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Showing posts with label Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tips. Show all posts

03 November 2016

What Is It Like Living With Changing Temperatures in Canada

Wintertime in Toronto, took this photo while waiting for my wife at Esso gas station.
Let me tell you about what it’s like living in Canada, a country that has 4 seasons, which is spring, summer, fall and winter.

In my entire life, I haven’t had a chance to experience winter. Although I’ve been to Japan but it was the last few weeks of summer. In Philippines, I had visited Baguio, a place with temperatures that can go down 18oC to 10 oC.

But for negative temperatures, I’ve never been to that place at all until Canada.

For newcomers, living in tropical countries in their entire lives, this post will be helpful for you.  It's my way to teach you how to cope up with cold climates.

It's starts with a proper clothing.

Layering of Winter Clothing
Upper Clothing
Layering of clothing is essential during winter. On my first experience of the season, I wore four layers of upper clothing.  

  • 1st layer - Tropical shirt (cotton)
  • 2nd layer - Thick sweater
  • 3rd layer - Sweater with hood
  • 4th layer - Thick winter coat
The sweater with hood was added as the third layer because the winter coat that I used has no hood.

  • If winter coat has no head cover, the cold wind will penetrate our scalp and will easily bring down our body temperature.
Lower Clothing
I wore fleece pants under my corduroy pants.  Corduroy insulates my lower body better than denim jeans.  Denim jeans is my next choice, but it is not a good insulator.  Once it gets cold, it seems like it'll trap the cold air in it's fibers.  So I prefer corduroy than denim.

I got an underpants from SM Bicutan Department Store thinking that it can insulate me well.  It's labelled "Warm Pants".  When I tried it in Canada, it failed.  I still can feel the cold, so wearing it is useless.

Tip: Only buy your body insulators in Canada. Body insulation experts were born here, you know!

Footwear
For the footwear, I wore one thick socks under my waterproof shoes.  It is essential to have a water-proof shoes to avoid melted snow soaking your feet.  That will be freezing.

This Merrell waterproof shoes helped me a lot.  I invested $150 for this shoes and still using it.
Thick gloves is also important.  If you wear nothing, your hands will numb with cold.  Sometimes, you'll get a cut from somewhere and you'll never notice.

Tip: Invest in good footwear and gloves.

At this getup, I can now go out and feel the cold winter season of Toronto.  My tropical body wasn't get used to having this temperature so I shiver all the time even with these layers.  

Temperatures in Toronto can reach up to minus -20 oC.  It can last up to 2 to 3 days and it goes back to minus -10 oC.

At the start of the winter, the temperature will gradually drop from 8 oC to 3 oC . In December, it start to have flurries and temperature may be at around 1 oC to minus -3degC. 

January will start to have snowfalls and cold 100km/hr wind.  

I remembered waiting for a bus and a 100km/hr++ wind was trying to blow me off while holding the bus stop pole.   If that situation was in the Philippines, it would probably be a signal #2 storm.

What You Will See On the Roads?
Cars will travel slower and you can see steam on the mufflers.  You've seen this on TV...

Snow plowing trucks will be around.  They come in different sizes, small ones are like the size of golf carts and large ones similar to bulldozers.  In wide roads like expressways, they plow side by side with each other running 90km/hr.

This little guy is totally insulated with a cute Siberian Husky head gear. :D
How it feels like Winter?
If I were to go back in the days when I was preparing for our move to Canada, I should have practiced my brain on how to cope up with winter.

You're lucky you found this post because I'll teach you how to practice your mind and body to feel the winter while you're in a tropical place.

After reading this blog, do the following to teach your mind about cold.

  • Go to your refrigerator or to a store.  
  • Get a pack of ice and pour it all in a pail. 
  • Add a small amount of water to it until the ice floats.
  • If you have an air-conditioned room, set it at the lowest temperature possible and only wear thin t-shirt and shorts. Wait for 5 to 10 minutes.  
  • Then, soak your hands in the pail of ice and water until you can’t feel anything.  All fingers will feel numb at that moment.
That's what it feels like at sub zero temperatures.

Tip: Do this regularly to prepare yourself for the cold especially if you’re immigrating in winter.


That’s how cold a minus one (-1) oC temperature is.  Just imagine the temperatures lower than that.

If you need other information about the weather in Canada and how and what to wear, send me an email at benalagnam@yahoo.com or samtimerrun@gmail.com.


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12 February 2016

Why Did I Bring Cash in US Dollar and Not Canadian?

I need to post this subject as it's one of the most important topics for us, new immigrants.

Here's an email sent to me by Ms. S.B.:
"You mentioned in your previous post that you brought cash. Is it in USD or in CAD$? We tried to check with BPI and HSBC but the rate is higher (~php 1 peso)compared to money changer. The only problem with the money changer is that they do not have CAD$ available on hand...

Can you share your experience on this topic? Thanks."
First of all, be careful in exchanging your currency.  If you are not going to a bank, go to a trusted money changer.   Yes, it's true that small-scale money changers have higher exchange rates but the risk is higher.

Anyway, once you find a good money changer, go ahead a compare their rates with the bank.  It's quite difficult though because rates change everyday.  You have to be at two to three banks and money changers in a day. If you have someone that can send you a message regarding the rates, that would be good.

The Exhange Rate?
On 2014, before we packed up for Canada, C$1.00 (Canadian Dollar) has an equivalent of US$0.90 (US Dollar) .  Philippine Peso (PHP) to Canadian Dollar (C$) was also high on that month.

PHP42.00 = C$1.00
PHP45.00 = US$1.00

For a family of 4, I need to have a Proof of Fund that can satisfy the Canadian Officers more than the amount of C$20, 654.  At that time, I need to have the money worth PHP867, 468.   It is also worth US$19,277.06.

I changed my Philippine and Singapore currency to US$22,000++ and brought it to Canada in Cash.

Why I Brought it in Cash Instead of Draft/Cheque?
I brought cash money in US$ and each in US$100.00 denomination. It can fit in a sling bag with a size of 2" thick x 4" width x 5 width.  I like the idea of the sling because it can be strapped like a necklace.

The sling bag was strapped around me for the whole trip.  If you want to get my money, Kill Me First, LOL!  I gave half of it to my wife to lower the risk of loosing everything.  She placed it in her handbag.

It's simple logic, cash is liquid, you can use it anytime.  Compared to cash, bank draft and cheques need more time to liquidate.  Bank drafts are designed for the risk involved during the travel.  Well, you don't count your dollars in public or speak about it during the travel.  If you can minimize the risk, then cash is really the answer.


You need most of the money upon arrival because you need to pay for the house rent, usually has 1 month downpayment and 1 month deposit.  And not only that, there are other expenses like groceries, opening a phone account, housewares, clothings, etc...

The next time you peep in your sling bag, the money will be half thinner.

US and Not Canadian Dollar?
You need a stable currency.  In fact, I'm still holding my settlement funds in US dollar today and use my salary, in Canadian dollars, for my expenses.

For me, US Dollar is so far the most stable currency in the world and is widely accepted.  Most of the airport money changers accepts US Dollar.  If ever we'll be stranded in an airport along our way to Canada, I still can use the currency.

My Decision Was Right!
If I bought Canadian Dollars for my settlement funds that time, it's now worth only PHP702,236 today.  I should have lost PHP165,232 (C$4,859) because of today's exchange rate of PHP34.00 = C$1.00.

Since my money is in US Dollars, I can now buy more Canadian Dollars for my TFSA.


Recommendation
Immigrants who are bound to Canada this year can enjoy the benefit of the low exchange rate.  I suggest that you buy Canadian Dollars instead of the US currency.  Here's why...

For a family of 4, you need a minimum settlement fund of C$22,603 and that is only PHP768,502. Compared to our settlement fund, that was PHP867, 468 (C$20, 654).

Given that the Canadian Dollar will rise soon as the market booms and reaches near the value of US Dollar, you'll be richer.

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20 January 2016

Do We Need To Preserve Our Native Language in Canada?

TOM enjoying the snow.

Every time I meet fellow immigrants, usually Filipinos, with kids who doesn't speak and understand Filipino (Tagalog) language,  I always ask myself, WHY?

It's understandable if one parent is not a Filipino.  But if both parents are Filipino and their kids don't speak and understand the native tongue, it's surprising!

I even have friends back in the Philippines who have English-speaking kids who don't understand and speak Tagalog. Well, it's their way of parenting.

What's the Issue if Kids Can't Speak the Native Tongue?
I can't help but ask some parents that have children who don't speak Filipino anymore.  A father told me that he regret having their kids speak English at home.  After four months of not speaking Filipino, their children doesn't speak and understand the native language anymore.

Another father said that he was encouraged by the teacher to always speak English at home for the reason that the child can easily cope up in school.

These fathers were immigrants 5 and 10 years ago. What I thought was that the teachers haven't detected the problem at that time yet.

All Kids Can Be Multilingual
Based on my personal experience, I can speak three languages.  One is the dialect from my province, the other two are Tagalog and English.

If I was not trained by my sister to speak our dialect at home while we were in Manila, I could have lost it forever.

I can tell that kids can be multilingual because all my classmates and schoolmates in Visayas region, can speak three languages (Bisaya, Tagalog, and English).

The reason why they can speak Tagalog while they were in Visayas region was because their parents talk to them in Tagalog at home.  Not only Tagalog, but some can speak Ilonggo.  That sometimes can be in 4 languages.

When I moved to Manila, I found friends that can still speak their dialects fluently because of the same reason.

That is why I believe that kids can be multilingual in any place.

Do We Really Need to Preserve the Native Language in Canada? 
Canada has racially diverse population.  For us, Filipinos, we gather together when there are celebrations like Christmas, birthdays, and other special occasions.

It is in this moment that kids gather together and play while parents discuss current events and gossips in their native tongue.

Kids who don't understand the Filipino language can not converse with the oldies.

When families travel back to the Philippines on a vacation and have a chance to meet their relatives (young and old), their children can't communicate well with their friends and cousins.

When we were at a Walmart in Toronto, a Filipino lady came to me and said, "I was surprised to hear your son spoke Tagalog, it's pretty rare nowadays."

What Our Kid's Teacher Say About It?
We were worried about our 3-year old son that he can't cope up with school because of the language barrier.  In the Philippines, we talked to him in Tagalog and decided to do the same here in Canada.

When he started going to school, we asked his teacher about how to train him to speak English at home. His teacher gave us a surprising advice...

She told us to continue what we're doing - talk to him in the native tongue.  He will develop his language skills through exposure with other kids of his age by going to the school, library, playground, and the likes. Eventually, our TOM will cope up with the language problem.

If that's the case, we were right all along.

Today, even if it's not perfect, TOM can now speak basic English with his friends and classmates.  He got used to speaking Tagalog at home and English in school.  He knows how to change the setting well.  We found it cute when we hear him speak like Canadians do, but without the "Eh!" for now.

By the way, his school has Italian and French lessons at his early age. Now, he leads the prayer before meal in Italian :)

We still talk to him in Tagalog, preserving our Filipino Language.

What do you think?  Please leave a comment below.

08 October 2015

MM2CXPerience: Is it Better to Bring Cash than Demand Draft?

I am happy to inform you that a friend of mine, an MM2C member, had successfully landed in Canada. 

It was April when I shared the good news that he got his PPR in my MM2C News: MM2C Subscriber Got a Very Good News.  He was able to land successfully in Canada and I got lucky to see his photos of Vancouver.

One of his experience that he wants MM2C to know was about the Bank Draft issue.  He brought his settlement funds in a form of a Bank Draft, but got a bad experience about it in TD bank, one of the biggest banks in Canada.

He emailed me what happened and wanted to share it to you as well.
"
Hi Ben,
I made a demand draft from DBS bank, brought to Canada, and deposited it to TD bank in Vancouver.
Today, after waiting for 30 days, the money came to my account.
However, the amount doesn't tally with the amount on the draft, a $100 difference.
Just now, I went to the bank and asked where the $100 had gone?
Only then they explained and gave me the breakdown as follows:
Foreign  Fee       $45Collection Fee     $30Couriers              $25
$100 for me is quite a lot.
Regards,
TTA
There are other options on how to bring the settlement funds to Canada, which I'd mentioned in my previous post Options on How to Bring Your Settlement to Canada.  However,  in my opinion, Cash is the perfect form of Settlement Fund to bring to Canada for the reason of liquidity and free from bank charges.

What do you think?

I hope you've learned something from this experience to help you settle smoothly in CANADA.

If you know or experience something that is worth sharing, please email it at benalagnam@yahoo.com.

#MM2CXperience in Facebook.

30 September 2015

How To Prepare For the University Education of our Children in Canada?

There's a list that I found in my Facebook wall, which states the Top 10 Most Expensive Colleges and Universities in Philippines.  I started browsing it and the top most expensive costs around US$9,435 or C$12,671 (P442,067) per year.

The chance of studying in these universities, when Mom & Dad is working with minimum wage is so thin.  Scholarship or having a student loan is possible though.  These were mostly built for elites.

I remembered the cost of my tuition was around PHP36,000 per year (C$1,000).  Luckily, my sister got me a scholarship plan when I was just 7 years old.  Although I had one, we still needed to pay PHP6,000 (C$200) for the miscellaneous fees, which was not covered by the scholarship plan.

You might think that it's a small amount of money, but for my sister, she worked really hard for that.

That's the reason why my monthly allowance was sacrificed.  Imagine having PHP500 (C$14) per month in your pocket.  It made me thrifty when it comes to food. Clothing and entertainment were not in the budget.

Honestly, writing this post made me realize how lucky we are as a family to be here in Canada.  Here's why...

Education in Canada
When we came here, we already had the idea that the government will give allowances for our children and their education is free, but we are not aware of the details behind it.

We enrolled our eldest son (10 years old) to a nearby school and submitted all the requirements. The school registrar encoded it to their system and that's it! He's enrolled already. No tests. No fuzz. No materials to buy as well. It's all FREE and provided by the school.

Since the education is free from Kindergarten till they reach Grade 12, it's also the time we need to save for their University education.

If you're living in a minimum wage, you and your spouse, this is possible with discipline and budgeting especially if your child/children is/are 10 years below. On the other hand, it can be difficult to those who have older kids. That means you have less TIME to save.

No worries, I'll teach you how to do it as we go further down.

What If We Don't Have Enough Time To Save?
Here in Ontario, the government will not leave our kids behind, they made sure that every kid can gain access to College.  They have an option for a student loan.  It is called the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). 

The program was mainly designed to give financial support to eligible students who don't have enough budget for College.  The program will pay the tuition fees, books, mandatory fees, living costs, and transportation.

In return, students will pay their OSAP debt to the government once they graduate and find their respective jobs.  It's a Study Now & Pay Later type of program.


Although it is helpful for students, they are bonded with DEBT once they graduate.  They have to pay the loaned amount 6 months after they cease to be a full-time student.

Based on my estimate, which I mentioned in my previous post, University Education in Toronto Canada, an Engineering degree student will pay a total estimate of C$80,000++ 6 months after graduation on the year 2023.  I made this computation to have a glimpse on my eldest son's tuition fee.

One of my friends told me that some students can't bear the burden of paying such amount, they ended up taking their own lives.  I hope it's not always the case and sure there are other reasons for such behavior.

What is RESP in Canada?
Most parents don't want their kids to be burdened by the DEBT from OSAP.  Although it's a great help for our special ones, but we want our kids to have a better future and debt free after graduation.

This way, they will earn money for themselves, save earlier for their future.  It is also advantageous for us parents, we will be complacent when that time comes.

A savings plan was designed by the government to help parents save for the post-secondary education of their kids.  This plan is called the Registered Education Savings Plan or RESP.

Parents can save a certain amount on the RESP every month and the Canadian Government will match-up an additional percentage amount on to it and some grants as well.   As it matures, it grows interest because it's invested.

This is how RESP works:
"
  1. A subscriber enters into an RESP contract with the promoter and names one or more beneficiaries under the plan.
  2. The subscriber makes contributions to the RESP. Government grants (if applicable) will be paid to the RESP. These grants can be the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG)Canada Learning Bond (CLB), or any designated provincial education savings program.
  3. The promoter of the RESP administers all amounts paid into the RESP. As long as the income stays in the RESP, it is not taxable. The promoter also makes sure payments from the RESP are made according to the terms of the RESP.
  4. The promoter can return the subscriber's contributions tax-free.
  5. The promoter can make payments to the beneficiary to help finance his or her post-secondary education.
  6. The promoter can make accumulated income payments. Source: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca

Where do I get the money for the RESP of my sons?
As promised, I'll teach you how to save and invest the money "I do not own" to my sons' RESP.

We received monthly allowances from the government that was covered by the CCTB and UCCB.  These were:

CCTB - Canada Child Tax Benefit
UCCB - Universal Child Care Benefit

The money that goes into our household were FREE from the government.  It will be used for our kids monthly expenses.  We can now save and invest in the RESP.

A quick summary...

Remember that the benefits were free money from the government. When I invest in the RESP, the government will again, add a percentage of it with some grants.

Isn't it great?  What do you think?


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29 August 2015

MM2C XPerience: A Fatal Mistake on Reference Letters for FSW Canada

Contributor: DLS

Applying for FSW 2014 was one of the greatest experiences in my life as I did not ever expected that the application would be successful. 

Currently, I’m in the preparation of moving to “Toronto, Ontario”, the land of Ben’s dream.  

Ben is one of my inspirations, and I have learned about how kind he is, as he always shares information to everyone.

The Fatal Mistake on My FSW 2014 Application
I applied for the FSW 2014 from Indonesia on June 2014.  During that time, I tried to follow all instructions that were provided from the CIC website. One of the requirements was to provide a job reference letter that states an additional information, beside the period of employment and position, such as job description, type of employment (permanent or full-time) and the annual salary.

As this format was uncommon for the Human Resources Department in most of the companies in Indonesia, they requested me for the draft (I had more than two employments in the past). So I prepared the draft and sent it to each of the HR Departments. 

However, it seems that most of the HR personnel had just copied my draft, filled-in the job description according to my role, printed, signed and stamped, and handed it to me. I was not aware that it would be a fatal mistake for my FSW application. 

So I sent those reference letters to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), without giving any supporting documents such as employment contract, salary slip or personal income tax report.

I got the Positive Eligibility Review (PER) on September 2014, but then I waited for a few months...and no result. The status in the website had only stated that my application had been received by the Immigration. 

Then, in early January 2015, I was so happy to receive an email from the CIC. But when I started reading it, I was so stressed and disappointed because it mentioned that the Case Officer was not satisfied with all the reference letters that I had provided. 

He said that they all looked similar and suspicious that they might be copying from a single format and needed more explanation with additional proof to show that they were all original. The Visa Office Singapore gave me two months to prove it.

The Solution
Thankfully, my previous bosses were so kind and helpful, that they provided me with a statement letter stating that my reference letter was original.  So I sent it with the employment contracts, salary slips, and personal income tax reports as additional supporting documents (all were certified copies), on early March 2015. 

At the end of March 2015, I was so grateful to receive the request for Medical Examination.

Two Important Tips To Avoid Suspicion
Because of these technical issues, it had delayed my application process by two months. So, what I learned from this case was that:

       1. You could get the same experience as me, as you might not be from an English speaking country.  Your HR Department might not be familiar with the reference letter template. If you have to prepare a draft for the HR, make sure that the format for each company should be different in style, and ensure that it consists of all the required information from the CIC.
       2. Enclose all the supporting documents such as employment contracts, salary slips, and other supporting documents related to your job. Make sure that all of them are certified copies.

By providing these documents completely, there's a chance that would not delay your FSW processing time and would not be suspicious to the Case Officer.

Thank you, everyone! I hope that this experience would be useful for you.

Regards,

DLS

****
Share your stories and experiences with MM2C XPerience.  Your experience means a lot, you can share with us where you're now in your application.  Give some advice and lessons learned during the process.

To be a part of the Me Moving To Canada Experience, "MM2C XPrience (#MM2CXPerience)", you can contact me or share through these media.

1.  Blogger - send me an email to benalagnam@yahoo.com if you are interested to be added as a contributor to this blog.

2.  Facebook - Post your experience on my facebook page (BenAlagnam.com).

3.  Email - send your written experience to benalagnam@yahoo.com, let me know if you want your name and initials published or remain anonymous.

4. #MM2CXPerience - use this hashtag when you post your experiences in Canada.

Helping one another through sharing will make the process of immigrating easier.

I'LL WAIT FOR YOUR MESSAGE!

Will this be helpful to you or other applicants, please tick the LIKE button below.

26 August 2015

Helping Other Applicants: Be An MM2C Contributor

It's been two years since I first wrote my first post, Moving To Canada: A Dream.  At that time, I was not sure if my application will pursue because of my repetitive failures of my previous FSW applications.

Sharing my experiences made me more confident in expressing myself to my readers.  Even though my English was not that good, but at least the thought was there.  

Because of this blog, I know that I helped some people along the way as they themselves kept in touch with me sharing their good news.

It's been a fulfilling part of my life when I had helped people along their way on getting their FSW Visa.

I can feel the anxieties and excitement felt by applicants during the process of their application.  The moment they emailed me that they have received their Visas, me and my world cheered with joy.

I made this post, to let you know that Me Moving To Canada is open for FSW applicants to share their experiences.  Let's share our experience to others and help them succeed and be part of the MM2C community.

Your experience means a lot, you can share with us where you're now in your application.  Give some advice and lessons learned during the process.

To be a part of the Me Moving To Canada Experience, "MM2C XPrience (#MM2CXPerience)", you can contact me or share through these media.

1.  Blogger - send me an email to benalagnam@yahoo.com if you are interested to be added as a contributor to this blog.

2.  Facebook - Post your experience on my facebook page (BenAlagnam.com).

3.  Email - send your written experience to benalagnam@yahoo.com, let me know if you want your name and initials published or remain anonymous.

Helping one another through sharing will make the process of immigrating easier.

I'LL WAIT FOR YOUR MESSAGE!

Will this be helpful to you or other applicants, please tick the LIKE button below.

14 June 2015

Options on How to Bring Your Settlement Funds to Canada


Bringing the big amount of money with us in Canada was risky.  We are not talking of hundred of dollars here, it's thousands of dollars.

The settlement fund is the fruit of an immigrant's labor and maybe the only asset that had accumulated for many years of employment and/or a small business.

After the Visa, an immigrant was tasked to bring the settlement funds to Canada to be able for her/him to survive for at least 6 months without a job.

How will someone bring the settlement fund?  

It's an email that brought me to make this post, which came from Mr. F.

Here's his concern.
Hi Sir Ben,
It's me again. 
Good news! We have received our visas last week! Praise God!:) 
Now we are preparing for our transition there, and one matter that is not yet clear to me is bringing our settlement funds. 
How did you do it sir? is it through demand draft? traveller's cheque? or cash?  
If it is through demand draft, do you have any idea how long will it take for a Canadian bank to clear/encash it?  
Thank you very much! 
Regards, 
Mr. F. 
To Mr. F., thanks for this inputs cause this is one of the issues that immigrants encounter. It will give you an idea on how to bring the hard-earned settlement funds to Canada.

Options on Bringing the Funds to Canada
There are few options on bringing your settlement funds to Canada.  In this post, I will only give you two that I know. It is in the form of cash or bank draft.

Bank Draft
At first, I planned to bring a bank draft or demand draft.  It is a piece of paper and usually a cheque, depends on the bank.

To get this, you have to inquire at your local bank.  You will then deposit/pay the money, your settlement fund, with the bank and in return they will give you a signed cheque with the value equivalent to that amount.
It is just like buying a piece of paper.
If you have an existing account with that bank, it will be easier for them to do the transfer from your account and write the cheque.

Now, you can bring the bank draft with you on your way to Canada.  It is safe because if you happen to lose it, it can't be withdrawn from your account.

Disadvantage
When you arrive in Canada, you have to open a bank account and deposit that cheque.  But, the bank will hold it for 15-30 days.  You can not withdraw any amount until the end of the holding period.

The following are the banks that you can open an account in Canada.  You can click each link to know how long will be the holding period is.









The reason of the holding process is because the bank draft is issued from a foreign bank and the Canadian bank had to verify that it is legitimate, the local bank and the cheque.

So, I recommend that you only get a bank draft or demand draft from a reputable bank in your country.

Cash
I had chosen this option.  I exchanged some of my Singapore Dollars to USDollars while I was in Singapore.  It was easier there rather than in Philippines.

When I went back to Philippines, I changed all my Philippine Peso savings to USDollar currency.  Why?  It's because US Dollar is widely used currency in the world economy.  The exchange rate of a US$ does not fluctuate that much compared to a Canadian Dollar.

So, I brought along a small bag full of cash.

For your information: A US$10,000 worth of cash with a US$100 bill denomination is approximately an inch thick.

The cash was placed in a sling bag and I put it around my neck down to my chest. This way, someone needs to kill me first before they can get my hard-earned cash.

As we arrived in Canada, we went to the bank to open an account and deposited the cash in it.   It's fast and easy to withdraw anytime.

Disadvantage
It can be taken from you anytime and will be lost forever...

How to bring the fund is up to you.  There may be other options out there, but the important thing is to have a liquid asset with you so you can use it as soon as you need it.

Once you're here, the expenses will increase exponentially for the first few months of your stay.

If you think that this post was helpful, tick the LIKE button below. It will help me know that I'm doing a great job.  Thanks!

01 May 2015

Top 5 Problems We Encountered As an Immigrant in Toronto Canada

Some of our relatives and friends that were in Canada may hide the negative aspects of their lives in the country, which they don't want us to know the real situation.

As always, my style was to give my readers all the positive aspects of a country where I reside in and true when I was in Singapore.

Like My Singapore Story, it's always focused on the positive side because I thought that showing those were easy than focusing on the darker regions.

This time, I had to lay down the "negative" cards in Canada because one of my readers (Anna) emailed me and asked about the problems that I had encountered here.

Here's her message...
"We just received the ITA from CIC yesterday so we will have to hand in the documents in 60 days and after 6 months should get the visa. 
I just read your wife, Net's writing on your blog that she just resigned from her job. How is your family situation now? Is it difficult to adapt there?...
....Please do share with us about your problems. We hope that we can see you soon in Toronto."
After reading her email, it made me realize that I should be starting to post about my problems that I've encountered here.  This is for the benefit of all FSW applicants and new immigrants.

Problems We'd Encountered In Canada
Like you, I was clueless about how Canada look like and how's life inside the country.  I got the information only from my relatives, friends and online forums.  

Although there are government sites that provide us information to settle, but it's not personal.  This time, you will have it straight from me in Toronto, Canada.

I will start from the month before we landed until the present.

1. Budgeting For The Airline Tickets
As we know the fact that the distance between Philippines and Canada is 6,921miles.  This means that the airline ticket is not expensive, but VERY expensive.

The price of our ticket on 2014 was PHP110,000.00 (USD2,500) for 2 adults and 2 kids, terminal fees and travel taxes are exclusive.  Instead of using the amount for my Proof Of Fund, it was diverted to my expenses.


Imagine if we are going for a vacation in Philippines, 4 of us, we might need to save money in 2 or more straight years just for the ticket and I wonder how much would it be then.

2. Permanent Residence Card
As soon as we arrived in Canada, the immigration officer at the airport informed us that we will receive our PR cards 8 to 10 weeks upon landing.

We waited for over that timeframe until I decided to call the CIC customer hotline to follow up our PR cards.  I was informed that they had sent a letter 2 months ago to my address and that it was returned to them due to a wrong address.

I can't remember how I mistakenly stated the address, but maybe I did.  They added that the reason for the delay in the issuance of our PR cards was because of our photos, which the Case Processing Center (CPC) was requiring us to submit a new set.

Usually, when CIC requires me to submit something, they'll send me an email in conjunction with a physical letter.  But, I was wondering, for this time, they haven't sent me an email correspondence.

We've been here for more than 5 months without the PR cards.   The proof of our status was only our COPR copies and passports.  So, we sent a new set of photos to CPC.

Few days ago, the PR cards came at last, but the bad news is, my card wasn't there.  Well, I need to inform them again.   The postman may have accidentally dropped it on his way to our mailbox.  We'll see how it goes.

3.  Effects of Winter in Our Tropical Skin
This is our first time to experience winter with temperatures that reaches -22degC and feels like -30degC.  You will know how it feels with these numbers and units once you get here.
























The first few weeks and months were a total adjustment for us.  We are clueless on the changes, which the cold weather affected our tropical body and skin.  We had experienced nose bleeding, super dry skin, skin pigmentation, clogged nose, and cracked skin that develops into a wound.


4. Time and Schedules
My wife and I were both working days after we've landed.   That was a good start and we're working enthusiastically on the first days and months in our job-site.

Our finances were good, we can buy the groceries we want and need for our daily necessities.  Bills are paid on time and the kids can have their weekend delight and surprises.

Then we realized that TIME was the culprit of us being unhappy with our job and setup.

To give you an idea, agencies hire people who were eager to work anytime and anywhere.  The schedules that they provide were the following:

Morning shift - 7:00am to 4:00pm
Afternoon shift - 4:00pm to 11:00pm
Night shift - 11:00pm to 7:00am
Normal shift - 8:00 to 5:00pm

For me, I was working on a normal shift.  On the other hand, my wife was given an afternoon shift. This is a good setup if we don't have children.  But, it's not the case.

My eldest son, SAM, should be in school at 8:30am to 3:00pm and my youngest stays home the whole day, playing.

I made a chart here to give you a better view of our situation.








The Yellow color is represented as the time when each of us is away from home. On the other hand, Green represents the time that we're at home.

The color that we need to focus our attention is at the Red line.  That means, at this period, me and my wife were both away from home and SAM and TOM's schedules were Green.  It was a big issue for us as to where to leave them with while we're away.

I was lucky to have a sister near our place who had an evening shift.  We send them both to her during our Yellow time.

5. Doing the Chores
When I arrive home from work, I had to fetch the two at my sister's house.  Coming from work, tired and hungry was the worst thing that I don't want to experience at the end of the day.  My wife was out to work and the problems were:

* Who prepares our dinner?
* Who prepares the milk and taking our kids to sleep?
* Who cooks our breakfast and prepares lunch?
* Who cleans the house?

So, my wife cleans the house, cooks dinner and breakfast when she's at home.  For me, I prepare the milk, clean the house, heat the food in the microwave, wash the dishes and put my kids to bed while I'm craving for food and sleep.  *sigh*

It was difficult having this type of setup.  Since we are new, we've closed our one eye and moved on with the uneasy setup for a few months...

If you've noticed, the problem of clothing and furniture were not included in the list, it's because I have my sister who happened to have a network of generous friends who provided us most of our winter, spring clothing and furniture.

If you don't have networks yet, you can buy second-hand clothing or buy at cheap factory outlets here in Toronto and this will be discussed on my future posts.

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07 April 2015

First Flight Experience at NAIA 2 Airport as FSW Immigrant in Canada

"This is it! "I whispered to my wife while we were at the car on our way to the airport.  We asked the help of our relatives for our baggages and to send us to NAIA 2.  The sun was shining, warming up the air, indeed, it was a good day for us.

We had prepared our things few weeks back making it sure not to miss some of our important items. At the airport, we've doubled checked each box and bag.

Honestly, I thought that preparing things to bring to Canada is simple, but I was wrong.  I'll tell you why as I go on with my flight story.

Packing Our Things for Canada
Before our Visa approval, I thought that gathering our things for Canada was a piece of cake.  I prepared a list in excel and planned each item carefully as not to miss any of our belongings.  I listed down and categorized it according to types and persons.  Each item has a tick box so I can check if it's ready and packed.

After consuming four rolls of black duct tapes, compacted 3 luggage, and 5 balikbayan boxes with the dimensions of 20 x 20 x 20 inches, we weighed them in using our personal weighing scale before heading to the airport, making sure that it will not exceed the weight limit.

Philippine Airlines allows 2 pieces (7 kilos total) of hand-carried baggage and 2 pieces (23 kg each) of check-in baggage.  We brought a total of 8 pieces of hand-carried bags for me, my wife and my sons' personal and important items.  This, of course, includes the bag for our documents.
First Time Immigrant (Federal Skilled Worker): Our check-in baggage to Canada

Here's how it looks...


Money, Documents and How I Secured It?
The second most important thing in our trip aside from my family is the money. I divided it into two and gave the other half to my wife.

I put mine in a sling bag and I placed it under my shirt, specifically on my chest while my wife placed it at the very bottom of her bag. Though it looks like I have a big lump on my chest, but it doesn't matter, I just covered it up with a jacket.

It was very stressful carrying a huge amount of money. The fear of losing it made me paranoid, checking it and my wife's every now and then.

The next thing that I'd secured were our documents.   They were all placed in my hand-carried luggage. You can lose all the clothing but not this important luggage. I made sure that they were all accessible at any time once the authority asks for it.

Tip for all Visa holders, before you go to Canada, you scan all your documents and place it in a USB thumb-drive or best is in Google Drive and iCloud.  This way, you can access it anytime and anywhere you want.   It's your backup for any kind of emergencies.

Even if it's not the original copies anymore, at least, there were some kind of identification that you can show in case you lose them.  You don't want to be stranded in a different country without an identity, do you?

Our Experience at NAIA Terminal as a Federal Skilled Worker in Canada
We reached the airport 5 hours before our flight.  This is better than being there at the latest hour.

It's our lucky day as there were fewer passengers departing at that time.  Our flight was scheduled in the afternoon, an ideal hour of travel.

It's a mixed feeling at the airport because, for the next few hours, we were leaving our relatives in Philippines and be reunited with my sister in Canada.

We used 3 airport pushcarts and each of us has our own hand-carried luggage.  We weighed our things at the scales located at the entrance door of the airport to make sure that we will not go over the limit.

We got through the initial X-ray inspection smoothly without any questions from the authority.

There were two areas for passengers at the airport, on the left side is for foreigners and the opposite is for Filipino nationals.  We then approached the Travel Tax payment counter and showed our Pre-paid Travel Tax receipt.

After that, we headed to the check-in counter.  We were then confident that all our luggage are below the specified weight limit.  Got our boarding tickets for around 15 minutes.

As our luggage went through the conveyor machine, we checked our watch and noticed that we still have enough time to eat lunch with our relatives, who were still waiting outside the airport.

So, we presented our boarding pass at the airport Exit Gate and the guard got one of our pass in exchange for a number.

Our relatives were eagerly waiting for us.  I can see them wiping their teary eyes as we go near them. Then, we went looking for a fastfood within the vicinity of the airport. Good thing we found seats in the crowded place of Jollibee. The joy and laughter we've shared at that moment were truly treasured.

After eating, we exchange goodbyes again for the last time and gathered our carry-on baggage and proceeded to the main gate for the second time.

Experience at the Immigration and Boarding Gate
My 9-year old son was silent on our way to the airport until our lunch-time and started crying when I informed him that we're going in for the flight.  He began hugging his Yaya (Nanny for 9 years) goodbye and clinged on her until I convinced him that we'll gonna be late if he doesn't let go.

On the other hand, my 3-year old was calm.  He was clueless that at the next few hours, he is going to a new country that will change his life.

After bidding farewell to our relatives, we went in, paid our terminal fees, and have our documents cleared at the immigration.  By the way, this it the same immigration counter that I have been rejected and eventually cleared when I went to Singapore to find a job.

After being cleared by the immigration officer, we headed to the final x-ray wherein I assigned my eldest son as the second look-out for our carry-on bags and my wife, on the other hand, took care of our youngest.

As we're waiting in line at the boarding gate, we were surprised to see that one of the officers who checks the traveler's documents was our high school friend, who was surprised as well to see us bound for Canada.  We've chatted for a while and then took our seats near the boarding gate.

Federal Skilled Worker Canada: While we are at the boarding gate in NAIA Terminal 
The excitement level was getting higher and higher as the time passed by. I still can't believe that we're here waiting to board the plane. It's as if I just filled up the IMM008 application form yesterday.

Time flies so fast, in the next few minutes, we will be starting our journey to another land, CANADA.

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30 November 2014

Immunization Record Requirement for Federal Skilled Worker in Canada

In Philippines, we do have immunization for our kids and even for adults.  Some may avail it for free, but others prefer to have it from their private doctors.

If you had been religiously following the vaccines for your child, that is a great move.  But having your child immunized is not good enough if you don't have the immunization record.

Immunization Record is the way to trace and monitor your child's vaccine schedule and to know what's next.  This is helpful for pediatricians for them to assess the status of your child's health.

What is the Importance of Immunization Records in Immigrating to Canada?
If you are planning to apply for the FSW Canada or waiting for your Positive Eligibility Response (PER) from the Centralized Intake Office (CANADA) and has children below 16 years of age, please read this post further.

Children are supposed to be immunized from deadly viruses and should be taken serious consideration from the parents.  Some countries don't have a proper concerns about this vaccinations and is taken for granted, passing the great responsibilities to parents.

As a parent, we are responsible for the health of our children and should bring them to their pediatricians to have their periodic check-ups and immunization.  Usually, when we bring them to the doctor, all the medicines and vaccines given  to your child is recorded, it's either in index cards or computer database. It doesn't matter where they record the data as long as it is held and can be retrieved anytime.

These records can be requested at any time.  It comes with a doctor's professional fee or may be FREE.  For me, I paid PHP600.00 for the immunization record.  I will place the link of the Immunization Record form below for your reference.

Now, why do we need to secure an immunization record from the pediatrician?

Canada takes a lot of effort to protect our children and adults from dangerous and deadly viruses.  That is why they urge parents to have their children vaccinated periodically.

For new immigrants specially the Federal Skilled Workers or Provincial Nominees, we are required to submit the Immunization Record of our children who are 16 years of age and below.

This is not required during our landing in Canada and Custom's inspection, but during the enrollment in schools.

How does the Immunization Record Form look like?
Usually, during the approval and stamping of passports for the Immigrant Visa, Canada provides an Immunization Record form that is readily available for the doctor's signature.

Unfortunately, when our visa-stamped passports arrived, there is no Immunization Record attached with it.  Is it luck or just fate? Oh well...

So, what did I do?

I informed my sister about it and searched online for the form.  But, it's nowhere to be found.

Luckily, she had the previous record of her son and so I asked her to show it through Skype.  It looks like this.

Immunization Record Form for FSW Canada Immigrants
It was written in the form that it can be photocopied, so I made my own form with all the similar details in it.

I had uploaded the form to my Google Drive and if you want to have a copy of it, you can click the photo below and request for a copy.  This is what my form look like, have a quick look at it.

Immunization Record (blank)
Once you had requested the link, print it and have your pediatrician fill up the form and make sure to let her sign.

Here is the link of the Immunization Record form at my Google drive.

"For children attending school in Ontario, a written immunization record or proof of immunization is required, by law, for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella unless there is a valid written exemption."- OntarioImmigration.ca

What we did with the Immunization Record?
When we were still in the Philippines, we went to our son's pediatrician and ask her to sign the Immunization record.  She scanned though our child's baby book and records and wrote all the immunization dates in the form.  She then signed the space provided and asked us to pay PHP600.00.
Tip: Bring along your children's baby books.  This is very important as some of the pediatrician don't have a proper filing of their client's records.  It is also possible that you have two pediatricians attending your child's care.
After a few days of arrival in Canada, we visited the school and inquired about the enrollment.  The registrar gave us some forms and one of the requirement is the Immunization Record. After completing the forms and requirements, our son immediately was admitted to the school for FREE.

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25 August 2014

Photo Requirement: Make a Good Quality Photo But Cheaper

When I started my Federal Skilled Worker Program application in Canada, I encountered this small problem.  It's about the photo that I need to provide.

It was stated at the FSW form IMM7000 - Appendix A that the photo should follow a certain standard size.  There is a minimum and maximum size of the face and it should look like this...


3 Ways to Have Your Photo Taken
  1. Have your photos taken professionally.
  2. Photo booth it!
  3. Do it yourself.

Have Your Photos Taken Professionally

Have your photo taken by a professional photographer, the one with pricey cameras and photo editing softwares in a studio, who charges you around SGD10.00 or more.  This is for applicants who has no more time to look for photo booths and can spare extra costs.

The good thing for this approach is that you can have a nice image with a quality photo paper.  Studios have the proper lighting and you have the option to choose which suit you would want to have.  They can even edit a picture of a suit and insert it at your photo to make you look professional.

It is more convenient since you only have to show the Appendix A form and they'll know what to do next, it's because they are professionals.

Photo Booth It!
If you want a brand new set of photos but with lesser quality than the professional ones, you can have it at a photo booth located inside the Singapore malls and other public places.

I saw one near the Choa Chu Kang MRT Station and bus interchange...it is specifically located at the corner of Block 304 , just beside the OCBC Bank.



Another location is at the Jurong Point Mall at Boonlay MRT station.  You can see it at the bus interchange waiting area of Bus # 193, 181.

If you don't have an idea on how it looks like and though it's a common machine, it should look like this.

Photo Booths in Singapore
Take note, you need 6 photos for the FSW application and this booth will only provide you 4 pieces for a price of SGD7.00.

Do It Yourself 

Because of this Settlement Fund issues, I am now tight with my budget.  Even a few cents makes a big impact on my view of my money.  Saving for the Proof of Fund is serious and you will know it once you have been approved.

Inside my wallet, I had a passport size few-week-old photos, but left 2 pieces of it because I already used some for other important matters.

The problem is that I need to provide 6 pieces for the FSW Canada full application and that also includes all my dependents.  I don't want to waste these 2 photos.

I thought of a way on how to save it.
  • I scanned one of the photos and edited it in a free photo editing software, then pasted it in the Microsoft Word.  Arranged it to fit at the photo paper.
  • Printed it in a photo paper that I bought from the Popular office supplies. 
  • Cut it using scissors and it's good!
What if I don't have any existing photos?
Well, your problem is not a problem.  It is a matter of a simple tactic. If you have an iPhone or a DSLR, then use it.  If you don't have, ask a friend that has one. Take a photo of you with a proper suit, position and a good lighting.

Take note, DO NOT TAKE SELFIE!

Have a white background to ease up the editing.  Edit it using the free photo editing software.  I recommend to use the Paint.Net, which I'm using it for 5 years now, by the way.  If you want to learn more, ask me then.  If you don't know how, I can also do the editing for you.

Then print the photos as what I did with mine.

Photos are required during these stages in FSW.
  • When you submit your full application package.
  • Medical Exam
  • Visa Stamping
You will appreciate this technique when you have a family of 4.  Press the Like button below if you agree.
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12 August 2014

Meeting with an FSW Applicant and MM2C Subscriber

Few weeks ago, I had a good experience, which motivated me in sharing more on the details of my Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Canada journey.

One of my email Subscibers asked me a favor, which he thought I will decline.  Here's what he wrote.
"Hi Ben,
I have been asking you so many questions and you have been so helpful all the times.
I am not sure you will be able to help me this time. Can we meet one day to check my application package? I don't mind if you say "No" because you have been guiding me all the way until I am ready to submit the application of Canada.
If you can, I can come to your convenient location such as restaurant/Cafe. " T.A.
Reading his email has made me realize that throughout my blogging, on FSW Canada, I had helped and touched a person's life.

I am very glad and honored that someone trusts me and believing my advises even though we are fiber-optically apart.

Where Did We Meet?
Finally, after exchanging few emails, we came up with time and place to meet. We planned meeting at a convenient place where there should be a wide table to lay down the documents.  The wider the table, the better.

My job in Singapore and overseas is communicating with customers through online and offline, so it's not a problem for me to interact with strangers.

We met at a hawker station and have a little conversation before we begun to check his Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Canada application.

During the review, we came across few things that were needed to be revised and learned some lessons as well.  So here are some list of the issues.

The 4 Important Tips
1. The order of the work experience or any dates should be arranged from present (top) to past (bottom).
2. Bringing the complete supporting documents and forms helps a lot in filing.
3. Have 3 hours alloted for the document review.
4. Fill up the forms using a pencil first, so it's easy to edit it during the review and it would be faster to fill it in the PDF forms later.

Due to time constraints, we were forced to transfer to a new venue, from the Hawker station to the 24-hour McDonald outlet.  Although it's a good venue but it has a small table to lay down the documents.

We've done the review for about 3 hours, including few discussions on other issues.

What Happened After the Meet-Up?
Few days had past since our last meet-up, he gladly emailed me that his application was already submitted to Nova Scotia, Canada.  I was so happy to hear that.

The best words that he said was thanking me and he should have a difficulty in filing the application without my help.

For me, the statement was pretty strong.  It made me realize that I have a purpose to blog more and meet people that needs help.

Now, I am hoping for the success of T.A's application and hope that he will update me soon.  If he does, I will definitely post it here.

My Idea for MM2C
There's nothing more exciting than meeting my blog readers in person. This way, we can do these activities:
  • See each other, eat snacks and chat all we want
  • Share knowledge about the FSW Canada application
  • Ask questions to other MM2C Subscribers about FSW matters.
If you are interested on this idea, please email me at benalagnam@yahoo.com.

Important Update on my Blog
You can now input and update your application's timeline at my Google drive here.

How to Add Your Timeline?
To access my Google Drive, just click the link below.

Adding your timeline in my Google Drive can get you these benefits:
  • You can view and update your timeline online at any time.
  • You can compare your timeline with mine and other applicants
  • You can track your progress online
  • View other timelines and give a comment.
Click the link below to view and add your timeline.
 CHECK MY TIMELINE AT GOOGLE DRIVE AND INSERT YOURS TOO!

Sample Snapshot:



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Ben Alagnam - MeMovingToCanada