As a newcomer in Canada, you may be completely clueless about the lifestyle, the outlook or the culture of the nation. Although, one thing you may be an expert on would be driving. But that does not mean that your home country’s driver’s license would be a viable substitute for a Canadian one.
Getting a Canadian driver’s license once you’re settled here, should be your first priority. Despite most provinces having flawless transit systems, there are certain stretches that might just require you to get behind the wheel. The license that you were sanctioned in your home country may be valid for a period of 30-90 days, varying on the basis of the laws of the province you are settled in. To get your home country’s driving license easily translated to a Canadian one, getting an International Driving Permit while you are in your home country is advised.
So, once your native country’s driving license stops being valid, how do you go about getting a Canadian one? The rules for getting it are, again, different for different provinces. There are certain countries with which some provinces have mutually beneficial alliances that exempt the immigrants of these countries from having to give additional tests. Ontario’s agreement with the US, Australia, France, and Korea is an example of this alliance. If you aren’t from one of these countries, you will have to follow the full process and in some cases, you are supposed to start from scratch as a completely new driver would.
In Ontario, for immigrants from the exempt countries, you just have to show your identification and license which will be translated and then take a vision test after which you pay the license fees. British Columbia also has a similar exempt list of countries and a similar subsequent process. For newcomers from certain Asian countries, a written knowledge test, as well as a road test, will make you eligible to get a license.
A graduated testing system is implemented in some provinces, which means that the candidate might not get complete driving privileges right away. There is an initial road test in Ontario, for example, taken eight months after the written test. To get the full-fledged license, another upgraded road test needs to be taken 12 months after the first road test.
The journey doesn’t end at getting your license made. Driving in Canada comes with its own set of rules and guidelines that one must be well aware of before setting off on a drive. Only slowing down at stop signs and not completely stopping, not checking your blind spot, not letting people cross the road at crosswalks, rushing through despite a red light are some of the common mistakes immigrants tend to make if they aren’t conditioned to follow the rules in their home countries. So make it a priority to learn all the rules of road transport before you venture out in your vehicle.
Once you do get your license and have the road rules committed to memory, it’s time to get behind the wheel and explore your city. Choosing a vehicle with integrated GPS is a blessing for a newcomer to Canadian terrains. OnStar’s Nav systems are a popular choice for most Canadians. You must also prepare your vehicle to brave the winter roads that are sometimes snowed out, sometimes slippery. Antifreeze and winter tires are a must and for traction, you could opt for studded tires or ice chains around the wheels. Maintain a disciplined drive and follow the winter driving guidelines and in no time you’ll turn into a veteran Canadian driver.