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Following this step-by-step guide to settlement in Nova Scotia will ease your transition into your new life in Nova Scotia.

In this landing guide, you will find contact information for each service agency that you will require to begin your new life in Nova Scotia, whether you are moving to the city of Halifax, the city of Sydney, Cape Breton, or the surrounding areas.


Learn more about life in Nova Scotia.

In this Landing Guide to Nova Scotia you'll find information on:

General Information on Nova Scotia

Official provincial immigration website:

Official website for the capital city of Halifax:

Official website for the city of Sydney, Cape Breton:


Health Care in Nova Scotia

You must register for Nova Scotia Medical Service Insurance (MSI) benefits as soon as you arrive in the province. You will need proof of your immigration status for the application process.

For more information and to apply, contact the MSI Registration Department at: 902-496-7008 or toll free within Nova Scotia: 1-800-563-8880

Mailing address: PO Box 500, Halifax NS B3J 2S1

Physical Location: 230 Brownlow Ave, Dartmouth, NS


Employment in Nova Scotia

To begin working legally in Nova Scotia after arrival, follow these steps:

  • Apply for your Social Insurance number (SIN) as soon as possible so that you can legally work in Canada. Application forms are sometimes given to applicants upon landing, or you can obtain application forms at your nearest Service Canada centre. For more information visit:

  • Ensure your credentials are assessed with the Canadian Centre for International Credentials for Canadian equivalency. Visit their website at: You should also check to make sure your credentials are recognized at the provincial level as well.

  • If you are a tradesperson, you will need to become certified in Canada in order to work in your trade. For trade certification, begin by contacting Red Seal, a nation-wide trade certification organization at:

  • Register with the appropriate provincial regulatory organization for your profession (where applicable).

  • Register for language classes, if required, to improve English or French language skills for your employment in Canada.


Following these steps will ensure that you are prepared to begin working in Nova Scotia.

Note: Foreign workers must have valid authorization to work in Canada on either a temporary or permanent basis.


Finances in Nova Scotia

Within the first days that you arrive in Nova Scotia, you should open an account at a local bank or financial institution, as you will mostly need to start using it right away. Some popular banks in Canada include HSBC, Scotia Bank, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Bank of Montreal, TD Canada Trust, and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), National Bank of Canada, Desjardins Bank. You can find contact information for these banks by searching on the internet, or you can simply walk into a local branch and ask for information.

It may be a good idea for you to make an appointment with a financial advisor at the banking institution who can help you organize your finances in Canada, provide you with information on financing home and automobile purchases, advise you about paying for further education for yourself or your family members, and helping you prepare for your retirement.

For general information on banking and financial matters in Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada, visit the Canadian Bankers Association website at:

Canadian Money is made of cents and dollars. There are 100 cents in 1 Canadian dollar. Currency is found in coins of 1 cent ($0.01) called the “penny”, which are no longer used in commercial transactions, 5 cents ($0.05) called the ‘nickel’, 10 cents ($0.10) called the ‘dime’ , 25 cents ($0.25) called the ‘quarter’, 1 dollar ($1.00) called the ‘Loonie’ for the Canadian loon featured on the coin, and a two dollar ($2.00) coin called the “Twoonie” as it is the equivalent of two Loonie's. Bills, or paper currency, are found in denominations of five dollars ($5.00), ten dollars ($10.00), twenty dollars ($20.00), fifty dollars ($50.00) and one hundred dollars ($100.00).

To find out what your home currency is worth against Canadian currency, talk to a representative from a local bank, or visit this popular currency exchange website:


The most used forms of transactions are made with cash currency, cheques, debit banking cards, and credit cards.

If you have children who are under 18 years of age, you may be eligible to receive the Canada Child Tax Benefit. For information, visit the website for the Canadian Revenue Agency ( or call toll-free 1-800-959-2221.


Schooling and Education in Nova Scotia

Children under 16 must be registered for school. Schooling generally begins at age four or five, and lasts until students finish high school, generally at 18 years of age.

The Canadian public school system is generally divided into three levels: Elementary, Secondary and Post-Secondary, either college or university. Some districts or private schools may organize their grade levels differently, though education standards are regulated by the provincial government. The academic year for all levels of education begins in September and runs through June for elementary and secondary students, and to April for college and university students. Standard holidays include Christmas and New Year's holidays in December and January, and a spring break in either March or April.

Contact the local school board in your neighbourhood for information on registration. For more information:

Drivrs Lic

Obtaining a Driver's Licence in Nova Scotia

If you are planning on renting, leasing, or buying a car, you must have an official Nova Scotia driver's licence. Contact Service Nova Scotia for more information:

Note: Every vehicle and driver must have insurance. Contact a local insurance provider to become properly insured before you drive.


Housing in Nova Scotia

There are multiple different housing options in Nova Scotia. If you have not visited your new city or town before arriving in Nova Scotia, it may be advisable to rent a temporary apartment when you first arrive, and/or hire a real estate agent to guide you through the housing process and provide you with knowledgeable advice on the best areas to live for you and your family.

Typical housing options in Nova Scotia

Apartment buildings are large, multi-unit buildings owned by one person or company where each inhabitant rents a unit.


Studio or bachelor apartments are generally one room with a kitchen area and bathroom and are suited only for a single individual. Larger apartments can accommodate families as they have bedrooms and additional living space.


A large multi-unit building where each unit is owned by the inhabitant is called a condominium, and each unit is called a condo.


Often apartments and condos are found in homes that have been divided into separate living spaces.


Houses can be connected in a row, called townhouses or row houses, or detached, as separate, individual dwellings.


Housing is generally more expensive in cities, though average living costs vary given size of family, location and level of income. Many families choose to live in suburbs which are towns located just outside of the city limits, where housing is more affordable. Suburbs also provide good neighbourhoods, schools, shopping and healthcare, all within close proximity to the amenities of the city. Housing in the country can be even less expensive and is desirable for many families, but you will require a vehicle in order to travel for your basic needs including groceries, work, school and healthcare.

Much of Nova Scotia is more coastal, therefore you should be prepared to own a car or boat for convenience.


Pets: If you are renting your home or live in a condominium, it is important that you ensure pets are legally allowed on the premises before you move in with your family pet, or purchase a family pet. It is also important to check with city bylaws to ensure that your animal is legal to own as a house pet in Nova Scotia.

It is important that you take your family, your place of work, neighbourhood and finances into account before deciding on a place to live. Working with a certified realtor can be a big help to newcomers.


What can you bring into Canada?

Canada has strict rules concerning what can and cannot be brought into the country. There are regulations regarding food, alcohol, nicotine products, plants, animals, cars and other products. To avoid problems, be sure to check in advance what is and what is not allowed to come to Canada, as well as what procedures must be followed to bring certain items into the country.

For animals and food, contact:
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Animal Health, Agriculture Canada
59 Camelot Drive
Neapean, Ontario K1A 0Y9

(613)225-2342 (ext:4629)

For automobiles, contact:
Transport Canada
Place de Ville, Tower C
330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N5

(613) 990-2309


Weather in Nova Scotia

Most Canadian cities enjoy very warm summers where temperatures can go above 30 degrees Celcius. However, it can get very cold in almost all parts of Canada in the winter, when temperatures can go below -20, even -30 degrees Celsius. It is very important to ensure that you are prepared for the cold weather. Invest in warm winter clothing, including sweaters, winter jackets, boots, hats, scarves and gloves or mittens to be ready for the winter. If you do not dress warmly in the winter, you will risk becoming ill or getting frost bite. Frost bite is severe damage to the skin caused by winter wind exposure.

Canadians keep candles and matches, warm blankets, flash lights, first aid kits, and small snow shovels in their cars and homes in case of emergencies. In most parts of Canada, your car must have specially designated winter tires in order to legally, and safely, drive in the winter.


Emergency Services in Nova Scotia

In emergency situations dial 911 to become connected with an operator who will assist you and dispatch emergency services if they are required.

In non-emergency situations, if you only require the police, you can find contact numbers for major cities below.

Halifax Police: 902-490-5016

Sydney, Cape Breton Police: 902-563-5100

North Sydney: 902-794-1254

Glace Bay: 902-842-1001


Directory of Immigrant-Serving Agencies in Nova Scotia

It is important to visit an immigrant-serving agency that can answer your questions and provide you with guidance in the future.

Halifax Regional School Board: Adult EAL 
90 Alderney Drive
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
B2Y 4S8
Tel: 902-421-7779
Fax: 902-421-7779

Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia
6960 Mumford Road, Suite 2120
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3L 4P1
Halifax area: 902-423-3607
Toll Free in NS: 1-866-431-6472

Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse 
54 Queen Street
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
B2Y 1G3
Tel: 902-433-0065
Fax: 902-433-0066

YMCA of Greater Halifax/Dartmouth - YMCA Centre for Immigrant Programs 
65 Main Avenue
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3M 1A4
Tel: 902-457-9622
Fax: 902-457-0386

Halifax Regional School Board: Metro-region Immigrant Language Services (MILS) 
90 Alderney Drive
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
B2Y 4S8
Tel: 902-464-2000
Fax: 902-464-2828

General Disclaimer

The information on this page is a compilation of information from multiple researched sources. Although the information is updated regularly, we are not responsible for information that may have changed subsequently. This is not a federal or provincial government document and neither were involved in collating this information. 

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