Thousands of immigrants move to Canada each year attracted by high standards of social protection. Oftentimes immigration officials are faced with the fears of immigrants who, doubting the possibility of a rapid employment, express deep concerns about the lack of livelihood. In Canada you will always have some allowance to cover the most urgent needs because any immigrant, unable to find work at once, may apply to the local department of the state social assistance service for financial aid.
The most common form of benefits in Canada is called GAIN, also known as Welfare or Social Assistance. It is given to those who want to find a job but can’t do it right now. The fundamental principle of welfare system is that any person living in Canada on a legal basis, can rely upon the financial support of the state if the level of his income for some reasons is beyond the poverty line.
There are certain criteria of poverty, which are considered when applying for welfare. The recipient is allowed to have a personal car, a personal real estate and money savings up to a certain limit. It consists 500 Canadian dollars for a person up to 55 years, 1000 dollars for a childless couple before 55, 5500 dollars for a couple with a child or parent with a child (adding another 500 dollars for each subsequent child).
A lot of the newcomers deal with the welfare system. Application for welfare usually takes few days, during which an applicant passes the interviein a local welfare office and collects all necessary bank and other references. Employees of the office verify the information provided by an applicant in their own ways and appoint allowance.
Verification is made in the following way. The applicant shows how much money he had with him entering Canada and demonstrates checks confirming what he spent it on. Immigrant who applies for welfare has the right to spend money on accomodation rent according to Canadian standards (one bedroom for each family member), the purchase of furniture, household appliances, clothing and other household items (but not luxury ones), a used car, nutrition in accordance with Canadian standards, etc. Spending on goods that are not of an urgent necessity or exceed a certain amount may not be taken into consideration when calculating welfare.
Those people who bought any real estate since the officials believe it is cheaper to live in rented accommodation. The purchase of luxury items and other goods that can be substituted with similar items at a lower price is not considered either. If you own jewelry most likely you will be adviced to sell them. The similar fate expects a luxury car or an expensive fur coat because high-quality clothing as well as the vehicle can be bought at much lower price. But if all your purchases meet the requirements, there problems will be no problems with getting welfare, and probably you will start receiving within a few days. That’s why it is so important for newcomers to preserve the receipts and record costs of more or less significant purchase. It can be very useful some day.
The immigrants under “Independent immigration” category have to rely on their own money for at least six months before asking for welfare. It does not apply to refugees. Similarly, independent immigrants need to explain their expenditures during this period. Welfare officials consider that the monthly rate at which the money is spent should be equal to the consular minimum, divided by 6.
After receiving a welfare an immigrant can live without major problems for one year. A review of the case is conducted once a year and after another one year amnesty comes. Selective checks can be initaited by the authorities in case the welfare official did not like the immigrant, or they just picked a random client. Every two weeks the client is required to provide a list of places where he applied for a job. The inquiries to the immigrant’s motherland embassy are also possible to check if there is any unsold real estate there. The officials even have the right to come to the immigrant’s home with a screening visit to make sure the facts about financial and family situation are true. Luckily, so far it is a rare occasion.
According to the law, welfare recipients are required to search for work for 8 hours a day and 5 days a week, and be ready to provide a welfare office with the confirmation of the job done at any moment, i.e. a list of places where the client applied for a job. Parents with young children (without a spouse), and those who were recognized as temporarily or permanently unable to work are not required to look for job. The amount of benefits for the disabled people is increased. Welfare office has the right to check your bank account, tax papers, the availability and cost of the car, real estate and businesses at any time. After a few months spent on welfare you are entitled to some free study (usually such a professional area is offered where it is difficult to find a job or an income is low). Studies on professions, providing a good income (dentists, nurses, programmers, construction engineers, mechanics) are almost impossible to get for free.
A size of welfare is calculated in such a way to allow you to rent a cheap accommodation and pay for family nutrition. State authorities help welfare recipients pay a certain part of medicine expenditures, they also partially cover expenses for dental treatment and glasses, pools and gyms (but not in all sport gyms and often a limited number of hours), telephone and electricity (depending on the rent size). Welfare recipients are exempt from paying monthly fees for medicine. The state does not cover the Internet and cable TV (if it is not included into the rent fee). They can sometimes grant a free ticket to visit a doctor or attend refresher training, pay for cheap furniture, preparing children for school, the celebration of Christmas. The amount of benefits for a family of 2-3 people is comparable to the minimum wage per person, i.e. the quality of life in families on welfare is approximately the same as that of a family with one person working for a minimal wage.
The amounts as well as the whole list of welfare benefits are periodically changing, usually for the worse. When the seasons change additional amounts for the purchase of clothing are issued. Presently in Toronto the amount of benefits for a family of two people is 950-1000 dollars per month, for a family of three people – about 1250-1300 dollars, etc. In British Columbia a maximal welfare amount for one person is 510 Canadian dollars. The welfare benefit increases with the growing number of children. A certain amount is added at the age of 55, the same is made after 60. Welfare in 60 years and retirement pension shouldn’t be confused. A retired Canadian receives a pension, which is usually larger than welfare. Moreover, Family Bonus and Child Tax Benefit programs are granted both to those on welfare and those who work. In addition to this benefit, you have the right to have a part-time job earning several hundred dollars per month.
Some residents receiving welfare work in places where the salary is paid in cash. There are many opportunities to get a temporary job for 6-8 dollars per hour in Canada. In this case an excess of income over the allowable is not recorded for beneficiaries. If you have children of school age, they can also earn money after classes with no limits on the amount of earnings.
The refugees receive the same amount of benefits, but it is called the Hardship Assistance and has a set of limitations, in particular, it is not allowed to have any cash savings.
There is also a benefit for employment loss. It is called the UI – Unemployment Insurance. It is paid in case the employer made deductions from salary to the special fund which is not always done, and job loss was not caused by the employee, and he worked there for at least 6 months.
If it comes to an application for welfare, begin from the search of a phone number and address of social protection service operating in your area. Call them and make an appointment. Take your passport, immigration visa, bankbook, certificates from the managers of houses, you lived in and checks for basic purchases. If you experience language problems, bring an interpreter with you for an interview. During the interview, you will have to show how much money you had arriving in the country and what things you spent it on. Welfer will be transferred to your bank account every month. Since 1998, beneficiaries have to work a certain number of hours of community works or study full-time, getting a profession that is in demand on the labor market. During the studies or public works, you’ll receive benefits with virtually no time limitations.
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