Before you arrive

Both the Government of Canada (federal) and the Alberta government (provincial) offer pre-arrival information and services to newcomers. Some of these services are only available to people outside Canada and some services are available once you arrive in Canada with a confirmation of permanent residence. There are also services that the province offers to temporary residents with work permits, naturalized Canadians, and refugee claimants.

Provincial information

Before you come to Alberta, you need to gather your important documents to bring with you. You may need to use these documents with employers, provincial regulators, educational institutions, and credential assessment agencies. Having your documents ready will save you time and money.

These documents include:

  • valid passports
  • immigration documents
  • work reference letters
  • school/university transcripts

Once you are in Alberta, you may be able to use the Educational Credential Assessment you got for immigration when looking for work.

If you work in a regulated occupation or profession, such as an engineer, you will need to be certified with our provincial regulator for that occupation – start this process before coming to Canada.

Learn more about which occupations are regulated and how to start the process.

Once you are in Alberta contact Business Link for information on entrepreneurship. Services available include:

  • one-on-one coaching
  • network referral building
  • training and workshops
  • informative guidebooks and checklists
  • information on financing and capacity building

Prior to arrival in Alberta, we recommend reading the Welcome to Alberta guide to help you get settled.

Explore Alberta

Learn more about Alberta’s communities, regions, geography, climate, and services.

Temporary residents

There are many resources for temporary residents. These include:

Federal services

Read Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's (IRCC) Welcome to Canada guide.

Once IRCC approves your permanent residence application – if you are still outside of Canada – you and your family can get free in-person and online services to help prepare for and adjust to life in Canada.

These 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 services after you arrive in Canada

Settlement and integration

Information to help you with settling into your new home in Alberta.

Newcomer services

Alberta has several immigrant organizations where you can access a variety of settlement services.

Learn more about the services available through the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies.

Improve your English

English is the main language used for business, school and everyday life in Alberta. Many places in Alberta offer English language training.

Learn more about improving your English.

Francophone communities in Alberta

Alberta has approximately 2,000 communities and natural sites with French-influenced names. Four Alberta municipalities are officially bilingual:

  • Beaumont (15 km southeast of Edmonton)
  • Legal (35 km of Edmonton)
  • Falher (420 km northwest of Edmonton)
  • Plamondon (204 km northeast of Edmonton)

Learn more through Bonjour Alberta.

Housing

Renting a home

When renting a home, 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 month to month.

Besides your monthly rental payment, there will be other costs you need to consider. Rental prices may or may not include utilities, such as electricity and heating – check with the landlord before you sign an agreement. If utilities are not included, ask for an estimate of monthly costs. Remember that heating will be more expensive in winter.

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, you receive the full amount back when you move out.

Learn more on renting in Alberta:

Buying a home

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 Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Transportation

Public transit

Public transit in Alberta includes buses and trains. They can help you travel within a city.

Other communities also have local transportation options. To learn more about these, contact your municipality or search online.

Long distance travel

For travel within the province and out of the province, there are a few options:

Getting a driver's licence

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.

If you already have a driver's licence, you can exchange your Canadian or international licence for an Alberta licence.

Learn more about getting a driver's licence in Alberta.

Driving and the law

There are important laws that you must follow to drive in Alberta.

In Alberta, wearing a seatbelt is required by law. You can be fined for not wearing a seatbelt. Child safety seats are also required for children under the age of 6 who weigh 18 kilograms (40 pounds) or less.

Learn more about traffic safety in Alberta.

Police – city police, RCMP, sheriffs – in Alberta give out traffic tickets for offences such as speeding, distracted driving such as talking on a cellphone, and causing an accident. Tickets can also be issued by photo radar. Some tickets require you to appear in traffic court and may involve demerit points. Too many demerit points cause you to lose your licence.

Alberta has severe penalties for people who drive impaired by alcohol or drugs. Learn more about driving responsibly.

If you are in an accident, you must report it to the police. This may involve calling police to the scene, waiting for the police to arrive, or going to a repair centre in the case of small accidents. If there is a serious injury or fatality, or if a driver appears impaired or intoxicated – that is, drunk, stoned or high – you must call 911.

Learn more about how to report a car accident in Alberta.

Buying, insuring and registering a vehicle

There is a process for buying, insuring and registering a vehicle in Alberta.

Health care

The 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.

Learn about Alberta’s COVID-19 response.

Covered expenses

The AHCIP covers many medical expenses, but not everything.

Private health insurance is recommended for services not covered. Many employers offer insurance plans that help pay for these services. Any fees should be included as part of your job's compensation package.

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.

Learn more about expenses covered by the AHCIP.

How to access health care services

After registering for the AHCIP, you will receive a personal health care card for you and your family. You must use this card when you visit a doctor.

Doctor, laboratory, health clinic and hospital visits are free with your card. If you do not have your card, you may be charged for a visit.

Walk-in clinics

You do not need an appointment to visit a walk-in clinic.

Family doctors

You must make an appointment to see a family doctor.

Call 811 for free health advice with Health Link, 24 hours a day. Out-of-province, call 1-866-408-5465.

Public health offices and community health centres

Health centres are different from hospitals or clinics. They offer services such as immunization and support programs. They also offer information on many health-related topics.

To find a public health office or community health centre in your area, call Health Link at 811 or visit MyHealth.Alberta.ca.

Emergency medical services

If you cannot safely get to a hospital on your own, call 911, and an ambulance will arrive 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 yourself, 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.

Financial support

If your family has low income, you may be eligible for government financial support through the Alberta Adult Health Benefit or the Alberta Child Health Benefit.

Education

Primary and secondary education

Public education for children age 5 to 19 years old is free. In Alberta, children between the ages of 6 and 16 must attend school. Parents can choose to send their child to kindergarten. The school system is divided into 12 grade levels.

Post-secondary and adult education

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.

Types of post-secondary institutions and programs

You can choose from a variety of institutions and post-secondary programs:

  • Universities offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
  • Public colleges offer certificate, diploma, academic upgrading, university transfer, apprenticeship, continuing education and applied degree programs.
  • Private colleges offer certificate, diploma, academic upgrading, university transfer, continuing education and some degree programs. Private colleges are sometimes affiliated with a religious organization.
  • Polytechnic institutes offer certificate, diploma, applied degree, apprenticeship and continuing education programs. Most courses are related to trades or technical work.
  • Private vocational schools offer training for specific occupations such as auctioneer, bartender, model or computer-aided-drafting technician.
  • Apprenticeship training programs provide a combination of classroom and on-the-job training in a trade. There are over 50 apprenticeship-training programs in Alberta. For more information, visit Tradesecrets.

Adult 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

Community adult learning programs support learning organizations in every region of the province and can provide literacy and adult learning programs.

Universities, colleges, school boards and community leagues also provide adult education.

Find out more about advanced education in Alberta.

Child care

There is no law in Alberta that specifies at what age children can be left alone. You should use good judgment and consider the age and maturity of your child if you are thinking about leaving them unsupervised. Most Albertans pay for child care for children under 12 years of age. Childcare options include:

  • licensed daycare centres responsible for the supervision of children under 7 years old
  • family day homes provide parents with licensed child care services in a home setting
  • out-of-school-care programs provide care for school-aged children outside normal school hours
  • pre-school or nursery programs encourage children between the age of 2 and 5 to learn, play and develop

If you cannot afford to pay for child care, government financial child care support is 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 (FSCD) can also provide support.

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