Settling into a new home in a new country can be stressful and challenging. The information below may help you in making Alberta your home. You are not alone in this journey.
Both the Government of Canada (federal) and the Government of Alberta (provincial) offer settlement services to newcomers.
Once the Government of Canada, through Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, approves your permanent residence application, you and your family can get free online services to help prepare for and adjust to life in Canada.
The pre-arrival services can help you to:
- prepare for your move to Canada
- get your education, work experience and credentials recognized in Canada
- connect with employers to find a job
- connect with free settlement and language services after you arrive in Canada
The Government of Canada has developed a welcome guide (PDF, 8.6 MB) to help prepare you for your move to Canada.
Before you immigrate to Canada, you will need to gather some important documents. You may be asked to provide these documents to employers, provincial regulators, educational institutions and credential assessment agencies. Gather them before you come, to save time and money.
Some important documents include:
- valid passports
- immigration documents
- work reference letters
- education and post-secondary transcripts
Settlement and community supports
Once you land in Canada, there are several organizations you can meet with in person to help guide your journey.
The Alberta government funds several organizations that assist immigrant newcomers with the settlement process and provide language training. Newcomers are encouraged to seek settlement advice through these organizations. Settlement services are free to naturalized Canadian citizens, temporary residents who hold a work permit, and refugee claimants.
Learn more about settlement support programs in Alberta.
Read the list of service providers across Alberta.
Supports for francophone newcomers
The Alberta government funds settlement organizations to provide services in French to francophone newcomers.
Find settlement support in:
The first place you live when you arrive in Alberta may not be your forever home. It is important to keep an open mind and recognize that housing is a significant expense and where you choose to live is a decision that requires some thought.
Approximately 28% of homes in Alberta are rentals and 72% are owned. When you arrive, you may want to rent at first to determine if the location, size of the property and proximity to services will meet your needs. It takes time to find out which community and neighbourhood is right for you and your family.
Alberta has many types of homes, including apartments, condominiums, townhouses, duplexes and single family houses. When looking for a home, consider your travel options and commuting time to school, work, shopping, recreational facilities, child care services and family and friends.
When renting, you will need to sign a rental agreement or lease with a landlord. The agreement may be for a fixed period of time, for example, one year, or on a month-to-month basis.
Besides your monthly rental payment, there will be other costs you need to consider in your budget. Rental prices may or may not include furniture, or utilities – electricity, heating, phone and internet. Check with the landlord before you sign a rental agreement. If utilities are not included, ask for an estimate of monthly costs. Remember that heating will likely be more expensive in the cooler months from September to March.
Most landlords require you to pay a security deposit before you move in. This covers any potential damage to the home. If there is no damage, the landlord should repay you the full amount when you move out.
Learn more about renting and rental agreements.
Many individuals and families will rent a home until they have saved enough for a down payment to purchase a home. This can take several years. You can buy a home in Alberta by contacting a realtor or through a private sale.
A realtor, also called a real-estate agent, is a professional who helps people buy and sell homes. Realtors charge a fee for their services. Most of the time, the seller pays all realtor fees but you should ask about this before you agree to work with a realtor.
Learn more about buying a home in Canada at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Travel in Alberta
There are several choices in Alberta when you need to travel to work, school and other places, on a daily basis or for an exceptional occasion. These options vary in cost and some may or may not be available in your new community.
Public transit in Alberta includes buses and rapid transit trains. They can help you travel within a city. Not all municipalities offer public transit. Visit your local municipal website for more information on transit services or receive more information from an immigrant serving organization.
Albertans of all ages ride bicycles to work and school or for recreation, particularly in warmer months. Bicycling is typically used for short distances. Be mindful that when bicycling you must obey all traffic signs and lights. Use hand signals when turning.
You should walk on sidewalks when possible and cross the street only at street corners or marked crosswalks. Drivers are supposed to stop at crosswalks to let people cross.
‘Jaywalking,’ crossing at places other than crosswalks or corners, is not only dangerous but is against the law. If you are caught jaywalking, police may issue you a fine.
Taxis are more expensive than public transit. Taxis in Alberta charge by the distance travelled and rates may vary in each city.
Ride sharing is an arrangement by which passengers travel in a private vehicle driven by its owner. The fee is pre-arranged between the driver and passengers.
Long distance travel
For travel within the province and out of the province, there are a few options other than using a private vehicle:
- Buses – there are several different companies that offer a variety of routes.
- Airports – Alberta has 11 airports, though most air traffic is centered around 2 international airports, Edmonton International Airport (YEG) and Calgary International Airport (YYC).
Driving – private vehicle
Many Albertans own and drive motor vehicles. Even if you do not plan to own a car, having an Alberta driver’s licence can be useful for work, and for identification and proof of residence purposes. If you do not get a driver’s licence, you can still get an Alberta ID card for identification.
In Alberta, new drivers must go through a Graduated Driver's Licence (GDL) program. This includes a knowledge test, one year of supported driving experience and a full road test.
Learn more about getting a driver's licence in Alberta.
If you already have a driver's licence, you may be able to exchange your international licence for an Alberta licence if the country where you obtained your licence has a reciprocal agreement with Alberta.
Learn about exchanging your driver’s licence.
Driving and the law
There are important laws that you must follow to own a car in Alberta.
- Learn more about buying a vehicle, insuring and registering it – both are mandatory – and other important information.
- In Alberta, wearing a seatbelt is required by law. Police can give you a fine for not wearing a seatbelt. Child safety seats are also required.
- Learn more about traffic safety in Alberta.
Police in Alberta give out traffic tickets – fines – for offences such as speeding, distracted driving (including talking on a cellphone while driving) and many other infractions. You can also receive a ticket through use of photo radar. Some tickets require you to appear in traffic court and may result in demerit points on your driving record, which will affect the cost of your car insurance. Too many demerit points will cause you to lose your licence.
Alberta has severe penalties for people who drive when impaired by alcohol or drugs. Learn more about driving responsibly.
Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP)
Alberta provides free basic health insurance through the AHCIP. This plan covers permanent and temporary residents. It does not cover visitors or tourists.
You must register for the AHCIP within 3 months of arriving in Alberta.
The AHCIP covers many medical expenses, but not everything. Learn more about expenses covered by the AHCIP.
Private health insurance is recommended for services not covered by AHCIP. Some employers offer insurance plans that help pay for these services. Any insurance premiums should be paid by your employer as an employee benefit.
If your employer does not offer a health plan, or if you are self-employed, you can buy personal health insurance from a private insurance company.
Accessing health care services
After registering for the AHCIP, you will receive a personal health care card. You must bring this card when you attend a medical appointment including visits to a doctor, a laboratory, a health clinic and hospitals. If you do not have your AHCIP card, you may be charged a fee for the services.
Call 811 or 1-866-408-5465 (toll free in Alberta) for free health advice from Health Link in a non-emergency situation. This phone line and service is accessible 24 hours a day. Through Health Link you will speak to a health professional. They can save you from having to visit a doctor’s office or hospital, and confirm when you should get medical help in person.
Emergency medical services
Call 911 for all emergencies. If you cannot safely get to a hospital on your own, you can call 911 to request an ambulance to take you to the nearest hospital.
You will be charged a fee for using an ambulance if you do not have private health insurance that covers this service.
Mental health services
Many people will experience a mental health illness at some point in their lives, and even if you do not suffer personally, you may be affected by the mental health issues of a loved one.
Free health services are available for mental health issues, addictions, crisis situations and more.
Individuals and families with a low income may be eligible for government financial support through the Alberta Adult Health Benefit or the Alberta Child Health Benefit. Contact Alberta Supports for more information about eligibility and next steps.
Primary and secondary education
Publicly funded education for children aged 5 to 19 years is free. In Alberta, children between the ages of 6 and 16 must attend school. Parents can choose to send their children aged 5 to kindergarten. Beyond kindergarten, school is divided into 12 grades, or school years.
Find more information on schooling in your area.
There are alternative education programs that may include additional costs not covered by the Alberta government. Learn more about alternative education programs.
Adult and post-secondary education
Adult education is also known as continuing education or advanced education. It consists of classes or courses for adults who want to:
- finish their high school diploma
- upgrade their qualifications
- learn about new topics
- gain new skills
Adults of all ages take post-secondary programs to earn credentials, improve their knowledge and learn new skills.
If you are interested in further education or training, visit Alberta Advanced Education for information, resources and support.
You can choose from a variety of institutions and post-secondary programs, which offer different certifications depending on the program of study.
Contact the post-secondary institution you are interested in to find out more specifics about their offerings and application requirements.
Most Albertans pay for child care for children under 12 years of age. You should use good judgment and consider the age and maturity of your child if you are thinking about leaving them at home or elsewhere without child care. Authorities may intervene if there are concerns that your child is being neglected, is endangered or even abandoned.
Child care options include:
- licensed daycare centres
- family day homes – licensed child care services operated in a private home
- out-of-school-care programs – these provide care for school-aged children before and after school hours
- pre-school or nursery programs – these encourage children between the ages of 2 and 5 to learn, play and develop skills
If you cannot afford to pay for child care, government financial child care support may be available for eligible families.
Learn more about child care options.
Children with special needs
If your child has a special need, such as ongoing medical care, a disability or a developmental delay, help is available through Children’s Services.
The Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program can also provide support.
English is the main language used for business, school and everyday life in Alberta. Strong oral and written English skills will make your settlement and employment search a smoother process.
There are many places in Alberta that offer English language training. These include:
- colleges or universities
- immigrant-serving agencies
- private businesses
- religious and community organizations
Flexibility is important. Programs are designed to account for life circumstances – you can study formally or informally, full-time or part-time, in person or online.
Language programs offered by the government are free or have a minimal cost compared to courses from private providers.
Assess your English skills
Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) are used to assess language skills in Canada. Someone at Benchmark 1 has little or no English skills. A person at Benchmark 12 can speak English fluently.
To find out your CLB level:
- Do a free CLB Self-Assessment online. This will give you an idea of your current CLB level. This is not an official CLB assessment.
- Complete an official CLB assessment at one of the following Language Assessment and Referral Centres. These centres provide information on language training options for specific careers and jobs. These services are free to permanent residents and citizens of Canada.
- Northern Alberta: Language Assessment, Referral and Counselling Centre (LARCC)
- Southern Alberta: Calgary Language Assessment and Referral Centre
Find an English language program
- Contact one of the Language Assessment and Referral Centres listed above for help finding the best program to meet your needs.
- Go to your local immigrant-serving agency for information about language programs in your area.
- The Government of Canada offers free Language Instruction for Newcomers (LINC) classes to permanent residents.
- Through the Alberta Settlement and Integration Program, the Alberta government provides financial support to settlement agencies to deliver language services to newcomers who live and work in Alberta. These services include language assessments, language training and education referrals and drop-in English as an Additional Language (EAL) classes. As long as there is classroom space, temporary residents with a work permit and refugee claimants may attend these classes.
- Many Community Adult Learning Programs across Alberta offer EAL classes, literacy and language learning opportunities, and other adult learning programs. Contact the organization directly for more information.
- Alberta Supports can refer you to programs to help you develop the language skills you need for your career, such as work-specific language training. They will also tell you if you are eligible for financial support while you study.
- Some employers and professional organizations provide language training. You can ask your employer if they offer this service.
Connect with us if you have questions about living and working in Alberta: