estimates.

Employment Insurance

Most workers in Canada pay a premium for Employment Insurance out of their paycheque. The Employment Insurance (EI) program assures you of temporary income support to unemployed workers while they look for employment or to upgrade their skills. The EI program also provides special benefits to workers who take time off work due to specific life events:

  • illness
  • pregnancy
  • caring for a newborn or newly adopted child
  • caring for a critically ill or injured person
  • caring for a family member who is seriously ill with a significant risk of death

If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you could be eligible for up to 55% of your average weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $638 per week.

Here are some of the main eligibility criteria:

  • You can’t work any longer due to no fault of your own (i.e., you didn’t quit voluntarily, you were laid off, flooding or wildfires affected your employment, etc.)
  • You haven’t worked or received pay for at least 7 days in the last year.
  • You are ready to work and are actively looking for work.
  • There are also sub-sections of EI for farmers, fishermen, teachers, Canadian parents, Canadians living abroad, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

As per, more than 80% of the immigrants admitted in recent years are under 45 years old translating to plenty of working years in Canada. In addition, international students contribute more than $21 billion to the economy every year, which means, that if Canada wants to attract more international workers and students, it will have to continue and/or improve on these attractive social benefits.

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