These frequently asked questions come from Canadians living in the U.S., UK, Australia, and many other countries who have visited the Moving Back to Canada web site and have engaged support for their return to Canada. If you have a question that is not listed below, check out the web site. It is comprehensive and free. Still need help? Please engage professional support for your move back!
In some countries the government controls your residency, even if you are a citizen of that country. This is not the case in Canada: You No police will come knocking on your door in Canada if you do not "register" your residency with the Canadian government. In fact, there is no way to actually "register" your residency in Canada!
That said, the government is interested if you are resident or not. When you return, you are the one who triggers whether they know or not. Here are three parts to answering the question about becoming a "legal" resident of Canada after living abroad:
That's about it. Your residency is formally "declared" upon crossing the border if you are returning with belongings to follow after you. You "become" a resident immediately upon arrival. Access to services begins when you register for these services (exception: Medical, which starts 3 months after you arrive in most provinces) and tax implications begin through your first tax return filing.
More information on the arrival stage, and specific tax implications of moving your money home.
Generally speaking, the answer is "no". If you have lived overseas for several years, had few ties to Canada while you were away, and established a clear residency outside of Canada, you will be considered to have been a non-resident, and are not required to pay tax in Canada.
There are exceptions, however. Examples of situations that can represent a significant residential footprint in Canada and may call into question whether you are actually non-resident...or not::
These "ties" to Canada can be signals to the Canadian Revenue Agency that you are actually significantly tied to Canada and you may be "deemed" by the Canadian Government
to have maintained your Canadian residency. Therefore you will be liable
for Canadian taxes on your non-Canadian earnings.
Another exception is If you work for the Government of Canada while outside the country. In this case, you are still considered a Canadian resident, unless you have some sort of special contract that stipulates otherwise.
Countries that have a tax treaty with Canada (like the U.S.) ensure that double-taxation does not occur. If you paid tax in USA while living there, you won't be taxed on your American earnings when you return to Canada.
In summary, the dividing line on the tax issue is pretty straight-forward for most folks: If you live several years outside of Canada with a clear separation from ties to Canada then you don't pay taxes. Be gone a short time and maintain ties to Canada: You pay taxes.
For more information on the tax question visit the Government of Canada's web site:
The provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick have a 3 month waiting period before you can get public health insurance. In all other provinces you can become insured immediately.
For the 3 month waiting period you can buy private health insurance. It is available through many major Canadian insurance companies.
One commonly used plan is Blue Cross, which offers both visitor/traveller insurance AND a plan for those waiting for the 3 months before coverage starts. Here are their plans for Ontario:
"The Visitors to Canada plan provides up to $50,000, $100,000 or $150,000 (based on the chosen option) in quality insurance coverage for non-Canadians and their families travelling in Canada or to returning Canadians that are not eligible to government health insurance plan due to an extended leave." (bolding added)
British Columbia (BC):
"For returning Canadians awaiting eligibility for the Government health insurance plan to begin."
Tip: The Pacific Blue Cross plan also covers travel to the U.S. and Hawaii, in case you wish to travel there during the 3 month waiting period! Check out the fine print of any policy...there are sometimes great bonuses built in!
(This tip shared by Tania T., returning to Canada from Australia. Thank you, Tania!)
Note: Paul Kurucz and this web site have no affiliation with Blue Cross and do not receive any compensation for referrals to Blue Cross.
Bringing a car, other motorized vehicle (an RV for example), or a non-motorized trailer back to Canada can be pretty straight-forward, complicated, or impossible. I strongly suggest that anyone considering "importing" their vehicle when they are planning to move back to Canada research their particular situation carefully.
The relevant Canadian government web site, with a very detailed overview of what is required to import a vehicle:http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/dm-md/d9/d9-1-11-eng.html
Note: You may only bring a vehicle into Canada from the U.S. Not from other countries, normally.
The above site is quite complex. Most returning Canadians will have to work through the Registry of Imported Vehicles (RIV) web site, so you can safely start at the RIV site if the CBSA information is too complicated:
Why this FAQ?
Some messages from people "importing" their U.S. vehicles into Canada when they moved back:
"What is interesting is that I did not know that if you import a car that is on the RIV list and is also 15 years old it gets in without duty, taxes etc and also does not have to go through the review process. Also the process for car exportation from the USA is a little complicated as you must get an appointment and process all the paperwork 72 hours before arriving at the border and leaving the USA. Also it is recommended to hire a broker and do the process through it.
"you don't have anything on here about bringing your american car over the border for use in canada. going thru hell right now, and have had a us car rental since the 1st wk in january; currently the 29th of january. have had to go over the rainbow bridge 3 times as of tomorrow it'll be 4 times to check on my car in a ford dealership, thank god for those guys, installed my day time running lights. so as such the resources would be good here, its a long drive from niagara falls to oklahoma city if I cant get the car over to canada."
Every province has their own driver licensing process, and all are a bit different. Below are British Columbia and Ontario processes, as examples. For other provinces, just Google: "[Province] Driver's License renewal" to find the appropriate provincial web site that explains that province's process. For all provinces, see the "IMPORTANT:" note below.
For Canadians with a BC Driver's License:
You must renew your BC Driver's License only while physically present in BC so that you do it in-person. ICBC, which handles licensing of drivers in the province, has a simple web site that explains your options:
In summary, they are pretty easy going - you can renew 6 months in advance or up to 3 years after it has expired. Note, however, that you cannot drive in Canada after it expires. If you go over 3 years, you will have to apply as a new applicant, with a written test, road test, etc. YUCK!
For Canadians with an ON Driver's License:
You must renew your Ontario Driver's License in-person unless your renewal form says you don't need a photo taken. Like BC, Ontario gives you 180 days ahead of time to renew, so that you have plenty of time to get it done. However, they seem stickier than BC on expired driver's licenses:
"You can renew an expired driver's licence, without taking tests, within one year of the licence expiry date." Note: This applies to regular licenses, not learner permits, temporary, suspended licenses, etc. After one year but less than 3 years, you will have to take a vision test, too. After 3 years Ontario is like BC: You have to start the licensing process from the beginning (TESTS!)
In summary, like BC, you have some leeway both before and after your regular driver's license expires in Ontario. Here is the Ontario web page that explains all the options and details:
Renewing a Canadian driver's license has implications for your residency status. If you are living outside of Canada and renew your Canadian driver's license while still outside of Canada, carefully weigh renewing against all your other ties to Canada. A driver's license renewal by itself is a very small tie to Canada. Renewing plus having other ties to Canada, such as a Canadian credit card and other ties, might constitute a case for the government claiming that you are actually still a resident of Canada, with resulting tax implications.
If you are moving back to BC, specifically, don't have a valid BC Driver's License (BCDL), you may still purchase, register, license, and insure a vehicle in BC. You are required to have a driver's license to drive the vehicle, but it doesn't have to be a BCDL.
The catch: In order to get a discount on your insurance for your safe, no-accident driving, you require a BCDL. This means you will pay full-price for your insurance without a BCDL.
When you do get a BCDL, and you bring a record of your clean driving history from another province or country within 6 months of the start of your insurance policy, you will get a discount, pro-rated back to when you applied for the insurance, according to my conversation with ICBC, British Columbia's public vehicle insurer in July 2015.
Here are the details: Insurance Discount for New Residents (ICBC)
A note about Manitoba:
"Manitoba appears to require you to be a "Manitoba resident" to register a car there, but MPI's website rate calculator appears to suggest it is possible to register and insure a vehicle there without a Manitoba driver's license, but you will not get any rate discount. The rate calculator also allows you to get a insurance quote as a "non-resident" and it is actually cheaper than a quote given for a resident (for lay-up coverage). Very weird."
- Mike G., November 2015. (Thank you, Mike, for sharing this!)
Note: I have no information on other provinces. Can anyone help me with this for other Canadian provinces?
However, they must become a legal Permanent Resident (PR) to be able to stay, live, and work for the long term. Note: In 2015 a new pilot program was introduced to allow spouses living in Canada to work while waiting for their PR status. Great news for many!
The process of "sponsoring" them is pretty clear and well-established. Here is the relevant Government of Canada link that explains everything:
Sponsoring when you are already living in Canada:
Sponsoring when you are living outside of Canada right now:
Note: To be clear, your husband/wife/spouse will not immediately get Canadian citizenship - this is about getting them Permanent Resident status: the legal right to live and work in Canada. Application for Canadian citizenship is a related but different (and longer) process.
An American comparable process is the "Green Card" versus "American Citizen".
For more information on what a Permanent Resident is in Canada:
Have further questions or a more complex sponsorship / immigration situation? I recommend the services of a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC). I have two I can recommend:
Urban myth or truth? Is Canada a high tax country that leaves you much poorer every month than in the U.S., for example?
Simple answer: Canada is not a high tax country. You keep most of your income!
There are a lot of factors that complicate this answer and lead to "apples versus oranges" comparisons that really don't make sense.
For example, is the government payroll deduction rate lower in the U.S. than in Canada? Yes.
Does this mean you automatically have tons more cash in your pocket every month in the U.S. than in Canada? Absolutely not.
If you compare overall costs of living between Canada and the U.S. over a 10 year period, for a middle class family of 4 who lead a healthy lifestyle, you will likely find little difference if you factor in housing price impacts, medical costs, healthy food, and other factors.
Take home pay calculator for Canada:
A lot of people believe a myth that Canada is like Sweden - 80% of your pay goes to the government in taxes (not a fact, but yes, they do pay higher taxes in Sweden). The belief that Canada is a high tax country is simply not true.
Check for yourself: The Canada Revenue Agency, of the Federal Government, provides an online payroll deductions calculator for you to play with and see what your "take home pay" looks like at various salary levels.
Hint: Use a bi-weekly pay period and minimal claim levels in your calculation. And when you put in your salary, be sure it is your gross salary for 2 weeks pay, not your pay for a month or annually (assuming you chose a bi-weekly pay period).
Final Important note:
Canada is truly an "apple" and the U.S, an "orange". A much better comparison to use than financial pay comparisons is "quality of life".
According to various "most livable cities" indices, Vancouver is #5 in the world and Toronto is #15.
Where do U.S. cities rank? Not even in the top 10. Mercer's 2015 ranking puts San Francisco, the first American city to appear on the list, as #27 in the world.
Hmmm....now which country do you want to live in?
Losing your wallet and ID while overseas is a pain. There are typically several hoops to jump through to get new credit/debit cards, ID, and passports. A few suggestions, should you find yourself in this situation:
Act immediately on the following fronts:
- Contact the local police and file a report if you are sure of a theft. You may need a copy of this report for later bureaucratic hoops.
- Contact your bank and get your credit and debit cards cancelled and re-issued if you have lost your wallet.
- Contact the nearest Canadian consulate or embassy and engage their help with replacing your passport.
- If you are employed overseas, advise your employer of your situation and engage their help with any legal issues around replacing your lost / stolen documentation. Often times your legal right to work in a country is tied specifically to your employer, not just to you. For example, you may need to get replacement proof of your work visa.
- Let some close friends know your situation. You may need their help to vouch for you to authorities.
Be proactive in getting the process underway. Replacement of your id is an urgent priority in your life. Don't delay.
Do not try to travel regionally in your country of residence or internationally without your ID. Not every country has internal freedom of mobility as we do in Canada. And getting caught without your ID is often seen as a very suspicious situation by foreign police and officials. Don't risk it.
Relax! You are not the first person to have their ID stolen. It happens. You likely not have been negligent. Just unfortunate. Replacing your ID follows well established processes, though will take a bit of time and money.
Resources: (all links open a new browser window)
Government of Canada - "Lost wallet"
Government of Canada - "Lost, stolen, inaccessible, damaged or found passports"
Government of Canada - "Canadian offices abroad"
Your Canadian Social Insurance number, which is used for all federal government services, by your employer to deduct and remit income tax, and for benefits you receive, is yours for life. After some years of not being used, the Canadian government will make your number "dormant" to protect from fraudulent use of it.
When you return to Canada, visit a Federal Government "Service Canada Office" to have your Social Insurance Number "turned on" again. Easy.
Service Canada Office Locations: http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/tbsc-fsco/sc-hme.jsp
The BSF186 form is for importing your personal household goods. Canada Customs wants to see a list of what you are bringing in to ensure that you are NOT bringing in the following:
And they want to see any new, expensive items, such as a brand new C$3,500 Macbook Pro or a new $10,000 Persian rug because for these items you may have to pay taxes and duties.
What do you put on your BSF186 form? Individual items? Groupings? And what values?
Here are examples for you to follow. The key is to use general groupings and nominal or zero values for all your used household goods, except brand new expensive items (less than 6 months old that may be subject to tax and duties):
Books - $50
Kitchen items - $100
Clothes - $0
Living room furniture - $200
Television - 3 years old - $200
Paul Kurucz - Canada
A happy client:
Just to update you - we landed and sailed through customs! So thank you so much for all of your advice...It was a thoroughly pleasant experience...
... this is to say thank you for everything. Your advisory has been so incredibly helpful and saved us considerable time and removed room for error.
With best wishes,