Sonia on Sundays: Becoming a driver in NL

After arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador newcomers may realize that there aren’t many public transport options available. There is no tram, no trains, no metro, and the largest public bus service (called Metrobus) travels between St. John’s, Mount Pearl and Paradise, while most communities have no public transit at all. After a while, new residents of NL will most likely look into purchasing their own vehicles. It is the most reliable method of getting from one place to another in such a vast province where sidewalks are often buried under meters of snow, and wind makes it hard to walk or to wait for the bus.

This week, let us look into important factors which we need to consider when driv

Sonia Krajewska is the ANC’s Community Settlement and Integration Counsellor (Permanent Residents).

ing in NL. To operate a vehicle in NL people are required to have a valid provincial driver’s license and to have their vehicle registered.

Getting your licence

You will need to exchange your existing driver’s licence for an NL driver’s licence within 3 months of relocating here.

If your original driver’s licence was issued in: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, France, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Japan, Taiwan or the United States – you will be able to exchange the licence without passing the driving test again.

If your original driver’s licence was issued in any other country, you will need to pass the test again at the Motor Registration Division. It will include a written test, a vision test and a road test.

Contact your local Motor Registration Division to book your test and inquire about fees.

Note that because of distancing requirements, it is strongly recommended that you call to book an appointment any time you are going to the Motor Registration Division.

Locations are listed below:


Avalon Area

Mount Pearl

149 Smallwood Drive
Motor Registration Building
P.O. Box 8710
St. John’s, NL
A1B 4J5



Central Region

Grand Falls-Windsor

3 Cromer Avenue
Provincial Building
Grand Falls-Windsor, NL
A2A 1W9



Labrador Region

Happy Valley-Goose Bay

163 Hamilton River Road
P.O. Box 3014
Station B,
Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL
A0P 1E0



Western Region

Corner Brook

Mount Bernard Avenue
Sir Richard Squires Building
Corner Brook, NL
A2H 6J8


Eastern Region


8A Myers Avenue
Suite 102




Purchasing your vehicle

Once you get your provincial drivers’ licence you will most likely purchase your vehicle.

There are number of car dealerships in our province. Many of them sell both new and used vehicles. Popular car brands in NL are Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Chevrolet, Kia, Ford, GMC and Chrysler.

If you have sufficient funds or are able to get a car loan from a Canadian bank, you might want to consider purchasing a brand new car. You might want to look into obtaining a second-hand vehicle. If you buy from an individual seller, you should be cautious, as the rule of “Buyer Beware” prevails. You do not necessarily have legal recourse if the vehicle you purchase is faulty. The provincial government advises getting a thorough inspection, covering both the required safety components and other important vehicle systems: brakes, transmission, etc. Find more information here.

Remember that when you move to Canada you will not have any credit history here, and therefore you might find it challenging in the beginning to obtain loans and credit cards. Newcomers often start with buying a used vehicle, and only after a while are able to receive a credit or a loan to purchase a brand new vehicle. Another option is leasing a vehicle for a specified amount of time. You will need to speak to a car dealership to obtain more details on this option and whether this is available for you.  

After buying your vehicle don’t forget to register it at the local Motor Registration Division!

 To be able to register your vehicle in NL you will require:

  • Bill of sale (containing VIN number, date of sale and sale price)
  • NVIS (New Vehicle Information Statement issued by the manufacturer)
  • A vehicle registration application (including VIN number, description of vehicle, drivers licence number)
  • Insurance information (Name of insurance company, policy number, expiration date, signatures).

If you buy from a dealer, they can often do this for you. Only after the vehicle is registered will you be legally able to drive it in our province.

Now that you have your own vehicle which is registered you can start getting to know your community.

Things to remember when driving

  • We drive on the right side of the road in our country.
  • Downtown St. John’s is known for one-way streets, as is Lower Townsite in Corner Brook and other neighbourhoods in the province’s towns and cities. Make sure to look at all the signs before entering any street you’re not sure about
  • Parking meters are also common. Remember to pay for your parking; this may be with cash, credit card or through an app on your phone – look for signs if no parking meters are evident. Fines for unpaid parking are up to $100.
  • Seat belts are mandatory in Canada, so always remember to buckle up.
  • Do not use a phone while driving, you might get a fine. Penalties for distracted driving include fines up to $1000 and up to 4 demerit points from your license.
  • Be careful when driving near wooded areas, especially at dawn, dusk or night. It is not uncommon to see moose on the road. You want to avoid any accidents with this animal as it is very dangerous.
  • In a 4-way stop situation: the first one to stop is the first to go, with others at the intersection proceeding in clockwise order.
  • When you see a yellow school bus you need to use caution and fully stop your vehicle if bus’s red lights are flashing

Enjoy your travels but remember that Canada is enormous. Interestingly, if there was a bridge over the Atlantic Ocean it would be closer to drive from St. John’s to Paris in Europe than from St. John’s to Vancouver in BC. Therefore, when you decide to drive all the way to the West Coast of Canada, ensure you are prepared for a long haul.


Do you have any questions or need assistance with settlement in Newfoundland & Labrador?
Contact me at

Read all of Sonia’s blog posts here.

Sonia on Sundays: COVID-19 financial supports for permanent residents and citizens

So many Canadians and permanent residents have been affected by COVID-19. Many people have lost their jobs and are experiencing a hard time making ends meet. Fortunately, the Canadian government works extremely hard to find ways to assist every one of us in this incredibly challenging situation. (Note: I am writing this on April 24. The programs are always evolving so check the links for the most recent information.)

Sonia Krajewska is the ANC’s Community Settlement and Integration Counsellor (Permanent Residents).

The information below details Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. Please review to see what supports apply to you.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
     • It is a taxable benefit for people who lost their employment due to COVID-19.
     • This benefit equals $500 a week for up to 16 weeks for eligible workers
     • To be eligible, your income in 2019 (or in the 12 months prior to applying for CERB) had to be $5,000
     • If you are still employed, but due to COVID-19 your income was decreased to up to $1,000 (before taxes) per month, you may also collect CERB
     • If you exhausted your EI benefits, you can collect CERB
     • To apply for CERB you can call 1‑800‑959‑2019 or 1‑800‑959‑2041 or do it online at this link.

Temporary salary top-up for essential workers
     • It is a temporary salary top up for those people earning less than $2,500 per month who are considered essential in the fight against COVID-19
     • Those may include front-line workers in hospitals, long-term care facility workers and those ensuring the integrity of the food supply, or providing essential retail.
     • More details will be released by the Federal Government shortly

Increase of the Canada Child Benefit
     • It will include up to $300 extra per child. 
     • This is a one time increase to the May 2020 CCB payment for the 2019-2020 benefit year (July 2019 to June 2020).
     • There is no need to re-apply if you already receive CCB; it will be paid automatically

Special Goods and Services Tax credit payment (GST)
     • One-time special payment for individuals who normally receive the GST/HST credit, and have filed a 2018 tax return.
     • Benefit will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples. There is no need to apply.
     • If you were eligible, you were automatically paid on April 9.

More time to file income tax returns
     • Individuals can file income tax returns until June 1, 2020.
     • You will have until 31st August 2020 to pay any tax balances due on or after March 18.

Mortgage support
     • If you have a mortgage you can work with your bank to find solutions to help manage it during those times of hardship caused by coronavirus.
     • Contact your bank or financial advisor directly to discuss options

Improving access to essential food support
     • Federal government is providing $100 million to national, regional and local organizations across Canada to improve access to essential food support.
     • In our province Food First NL created a database of community food programs (updated weekly during COVID-19)
     • To find out more click here: Food First NL database

Transportation Loan repayment delayed
     • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) decided to suspend Transportation Loan collections for a period of 6 months until September 2020
     • If you already started paying your travel loan, you can suspend it until September 2020

To read more information about Canada’s Economic Response Plan in your first language refer to these links: 
    • Arabic
    • Tigrinya
    • French
    • Somali

We can expect more measures to be implemented and above programs being further developed to assist more people. If you have any questions or you are struggling during recent days with social-distancing and not being able to work, reach out to our team and we will do our best to help!

My email is so contact me with any questions or concerns you may have.

Sonia on Sunday: Importance of cultural diversity in a workplace

What is diversity, and why should we strive to promote and increase it in a workplace? Today I will discuss the importance of cultural variety within our places of employment.

Diversity in a workplace is the idea of employing individuals who come from different backgrounds- regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

Sonia Krajewska is the ANC’s Community Settlement and Integration Counsellor (Permanent Residents).

In my experience travelling across three continents and working in five countries, I have to say that many employers strive to be more inclusive and diverse, while others still remain pretty uniform and lack the variety of different cultures.

In one of my jobs, I was the sole non-national in a 40-person department. It made it harder for me to feel like I belonged, since I was the only one who was not from that place and had a different accent. I had no idea about local sports teams and I simply found it hard to feel that I was in the same boat as my coworkers.

Cultural diversity is growing in the province today. We see it in workplaces, and in everyday aspects of life like going to the grocery store. This is because Newfoundland and Labrador has the oldest and most rapidly aging population in the country. It is expected that in the next eight years there could be nearly 62,000 job vacancies in the province, particularly in sales and service, natural resources and agriculture. With birthrates low, the best option for securing a qualified workforce and ensuring a steady supply of labour is through immigration. Of course, with immigration comes diversity and we at the Association for New Canadians promote embracing it!

The idea of cultural diversity in a workplace has always been important for me personally. There are many benefits to increased diversity in the workplace:

⋅ Expanding talent pool
Companies known to be open to hiring diverse employees will attract wider pool of candidates. The number of applications for job postings will rise and therefore the employer will be more likely to find outstanding staff members. Employees with different educational background or work experience from other parts of the world often bring many advantages and skills to the team.

⋅ Enhanced creativity and innovation
Maltese physician and psychologist Edward de Bono (the inventor of the term “lateral thinking”) once said that creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way. That is exactly what happens when companies employ people with diverse backgrounds and points of view. It’s easier to have new and different ideas to bounce off each other when the team consists of people who come from different walks of life. This in turn often leads to new ideas being introduced and implemented. According to research published in 2015, companies which are more diverse and inclusive are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their field. *

⋅ Reduction of racism
When people are exposed to many cultures and religions, they tend to open up more while understanding the importance of each individual, regardless of their beliefs or background. I remember my first contact with different nationalities and cultures when I first left my home country of Poland and moved to London, UK. My place of employment at that time was very inclusive, and I had a chance to get to know people from all around the world. It made me more aware of how insignificant our differences might be, and I cherished the fact that I was able to learn more about cultures in other countries. This opportunity allows one to become friends with people from the other side of the world and dispels stereotypes you might have previously held. We are getting better at recognizing the importance of inclusion; yet racism is still a major issue for us, as MSNBC published the results of a survey in 2018 stating that 64% of respondents believe that racism remains a major problem.

⋅ Faster problem-solving
Harvard Business Review discovered that diverse teams are more likely to solve problems faster. It’s mostly due to the fact that people who come from various backgrounds bring different experiences to the table. Diversity brings innovation, which leads to faster problem solving.

To summarize, there are plenty of advantages of keeping your company diverse. With such widespread immigration and mobility, our province is becoming a place where we interact with people from all around the globe. By understanding all the benefits of diversity in a workplace, we not only create a more friendly environment, but we also influence productivity and innovation of our businesses.

My suggestion for employers, for all the reasons outlined here, is to embrace diversity and open up to a pool of international candidates.

My advice to workers is to select your workplaces based on their values and promote firms which believe in those very same ideas of inclusiveness. You might want to check the Globe and Mail’s “Canada’s Top 100 in Diversity”  which recognizes (mostly larger) workplaces across Canada with exemplary diversity and inclusiveness programs for their employees. Or ask around about companies in Newfoundland and Labrador who promote diversity in their workplaces. (The Globe is not distributed in this province but there are many companies here who recognize the value of a diverse workforce.

*Bersin by Deloitte 2015 High-Impact Talent Management 

Sonia on Sundays: Buying your first home in NL

Picture of a woman
Sonja Krajewska is the Community Settlement and Integration Counsellor (Permanent Residents) at the Association for New Canadians.

The song “Home, Sweet Home” is from the 1823 opera Clari, or the Maid of Milan. The lyrics say, in part, “Home! Home! Sweet, sweet home! There’s no place like home!” Today ‘Home, Sweet Home’ is used as an expression of pleasure or relief at being in or returning to home.

Newcomers to Canada could face many challenges in a process of finding and creating their new forever homes. At first, they might choose renting a property. But with time, after settling in Newfoundland & Labrador they might want to invest in buying a house.

Buying a property requires a lot of time and effort — and knowledge about local housing market. First time home buyers might find the process to be challenging and emotional. Buyers want not only to find a perfect home for themselves and their family, but also to ensure that they are investing in the right property which will maintain its value.

Today I decided to reach out to Nicole Darbaz who graciously agreed to shed some light on the housing market in NL. Nicole is a top producing Realtor located in St. John’s. Working with Keller Williams Platinum Realty, she helps buyers find and purchase properties at a great price that suits their needs, endeavouring to make sure that it is a good investment for their future. She is connected with local bankers, home inspectors and lawyers, to help  get the financial advice, home inspection, and legal help that buyers need in order to buy a home. In 99% of cases, it does not cost anything to work with a real estate agent when you buy a home in Newfoundland; it is a free service.

Nicole has answers to some common questions for first time home buyers in NL.

What is the first step I need to take when buying a house in NL?
The first step is to schedule a meeting with a local bank, credit union, or mortgage broker to secure your financing. This will help you determine how much you can afford to spend on a house.

How much money do I need to have in my bank account to be able to buy a house?
In order to get a mortgage loan, you will need to have a down-payment saved. The amount you will need to have saved will vary depending on your unique situation. The minimum it will be is 6.5 per cent of the purchase price of the home, five per cent minimum down payment, and 1.5 per cent for closing costs. For example: Using today’s average purchase price of $281,000, you will need 6.5% of $281,000 saved, which is $18,265.

What is the best time of a year to buy a house in NL and how long does it take to find one and buy it?
You can buy a home any time of year in St. John’s. There is no “good” or “bad” time. Typically, there are more homes for sale between April and October, so you will have more options, but you can buy any time.

Picture of woman
Nicole Darbaz is a St. John’s Realtor.

How long does it take to buy a home?
The first stage of buying a home is finding the one you want. The second stage is offering on a home and waiting to get the keys. It can take as little as one day to find a home, or up to a number of weeks to find a home. It depends on the time of year, the price range you are looking in, and the type of home you are looking for. Once you find a home and your offer is accepted, you can’t move in immediately. It will usually be a minimum of 30 days before you get the keys and can move in. Sometimes closings can be more than 30 days: 45, 60, even 90 days. It will depend on the agreement you make with the home seller. Your Realtor will help you with that.

How do I find a home?
A Realtor will have several tools to help you find a home. Here are some of the top ways to find homes for sale in Newfoundland:
   – Your Realtor will suggest homes to you to see
      o You can ask your Realtor to pick out properties for you to see that they think are the best value for you based on your needs.
   – Realtor custom email home search
      o This is a search your Realtor will specifically set up for you and it will email you all the properties for sale that fit what you’re looking for. From there, you can pick            out the homes to tell your Realtor that you want to see
   – Websites or mobile apps: You can view homes for sale on local mobile apps or on websites
      o Try, or even Kijiji – but be wary! “For sale by owner” can lead to purchasing problems.

What are the most important things to consider when comparing houses?
The most important aspects to consider when comparing houses are:
    – Price
   – Size (square footage)
   – Location – is it near schools, public transit, shopping, work, etc.?
   – Features … notably
      o Number of bedrooms
      o Number of bathrooms
      o Developed or undeveloped basement
      o Paving / parking
      o Outdoor space
      o Garage or no garage

What about considering the future value of the house?
When buying a home, it is important to make sure that it is a good fit for your family’s needs; but in addition to that, you need to make sure you are buying a good investment. What I mean by that is, you’re buying a home that will – as reasonably as we can expect – hold its value and be a desirable home for someone else to purchase when you’re ready to sell. This is something your Realtor will help you with. Additionally, in order to maintain the value in your home, it is your responsibility as the home-owner to maintain it properly and consistently. Your home is an investment; and like a car, in order to ensure your home keeps its value, you need to keep it clean and perform repairs, preventative maintenance and cosmetic updates regularly. If that is not a responsibility you are willing to take on, then you will need to ask yourself if homeownership or renting is better for you.

What are the biggest mistakes first time buyers should avoid?
The three biggest mistakes home buyers make are:
   – Not getting pre-approved for a mortgage before looking at homes. You need to have your financing sorted before you look at anything to ensure you can buy the
        home at the price you’re looking at.

   – Not hiring their own Realtor. Do not call the Realtor on the sign outside of the house that you like. It doesn’t cost you anything to have your own representation.
   – Not taking the time to write a list of what they want before they go out looking. (Specifically: Location and number of bedrooms)

I found a perfect house! How do I make sure I can close the deal before somebody else does?
Get pre-approved now and hire a Realtor today, so that when the perfect house hits the market, you are ready and have the right team to help you buy and secure that property. Like anything, success is in the preparation.

Any other advice for the buyers?
Get started with the process early, even if you’re not planning to buy for a year or two. Book a meeting today, and learn as much as you can while you wait. As with anything, knowledge is power. Even before you start hunting for your perfect home you may want to find a Realtor who can help make your first house purchase a positive experience.

Do you have any questions or need assistance with settlement in Newfoundland & Labrador?
Contact me at

Read all Sonia’s blog posts here.