Back to Guides

How to Open a Newcomer Bank Account Before Landing in Canada

Most visa applications require proof of funds, and a pre-arrival newcomer bank account may help bolster your application. Here’s a guide on how to open one.

Written by Vittorio Salac

On 2024-06-10

Read time 18 mins

As Canada tightens its immigration policies, it’s now more important than ever for most newcomers to show their ability to fund their move.

Unfortunately, with the proliferation of fraudulent documents, immigration officials are also more skeptical of what newcomers submit, especially financial proof.

Fortunately, several Canadian banks offer the ability to open a bank account before landing in Canada. Guaranteed by a Canadian financial institution, your pre-arrival account then becomes your watertight proof of funds.

In this article, let’s take a look at how you can open a newcomer bank account before landing in Canada and the various banks that let you do so.

Why Should You Open a Newcomer Bank Account Before Landing in Canada?

You might be wondering if you can legally open a bank account before landing in Canada. Yes, you definitely can.

Canada welcomes newcomers by the hundreds of thousands annually, so banks have adapted to their needs through their newcomer programs and initiatives.

Among some banks’ newcomer-friendly features is the ability to open a newcomer bank account before landing in Canada.

After all, as required by most visa applications, newcomers are supposed to have funds to support their needs whilst looking for a job or waiting to start school.

As an international student, you’ll also need readily available funds to pay for the hefty tuition fees charged by colleges and universities.

You’ll need readily available cash to pay for your tuition as an international student

But frankly, it can be complicated to bring money into Canada, especially with financial and customs regulations.

For example, Canada requires travellers to declare any currency or monetary instruments valued at $10,000 (CAD) or more. While newcomers are understood to bring cash with them as they settle, it would still entail some hassle and paperwork at the border, since the sources of your funds may rightfully be investigated.

Besides, it’s also hardly advisable for you to bring large sums of cash on your flight to Canada.

Opening a newcomer bank account before landing in Canada lets you deposit your money ahead of time, conveniently removing the need for you to bring large amounts of cash.

Another reason why you should consider opening a newcomer bank account before landing in Canada is the convenience of letting the banks handle the currency exchange. This is especially beneficial if your funds are in a weak or unstable currency that can’t be easily exchanged abroad.

By opening a newcomer bank account before arriving, your funds are automatically exchanged to Canadian dollars and are ready to be used as you land.

Lastly and most importantly, you should consider opening a newcomer bank account before landing in Canada to support your visa application. Your account may serve as proof of funds guaranteed by a Canadian financial institution, since again, most newcomers must prove that they have the means to support themselves as they move.

For instance, aspiring students are recommended the option to apply for a Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC) to fast track and bolster their visa application. Below is an overview of GICs.

Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs)

As the name implies, Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) are a form of term deposit that guarantees the return of the principal amount you’ve invested plus interest.

If you’re looking into studying in Canada, you may have heard of them, since they’re a requirement for applying through the Student Direct Stream (SDS).

Lodging your visa through SDS fast tracks the process, since you’re showing that you already have the means to support yourself with the GIC.

A GIC can be purchased through one of Canada’s major banks. Before applying for the visa, you’ll need to wire the money, which is typically a minimum of $20,000 (CAD) as principal amount, plus applicable service fees.

When you arrive in Canada, the funds plus earned interest will be disbursed to you as an initial lump sum and then as monthly payments to a chequing account. Below is a typical GIC payment structure for student visa holders.

Bear in mind that the bank you invest your GIC with will be the one you’re going to do business with when you arrive in Canada. Therefore, you should research the bank to see if it meets your needs before purchasing your GIC.

How to Open a Newcomer Bank Account Before Landing in Canada

To open a newcomer bank account before landing in Canada, you should, first and foremost, research the bank you want to do business with. To help you with your search, we’ve listed some banks below.

When you’ve decided on one, look for its newcomer program and see if it offers the option to open an account before landing in Canada.

If it does, it’d be beneficial for you to check the requirements ahead, so you can apply online seamlessly.

But don’t worry, the process is quite simple. Let’s do a step-by-step example.

First, you’ll be asked for your details, including your immigration status when you arrive in Canada.

Then, you’ll be asked to upload your documents, especially your passport. Most of the time, you’ll be asked for a photo.

Some bank applications might have a built-in camera function that automatically verifies if your photo and documents are real. In such cases, make sure you have good lighting.

Some bank applications might also ask for your letter of visa approval from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), so if you have it, keep the file handy.

Lastly, you’ll need to certify your application and e-sign it. After submitting your application, wait for the bank to contact you for the next steps, especially with regards to depositing or wiring your funds.

When you arrive in Canada, you need to get in touch with your bank to set up your account fully and access your funds. That entails presentation of your documents and other account opening procedures.

The Best Banks that Let You Open a Newcomer Account Before Landing in Canada

As mentioned above, you should first research the bank you’re going to do business with. After all, as a newcomer, you’ll bank with it for at least the first year or so.

Crucially, the best banks for newcomers feature a newcomer program, which provides a no-fee account or an account fee waiver. To sweeten the deal, these banks might also offer a welcome bonus or incentive, which could be cash, points, gift cards, or electronics.

While there are several banks with a newcomer program, only a subset allows you to open a bank account before landing in Canada. We feature some of them below.


The first bank that lets you open a bank account before landing in Canada is Scotiabank, one of Canada’s Big Five banks. With over 900 branches scattered across the country, you likely have a local branch not far away.

Scotiabank is a good choice if you’re new to Canada, since it’s developed a program specifically for newcomers called StartRight. The program offers incentives on bank accounts, investments, money transfers, and credit cards.

With StartRight, you get your monthly fee waived for one year with the Preferred Package chequing account.

With the said account, you’ll get unlimited Visa Debit card transactions and Interac e-transfers, a first-year annual fee waiver (up to $150) on select Scotiabank credit cards, and more.

In addition to having your monthly account fees waived, you’ll also receive a bonus of up to $350 (all figures in CAD) in cash upon meeting specific requirements.

If you wish to open a bank account before landing with Scotiabank, you need to deposit up to $50,000 (CAD).

Then, when you arrive, you’ll get the perks under the StartRight program, including the account fee waiver and cash bonus.


Among Canada’s Big Five banks, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) arguably targets newcomers the most. As soon as you land at a Canadian airport, you’ll be greeted with advertisements for CIBC’s newcomer products and its global money transfer service.

With CIBC’s Smart Arrival program, you’ll get up to 24 months of waived monthly fees with its signature Smart Account. This account type offers unlimited transactions and a one-time annual fee rebate on selected credit cards.

Additionally, a new account qualifies you for a $400 Costco Shop Card upon meeting the required conditions.

Also available under the Smart Arrival program is the ability to open an account within 12 months of your landing in Canada.

Doing so entails only three main steps:

  • Complete your online application in as little as 10 minutes
  • Transfer your money before arriving with a one-time wire transfer
  • Visit a branch when you arrive and claim the other benefits of the Smart Arrival program


The next bank we’ll explore is the Bank of Montreal, better known as BMO. This bank is also one of Canada’s Big Five banks, with around 900 branches nationwide.

BMO prides itself on being an ideal choice for newcomers, and this is showcased through its NewStart program that caters to permanent residents, foreign workers, and international students.

Through NewStart, BMO features one of its flagship products, the Performance Chequing Account. As a newcomer, your monthly fees on this account type are waived for the first year.

In addition, you may receive up to $350 in cash as a welcome bonus, upon meeting certain conditions, such as setting up a recurring direct deposit, such as your payroll.

With NewStart, you may also open a chequing account before landing in Canada if you come from qualifying countries, such as the Philippines, India, Vietnam, and China.

To open a new account, you’ll need to start your application online. Then, BMO will contact you with the next steps, such as submitting your documents.

BMO lets you deposit up to $75,000 (CAD) to your pre-arrival bank account.

Simplii Financial

The sole digital bank on this list is Simplii Financial, which notably, is the only one of its kind that allows newcomers to open an account before arriving in Canada.

A subsidiary of CIBC, Simplii offers the No Fee Chequing Account, which offers unlimited transactions and a Visa Debit card.

In addition to this, you can earn a $400 cash bonus by simply adding an eligible direct deposit (such as your payroll) amounting to at least $100 a month for three straight months.

With Simplii, you may apply up to 12 months before your planned arrival into Canada. To do so, you’ll need to apply online, and the bank will get back to you within two business days. Afterwards, you can already transfer $1,000–50,000 (CAD).

Since Simplii is a digital-only bank with no physical branches, you’ll only need to let them know you’ve arrived in Canada. You’ll receive your debit card in the mail shortly thereafter.


While you’re free to open a newcomer bank account as you arrive in Canada, you may also want to consider opening one before arriving.

Doing so has a number of upsides, especially the convenience of not having to bring in physical cash as you move. You’ll also won’t have to worry about exchanging your money, especially if your funds can’t be easily changed to Canadian dollars.

Most importantly, you can use your pre-arrival account as proof of funds, which most of us newcomers need to bolster our visa applications.

The good thing is, several banks in Canada let you open a bank account before arriving, and we’ve listed some of them above.

Hopefully, we’ve helped you pick one that you can trust to do business with. Welcome to Canada!

Share this post