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Truro Colchester Welcome Network

Your First Months In Canada

The First 2 Weeks

There is a lot to do when you move to a new country. These are the first 4 things you should do within the first 2 weeks of your arrival:

Apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN)

You need a SIN for each person in your family including children. This number allows you and your family to do 2 things:

  • to receive government services
  • to work

To find out how to apply for a SIN, visit and type Social Insurance Number in the search box.

Apply for a Health Card

In Nova Scotia, your health card is also called an MSI card. MSI stands for Medical Service Insurance. You need this card to get free treatment in a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office. Without this card, you will have to pay for these services.

To apply for a health card in Nova Scotia, call the MSI Registration and Enquiry Department.

From anywhere in Canada call 1-800-563-8880

Opening a Bank Account

Most banks have packages for people who are new to Canada. Type “newcomer bank offers” into a search engine like Google. This will bring up a list of banks that offer these packages. Most banks also offer interpretation services over the phone. Call and ask for the language you need.

Connect with your local settlement service provider

YREACH offers a variety of services to support immigrants, refugees, and their families. These services can help you in your first 2 weeks in Canada and beyond.

You must register with YREACH to get all of their services.

View Settlement Services

Language Services

When you register with YREACH, settlement staff can arrange a free English-language assessment. This will place you in the right English language class for your level. Once you have had your assessment, you can take English-language classes for free. You can take these classes in person or online. Classes are offered at various times during the week. For more information, email Karen Kittilsen Levine at

View Language Services.

Other Services

YREACH also offers services that may make it easier for you to feel connected to your new community.

These are some of those services:

  • social events and recreational opportunities
  • child and youth programming
  • community collaboration and referrals
  • awareness raising and welcoming communities’ initiatives
  • solution-focused counselling and advocacy

The First 2 Months

Now that you have taken care of the most immediate items, you can move on to some less urgent needs. These are the 4 things you should do with the first 2 months of your arrival:

You will need someone to take care of your family’s primary health care. In Nova Scotia, that care is usually provided by a family doctor or a nurse practitioner. There is a wait list for both of these professionals. There are 2 ways to get on the waiting list:

  • Call 811. You can ask for an interpreter
  • Visit and click on Need a Family Practice

You can get health care for you and your family while you are waiting for a doctor or nurse practitioner.

Visit Type “where to go for health care” in the search box and follow the links.

Find a Dentist

To find a dentist, type “dentists in Colchester County” into a search engine.

For more information, See Health Services on this website.

Get Your Nova Scotia Driver’s Licence

You must have a valid driver’s license to drive in Canada. If you have a valid driver’s license from another country, you can use it to drive in Canada for 90 days. After that, you must get a Nova Scotia driver’s licence.

For more information, see Car Ownership on this website.

Register Your Child for School

In Nova Scotia, children must be 5 years old by December 31 of the year they start school. That means that for your child to attend public school this year, they must turn 5 any time before December 31st. It is possible that they will be 4 years old when they start school and turn 5 during the first half of the school year. To find out more, visit or

If you are an immigrant, and require assistance to register your child to school, contact YREACH.

For more information, type “Newcomers’ Guide to Nova Scotia Schools” into a search engine. This document focuses on public school up to the end of high school. It contains the following information:

  • getting ready for school, the documents you will need
  • school procedures
  • learning English as an additional language
  • educational practices
  • teaching and learning in nova scotia classrooms
  • roles and responsibilities
  • the nova scotia curriculum
  • meeting the outcomes
  • reporting student success
  • student behaviour
  • parent involvement in school
  • additional information for high school