Saturday, November 20, 2010

Diary: 19 Nov 2010 - First Snow in Vancouver

I'm going to take a break from updating my blog and jump directly to tonight.  A lot of snow is expected to drop from Vancouver Island all the way east past Alberta.  Vancouver is expected to get 10cm tonight, and more tomorrow.  Temp tonight is expected at -2C.  Tomorrow's high will be 1, I think.  Here are the pics -- first snow in Vancouver for this Winter Season.

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You can watch it on my Youtube Channel ... MyMoveToCanada or simply click this link:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Days 2 and 3: Apartment Hunting and Restaurant Exploring!

Hi friends! I know that I haven't posted in a month. That's because I've been busy busy busy getting things done and adjusting. My apologies. I shall try to update my experience ... so this post is for Day 2 (October 3rd) ... or, I suppose you could consider it my Day 1 since I arrived in the afternoon of the 2nd. Whatever!

Today was dedicated to apartment hunting.

Some background info. My sister and her husband from Las Vegas so generously offered to help me out with my initial move to Vancouver. So, using her miles, they flew to Seattle and rented a van (the van, they paid for!)and drove up to Vancouver. She booked an airport hotel for 4 days/3 nights (also on points). So, by this time, we'd already consumed 1 night and only had 2 more to go.

With no time to accommodate jetlag, she got me out of bed that first full day and told me to get my list together. Before leaving Manila, I had done some research and my immigration services contact at DiverseCITY in Surrey pointed me to a very affordbale month-to-month apartment complex near their office. I also had done some searches on Craigslist and Kijiji beforehand and had some interesting lists. When I arrived, I already had 3 viewings booked. That day, we drove and viewed apartment after apartment. They were all generally the same with 1 bedroom units ranging from 725/mo to 900/mo. Evergreen Apartments in Surrey (the one that DiverseCITY pointed me to) was the only month-to-month on my list. Everyone else wanted a 1-year lease. We kept looking.

In researching Evergreen Apartments, I noticed that it was managed by a property management company called Gateway. So, I went to their website and saw that they had a number of other properties under management all over the Greater Vancouver area, actually, even in other provinces. We listed down everyone that was below $1,000/mo.

We also saw another set of apartments managed by Mainstreet. These were also in Surrey. They were all pretty much the same.

Here's a list of apartments we visited that day and the day after.

Gateway Property Management  - Visit their site for availability and pricing.
Ocean Residences:  Ocean Side, Ocean View, Ocean Park
Location:  City of Richmond, Steveston area

Comments:  Beautiful area.  This apartment complex has 3 buildings.  I think I looked at Ocean Side.  It's in Steveston village, which is a tourist spot.  You might find it a bit colder through because you're right there near the water.  While I thought this was a wonderful apartment, I didn't get it because it is farther from Vancouver, and too remote for my taste, considering I was not planning to buy a car just yet.
Rent:  $900/mo for a 1-br

Evergreen Apartments
Location:  10525 150th Street, Surrey, across from Guildford Mall
Manager:   Sherry Akers ( / Maria
Comments:  This was the apartment recommended by my contact at immigration services DiverseCITY.  They offer a month-to-month arrangement, which is great if you are not sure where you want to live, or where you will get work.  Prices are very affordable and it's perfect for the newcomer.  Just fill-out the forms, and show proof of funds and you should be on  your way.  Sherry and Maria of Evergreen were so accommodating.  I totally recommend this if you are not sure where you want to live yet.
Rent:  $725/mo for 1-br;  $850/mo for 2-br

Location:  Kerrisdale area, W.44th Avenue and West Boulevard, Vancouver
Comments:  When we saw the community, this was it!  W 41st street reminds me of the Atherton / Palo Alto area from the 80's.  A quiet older residential community with small shops and restaurants.  This was the absolute last apartment we looked at.  In fact, if my sister did not force me to swing around this area on Day 3!, I would have just gone ahead with one of the apartments in Surrey.  But, she insisted we try just one in Vancouver.  And, when we saw the unit, the decision was made immediately.
Rent:  $850/mo for bachelor (studio unit)

Mainstreet Equities  - Visit their site for availability and pricing.
We were pointed to a Mainstreet property by a property manager one of the other ones we visited because I wanted to explore a pet-friendly apartment building.  I don't know what it is, but we visited 3 apartment buildings owned and managed by Mainstreet, and all three managers were Filipina.  I cannot tell you how comforting it is to speak to another Pinoy when you come to a far-away place and know no one.  So, here are the apartments we went to:

Pacific Park Apartments
Location:  9350 - 128th Street, Surrey
Manager:  Annabel
Comments:  Annabel is very nice.  When she found out that I don't know anyone in Vancouver, she very readily said, "Well, now you know me!"  She even called me a few days later to check if I was doing alright in my new place ... or maybe she was calling to check why I didn't get the apartment she showed me.  Of the Mainstreet apartments, Annabel's units were the nicest.  Apparently, they were upgrading and renovating units one at a time, and the one she showed me was just newly renovated.  Engineered wood flooring, medium grey painted walls.  Nice.
Rent:  $687 - 725 / mo for a 1-br

Imperial Parkside
Location:  9555 - 128th Street, Surrey
Manager:  Ria
Comments:  This apartment complex looked larger than the previous one.  It is located literally diagonally across the street from Pacific ... perhaps 100 meters away from each other.  I felt it was a bit busier in this apartment with a younger and more mixed crowd.  Noisier, too.

Hillside Place
Location:  12751 - 103th Avenue, Surrey
Manager:  Christine (I'm guessing here, but she was a very charming young lady)
Comments:  This is a quiet low-rise apartment complex.  Interesting actuallly, since every building is a walk-up with only two apartments on each floor, one on either side of the stairwell.  Laundry facilities are in a separate building in the center.  Amenities were less (no pool) but overall I felt that this was a small family-oriented community.  Not bad really, just that I felt it was too far from transportation.

Independent Owner
Executive Airport Plaza Residences
Location:  City of Richmond, near the YVR Airport
Comments:  I saw this posted on Craigslist.  The unit being offered was in the residential tower attached to the hotel.  The advantage was that it was fully furnished.  I couldn't get it at a more reasonable price, though, so I decided to forego with this unit.  The minimum term the owners were willing to accept was 9 months.
Price:  $1200/mo for a 1-br

Alright, that's it for this post.  My next post will be about considerations in choosing my apartment.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 1: Got a Mobile Phone

One of the first things on my agenda upon landing was getting a mobile phone number.

This was a simple 30 minute job.

I went to Future Shop because it was close to the hotel. At Future Shop, I explained that I had a GSM phone that was an open line, meaning that it was not locked to my previous Philippine mobile operator. I also confirmed that my unit could operate within the band spectrum in use in Canada.

After that, it was a choice of operator. I was offered Chatr, a new operator that offered unlimited Canada incoming and outgoing calls. I didn't choose that because most of my calls would be to the U.S. I also looked at Rogers as an option.

I ended up with Fido $35/mo, which offered 350 minutes, with unlimited evenings (7pm - 7am) and weekends. Evenutally, I added Caller ID for $7/mo and lower U.S. long distance rates for $5/mo.

There are things you have to think about in choosing a plan, as compared to what we are used to in the Philippines are the following:
* Airtime minutes are used up for incoming and outgoing calls outside your unlimited window. In the Philippines, we are used to free incoming calls. Here, you have to consider the time that people call you!
* You pay long distance for calls to the U.S. So, if you are calling a vonage number or a magicjack number, those are long distance, not international.
* You do not pay long distance charges when you have incoming long distance calls.
* Caller ID does not come with your plan automatically. You have to pay for this.
* Voice mail does not come with your plan automatically. This is also an extra service. In the Philippines, we are offered this for free and you only pay when you use it.

Pre-Paid / Pay-As-You-Go Plans are different, as well. In the Philippines, you just load up when you want and your load balance is reduced every time you use your phone. You can actually have a P1 balance on your phone. Here, in Canada, you commit to monthly usage; meaning, your credit card will be charged a monthly rate which is consumed. Then, you add to your load balance when you need more.

Using my international credit card, I was able to get a monthly plan, that even gave me a free touch screen LG quad-band phone (LG GR500FD)! Initially, I used the hotel address as my mailing address. Three days later, after I moved into my apartment (that's another post), I changed my address online.

I'll be editing this to add a comparison chart.

Applications Received Per Occupation - as of 19 Oct 2010

Hi Friends,

Here is a link to the CIC website showing the list of approved applications per occupation. Keep in mind that under the new rules, only 29 occupations shall be allowed under the Federal Skilled Worker program for applicants starting 26 June 2010. Further, the total of those approvals for the next fiscal year will be 20,000, with a 1,000 cap per occupation. (Note that these limits do not apply for those who have Employment Offers).

Here's the table taken from the site on this day.

- - - - - - -
Applications received toward the overall cap: 2,226 of 20,000 as of October 19, 2010

Applications received per eligible occupation:
Eligible Occupation
(by National Occupational Classification [NOC] code) Number of Complete Applications Received*
0631 Restaurant and Food Service Managers ........................ 83 of 1,000
0811 Primary Production Managers (except Agriculture) ............ 18 of 1,000
1122 Professional Occupations in Business Services to Management.. 739 of 1,000
1233 Insurance Adjusters and Claims Examiners .................... 28 of 1,000
2121 Biologists and Related Scientists ........................... 95 of 1,000
2151 Architects .................................................. 125 of 1,000
3111 Specialist Physicians ....................................... 93 of 1,000
3112 General Practitioners and Family Physicians ................. 117 of 1,000
3113 Dentists .................................................... 125 of 1,000
3131 Pharmacists ................................................. 192 of 1,000
3142 Physiotherapists ............................................ 34 of 1,000
3152 Registered Nurses ........................................... 296 of 1,000
3215 Medical Radiation Technologists ............................. 5 of 1,000
3222 Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists ..................... 4 of 1,000
3233 Licensed Practical Nurses ................................... 13 of 1,000
4151 Psychologists ............................................... 23 of 1,000
4152 Social Workers .............................................. 57 of 1,000
6241 Chefs ....................................................... 11 of 1,000
6242 Cooks ....................................................... 32 of 1,000
7215 Contractors and Supervisors, Carpentry Trades ............... 13 of 1,000
7216 Contractors and Supervisors, Mechanic Trades ................ 39 of 1,000
7241 Electricians (except Industrial and Power System) ........... 22 of 1,000
7242 Industrial Electricians ..................................... 28 of 1,000
7251 Plumbers .................................................... 2 of 1,000
7265 Welders and Related Machine Operators ....................... 6 of 1,000
7312 Heavy-Duty Equipment Mechanics .............................. 11 of 1,000
7371 Crane Operators ............................................. 0 of 1,000
7372 Drillers and Blasters - Surface Mining,
Quarrying and Construction .................................. 2 of 1,000
8222 Supervisors, Oil and Gas Drilling and Service ............... 13 of 1,000

*The number of complete Federal Skilled Worker applications received as of October 19, 2010, is approximate.

NOTE: Because application intake fluctuates, these figures are meant as a guide only. There is no guarantee that an application sent in now will fall within the cap.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 1: My Landing Experience

Here's an excerpt from a letter I sent to my friend about my landing experience.


Ok, here are some things to remember when you land.  When  you go down the escalator from the arrival area to enter immigration area, there are signs pointing to immigrants.  You will go through a special corridor on the right side.  Don’t worry because there is a greeter there who will keep announcing “New immigrants, this way.”   Very organized.

When you enter the special immigration area where you will be interviewed, you will first see the queue entrance where people fall in line.  Don’t go there right away.  If you look behind the line there is a counter on the left side.  That’s the first step.  It is the immigration welcome desk.  They will give you some pamphlets and do orientation that you probably already know.  When I was there they were giving out numbers and taping it to the outside of the passport.  There are chairs there, so you can just have your kids sit down with your carry-on luggage while you get oriented.  After that counter, they will tell you to get in line.  

When you are in line, take out your PASSPORTS, your CPRs and the CUSTOMS DECLARATION FORM that they gave you on the plane.  (For the customs declaration form, there is a portion that says detach here – Don’t detach it. Basta keep the entire form as-is.  The girl beside me detached hers and the officer asked her why she did that.  In my mind, I was like, “The form said detach here.” Although, in fairness, the instructions did not state to detach.  These guys are very exact.).  

Also have ready the print out of the GOODS TO FOLLOW and GOODS WITH ME lists that you prepared.  You need 2 sets of that.  They didn’t want my goods with me list, but you might as well have it ready just in case. 

When I was in line, because the line was so long (took me 1.5 hrs because there were so many people in line), I put my documents back in my envelope.  So, when I was called to the counter I didn’t have them out.  The officer told me,  “You know that you’re supposed to have your documents ready when you get to the counter.  You should have done that while you were in line.”  But, it wasn’t really negative.  Other than that, the questions are very very simple:
Why are you here?
What is your job category?
What is your occupation?  
Have you ever been convicted of a crime? Refused entry?
Are you bringing over 10k w/ you? Yes (GIVE THE EXACT AMOUNT).  I bought something on the plane and I was asked to count my money.  Good thing I knew exactly how much I spent of my funds so I just subtracted, and I didn’t need to count.
After that, the officer told me to sit down while my papers were prepared for signature.
Then, the officer gives you some reminders about what to do when your goods come in.
After that the officer attaches your CPR to your passport and you are done.

When you exit, you get your bags, unless either one of you has already been asked to do so by the ground staff.  In my case, because I was pretty much at the end of the line for immigrant arrivals on my flight, my bags were the only ones left, so they asked me to go out; but, because I was still in line, they had a porter get my bags from the conveyor belt and wait for me to finish.  Not bad!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Just Landed

Hi Everyone,

I landed Canada Saturday at 4pm.  I'll be posting more about my exit from the Philippines and my step-by-step experience after I get settled in.

Right now, the first thing I did (with the help of my sister and her husband -- I love you both for all your help!) was get a mobile SIM card.  We went to the closest electronics store to the hotel (Future Shop) and bought a SIM.  IIt's a good thing that they accepted my international credit card and US debit card so I was able to get on a monthly plan right away.  I slapped that SIM into my new Samsung Galaxy S and I'm good!  I ended up going with FIDO (which is part of the Rogers network) but also looked at Rogers and Chat-r.

The following day (yesterday), we spent the day house hunting.  We must have visited around 6 apartments, but drover around neighborhoods and other apartment options the whole day.  I think the total list of possibilities was around 18.  It was a crazy day, so we treated ourselves to a hefty dinner in the city.

More to do today.  It's a Monday when the sun rises and I'll need to open up a bank account.

More details to follow soon!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Filipino Immigrants - Special Discounted Airfare

Did you know that as an outgoing Filipino immigrant to another country, on your first one-way outbound flight to land in your new country of residency, you can get a significant discount on your airfare?

Well, if you didn't know that, then I hope you haven't already bought  your ticket.

The travel agents do not readily advertise this, but if you ask, they will quote you.

Here's what you will need:
*  Photocopy of the info page of your passport.
*  Photocopy of the immigrant visa page of your passport.

The discount for me was significant, I think 35-40%.  It was definitely enough for me to decide on a one-way ticket, rather than a round-trip ticket.  The discount is only valid for a one-way ticket for your first landing as an immigrant.

My recommended travel agency is  
    Uni-Orient Travel Inc. (Makati)
    G/F I-Care Building
    167 Legaspi Street, Legaspi Village
    (02) 818 9585 to 89

Whenever I get a quote for PAL (international flights), they always give me the best prices in town!