(The text below is from my personal journal and reflected my experience at the time of writing.)
Day 1 - Saturday, 15 July 2017
I was picked up by the CEO. A nice surprise. He drove me to the hotel and we had sushi for dinner
afterwards. During the dinner, he shared with me his life story. How he moved from one country to
another and then finally to Canada; how he survived with only 700 CAD in his pocket, etc. He
behaved more like a friend rather than a boss. It was a very positive experience.
Day 2 - Sunday, 16 July 2017
I spent my second day (a Sunday) walking around the area where I plan to find an apartment/house.
I saw an old lady disposing of her rubbish and asked whether I could ask her a few questions. I
explained to her that I was considering renting an apartment there. She was extremely friendly and
even invited me in her apartment to take a look. She said “Sorry it’s so messy. I did not expect
you would come. I am so sorry.” When I told her that it’s my second day in Canada and I had already
applied for PR, she seemed so happy and said “If you decide to live here, please knock at my door.
It is not always easy to move to a new country. I want to be your friend.” I hope she is
representative of how nice Canadians are! She also mentioned she never bothered to lock her door.
I was very impressed by the fact that there were more rainbow flags in the city than the national
flags. I even saw a rainbow crossing instead of the traditional zebra crossing.
I was also happy to find out that it takes only a 10-minute walk from my office (in Midtown
Toronto) to get on a hiking trail, where I was surrounded by trees and saw very few people. The
weather was great and the temperature was around 26 degrees Celsius. I walked 16 kilometers and yet
was less tired than when I had walked two kilometers in Singapore
Day 3 - Monday, 17 July 2017
After a great Sunday, came a not so great Monday.
I planned to do the following.
- Get a SIN number;
- Open a bank account;
- Get enrolled in the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).
Note that 1) has to be done at a Service Centre Canada while 3) has to be done at a ServiceOntario,
because the first is regulated on the federal level while the second on the provincial level. I can
achieve 2) only with a SIN.
Around 8:40am, I was at the ServiceOntario at 839 Yonge St, and after a 30-minute wait, I was told
that they did not handle it for people on a work permit and that I had to go to another
ServiceOntario at 777 Bay St.
Around 9:15am, I arrived at the Service Centre Canada at 25 St Clair Ave E. Again, after a
30-minute wait, I was told that their system was not working and was advised to come back in the
I went back there around 2:30pm, and their computer system was still down and I will have to go
there again tomorrow and see if my luck turns any better.
Finally around 4:10pm, I was at the ServiceOntario at 777 Bay St, with a letter from my employer
as “proof of residence”. I waited about 15 minutes and was told that the letter was not good
enough, because it only had my employer’s address, not my residential address. The funny thing is
that they suggested that I should first get an ID card, for which I would be able to provide any
random address without any proof, and then use that as the “proof of address” for the OHIP. So
essentially they were teaching me how to circumvent their stupid rules. But alas, it would take
at least a few days for me to receive the ID card so it is much easier for me to ask for a new
letter from my employer.
The only thing positive was that I used the opportunity at Service Centre Canada to practice my
French for free, as all government employees are required to speak both English and French.
Day 4 - Tuesday, 18 July 2017
Tuesday. Finally managed to do the following.
- Registered for OHIP. 20 minutes in total. Helped by a very friendly lady. A new immigrant (or
temporary worker) will become eligible only three months after landing. So I need to figure out a
way to get myself covered for the next 89 days.
- Got the SIN number. 60 minutes in total. Helped by another very friendly lady.
- Opened a bank account and applied for a credit card at CIBC. More than 60 minutes due to their
IT issues. Helped by a third very friendly lady. As I am a new temporary worker, both the bank
account and the credit card are free for the first year. Also, assuming that I will have already
become a PR by July 2018, I can get another year for free. So in total I will have two years of
free full-service banking. (After that I plan to switch to an online free bank such as Tangerine.)
The credit card will arrive in a week. This is super important to build up my credit history.
Buying houses and renting them out can be very profitable (much more than the 8% long-term stock
market return) if one can avoid the 15% foreign buyer tax (by becoming a PR) and get reasonable
mortgage rates. Hopefully I can start buying houses in January 2018.
- Found an affordable low-rise apartment (1,700 CAD including heating and water) in an affluent
neighbourhood with a lot of green (Leaside). Only 35 minutes away (on foot) from work. It will
become available on 1 September so I will unfortunately have to stay at some AirBnb for more than
Clearly I am extremely calculative on financial matters. Many commercial institutions would go out
of business if all their customers were like me.
Day 7 - Friday, 21 July 2017
Remember the super nice lady whom I met on Sunday? I went there because I had seen an
advertisement for an apartment there. I had called the agent before I went there and had already
learned that there was one person who had already submitted his/her lease application. I was hoping
his/her application would be rejected. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for him/her), I
learned on Tuesday his/her rent application was approved.
It was a disappointment. But the flip side was that I found a bigger apartment in the same area for
less money. (1,700 CAD for a 2-bedroom instead of 1,800 CAD for a 1-bedroom). I managed to submit
my application on Wednesday and will hear back next Monday.
Regarding my lease application, there were several points worth noting.
- I had to provide “proof of income”. It could be a problem for those who move to Canada without a
- I was asked to pay the first and the last months’ rent by either check or money order. (They
would not accept cash.) But a checkbook at ICBC costs more than 60 CAD and a money order costs 7.50
CAD. I eventually managed to get two money orders for free but in retrospect, I should have
negotiated for a free checkbook before I opened an account.
- Since I did not want to convert my USD to CAD and pay FX fees, I asked my employer for an advance
on my salary. This saved me at least 34 CAD. (Even the cheapest option, Transferwise, charges
about 1%. Interactive Brokers is technically much cheaper but it would take at least two weeks.)
I use my US credit card (Chase Sapphire which has zero FX fees) for my daily expenses in Canada.
This saves me quite a bit of money. Also, my employer has agreed to cover any medical costs for
the next three months before the OHIP kicks in. It is important to ask for more and negotiate.
A funny thing is that for the first time in my life, I met someone who thinks in exactly the same
way as I do on financial matters. This colleague of mine has bought five or six units outside
Toronto where rental yields are much higher. With 70% of the property value financed by mortgages,
he manages to get a return on equity greater than 40%. Yet, he rents a basement apartment for
himself for only 1,000 CAD a month. It was a such a pleasure talking with him about personal
finance as we could immediately understand each other’s reasoning process. He showed me his
spreadsheet for his property investments and I showed him my ETF portfolio.
My medical was passed yesterday and nowadays IRCC seems to be really fast. It seems not unlikely
for me to be able to start buying houses in September without having to pay the 15% tax for
foreigners, instead of next January as previously envisaged.
Tomorrow finally some time to visit Downtown Toronto!
Day 8 - Saturday, 22 July 2017
Eventually I did not visit Downtown Toronto on Saturday. On Friday night, I got a text message
from the Jewish colleague who does real estate side business, inviting me to hike with him at
Hilton Falls on Saturday. (Let’s call him Leo from now on. It is also interesting that half of the
tech team, i.e. data scientists + software engineers + product manager, are Jewish at the
company.) The nature was beautiful. He brought some tenderloin for barbecue and I found some wild
oyster mushrooms on a dead tree. Including the walk from my hotel to the meeting point where he
picked me up by car, I walked almost 22 kilometers. After that we had dinner together at a nice
Lebanese restaurant. Despite my protest, he insisted on paying for everything, from gasoline,
to park entrance fees, to the dinner.
Day 9 - Sunday, 23 July 2017
To save hotel/Airbnb costs, I slept on a couch at the company on Saturday and Sunday. To reward
myself for the cost saving, I had lunch on Sunday at Korean Grill House, where their All Day
All-You-Can-Eat barbecue menu costs only 20.99 CAD (excluding tax). Obviously, I was the first
employee who “arrived” at work on Monday morning. This amazed another colleague who’s usually the
first in the office every morning.
Day 12 - Wednesday 26 July 2017
I moved to my Airbnb place (for a week from 24 July to 31 July) on Monday evening. Somehow I hurt
my back when taking a shower and walking became rather painful. On Tuesday, we had a company
offsite that included treetop trekking. I hesitated whether I should go and called the CEO, who
sent an Uber to pick me up. Overall, it was a great day with fun activities.
My colleagues were super nice when they knew about my back injury. They gave me not only medical
advice, but also patches for muscle pain.
Today when talking about relocation-related stuff, the CEO mentioned that I could sleep in the
office during the weekend, without knowing that I had already done it :) Leo offered me to sleep
on his futon for free, until I move in my apartment on 1 September. I think I will take advantage
of one or both offers.
The apartment application process turned out to be a huge hassle. I provided all the required
documents last Wednesday, only to hear on Monday that the manager (who’s a different person than
the super intendant of the apartment complex) wanted also my US credit scores and my bank
statements. I sent her my credit reports with excellent credit scores, without bank statements
because the super intendant said the latter would not be necessary. But then on Tuesday, the
manager insisted on having my bank statements, despite my credit reports listing all my US credit
cards with a combined credit limit of more than 50,000 USD and a current debt of zero. After some
arguments I made concession and sent my US bank statements and heard today (Wednesday) that my
application had been approved. The manager is in my opinion an idiot but fortunately the super
intendant has promised that I will not have to deal with the manager ever again after the
application was approved.
For publicity (potentially useful for future HR efforts), my employer arranged an interview
with a Wall Street Journal journalist for me and another colleague who moved to Toronto from Israel
on 17 July. The journalist wanted stories about “tech talents who have chosen Canada over the US
since Trump was elected President”. We had the interview today and I am curious whether I will
soon read about myself on the WSJ.
Day 15 - Saturday, 29 July 2017
Some update on my PR application.
I received two messages from the IRCC this morning, which surprised me as it’s Saturday, requesting
PCCs from the Netherlands and Singapore respectively.
Officially I am supposed to use these two requests to apply for PCCs in SG and NL. Both countries
in principle issue PCCs only with official requests from other governments or commercial
organizations. But in practice, SG accepted the ITA and NL accepted a generic form that I found by
chance on IRCC’s website. Therefore before receiving the two messages, I had already got my PCC
from SG and my partner’s PCC from NL.
This afternoon I received my PCC from NL so I submitted all three PCCs, with an extra letter of
The reason for the LOE is that I received, and uploaded (post-AOR) the SG PCC when I was still a
resident of Singapore. But now I live in Canada and the SG PCC was issued before my last day in SG.
So it is not very clear whether I can re-upload the SG PCC or I must get a new SG PCC. (Actually
the IRCC should not have requested the SG PCC since they already have it.) Eventually I uploaded
the old SG PCC with this LOE, explaining that I had already uploaded the SG PCC when I was still
in SG. I also appealed for a new SG PCC and attached the confirmation to the LOE.
I hope it will work. I just hate having to spend 30 CAD to get fingerprints and 55 SGD to get the
PCC, and to wait xxx days until I finally receive it. Hopefully the one handling my case is
sympathetic enough. Worst-case scenario is that my application gets rejected and I will have to
The LOE is as follows.
J’écris cette lettre pour expliquer la situation concernant le certificat de la police Singapour.
Après avoir reçu l’invitation à présenter une demande de résidence permanente, je l’ai utilisée
pour demander un certificat de la police Singapour, espérant que cela pourrait accélérer le
processus. La demande a été approuvée et j’ai reçu le certificat le 6 juillet 2017. Au moment-là,
j’avais déjà présenté la demande de résidence permanente (le 26 juin 2017). Immédiatement, j’ai
téléchargé le certificat via le lien dans l’accusé de réception.
Après, j’ai entendu que l’EIMT (l’étude d’impact sur le marché du travail) avait été approuvée
et j’ai quitté le Singapour le 15 juillet 2017 et je suis arrivée à Toronto le même jour. Je
travaille depuis deux semaines chez Platterz, un tech startup basé à Toronto, avec un permis de
J’ai téléchargé à plusieurs fois toutes les informations pour vous tenir au courant.
Ce qui n’est pas tout à fait clair pour moi, c’est si il faut demander à nouveau un certificat
de la police Singapour. Au moment où je vous ai envoyé le certificat, j’étais encore une résidente
de Singapour, alors que maintenant, je travaille et habite au Canada.
Pour être sûr sans retarder le processus, je décide de retélécharger le certificat de la police
que je vous avez déjà envoyé, tout en demandant en même temp un nouveau certificat de la police
Singapour. Je vous tiendrai au courant dès que je le recevrai.
Je vous remercie pour la compréhension.
P.J.: la nouvelle demande de certificat de la police Singapour
Day 36 - Saturday, 19 August 2017
I got an email titled Ready for Visa / Prêt pour Visa on 18 August at 21:03. It seems that my
gamble saved me some good money (55 SGD for the PCC, 5 SGD for postage to Canada, plus an unknown
amount to get fingerprints in Canada and send them to Singapore).
According to the instructions, my partner and I will need to send our passports and photos to the
High Commission of Canada in Singapore. This hardly makes any sense, as neither of us lives there.
I will call IRCC on Monday and see if it’s possible for us to send our documents to Ottawa and
Amsterdam respectively. It would save me some more money.
The interview with Wall Street Journal was a disappointment. It took about an hour and not even my
name got mentioned in the article.
The comments (mostly negative) are actually more interesting than the article itself.
For my real estate investment project, I talked to TD, Scotia, and RBC and most likely I will go
with RBC. 20% down payment with a prime-minus-0.4% interest rate seems reasonable for someone who
just came to Canada a month ago. A hard requirement is that I need to have the 20% with a Canadian
institution (bank or broker) for at least 90 days - a regulation to prevent money laundry.
I finally decided against moving my salary outside Canada for investment purposes. The idea that my
money would earn only slightly more than 2% in my savings account with Tangerine is hardly
appealing. So I opened both a regular and a TFSA investment account with Questrade. It seems to be
the best option for someone who does not yet have a lot of money within Canada.
On Thursday 17 August I was interviewed by the largest newspaper in Japan, whose name I cannot
remember. Like the WSJ, they are interested in “talent who chose Canada over the US”. Hopefully
they will write something more interesting.
So far I really enjoy my life in Toronto. With Twitter Singapore, I worked only for 2 or 3 hours a
day - I mean really working instead of pretending to be working - and managed to save almost 100k
USD in my ten months there. In Toronto, my productive working hours are about six hours a day and
I save much less (due to higher taxes and the fact that the company’s stocks are not publicly
traded). Yet every morning, I feel great on my way to work instead of saying to myself “Shit! I
don’t want to go to work.” as when I was in Singapore. I enjoy talking to my colleagues and know
how much value my work will be for the company and as a consequence for my stock options.
EDIT: I went to Passport Photo at 327 Spadina Ave. I got three photos for only 9 CAD including
taxes. The owner/photographer was very friendly. Highly recommended. The only inconvenience is
that they only accept cash.
Day 38 - Monday, 21 August 2017
I called the IRCC this morning and learned the following.
- My file is in Ottawa.
- For some unknown reason they still had my Singaporean address in their system despite the
several address updates that I filed through CSE. Hence the instructions to send our passports to
The agent sent me a link to update my address online but the website through the link could not
locate my file via the UCI or application number. So the agent updated my phone number and address
manually. She also told me not to send anything to Singapore and wait for another email with
I also checked with my colleague. The Japanese newspaper that interviewed me is Yomiuri Shimbun.
Day 44 - Sunday, 27 August 2017
I officially transferred the ownership of most of my liquid assets outside Canada to my mother,
who lives in a jurisdiction that has more lenient tax laws on personal wealth. Since I am my
parents’ only child and there is enough trust between us on financial matters, the assets are
expected to become mine again, sooner or later through either gift or inheritance. The purpose
is of course to avoid any taxation on capital gains or dividends by the CRA. According to
Canadian laws, I will pay zero tax when receiving any gift/inheritance from my mother in the
future, and she will also pay zero tax at that moment according to the laws of her country of
In principle, I can also do the same with my future earnings in Canada, although it will become
more complicated if I invest in real estates in Canada.
Day 57 - Saturday, 9 September 2017
Last weekend was a Labor Day long weekend. I went to Killarney Regional Park with five other
people, four of which were my colleagues. We left at 5am on Saturday and got back at 4am on
Tuesday. The trip was physically exhausting but we had fun.
It was a portage trip, meaning that we had to paddle the canoe a bit, carry them overland, and
paddle again, and carry overland again, etc. We got two canoes and had a lot of weight to carry.
The longest portage was 3 kilometers and we had to walk the same distance three times to carry
over all our stuff. In retrospect, we were too ambitious and the distance should be covered in
at least six days instead of three. Also, we had too much food, and certain useless stuff (such
as a fishing rod + fishing kit). I carried a backpack of about 50 kilos. But we ate very well
(barbecue and Thai green curry). It is also good to know that I am still in good shape physically.
Also, I found some really good oyster mushrooms which I ate/will eat yesterday and today.
On Tuesday I used the same vehicle to move some furniture that I got for free from another
colleague, to my new apartment. I got a table, a couch, a vacuum cleaner, and a lot of other
smaller things. I also borrowed an inflatable airbed from him. The minivan that I rented turned
out to be insufficient and his wife and parents in law came with me in another vehicle. His
father in law was very helpful in moving the couch to my apartment on the 2nd floor. Really
nice people to whom I will be for ever grateful!
After the move, I returned the vehicle and showed up at the office around 7pm :D
I have learned that moving costs to Canada can be tax deductible, but the benefits will be
rather limited since my marginal tax rate will be only 30% for 2017 because I moved here in July.
I talked to the CEO and asked him whether it would be possible to get some of my 2018 income
advanced to 2017 to maximize the tax benefit. He said he did not see any problem although he would
have to confirm with someone else. This kind of flexibility is a huge advantage of working at a startup.
Day 84 - Friday, 6 October 2017
Finally I landed as a permanent resident by crossing the border at Peace Bridge. My colleague Leo
went there together with me.
Nothing really special. I told the US border agent that my intent was to do flag-poling and I got
an administrative refusal, even though I did not need a visa for the US. The wait on the US side
was a bit long and later I learned that I should have said that I just wanted to have lunch in the
US and that would have been faster.
On the Canadian side it was the same waiting game. When the guy handling my case said
“Congratulations! You are now a permanent resident”, I actually felt “What a waste of time!”,
because the whole thing (driving from Toronto to Peace Bridge and the wait at both sides) had taken
more than six hours! The agent was quite funny when he explained that I was not “supposed” to leave
and come back to Canada by air until I had got the PR card. He then said “it’s not really because
of us. It’s the airlines that will refuse you boarding when you say you are a PR and show them the
COPR, which they don’t consider secure enough. But on the other hand, since you already have an eTA
and there is no visa in your passport, if you don’t say anything about the PR, they won’t be able
to know. I am not suggesting that you should do anything but you can figure it out. But I can tell
you that Canada does not refuse entry to citizens and PRs.” I guess this is a useful piece of
information for people from visa-free countries.
After that we had a nice lunch at Wind Sushi and I drove back to Toronto. The traffic was horrible!
Today I got a new SIN and opened a second Tangerine account. I already had one with my old SIN.
So I referred the new me with the new SIN and both of me will get $50. HAHA!
I have been airbnb-ing my 2-bedroom apartment. I already have a roommate and that lowers my rental
cost from 1,700 CAD to 750 CAD. I also offer my own bedroom for 80 CAD a night - a rather high
price because I still plan to sleep in my bed for most of the time - as well as a single bed in the
living room for 30 CAD a night. The demand for the latter is really high. As for the former, if
someone is willing to pay 80 CAD a night, I do mind sharing my roommate’s bed or sleeping at Leo’s
place or in the office.
I did have to invest about 2,500 CAD to furnish both bedrooms. (I got the single bed and most other
furniture for the living room for free.) I also have a profit-sharing scheme with my roommate so
that she is also incentivized to welcome airbnb guests and to share her bed with me.
Also, I have got quite a few LinkedIn inquiries from companies in Canada, including Foodies and
Shopify. It seems that once you are in Canada, finding a job can be very easy.