Moving back to Canada is Exciting!
Canada offers many wonderful things to those returning home, such as safety, great public services, freedom, being close to family, seeing old friends, a system you can trust, and of course, the beautiful Canadian nature - mountains, lakes, forests, rivers, and more.
However, there may also be challenges if you are a citizen returning to Canada. You may have to contend with reverse culture shock. Or possibly first-time culture shock, if your spouse and/or children have never lived in Canada before. The logistics of moving home and setting up your new life can also be daunting - what to sell, what to take with you, how to ship your stuff - all good questions and options hard to choose from. Moving back to Canada from the USA or Mexico may not seem to be too much of a challenge, but there are surprising similarities to the considerations of those moving back to Canada from the UK, Australia, India, China, or the UAE.
This resource site started from my experiences returning back to Canada after spending over 6 years in the Middle East with my family. Our youngest son was born in Dubai. To him, we were
emigrating to Canada. For the rest of us, it was a big move back to the land of taxes, rules and regulations, rain and snow...and of course, fantastic geography, a liberal Canadian society, Tim Horton's, reliable services, and much more.
Since starting this site, I have researched literally hundreds of questions for Canadians getting ready to move home and have added the findings to my original reflections. Every year generous Canadians from all over the world contribute tips, tales, and suggestions from their own experiences preparing to move back to Canada, keeping this site up-to-date with practical advice. Our combined wish is that you have an easy and exciting move back to Canada!
If you find this site useful please "pay it forward" to those moving back to Canada in the future by sharing what you have learned. Please contact me with any thoughts, insights, and wisdom you can share!
Finally, everyone's situation and context is unique. Should you have questions you would like answered by in a professional and friendly manner I also offer professional support for your move back to Canada
Welcome back to Canada! May your move be smooth, easy, and exciting!
Latest updates: July 2018. Canadians far and near who have visited this site since 2003: 1,000,000+
We are in the news!
Leaving the U.S. to retire back to Canada? Some thoughts from Paul Kurucz and of a client are in this New York Times article! ...
And if you are planning to retire in Canada, check out the "Retiring in Canada" resource page on this site!
Moving back to Canada quickly?
I am working with many new clients who have to move to Canada very soon. Change happens! I get it. If you are returning to Canada in the next few weeks, month, or in 3 months, planning is crucial. A question that can help relieve the pressure: "What must we do right away and what can wait until after we move?" Be strategic with your efforts so as to get the really important things done well!
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Professional support for your banking, investments, tax, logistics, timing, and lifestyle questions when moving back to Canada.
Moving Back to Canada Planner
Now available for immediate download!
A comprehensive companion planner and checklist for moving back to Canada now available for immediate download. In easily editable Microsoft Word format so you can customize it to meet your planning needs.
Includes a free bonus guide! "Truth About Canada - 10 insights to empower you and your new life in Canada"
Purchase and Download now:
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How to use this site
Consider moving back to Canada:
"Why Move back to Canada?"
Plan your return to Canada:
The planning steps are arranged by the amount of time you have leading up to your move. It starts 18 months before you move back. Moving sooner than 18 months? No problem! Just work through all the steps to be sure you are ready. Scroll up to see links to all the time-based planning steps...
Learn from others:
Canadians around the world contribute their wisdom to this site. (Thank you!) Throughout the content you will find their insightful stories, ideas for consideration, and useful tips. Can you contribute your own?
Find answers to your specific questions:
Tax, real estate, health care, country-specific, FAQ's, and much more! Scroll up to see the links to specific topics where you will find answers to many of your questions!
Get professional help for your move:
Yes, A real person you can trust to answer questions specific to your context, help you make sense of your options, and disolve the overwhelm of moving back so you feel clear and confident!
Professional Support for your move back to Canada!
Why move back to Canada?
This question is easy for some to answer, but not so easy for others.
Common reasons for moving back to Canada:
- Your job or contract overseas ends.
- Your employer moves you back.
- You are tired of living abroad and want the familiarity of Canada
again. Especially when you retire. (See the "Retire in Canada" page of this site!)
- You want to live in the Canadian lifestyle again.
- You have family and friends to return to.
- You want to raise your children in a Canadian context.
- You have an elderly parent to take care of.
- You need access to the public health care system in Canada.
- You have just gone through a relationship breakup and want to retreat
and regroup in Canada.
The most common challenge in the decision making process:
Sometimes, however, it is not an easy decision. The most common challenge in the decision making process about whether to return to Canada or not is this:
"My husband/wife can't find a job here. I am fine, but they are not happy here."
Sadly, this is pretty common and can cause couples and families a lot of stress. There is no easy solution, but one thing you can do is to use the discomfort of the situation to learn as a couple, or as a family, about what is important to you - what life is supposed to offer you and what changes you might undertake in our own thinking, beliefs, and patterns to find where you need to be in the world:
- Why do you really want to move back to Canada right now?
- Are you running away from something or running to something in Canada?
- Where should you be right now for what you need to do in your life at this time?
Answering these questions in complete honesty (to yourself) will really help you understand what you want from life in Canada when you return. It may also help you decide if Canada is even the right place for you right now!
To help you get started with your answers, here are some of the reasons people like being expatriates - why they like living away from their home country.
What will you miss from the expatriate lifestyle?
- Meeting amazing people
- Finally being away from home
- Having this once-in-a-life-time experience
- Realizing that things can be done differently
- Changing ourselves - yes we can
- Being out of our 'comfort zone'
- Realizing that not everything at 'home' is perfect
- Learning a new language properly
- Showing your visitors from home around your new hometown
- Being a font of knowledge on your home country
- Knowing how to cook differently ('Teach me to...')
- Being popular just because you're foreign (exotic) ('I looove your
- Becoming an absolute magnet to the opposite sex ('you're from LA?
- Always having a conversation starter ('And where are you from?')
(Source: Linkedin, Trailing Spouse Network group,)
The ping-pong effect
My family and I experienced a peculiar situation and I have heard from many people who have gone through it too. I call it the ping pong effect. Here is how it happens:
You return to Canada and after a few months find that life just isn't working out - you can't get a job you like, you don't fit in, your family doesn't fit in, you don't have a "tribe" here anymore, and/or you miss the international lifestyle.
So, you pack your bags and head off to another international assignment.
As of the writing of this, friends of ours are doing exactly this, after finding that getting good work in their field in Canada is really a challenge. I did the "ping pong" back out after 9 months in Canada and the U.S. and almost cried the day I landed back overseas on my second gig. Going back overseas felt like going home.
If you are not completely at peace with moving home to Canada but are making the move anyway because of the end of a contract that didn't get renewed, for example, consider a staged move back. I often advise my clients in this situation to consider a first stage of "wintering over" in Canada - a temporary move until they either find their "place" in Canada or decide to head back out again. Once they are clear on where they need to be next, they take another step in the return process. Don't make expensive decisions and final pronouncements unless you are really certain about moving back to Canada. Many of my clients have thanked me for this guidance! It allowed them to step through their return in a way that honoured who they were and what they needed at that time in their lives.
Common profiles of returning Canadians
Here are 5 common profiles of Canadians moving back. I have seen these from long experience working with clients and from my own time living abroad. Please note that you may be an exception -many people are. If, however, you do find one that is close to your reality, it may help you have a more successful move back to Canada by clarifying your target state of mind, lifestyle, and goals.
A. "Ultra-organized". This person or couple knows exactly where they are moving to in Canada, they plan the whole move well, and they get what they want. Life tends to give you what you envision if you are laser-focused and very, very clear in your mind and heart. These returnees are generally happy when the move is over and their life is settled in Canada because they created their desired perfect lifestyle.
B. "Family move". Hope for a better future for their children motivates this move. I have many clients returning from the U.S. right now for this reason. However, this also applies to families returning from all over the world, and particularly from places that are in turmoil. Families generally create a good life in Canada because they ground their move in family priorities and values, reflecting the life stage they are in.
C. "Career move". "Opportunity" and "timing" are the motivating factors for this returnee profile. Life presents an opportunity and it happens to be the right time to move back to Canada. Following an opportunity back to Canada results in a staged experience: First comes excitement, then reverse culture shock, and finally, after a year or two, a new life balance in Canada. Individuals and families both experience symptoms of adjustment. What helps this group? A ton of careful consideration, planning, and personal support for themselves and each other after they arrive.
D. "Healthy Nomad". This individual or couple makes life happen through a combination of planning well, listening to their intuition, trusting things will work out, and being open to new experiences in a cheerful manner. This is more a "non-linear" return path, but results in a life that delights them. Overall, this group is happiest in Canada the soonest, because their cheerful "take-life-as-it-comes" attitude allows them to figure things out, find great people to connect with, adapt and grow personally, and create an meaningful life here. Hmmm...I bet this group would create an amazing life wherever they went!
E. "A shot in the dark". Pushing away from something defines this group. Fear for their safety where they are, a divorce, a lost job, death of a spouse, etc. are reasons this group moves back to Canada, often to the locale they left or to where they have family living in Canada. This group sees Canada as "safe haven" and a place to retreat, rest, heal, and re-build their lives. Happiness for this group takes time as their move is not really about Canada, but about ending one phase of their life and starting another. I honour the decision people make to return to Canada when faced with real challenges in life. Canada is a great country to pause, re-group, and prepare for the next steps in life.
Please share your thoughts on these profiles and your reason for moving back to help make this resource better! Thank you!
Why move back? Stories from your fellow Canadians:
Cathy G., reflecting on the challenges and joys of living in Australia but wanting to come home to Canada:
I am a Canadian living in Australia since 2005 with my Australian husband. I constantly want to move back "home" to be close to my four adult children, and my mother who is 96. We are in our 60s now and seriously trying to work out how best to move there, especially worried about what to bring, what to leave, will we like it, how to sever ties here and get new ones there. I never realised I would need forms to return to Canada, and the forms to apply to sponser my husband are daunting! It requires my salary amount, and of course I would not have created a salary again in Canada until after I get there.
Reading your site has been thought provoking and even though it has opened a whole can of worms, it is lucky that I have found your site, thank you for being there! I love Australia actually, and am totally nervous about moving back to the cold and rat race from our pristine forested land of 20 acres (purchased for less than a city lot in Canada) where we have just built a brand new house, with our own hands. We also have a very spoiled cat that we adore and who we are afraid won't survive physically or mentally being thrown in a cargo bay of a noisy airline.
It won't help me now, but my biggest tip is never go out of your way to get romantically involved with someone who lives in another country! One of you must always ive up their way of life, you just can't be in two places at one time, sadly. If there is a way to do that, I would love to know how! Cheers!
Thank you, Cathy, for sharing your experience and suggestion!
Planning to move back to Canada to retire? Check out the "Retiring in Canada" resource page!
Tammy M., reflecting on the challenges of living abroad (and exploring if to return to Canada):
I want to thank you for this invaluable site! I am determining whether or not I should return back to Canada. After the initial vacation period overseas, I am finding myself without employment and missing my family. My husband however, has a job and direction and is really enjoying not having to work in the harsh Canadian climate.
I can honestly say it has been the most difficult time in my marriage. Living overseas has pushed to the forefront what each of us truly values in life: what we value in our relationship with each other, as well as, our immediate family.
It is an obvious question to ask, "Why do I want to move back to Canada?" However, it is difficult to come to a decision when you know the financial costs involved and the new dynamics you have in your relationships when you return after a few years or more.
Moving becomes a question of, What do I want to give up? Is this need to move back based on reality or what is being experienced in the immediate situation?
Back to why I am sending this . . . Thank you. your site is unscrambling questions that keep going round and round and it is enabling a path toward an informed decision. Thank you also to the contributors for sharing their experiences and pointing out various aspects of their move.
Thank you, Tammy, for sharing your experience!
The following story was shared with me by a Canadian who moved back recently. Due to the personal nature of this story, her name has been withheld at her request and identifying details modified to protect her family's privacy.
We had been living in the United States for 11 years when I knew I wanted to move back to BC. Our children only knew the American elementary
school system; I knew I wanted our children to be back in the Canadian
School system and have the choice to enter the French immersion program.
But my husband did not want to approach his Company about the move because
we had just received a visa extension when I presented the issue of
moving back. My husband did not want to rock the boat with the Company
because we would have one more year left on the visa and that was the
agreement with his boss. Also, a huge issue would be the time difference
between the offices.
I was certain that the time was going to be in the summer and consistently
told my husband we needed to make the move for the sake of the
children. I reminded him that we had moved there for his sake
his career and now it was time to make the move back for the kids sake... it was important for me too that the boys would get some time in an elementary school setting to make new friends before entering the high school years. I kept telling my husband how important it is for the boys to develop new friendships that they could carry
into their adulthoods back in Canada. It was important too that we knew
we would keep in touch with the friends we had made in the states too.
We feel blessed with the rich friendship experience.
When it became clear to me that my husband was in denial about how serious
I was about moving back I insisted we have the discussion together.
I basically told him I would go with the kids in the summer and we could
set him up in a little apartment there - we could support his job that
way... And I was serious. I think it was my strong foot down that finally
made it clear to him that it was going to happen whether he was ready
for it or not. So he got the nerve to tell his Company and it ended
up being absolutely okay.
Now that we are back in BC, my husband spontaneously hugs me and says
thank you for getting us back home!!!! AND the kids love their new school
and are making friends easily and are keeping in touch with all their
friends in the US! It's all good... phew.
These stories are indicative of the difficult decisions that dozens of families I have worked with faced when deciding whether to return to Canada or not. In all cases, there has been no "right" or "wrong" choice. Only one that helped each family move forward or one that held them back from the natural change, growth, and happiness they wanted.
Where do you need to be to help your family move forward?
And here is one more story, shared by E. Cernakova in 2018 on the challenges of being back in Canada. Personal information has been replaced with ... to protect their privacy:
I moved to the GTA in September, after discovering that finding a job in the Ottawa Capital region was challenging, given my overseas work experience in the past 5 years. Getting security clearance was not an easy process, so I chose to return to the GTA where I had more contacts...
Early November I was hired ... on a 12 month contract... . It's kind of a "survival" job for now, which has allowed me to get settled in a shared flat (shocking what is happening with gentrification throughout the GTA and extreme rents) and slowly start to feel more settled in.
I am fortunate, and count my blessings with a great boss and a job that isn't too taxing and just covers the essential: rent, bus pass, food, storage costs... added benefits and pension... It's extremely challenging to be back here, with such high living expenses. But I am highly skilled, and believe I will be successful in finding opportunities to increase my overall income...
So I consider myself to still be "transitioning" back to life here in Canada. For expats like myself who were overseas alone (one income) and had debts to settle while overseas, it's not an easy thing to return with minimum savings. Sometimes we just have to leave - and I don't regret coming back to the GTA when I did as I have to continue working for at least 10-15 years; I felt I had to get back into the Canadian workforce.
My advice to all my friends still overseas, especially those who are older than I am and much closer to retirement, is to stay put and make as much money as they can where they are. Bring back as much savings as you can, as it's insanely expensive in NA and costs a LOT to return. Incomes have not kept up to par with the cost of living. I feel as if some companies think they are still operating in the 1990s! There are days when I think: it's just as expensive to buy groceries, rent a flat etc. here as it is in the Gulf but I am making 50% less. Ouch.
| Get help
- Professional Support for your planning and return to Canada
Preparations you can do ahead of time:
Starting 18 months ahead of your return to Canada
- Make sure everyone in your family is legally allowed to live and work in Canada
- Sponsor your spouse to become a Canadian Permanent Resident. Many Canadians marry abroad. When they want to return to Canada they must sponsor their spouse to become a Permanent Resident (PR). This means their spouse can live, work, and access health care in Canada. At the time of the writing of this, the processing time for sponsoring spouses was 12 months. This is the time you have to wait after you apply. There is lots of work to be done to prepare the application, which is why this step is noted to begin at 18 months before your target return date.
- If you have children born abroad to you, a Canadian citizen, your children are automatically Canadian citizens. Hurray! However, you must get the Canadian government to recognize this. The process can take some time. Get this done now. And at the same time, you can apply for their passports.
Why get their passports at the same time? Because as dual-citizens they will need a passport to come into Canada. And their passports will be useful as a form of primary identification when they register for health care and schooling in Canada.
- Planning on buying real estate in Canada?
- If you plan on buying real estate in Canada for when you move back, this is the time to begin exploring where you want to live and the state of the real estate in that area. The following section will takes this a step further...
- Create an up-to-date Last Will and Testament
- Things happen. Having a current will that will cover you before, during, and after your return to Canada is simply wise.
I have partnered with Canadian Legal Wills to offer you an easy, inexpensive online will creation tool, regardless of where you are in the world and where you will be moving back to in Canada:
Create a Canadian expatriate Last Will and Testmanent online
Preparations you can do ahead of time:
Starting 1 year ahead of your return to Canada
- Decide where you wish to settle in Canada.
- If you already own a home in Canada, have a job to come back to, or wish to live near relatives in Canada, then this decision may be a moot point for you.
- If, however, you are not set on a province, city, or region to go to when you move back, the question of where to settle in Canada becomes a very important one. Why? Because you have changed in your overseas experience. You may find most Canadians charmingly provincial at first. The charm wears off fast. Soon you may find yourselves wondering when you can go back overseas to be with more worldly folks. Really. It won't take long to feel this way! Many people have noted this same feeling to me over the years.
To help make the transition easier, consider what your values, interests, and goals are. Then choose cities and regions of Canada that fit these and that suit your family:
If you feel that you want a liberal, worldly social group (for example), consider Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, etc. If you wish for a more conservative social context, consider London, ON, or a smaller center in a more traditionally-thinking region. If you want nature and outdoors activities, BC tops the list (of course, I am biased because I live there!). The most important thing to remember is that you are different. Canadians haven't changed. You probably no longer fit into your old life in Canada! You will have to create a new fit. Prepare ahead and you will thank yourself later when you more easily navigate the "reverse culture shock" all Canadians experience when they return.
- Jobs and careers are an important consideration for some returning Canadians. If getting a job is a very high priority for you, then some simple homework will tell you where the best job markets are in Canada for your skill-set and experience. In general, Toronto is almost always a good place to find work as it is so large. And other places in Ontario such as Hamilton, Kitchener/Waterloo, and Ottawa have abundant sector-specific work opportunities. British Columbia is also booming: Vancouver, Victoria (the lowest rate of unemployment in Canada in 2017 & 2018!), and Kelowna all have numerous opportunities. Finally, Montreal has some great work opportunities in specific sectors, particularly if you are bi-lingual.
See our Career section for much more on returning to Canada and getting a job here.
2018 Update: I cannot stress enough the number of job opportunities that are available in technology: Software, automation, robotics, AI, data mining, computer graphics, etc. Canada is transforming economically from being primarily "hewers of wood and drawers of water" to something quite different: A country who derives much of its wealth from very high value work. If you are employed in one of these fields you likely already know this. If you are not in one of these fields and have the opportunity to explore tech and tech-related jobs and careers? Go for it. They are the future.
- Buy a residence ahead of time (if you can afford to)...
Roanna Stevens, on finding a place to live:
I think for us one of the most difficult things has been finding appropriate housing for our family. We have never lived in BC so searching for an apartment/condo to rent near Vancouver has been daunting. One thing that I am glad someone told us was that we should look at getting "transitional" housing rather than signing a one-year lease. This proved to be great advice! Since we had a time frame in which we had to find a place to live, we ended up in a basement suite in Burnaby on a month-to-month lease. The location was great...the suite was not. However, it did give us time to start looking around and to determine what area would be best for us to live in. It was also SO much easier to look for a place when we were already in the general area. I had been doing the Craigslist thing from Bangkok but, in a city like Vancouver, you really need to jump on housing when it shows up. If it's a good place, it won't be available for very long. Eventually, we found a great place, at a fair price in an area we felt suited us.
Thank you, Roanna, for sharing your experience!
- Prepare your finances.
- If you wish to leave money off-shore, prepare for that now. Open appropriate accounts, make appropriate investments, choose your money's geographic domicile. Hint: Often it makes sense to talk to a few different people who do this - other long-time expatriates, a professional financial adviser who handles international banking and investments, an international tax accountant, etc.
- Keeping clear track of your finances while overseas and when returning is recommended, particularly if you have to account for your income as a salesperson, a small business owner, or as an independent contractor.
- Canada is expensive if you have to live in short-term accommodations, rent a car, eat out a lot, etc. when you move back.
- Budget for 4-5 thousand dollars a month (yes, a month) for a typical family to live in short-term furnished accommodations, rent a car, eat at restaurants, and buy things needed for your new life.
- The sooner you can get settled in your own accommodation and buy a car, the sooner you will stop the hemorrhaging of your bank account.
- Assume that it will take a minimum of 2 months to get settled and 4 months to get really settled. That's right: Count on up to C$20,000 to just get settled (family of 4 example) in a new place in Canada.
- Staying with family members sounds like a good idea, but if your family has enlarged, or if your kids have gotten a lot older in the years overseas, staying with family will get very difficult very fast. Your parents have gotten a lot older during your years overseas. Your other family members think you are rich because you had an expat lifestyle. They won't be happy with you camping in their basement. After all, since you are rich, why don't you just stay in a hotel?
- Don't mess up your early exciting experience in Canada: Stay in your own separate, private accommodations when you arrive back. You will thank yourself later and so will your family members!
Corrine R., who moved to ON in 2017 from Australia:
Also, get people to get an address asap and internet as we needed an address to get access to school, ohip, etc. we spent 100's of dollars sitting in cafe's just to get free wifi to apartment hunt and job hunt, etc.
I also had a dormant RBC bank account that I reactivated and started using my debit card on. After 2 months of spending like crazy, I realized I racked up over 100 dollars in bank charges. Get onto a bank account that allows unlimited transactions!!
Helen H., who moved to Burlington, ON in 2017:
You were also VERY right when you mentioned that I would hemorrhage money! The price of a used car was clearly more than I had budgeted for. Had I realized that, I would have shopped for this a year before I moved back. One pleasant surprise was that groceries were cheaper and fresher than what I was used to in Florida! Go Canada! So glad to be back home.
- If you have been out of Canada for many years and have severed all important ties (per CRA stipulations to ensure non-residency), you have little or no current credit history. Be ready to face the following:
- You will not have a current credit history. Banks and credit unions may tell you "Oh, no credit history is OK. At least it is not negative!" In my experience, this is not true. A lack of recent Canadian credit history is the same or worse than negative credit. You have not been "in the system", and therefore, you are an unknown variable. As such, are a risk. You may be denied loans, mortgages, and credit cards. And with all the identity theft going on, even more reason to say "no!" to "strangers" (you!).
- The only normal way to get loans, mortgages and credit cards is to have a job - even if you have $100,000 cash in the bank! The Canadian financial lending system is based on lending against income earnings through provable normal sounding employers - and not against you or your assets.
Hint: There is a burgeoning mortgage market for non-traditional, exceptional folks (like you!) The key person in this market is the mortgage broker, who is a very useful person to get to know. If you are planning on getting a mortgage when you arrive back in Canada, find a good mortgage broker. Skip banks and credit unions completely. Good mortgage brokers can get you a mortgage anywhere in the province you are in, so they don't need to be in exact location where you are. I know of one in BC who is called "the mortgage whisperer". She arranged a fabulous mortgage in Victoria with a financial institution located in a completely different part of the province!
- A newer set of credit card options have emerged, with good news for returning Canadians. CIBC, for example, offers "Newcomer" and "secured" credit card options. These allow you to quickly get a credit card, which is an essential tool for getting things done in Canada online, for travel bookings, and for securing rentals:
The Royal Bank offers a full "Newcomer" banking and credit package which returning Canadians cannot access. I phoned them and after hearing that newcomers excludes
returning Canadians, asked them how this group can access RBC services. They were clear that services for returning Canadians are handled at the branch level and credit would be offered only at "branch discretion". Further "branch managers would have to go above and beyond to research returning Canadian credit and try to get credit history from the other country." I offer this story only as an illustration of the patchwork of possibilities. Returning Canadians are on few people's radar.
(Note: I am not affiliated with CIBC or The Royal Bank of Canada in any way. These two are noted only as examples. Please check with your preferred bank(s) for options they offer.)
A review of secured credit card
options in Canada:
In any case, check with your preferred financial institution to see if they offer a newcomer or secured credit card option, which will allow you to get a card quickly and begin building credit.
- Some other options to consider:
- Keep your overseas bank account and credit card. Leave some cash in the account to allow you to use your credit cards for 6 months or more, until you get credit re-established and your new credit cards in Canada.
- Get a job. Any job that pays a decent amount and is with an organization that is "normal" sounding. Then load up on your financial needs and tools. Then you can quit the job, if it is not suiting you. Once you are in the game and a customer, you have all the tools you need. The hard part is getting to play in the game in the first place.
- Keep up a relationship with a person of influence in a financial institution in Canada. A friend or family member in a financial institution can make the "no credit" problem disappear - after all, they personally know you went overseas. You are not a risk: You are an asset to Canada! Bringing home your new-found worldliness and capital! (Yeah, right!)
- I'm New To Canada - Tips To Build Your Credit History Fast - Great article targeted at Canada's new immigrants, but applies just as well to Canadians returning home without a recent credit history.
- Prepare your children for the change by discussing it with them early, openly, and fully.
- This is a double edged sword: On one hand it will help with planning. On the other, it will mean that the last year and the last few months in particular will go by slowly. It may mess up friendships a bit for them. However, it is my philosophy (yours may be different) that children need to be part of major family decisions. By being open about future plans and keeping them more or less fully up to date on these plans, your children will be able to actively prepare mentally. Not telling them until much closer to the move date will shock them and could make them feel helpless, stressed, and overwhelmed. You will be the one they take their frustration and insecurities out on as a result!
I have personally seen the effects on teenagers, particuarly, who were not kept up to date and included in family decision making. Huge resentments built up over time towards the parents when a girlfriend had to be left, for example, without adequate preparation and support for their teen by the parents.
- Prepare them for the schools they may be going to. If you plan to home-school in Canada: Find out what the home schooling "climate" is like in the region you are going to live in.
- Discuss the benefits of your move home. Benefits most often include time with Grandma and Grandpa, shows/concerts/events, access to Canadian sports, outdoor activities they might not have had access to, a common language, freedoms and rights, high speed internet, lots of potential friends, etc.
- Get them ready for what you will and won't be taking back to Canada with you. Furniture, toys, souvenirs, etc. Identify which toys are touchstones for them to feel secure and safe with. Have one or two of these items with them through your final months abroad and then pack them for the airplane ride, too, so they are close and handy.
- Pets, children's vaccinations, criminal record checks, ...
Home | Get help - Professional Support
Preparations you can do ahead of time:
Starting 6 months ahead of your return to Canada
Jack Novak, a Canadian overseas, posed many interesting questions around the following central theme:
"Keep your goods and ship them or sell them and travel light?""
Jack wondered if people were happier taking a container of their possessions, for example, and shipping them back to Canada when they return, or were happier selling and going originally in suitcases alone.
I (Paul Kurucz, the author of this site) did it both ways. When I first went overseas my boss there said "Sell everything and bring only suitcases!" We did just that and unfortunately, regretted doing so...sort of. We were expecting our second child on the way overseas and having a container load of books, toys, and baby equipment, furniture, etc. would have really helped. We did get a generous furniture allowance, but in the end it would have been better, perhaps, given our particular point in family life, to have our "stuff" with us.
On the other hand, we had the opportunity to spend time experiencing our new country of residence without the emotional baggage, habits, and patterns that would have come with the household stuff we would have moved abroad with us. So we definitely benefited from the adventure of moving our life in 6 suitcases.
Your point in life is important, I think: My boss was in his 50's, had no children, and loved to travel with his wife. To them, moving meant traveling light and enjoying the freedom of their point in life. So my boss' first advice made sense...from their perspective.
We did a second tour overseas and this time sent a container and returned to Canada with one some years later. Great idea! We loaded up on cool stuff you can't get in Canada (art, rugs, furniture, etc.) on the way back because once your container is paid for, you can load it up to the very top with stuff at basically the same flat rate cost as 1/2 empty.
In summary, a few good questions you might consider:
- Where are you in life? Do you need your stuff for what you want to do now and for the next few years?
- Do you have a lot of emotional attachments to your stuff? How might this affect your experience after arriving back in Canada?
- What is the cost of shipping versus buying new stuff when you arrive back in Canada?
- What do you want your life to look like when back in Canada? A house stuffed full of belongings might not be an attractive way to start your "new" life back in Canada. On the other hand, an empty house that you must furnish from scratch might not be either!
Please comment on your thoughts and experiences on this question to add to this site! (contact Paul) Thank you!
Things to do starting around 6 months ahead of your move:
Find out how people from your part of the world move their household goods ("HHG") back to Canada.
Ask around with friends, your employer and fellow employees, and online via discussion boards.
Research moving companies and services:
Roanna Steven's experience moving her family back to Canada from Bangkok to Vancouver:
- There are several shipping options available to you:
- Go home with suitcases only:
- Pluses: No shipping costs, ready to move anywhere in Canada, flexibility, traveling light.
- Minuses: You will miss your "stuff" very quickly, costs in Canada for buying all your furniture, kitchen stuff, etc. are extremely high (remember HST/GST and PST?).
- Ship a bunch of boxes/crates home by air freight:
- Pluses: Stuff gets there fast, stuff is secure, you can pick up your stuff from your nearby airport.
- Minuses: Very expensive, limited by size and weight limits, gets there too quickly - a problem if you don't already have accommodation lined up.
- Ship a bunch of boxes/crates home by sea freight.
- Pluses: Inexpensive, gets there more slowly (if you need time to get settled, this may be a good thing).
- Minuses: Less secure - your cargo gets bunched with others - it may be more susceptible to theft and damage than if it is in a sea container that you lock and unlock. That said, shipping companies make their living by ensuring cargo gets safely to its destination, so a trustworthy company that gets recommended to you can be very reliable.
- Ship a 20' or 40' container by sea freight.
- Pluses: You lock it with your own personal padlock at the end of it being packed - you unlock when it arrives in Canada - very secure, a fixed and large amount of space, little or no damage if you are involved in packing it (or have it professionally packed), the opportunity to ship home larger furniture, you have your full household ready to go when it arrives (you don't have to buy much in Canada for your new house - big savings)
- Minus: Expensive (thousands of dollars) to rent a container (but may be totally offset by savings of not having to buy new furniture in Canada), takes up to 6 weeks to get to Canada.
- Learn all the "ins and outs" of the moving business:
- If you can pack all your possessions, you will save thousands of dollars. Moving companies make most of their profits on the packing phase. Pack your own and you will see sad faces from the moving company sales representative.
Some moving companies won't do business with you if you want self-pack. They will give you serious-sounding, but ridiculous reasons why they must do the packing. Don't listen to them. Find a moving company who will let you pack if you want to save lots of money.
- You may be able to handle air freighting or container shipping by yourself. Or not, if you live in a part of the world where corruption is rampant.
- Never leave for Canada until you have all the paperwork from the shipper in hand. Never fly out with the words "I will send it to you soon!" ringing in your ears. Leave with the original shipping manifest and bill of lading in hand. Canada Customs must have this when you arrive if you want to clear your goods through customs!
- Insurance on your container's goods is likely a scam. Many people who pay it and then try to claim for goods that got damaged in transit never get paid out. Or get paid out a pittance. The contract is packed with exceptions in fine print. If you have some extremely expensive, irreplaceable items then insure them individually and professionally and ship them by air freight. Otherwise, skip the 2, 3 or 4% insurance charges the moving company wants you to pay. The ship won't drop your container overboard. Your stuff will get there (particularly if you use the container shipping method).
I wanted to fill you in a bit on our experience of shipping our goods from Bangkok to Vancouver as you provided so many helpful tips for us (thank you SO much)! Actually, the shipping of our household goods ended up being one of the areas that went the smoothest in our international move! We used a shipping company that a friend recommended (and she had had a friend recommend them to her!) and they were superb. Also, their agent on the Vancouver end was excellent as well. (If anyone visits your website and wants a recommendation for a shipping company in Bangkok, I'd HIGHLY recommend CargoPort Thailand. We dealt with a gentleman named Tony who was brilliant. Their web site is www.cargoportthailand.com).
One thing that did catch us a bit off guard was that Tony mentioned they would have to look in each box that we had packed (I guess to make sure we were in fact only shipping household goods). I panicked a bit (since we had done our own packing and the boxes were VERY tightly packed and I didn't want them being totally unpacked) but he simply looked in the top of each box. It was good that we knew ahead of time though so that we didn't tape up the boxes too tightly! I also had prepared a list of the goods we had so they used that as the packing list.
Thank you, Roanna, for sharing your experience!
A cautionary experience: I was contacted by someone who did not have a good experience with a shipping company. Here is their story and my suggestions:
(Names of the individual and the shipping company withheld as I cannot confirm both sides of the story)
"Hi, we have been scammed and robbed by ---------------- relocation company. This a Canadian company that "services" many cities in the world: https://-----------------
We had to pay over 10,000 USD to be able to recover our things because this had our stuff kidnapped, after paying them us over 10,000 USD (of a 7500 USD quote). Therefore a service that had to be less than 8000 USD, ended on over $20,000 USD.
This people have scammed and robbed people for years, there are many sites telling horrible stories about them (unfortunately I did not read them before making business with them).
I do think it is very important to caution everyone who reads your web page of the wrongful activities of this company.
We are currently talking to lawyers and insurance company as most our things arrived very damaged and a Sony HD 60" flat screen arrived totally destroyed, so we haven't published our story, but here are some links [links withheld] on how people have been scammed by this people.
Please let us know if we can publish our story in you site and what is the proper manner to do so.
We really think consumers should be warned!!!"
My suggestions from the above experience:
Really research and learn about the moving industry for the country you leaving from. Here's how to to lower your risk:
- Check with other people who have used moving companies where you
are now living. Communicate directly with them about their experiences.
You can find these people by asking around about who arrived recently
or who left the country recently.
- Which moving company does your local Canadian or other country
Consulate/Embassy use to move their employees in and out of the country
you are in? Wouldn't it make sense that they would use a trusted moving
- Which moving companies do large corporations, NGO's, large international charities, etc. use to move their employees in and out of the country you are in? Same logic: These organizations will know the best moving companies.
- Consider air-cargo. We moved once by using only air cargo - selling all our big belongings. Air cargo was:
- cheaper than I thought.
- you pack and unpack your own goods, saving money and controlling
the packing quality.
- major airlines are generally very professional about air cargo
in all respects.
- you don't generally need middle-men
- the process was much less hassle in all respects than container
or LTL moving.
The only downside? We moved only a few large boxes of memorabilia and expensive-to-replace items. We had to travel "light".
- Use the internet to really check your chosen moving company, particularly if you have any concerns after considering the above suggestions.
In summary, I don't advocate at any point in life to live in fear. Living abroad and returning to Canada should be exciting and joyful. Rather than fearing what could go wrong, or alternatively just throwing yourself at the mercy of the first moving company that has a sweet-talking salesperson, do some research through other people in your personal network (if you don't have this network, develop it!), check in with your instincts, and if conflicted or worried, consider a different approach to the move (a different company or method).
Book your moving/shipping company:
- Get a firm price quote.
- Build a clear and professional relationship with your mover.
- Hint: One of the things I discovered about being successful in life is that it is not the quality and quantity of what you know that is important, but how good your questions are. Part of building a clear and professional relationship with a mover is asking lots of good questions. If the mover can answer them well, you have some confidence in their abilities. They also come to know that you are a customer who they need to treat professionally. If you get back from your questions:
"Yes, yes! We take care of all that. Just leave it to us!"
This can mean a range possible things, from "they really know their stuff" to "eeekkkk - my container went to the Ukraine by mistake?!" In either case, I suggest asking lots of questions and insisting on clear and full answers, particularly in the context of your moving company. I found out lots of things I needed to be prepared for, and that made my life a lot easier, by asking lots of questions.
- Make sure he/she knows that you will be talking to many fellow expats about your experience after you move.
John Morrison, a Canadian who moved back from the U.S. suggests:
Alternatives for reducing moving costs, for those moving from US or possibly Mexico back to Canada.
Consider these ways of reducing moving costs:
- if you have a car, purchase a trailer for it and self drive back
- if you don't have a car or any large items to move back e.g. appliances, then consider mailing your items using the US mail to a town just the other side of the border. US mail lets you send domestic mail, up to 70lb in weight for each item. Length plus width plus height of each item must be less than 130". Cost is approximately $52 per item close to these maximums. So if you had 20 boxes close to these maximums that would be $1000. Compare that to $1500 for base rental of a small 1 way truck, before buying gas and other moving costs. You then rent a truck from your new town in Canada for the day, drive down and pick up your goods from across the border. At least, this is my plan
Thank you for your site - got me thinking through my move back from the US!
Thank you, John, for sharing your practical suggestions!
I found your website to be invaluable when planning my move back to Canada. I lived in San Diego, CA for 35+ years and wanted to return to Canada. The organization of the website spelled out each step very clearly. The unknowns of my return were answered. I was most impressed with the information given about the selection of a moving company. I attribute this very successful part of my return to the articles that helped me chose a moving company that not only provided information about packing but also assigned a coordinator who referred me to a contact in Canada to assist with the border crossing details. Everything went smoothly with this aspect due to the suggestions concerning the preparation of the necessary paperwork prior to reaching the border. I cannot stress enough the importance of planning. Your site supported the tips provided with real life experiences that prepared me for all aspects of this move.
Thank you again.
Thank you, Yvonne, for sharing your experience!
- Sell off anything (like your cars) that will be hard or expensive to sell near the time of your departure:
- Many people sell their cars at the last minute before they get on
the airplane for Canada. Car dealers overseas know this and low-ball
you. Since you are desperate, you take what they offer. You regret
keeping it that long. You kept it because you needed it up to the
end, you told yourself. NOT SO! If you had sold it earlier at a price
the vehicle was worth you could have saved thousands of dollars! Here
is how to do it:
- Sell your car early (2-3 months ahead at least)
- Rent a vehicle on a short-term lease for the remaining time.
- You will have pulled your cash out and relieved yourself of the stress of selling it at the last minute. You will have an astonishing amount of stuff to do at the end before you leave. Save yourself the extra grief of trying to get rid of your vehicle at the last minute.
- The money you save by getting a good price will often cover the short-term lease and more!!
- Another bonus: You don't have to worry about maintenance, repairs or possible breakdowns in the last few months!
- If you wish to bring your car home with you, note that you can only import cars from the U.S. and only under certain conditions.
- If you originally shipped the car the U.S. or overseas from Canada, you should be able to ship it back to Canada and register it again in Canada, as long as it has not been modified mechanically.
- If you purchased a vehicle overseas, you cannot register it in Canada (so don't bring it!). Only vehicles purchased in the U.S. can be brought back to Canada and be registered here.
Begin making contacts in Canada for jobs, social events, social groups, etc.
Building connections now will make the transition when you arrive in Canada easier. If you have favorite musical concert to look forward to when you arrive this will be another anchor in Canada you can hold onto during the frantic last minute preparations. Have a camping trip planned with your kids. Have a family reunion planned. Stuff like that.
- Get a job in Canada ahead of time...if you can.
Unless you are retiring when you return to Canada (which many people are), getting work in Canada is one of the big challenges you might face. Why? There is an old saying that a house that is lived in is easier to sell than one that isn't. The same applies to getting a job in Canada: Having a job already in Canada means it is easier to get another from your current position. An employed person seems more attractive than an unemployed one. Now add in the fact that the job you just had was not in Canada, nor perhaps in some recognizable place like the United States, and you have a first screening disadvantage on jobs you apply for.
And it gets even more challenging: I once had a middle-aged gentleman from the UK apply for a job that I was hiring for (in Canada). He had a "Higher National Diploma". I required a "Bachelor Degree". Guess what? In my youthful ignorance I assumed it wasn't comparable or valuable enough and he didn't get past first screening. In later years when I learned what a Higher National Diplomas was - basically equivalent to a Bachelor's degree - I realized that he was not only qualified, but likely an excellent candidate. (Sigh. Sorry!).
How do you beat this seeming disadvantage when you are returning to Canada and want to find employment? Some tips:
- Great real estate: "location, location, location". Great jobs: "networking, networking, networking". OK, so networking can feel distasteful to many people. But it is necessary for most. Some networking suggestions:
- Join service groups like Rotary. They are international, so why not do join in your overseas location before you return? Then you can transfer over and find yourself smack in the middle of a group of welcoming, supportive people (= job)
- A lot of cities in Canada have "newcomers" clubs for anyone new to the city for less than 2 years.
- Use your industry association to make contacts by attending trade shows/fairs/conventions in the year before you come back.
- Come back 1-3 months ahead and just knock on doors of organizations directly in line with your experience and interests. Or make contact with their overseas branch in the location you are in and ask for Canadian contacts from the folks in the overseas branch. They might be more willing to help, often being expats themselves, than those in the Canadian location.
- Talk to people, talk to people, talk to people. Canadian friends, former Canadian co-workers & bosses, family members. Let them know you are looking for work after arriving back from an exciting time overseas. Your excitement over returning to Canada and cool anecdotal stories you share will go a long way to Canadian employers seeing you as interesting. Remember: Most Canadians want to travel. You are a kind of "hero" to them - you not only traveled, but LIVED overseas. Cool. Share this "Cool" with them. And watch your excitement turn into an interesting opportunity here in Canada for you through networking.
- Start your own business. Really.
"If you're going to be self employed, incorporate your company in advance, set up corporate bank accounts. I did all of this 3 months before my move date. I can now hit the ground running when I get there." (Chris G.).
- Seek out a smaller firm that does business internationally. They
will understand you better than a 23 year old assistant manager
of the XYZ local credit union in ABC town in any province in Canada.
- Go back to work overseas...but live in Canada. Many opportunities
exist to help other countries export to Canada. Examples, students
from other countries who want to study in Canada. Firms who wish
to export to Canada. You can be their agent, start their local subsidiary in Canada, or act as their representative here. Cool.
- Network with everyone and anyone you meet in Canada and abroad.
Tell them your story. Oh, yes, I already mentioned networking as
the best (yes, the best) way to get a great job fast in Canada.
- Did I mention networking?
- Check out the Moving Back to Canada Careers page for more in-depth help with getting a job and restarting your career in Canada!
- Can you "convert" your current foreign one to a driver's license in the province you will be living in?
- Every province has its own special rules regarding "reciprocity"
between their driver's licenses and those of other countries.
Reciprocity means being able to exchange your license back and
forth between those countries. Some provinces are easier and
more flexible than others, but in general, there is reciprocity
between many "first world" countries and Canada.
- When I first went overseas I ensured that my driver's license
from BC had a long expiry so that I would have the opportunity
to not lose it. Even so, after many years overseas I renewed
it while on vacation back in Canada. However, I understand that
many people wouldn't worry about that or would simply not have
the opportunity to do so. If you do have the chance to keep
your current Canadian license without impacting your non-residency
status, I suggest doing so.
- Suggestion: Once you have decided which province you will
settle in, check out that province's web site to see if there
is reciprocity with the country/state. If there is not, you
may have to apply as a new driver. If there is reciprocity,
more paperwork is now required for some provinces, including
proof of length of time you have been driving and even proof
of your driving record (accident history).
- Ontario's "Exchanging an Out-Of-Country Driver's License" web page:
- British Columbia's ICBC "New B.C. Resident's " driver's license exchange web page:
I visited a BC Driver Licensing office in March 2018 and asked for their process for U.S. reciprocity, because of the U.S. is not listed on their web site, while countries like Taiwan are. Here is what they told me:
They explained that every state is different, which is why the U.S. is not on their web site. They recommended the following be brought to their office when you come to exchange your DL:
1. Your driving transcript from your state's DMV. Be sure it is a U.S.-wide transcript, not a state-wide one only.
2. Three pieces of ID, one of which must be a primary one - a Canadian birth certificate, for example. If you bring a passport, it must match the name on your birth certificate (a spouse who changed their last name can't bring two differing pieces of ID).
3. Your car insurance company's claims history. This is not specifically for a driver's license exchange, but will be useful for getting a reduced insurance cost for your vehicle. Remember ICBC in BC runs both driver licensing and insurance for the province.
4. Your U.S. driver's license (of course).
So, they handle driver's license exchanges on a case-by-case basis. Some people may get an exchange with an eye test, some may have to do a written test, but apparently no state they knew of needed a road test if you have more than two year's driving experience. Less than two years driving history? A road test may be needed.
Helen H. shared this about her move to Ontario:
I moved from Clearwater, Florida May 2017. I really found your website useful. I followed step by step. I obtained my Florida Driver's abstract within 2 weeks and obtained my driver's license without a hitch. Unfortunately I forgot to make a copy which the car insurance folks wanted and a new application took 6 weeks to be processed and come in. CAA did give me a good rate considering my Florida car insurance was through AAA and they were able to email my lack of accident history through email.
Thank you, Helen, for sharing this!
Michael H. added this:
I come from a country that does not have a reciprocal licensing agreement, and I've been worrying that I'd have to go through the graduated license restrictions (in Ontario). However, here's a link I found that you may want to post for the benefit of your readers. It shows that there is a process that can be followed that results in waiving all the waiting periods, meaning you can immediately take the full test and (assuming you pass), skip the restricted driving phases.
Thank you, Michael, for sharing this!
Kathleen H.'s experience with Ontario:
There is a new rule in Ontario ... - to exchange a driver's license one needs to provide proof of having a valid driver's license in one of the countries or states with which Ontario has reciprocity - this has to be a letter on the letter head of the state or country - no faxes, no copies, no emails - in my case NH will only provide this after I fill out a form and have it notarized and mail it to them - they will then mail it to me - no Fed Ex - only snail mail.
Thank you, Kathleen, for sharing your experience!
Laura W.'s experience:
A Canadian living in the UK and preparing to take up residence in Canada, Laura researched driver's licenses and whether you can exchange your overseas license for a Canadian one without doing a test. She was able to change her Canadian driver's license for a UK one when she first went overseas. Ontario, for example, allows a direct exchange of driver's license if you have more than 2 years driving experience, for "drivers from other Canadian provinces, Canadian Forces-Europe, U.S.A., Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Germany, France, Great Britain, Austria and Belgium." For people from other countries who have let their Canadian driver's licenses lapse, you may have to take a new test! Check the details noted on the web sites of the province in which you intend to take up residence. As well, individual employees at individual offices of your province's licensing division may interpret your situation differently.
Thank you, Laura, for sharing this information!
Home | Get help - Professional Support for your return. A Planner / Checklist is also available to quickly organize your move.
Preparations you can do ahead of time:
The last month before your return to Canada
- Get your cash out of the country you are in to an off-shore account or back to Canada.
- A practical policy for keeping things absolutely clean with the CRA is "Cash into Canada, then you, then your goods". In that order. Note: This is not an absolute "must", but it provides one simple benefit: You never have to explain where the money you are bringing in comes from!
In this day and age hundreds of millions of dollars flow into and out of Canada every day, so if you decide to leave money outside of Canada, no problem: Just be sure to have clear records of your assets when you return, so you never find yourself having to find proof that the money you bring back to Canada later is not "income" but instead "assets" you had when you moved back.
- Goods that proceed you can be a problem as you are not there to clear them. And you may be deemed resident from that point forward by CRA. Which means you might pay tax on your final earnings overseas!
- Many Canadians keep assets outside of the country now: Real estate, investments, businesses, etc. When you return to Canada, get third-party valuations done for all your assets so that you have a benchmark value to begin calculating capital gains and income from upon return. The last month before you return is the best time to do this.
- If you are returning from a second- or third-world country, get a letter from your employer, indicating:
- That you worked for them.
- Where you worked - what country.
- For how long, specifically.
- If you have more than one country of residence while working at
the same company, ensure the letter details exactly how long and
in which countries.
This letter is of value if you get asked to prove where you were, what you did, and how long you did it there. This might be asked when you just return at the airport (though rarely asked for), at tax time, or when applying for Canadian public health care, for example.
Self-employed overseas? Simply bring one copy of each of your local hydro bill, children's school fees, telephone bill, etc. A few of these showing your overseas footprint is just as good as a letter from an employer. Another option: Sometimes utility companies and other agencies will give you a letter indicating length of service and a clean credit status (always useful).
- Get a letter from your overseas car insurance company indicating the length of time they have a record of no claims for you, when you cancel your car insurance. This can be VERY handy for obtaining discounted car insurance in Canada.
Hint: When I first returned to Canada I was quoted a really high car insurance rate by a couple of insurance companies because I didn't have recent car insurance history in Canada. I persisted in shopping around and the 4th or 5th place I checked accepted my older history and my overseas records and gave me a huge discount! Be sure to shop around when you get back! A contact told me a similar tale, reinforcing for me that shopping around is very much a wise thing to do.
- Get a letter from your driver's licensing authority in the country you are living, indicating your driver's license history with them (length of time licensed, clean record, class of license, etc.) If you know the province you are going to in Canada, ensure that the driver's licensing reciprocity requirements of this province are met in the letter. This is a recent and unexciting development in Canadian bureaucracy - exchanging your driver's license now requires a letter in many country cases. More information on driver's license exchanges.
- Get all of your health records from all of your providers before you move. This can include your doctor's and hospital records, history of medications, children's inoculations, etc. Great to have even if you don't have ongoing health concerns. In an emergency, having these records on hand would be much easier than trying to retrieve them remotely later. (Thanks, Chris G. for the suggestion to include this!)
- Get your BSF186 form (formerly called a B4 form), carefully fill it out (see note below) and get required documents prepared. This document, a PDF guide for returning residents, and much more is available from the new "Canadian Border Services Agency" web site:
BSF186 form link:
- 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 groups and nominal or zero values for all your goods, except very expensive items:
Books - $50
Kitchen items - $100
Clothes - $0
Living room furniture - $200
Television - 3 years old - $200
Canada Customs staff are going to look at your list for any items that are restricted (ivory), controlled (guns and alcohol for example), being imported for re-sale, or brand new and possibly taxable items (a one month old Macbook Pro you just paid C$3,500 for). They are NOT interested in your used household goods or their values.
Note: If you have lived outside of Canada for 5 years or more, duties and taxes will be waived on items you have purchased in the last 6 months before you move back, such as a new laptop.
Sometimes people get worried about dealing with Customs when they arrive back. Here is feedback from someone who moved back in May 2018, making clear the experience most people have when they come through:
Passing through Customs was a non-event. We had all forms filled out, which pleased the Customs Officer at the airport.
- Pack your BSF186 form, letter from your employer, and other required documents in your handbag (not your suitcase!) that you will be carrying onto your plane. You will need these at passport control at the Canadian airport at which you arrive.
- Move your e-mail account over to an international or Canadian internet service provider. Then you can ensure more or less seamless transfer of your on-line presence. This note is for people who have email accounts with their employer or tied to their country. If you have been using a Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo account, for example, these are universal and you don't need to change them.
- Make a time line oriented check list of all the things you need to
do. Particularly for the last 2 weeks and last 2 days.
- Pack, pack, pack!
- Do not pack the following:
- Alcohol...unless you know exactly what you are allowed to bring into Canada - check with Customs and you must obtain an import declaration from your provinces Provincial Liquor Control Board. You will most likely have to pay duties on anything over your personal allowance.
Importing a wine collection? See the new resource page on this site about this topic: Moving back to Canada with a wine collection?
- Same applies to tobacco but less paperwork.
- Food products, including seeds, clippings, branches, spices, etc. DO NOT PACK FOOD. When your shipment arrives in Canada it will be held up by Agriculture Canada until they are satisfied there are not possibly contaminating food, molds, or contaminating non-native plants or organisms.
- Firearms (duh!) Unless you have specifically received clearance from the Canadian government for importing your firearms, do not pack them for shipment. And all shipping companies will have rules on what they allow, so even if you get clearance on importing firearms, your shipping company may not allow you to pack them.
- Illegal hunting trophies or souvenirs (i.e. ivory, etc.). The usual banned stuff.
- Any goods that belong to someone else. This messes up the process and could mean the difference between a costly and damaging search of your goods and a simple "You're cleared!". Either declare all the goods yours or don't bring other people's stuff with you. Get them to ship their own.
- Anything else you don't want confiscated by Customs if they search your container.
- Special packing considerations:
- Any items with high values - ie overf about C$10,000 - may be a problem. You may have to pay tax and other complications can occur. Best not to bring any high value items unless you really must. And then do your homework ahead of time on issues relating to this with CRA.
- Any cars, boats, motorcycles, motorbikes, motor homes, aircraft, etc. Check with CRA on importing regulations or requirements.
- Gifts - minimize the value of gifts you are bringing in. If gifts have a high value you get into tax and import duties considerations. Simple rule: Keep total value of gifts under C$100 and you shouldn't have any trouble.
- All goods must be owned and in your possession for more than 6 months. Have receipts to prove this with you for any possibly contentious items you may be bringing in. In 2017 CBSA notes that they don't enforce this rule anymore for anyone who has lived outside of Canada for 5 years or more, but have care with your last minute purchases anyway, as rules tend to change:
In the case of former residents, you must have owned, possessed and used the goods abroad for at least six months before returning to resume residence. The six-month stipulation will be waived if you have resided abroad for five years or more.
Source: CBSA's web site
- Prepare and send out change of address notifications.
- Prepare your health insurance in Canada.
This is an important one:
You will not get health coverage by Canada's "universal" health care system for the first 3 months you are resident again in Canada if you are moving home to British
Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, or New Brunswick. Other provinces do not require a waiting period - simply apply for immediate coverage to the health authority in the province you are settling in.
If you are moving back home to BC, ON, PQ, or NB, you have three choices:
- Have your overseas health coverage extended for 3 months past your return date. If you have a good track record with your overseas health insurance, they may be able to offer this coverage. Or your employer overseas might pick it up. If you are simply being transferred home by an employer, they likely will cover this anyway.
- Buy 3 months worth of health insurance here in Canada. The cost can be quite high: We checked into it for our family of 4. $700+ for coverage up to $60k, with a large deductible.
- Go three months without health insurance. You assume the risk and potential costs of any health issues that come up. Risking no coverage, if you are in good health, it is another option. After all, 4 billion people or more in this world have no "health coverage" or even access to western-style medical care. Is it so ridiculous to think that you might go three months without coverage and still emerge whole, sane, and with your finances intact?
Jane, a Canadian moving back from the U.S. notes her reason
for returning to Canada:
I am a 60 yr. old, unemployed, female moving back to Ontario because I can no longer afford to live in the U.S.A. without health care....
What is the value of the Canadian health care system? If in doubt, watch Michael Moore's film "Sicko".
And note that health care is not free in Canada - in BC unless your employer pays it, you pay $7.50 per month, per person, for your health care (as of 2018).
Thank you, Jane, for sharing your reason for moving back!
Kate, moving back to Manitoba, comments on the waiting period for her health care coverage:
One item you should re-investigate is the section on Health Care Coverage. We are returning to Canada and have been assured by Manitoba Health that we can be covered, as soon as we register with them, As long as we provide certain documents to them immediately: Proof of residence (i.e. proof of property purchase), our airline tickets (showing when we arrived), and proof of citizenship. There may be other requirements by province, but it is really unfortunate if there are people believing they must go 3 months without coverage and/or paying ridiculous fees for coverage...
...It is possible that insurance companies are not aware of this situation (at least not the one we originally contacted and Luckily did not pay for!), Or that they choose to be ignorant to this situation. We were lucky that we phoned Manitoba Health to clarify when our coverage would start, before paying an insurance company.
Follow-up: Kate is correct: Manitoba does not require
a waiting period. However, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec,
and New Brunswick do require a 3-month waiting period for public health
insurance to start.
Thank you, Kate, for sharing your experience!
Bradley M., moving back to BC, on the BC health care waiting period:
We just moved back from the Middle East, upon arriving back in BC we were told that we did not qualify for BC Health Insurance for three months. Indeed, the province refused to issue us our Care cards because we do not qualify for 90 days, even though we are returning Canadians. Luckily there is a place in Duncan where our children can still receive medical treatment for free, but we'll have to get 'visitors insurance' for three months. I had no idea that the government would refuse coverage, especially to a family with children.
Thank you, Bradley, for sharing your experience!
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Preparations you can do ahead of time:
During your last vacation in Canada
Because many Canadians living abroad vacation in Canada at different times before their move back, "your last vacation in Canada" has been put here as a separate section.
The last trip to Canada you make before returning permanently is a wonderful time to prepare for your move home. For those who hadn't considered a trip to Canada before your return, I strongly recommend it! The best time is at the beginning of your decision to move back process, as you will find out where you might want to live, what life will really be like, and it gives you a chance to reconsider if returning to Canada makes sense for you at all!
Assuming moving back to Canada does make sense for you, and a trip to Canada sometime in the last year before you return is possible, here are some things you can do while visiting Canada for the last time before you move:
- Explore where you want to live in Canada, the province, and even where in a particular city. The more you understand your current life needs and wants, and how you can best meet these in Canada, the more you will have to work with as you determine where to live. You can also start the home buying process, if you are planning on buying right away. Buying a home while on vacation in Canada will not, by itself, change your non-resident status.
- Find a medical clinic in the area you want to live which is taking new patients. The medical system in Canada has changed since you left. Check out the Health Care in Canada page for more information.
- If you have children, you can use your last visit to set up schooling (or home schooling) for your kids. Visiting public schools, talking to other parents, finding out what paperwork you will need to fill out and bring with you, etc.
- Set up a bank account in Canada if you do not have one already. A basic bank account, with your overseas address noted, will not impact your non-resident status and will make transfering funds to Canada simpler and setting up your life in Canada easier once you arrive.
- Set up a contact address and phone number. This is important. When you prepare your paperwork for the shipment and the shipping company you must have a Canadian destination address and a Canadian contact phone number. Use a relative or friend's address and phone number so that you can be sure that you can be easily reached once you arrive.
Here are some things to not do while you are vacationing in, or visiting, Canada for the last time before you move:
- Do not engage any government services. Do not sign up for health care, get your social insurance number reactivated, apply for any government services (pensions), etc. before you move back. This may trigger you becoming a tax resident of Canada before you return and make you liable for taxes in Canada.
- Do not get a credit card from a Canadian bank. This may also trigger you being seen as resident in Canada before you move.
- Do not buy real estate and move yourself or your family in before you return. Buy it and leave it empty or rent it out, but do not "live" in it yet. Leave it as an investment asset prior to your return. Again, this is to ensure you are not seen as being a factual, or defacto, resident of Canada...yet, before actually move back.
What to do when you get to Canada
Plane: At the airport when you arrive:
- What to have with you, and easily accessible, when you leave the
- Returning Canadian Residents (Canadian citizens returning to take
up residency in Canada):
- Your completed BSF186 form
- Your inventory of goods to follow - a packing list, preferably with values, of what will be following you in a container or whatever other shipping method you chose. You will need to declare at least a total C$ figure of what your goods are worth.
- Your passports
- The required paperwork if you have decided to bring a large wine collection into Canada.
See the "Moving to Canada with a wine collection?" resource page for more information.
- Immigration and/or visa papers if one or more of your family members is not a Canadian citizen.
- Receipts for any item that Customs might want proof that it was in your possession for more than 6 months. Persian rugs, expensive art, computers, etc. Please note that as of 2017, CBSA notes on their web site that most purchases less than 6 months old will not longer be taxed. However, please do have receipts for new expensive items, in case you are asked.
- If you are travelling with a pet, have your veterinarian's rabies clearance certificate with you.
- Proof of your being overseas as a non-resident, for tax purposes - a work contract, proof of residency overseas, etc. I brought this documentation with me but was never asked for it by customs staff. Apparently, it is required. Better to be safe than sorry! (Thank you, Gloria, who has returned to Canada, for suggesting this be added here!)
- If you are not a Canadian citizen - you are immigrating, coming with a work permit, or are bringing in an inheritance, the paperwork differs. Check with CBSA and CRA for details on what you need.
- Declare to the Passport Control person that you are resuming residency in Canada. They will steer you towards the right person.
- HINT: Having your neatly completed BSF186 and inventory in hand will please and delight the CRA personnel who will work on the paperwork you need to clear your goods later. Pleasing and delighting CRA staff by making their lives easier (ie. they don't have to fill out the BSF186 or ask you too many questions) will mean a reduced risk of hassle in clearing yourselves now and your goods later.
Driving: At the land border when you are about to drive into Canada:
Leslie Baker's experience of coming back by a land border:
- All the suggestions above, for when you arrive by plane, apply to when you drive over the border by car. However, here is one more:
- If you are importing your vehicle to Canada, be sure you received export clearance on the U.S. side prior to crossing, per the procedure for bringing your car into Canada as stipulated by the Registry for Imported Vehicles (RIV) process.
And of course, make sure you have the vehicle ready to import, too! No liens on it, etc. again, per the RIV process.
- HINT: Did you know that each border office has a phone number for Customs and another for Immigration? If you have a complicated situation, you can call either the customs or immigration office (depending on your situation), explain when you are crossing, and ask for their instructions on how to handle your situation. Then, when you actually drive through, you have a name of the person you talked to and an explanation of the instructions you were given! This goes a long way to smoothing out any potential wrinkes and helps you feel more confident about the crossing, a point of contact that makes many people nervious. The phone numbers can be a bit tricky to obtain, but starting with the central Customs phone number can lead you to the actual border office numbers:
(use the option to speak to an agent)
We have just returned to the GTA after living in the States for 33 years. We were rather apprehensive about the move and all the problems which goes with it. At the Fort Erie border the whole took maybe 30 minutes. After reviewing the completed paperwork for the personal belongings and the car, they never even came out to look at the truck or the car. The officers could not have been more pleasant. Getting the OHIP was a breeze, again no issues at all. All and all easy if all your ducks are in order."
Paul: Welcome home, Leslie! May everyone's return be as smooth and easy as yours...<
Preparation pays off - Don and Erin Aspinall's experience:
We just wanted to say a BIG Thank You for your site and it's excellent advice. We just moved (2 days ago!) from Dublin, Ireland to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Customs officers at the airport were well impressed with our paperwork. Thanks to your advice, we had everything in order, including our B4 [now BSF186] and shipping forms. It was a breeze to go through Customs at the airport and then at the Harbour office."
Paul: Welcome home, Don and Erin! May everyone's return be as smooth and easy as yours...
Carrying CDN $10,000 ore more in cash, gold bars, or other forms of "money" with you when you arrive? A suggestion from Patty Juno:
"Would add one thing to Part 3:... the form if you are carrying more than 10K in currency - which returning teachers sometimes have, having just got their last paychecks and cleared out their bank accounts in the country they are leaving, etc."
[The CBSA web page entitled "Crossing the border with $10,000 or more?"]
[The CBSA Form E677, Cross-Border Currency or Monetary Instruments Report - Individual]
"Can they search my cell phone when I cross the border?"
The question was asked by a Canadian citizen coming back to Canada. I recently heard from an American who was coming to visit Canada. He was asked by CBSA staff at the border the name of the person he was going to visit in Canada. When he told them the name of the person, they asked to see this person's name on his cell phone.
My sense is that this was just a cross-check by CBSA staff to get a sense if he was telling them the (full?) truth about his visit (which he was). I think it is some kind of test of a person's story. And I can't imagine they would ask Canadian citizens coming over the border - just visitors.
Interestingly, asking for access to cell phone contacts may touch a raw nerve with some people. We live in a pretty safe country and one that generally respects personal privacy and dignity. In some unnamed major countries, however, having the name and phone number of a person who has spoken out against authority can mean a death sentence for that person if they can be tracked through a telephone number. And it will likely mean instant suspicion or worse for you, if you have that person's telephone number in your phone's contact list.
I hope CBSA staff understand this sensitivity. I think people feel their contact information is part of their privacy. Revealing it casually might feel like submitting to a physical strip search - an invasion of your very personal privacy.
To be clear: I fully support and advocate only one principle when crossing the Canadian border, or any country border, for that matter:
Be absolutely open, transparent, and safe when crossing borders. Don't bring anything that you feel you have to hide. Never lie. And never have a reason to lie.
We live in great country that will support you if you bring your hope, clear spirit, and integrity with you when you come (back).
It's a karma thing.
In the first week after you arrive:
- Take regular fun breaks. Make moving home an adventure.
- Hint: Get inexpensive
but spacious accommodation and a vehicle - FAST. The sooner you
get these, the sooner your bank account stops hemorrhaging.
- Phone the local representative of the shipping company. Their partner
company in Canada who will physically and paperwork-wise handle your
shipment. Introduce yourself and let them know you have arrived and
are awaiting your shipment. They may have paperwork for you to fill
out or instructions on how to deal with Customs clearance.
- Everything is different and you are in the early honeymoon phase of
moving home. Enjoy it, but also make sure that your honeymoon isn't
seen differently by extended family members who haven't left Canada...spend
time with them, but not too much!
In the first 2 months after you arrive:
- Obtaining Agriculture Canada Clearance:
You may receive a fax or telephone call from your moving or shipping company that Agriculture Canada is holding your shipment pending confirmation of the contents before they will release it. Don't be afraid: This is a common and standard practice. Just fax them a contents list.
Adam Lossing's experience returning to Vancouver and getting his container cleared:
I have found your site quite valuable and have passed it on to colleagues that are moving back to Canada. The bit I would like to offer as thanks is a current number for the CBSA office to make an appointment to clear a container out of the Vancouver ports. When I called 604-666-0547 I was able to book my appointment for this and the agent I spoke to said that I needed to provide the manifest from the shipping company, an inventory c/w approximate values, passports for the entire family and proof of being abroad, in my case, for nine years. For the latter I plan to bring in my expired and present passports, utility bills I have saved over the years and a salary letter from my last employer.
- Hint: Clearly note on your paperwork to Agriculture Canada that there are no seeds, spices, food, dirt on any garden tools, etc. in your shipment. Make it easy for them to say (sound of rubber stamp hitting your paperwork) "Released!"
Clearing your household goods with Canada Customs
You can do this the Hard Way or the Easy Way:
The Hard Way:
When you go to Customs in your nearest Canadian city to obtain final clearance of your shipment once it has arrived in Canada (you may have to do this, depending on your arrival method) you choose to break every logical preparation rule:
- You didn't prepare your paperwork neatly, clearly, and completely.
- You are bringing in lots of suspect stuff - alcohol, cigarettes, an unprepared car, lots of persian rugs, etc.
- You are dressed poorly - or too fancily.
- You haven't showered that day - or shaved.
- You don't take off your sunglasses when you go up to the Customs counter.
- You go to Customs at 4:00pm, when the employees are tired and want to go home.
- You are in a bad mood and you don't like Customs, the Customs officer you interact with - and you tell them so.
As a result of your choice of the hard way, you will have to submit your shipment to a search. This causes delays, charges (you have to pay for Customs to inspect your shipment!), damage during inspection, and probably impoundment and possible permanent loss of some of your goods if they decide to send some of your things to Ottawa for x-ray or further investigation.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Suggestion: Choose the easy way.
The Easy Way: When you go to Customs to get final clearance on your shipment, do the following:
- If available, bring a child with you. If possible, have them engage with Customs officer if they are not shy. You have just presented yourself as a family moving back to Canada - a family who is normal and has nothing to hide. Your kids just want their toys to play with from the shipment.
Second choice: Bring your spouse.
Third choice: Go alone. No problem doing this, just plan to have all the following items in place.
- Make sure your paperwork is impeccable.
- Don't bring in anything that will cause the Customs officer to look twice at your paperwork.
- Dress cleanly and neatly but not too fancily. You want to project a normal, wholesome Canadian appearance. Too fancily will imply that you are a drug dealer and that there is 300kg of cocaine in your shipment. Too shabily and who knows what you are projecting.
- Visit the Customs office at a reasonable hour of the day. 9-11am is good, as is 1-3.
- Be nice to the Customs officer. Take off your sunglasses and be courteous and pleasant with them. An easy customer is a customer who gets their paperwork stamped "Cleared" with no search or other hassle. Instant release of your goods is what you are aiming for.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! There are people who actually went through the hard way (their goods were searched) and it was not pleasant.
So take the easy way! There is no guaranteed way to make sure your goods won't be searched, just ways of dramatically lowering the risk that they will be.
One family's experience:
When we got to the Vancouver airport, I went to the customs area to present the form B4 [now BSF186]. It seems they no longer process things the same way. They asked how old the stuff was that we were bringing WITH us and that was it. Then, they gave me a sheet of paper with a phone number to call once our goods arrived in Thailand. No B4 [now BSF186] form or any other forms! This made me a bit nervous but, when our goods did arrive in Vancouver, we called the number on the sheet of paper and made an appointment (well, they actually told us when to come) with Canada Border Services Agency. As per your advice, I didn't send my husband solo to our appointment!! In fact, my husband and I and two young daughters all went together. It was a breeze! The agent was delightful and gave my girls stickers and even let them stamp our paperwork! We were in and out very quickly and she faxed the necessary documents to the shipping agent right away so our goods could be released. Wow!
Note: I love such stories because experiences like this do happen regularly. HOWEVER, be sure to complete your BSF186 form and any other required forms for your particular moving circumstances. Like anyone else, hard-working CBSA staff are reluctant to cause anyone extra work. If you are friendly, courteous, and polite, you will do just fine, regardless. Having your B4 with you just makes it easier for them to go easy on you. Enough said.
Please share your experiences so that I can post your stories, anecdotes, advice, and tips that will help other people! Thank you!
Final stories from Canadians who moved back
Michelle Gay, a Canadian who moved back from Asia, writes:
One thing that has really struck me - I have been back for 10 months...is that people move on. I really thought that the friends and family who I kept coming to visit all those years....were in a strange sense waiting for me to pick up where we left off. Coming back I realized that my relationships were kept alive because for the most part, I initiated them (called people to say I was coming home and do the driving to see them). Now that I'm back, I realize people moved on a long time ago and I've just been visiting their lives over the years. So in moving back, my insights would be to tell people that moving back is in many ways just like starting over again. You should prepare to carve out your life and reinvent yourself again.
I'm still loving the English speaking world though! I lived in Asia for over eight years and wow - to join a class, to eavesdrop on the bus, to walk into the store and listen to advertisements...I'm still appreciating being able to understand my environment.
Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your experience!
Mrs. Arti Meyers, now in Toronto, generously shares her experiences and tips:
We have been back in Canada for 11 months now. We left in 1989 for the first time, and then since then have lived in London twice, Barbados and New York. Since 1989, we have lived in Canada for 3 years, dropping in and out.
This was our 3rd return home.... and maybe three times lucky. We find that the move HOME is always the most difficult move to make... because
we expect or want it to be comfortable, natural and easy.... but this
is usually not the case. I have to admit that the 3rd move home has
been the best of the three. Perhaps this is because we have learned
about what to expect, and have learned a few tricks.... or perhaps
its because we are older and wiser....
Things that were particularly trying
this year were trying to find a doctor in the Toronto area.... public
health care in Canada seems to be a big problem here now. Be sure
to go and get your health cards immediately, and probably the best
short term health care option is to go to the walk in clinics that
are set up. They are better than I had expected, and after waiting
an hour or two, at least the problem gets dealt with. (personally,
I prefer the British health care system that offers people the choice.....
We used our local public care when it was convenient, quick and we
felt confident with it, and when we had something of more concern,
or something we needed attended to immediately, we used private health
care.... we could use both, and that made a lot of sense!)
The other huge pain in the *** was the
telephone company! We thought we'd go with Rogers for cable, internet,
phone and cells... for 5 people. They overcharged us by hundreds of
dollars every month ---for months, and honestly June was the first
time that we received a correct bill. Do you know how many hours on
the telephone this took - This is a problem.
The other problem is in terms of work.... and if you have been out
of the loop for a long time, it is really difficult and hard to work
to get the network going again, to try to get work. The networking
is key, and this was what my husband did... but honestly after almost
20 years away, the network is more outside of Canada than within Canada....
and that is ok because we have lived globally, and that is really
our community.(My husband is now a consultant and this trip is in
the Middle East and Europe!)
In terms of aclimatizing, my 16 year old son did this seamlessly. Here
is a tip. Get involved right away in something that you are
passionate about... he is a sports guy, and joined the football team
on the 3rd day of school... then the rugby team.... it was a great
way to meet good guys, be involved and slip right into the middle
of high school! My daughter started university here at Queens in Kingston,
Ontario, and although she missed London and her friends there, she
said that it was so easy to meet friends, and this was a natural time
of change, so this was also seamless.... that is another point, that
if you can make the moves at natural change times, and that makes
things much easier.
In terms of the family and friend interaction... this was a really
upsetting one in moves gone by,...but this time we were wiser, so
were not expecting hugs and kisses and weekly visits...... It was
as we knew it would be on move home #3..... our dearest closest friends
were there for us and continue to be our dearest friends....Our families
were there a bit overall....and that was just fine. I think that the
trick is to understand that you have been away, and that people have
continued their lives without you.... so it is best to just try to
make sure that you are creating an independent life, without overly
relying on old supports.
Finally, after having been part of womens groups in new york, london
and barbados....I thought that I would join the Newcomers Club in
Toronto (we had never lived in Toronto) , so that I could stay involed
in expat type activites with a more international crowd who had a
fresh view of Canada and the city. This was a good idea, and a great
insurance policy in case things with old friends & family was
dull or not magic.... as it turned out for me, I was so busy with
my nuclear family, old friends and greater family, I had little time
for this.... BUT ... I would recommend it as a good idea, and a way
to make the transition easier.
Thank you, Arti!, for sharing your experiences and thoughts!
You will face lots of challenges and enjoyments. Watch for typical culture shock and some ups and downs of emotions, but bear with them: They are natural.
Welcome back to Canada!
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I offer professional support to help you prepare for a smooth and easy return to Canada so you can feel confident and organized!
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
With best wishes,
Note: I have reviewed these sites to be sure they are legit. I have not personally used the moving companies, however. Please let me know your experience, either good or bad, and I will keep this list updated and useful for all.
- Canadian Border
Services Agency - Created in 2003, this agency and this web site
has the BSF186 form and lots of other information and resources or returning
residents. (Thanks to a Laura Walker
in UK for finding this new agency web site and sending it to me for
- Canada Revenue
Agency - CRA - main site. All things taxes.
Immigration / Spousal Sponsorship / Permanent Resident status:
I suggest using the services of a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC). Two recommendations:
- Marianne van der Meij, Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant. I met with Marianne in 2017 and can attest that she is very high integrity and professional. Several of my clients have had great experiences working with her. Marianne is the rare combination of professional and personable, giving every client her focused best, including doing all their paperwork herself to ensure the highest quality and no mistakes. With some 20 years experience in the Canadian immigration field, Marianne can help with questions on a one-time-fee basis about spousal sponsorship, Permanent Resident status in Canada, etc. and can provide full support, if you wish, with any area of Canadian immigration. Marianne is located in BC, but helps clients coming from any country moving to anywhere in Canada. Note: I get no referral fee or any other form of compensation for this recommendation of Marianne's service.
- Paul Abraham, Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant. Paul and I have communicated at length and have the same philosophy of integrity, transparency, and taking great care of our clients. He has long experience supporting clients with a variety of immigration questions and challenges and has lived and worked in the United Arab Emirates. Paul is physically in ON and soon NS, and can work with clients anywhere in the world moving to any part of Canada. I receive no referral fee or other compensation for this recommendation of Paul's services.
Canadian cross-border tax accountants who come recommended by expatriate and returning Canadians who have used their services:
- British Columbia:
- Shawn Strandberg - Collins Barrow. Located in Victoria, BC, Shawn is a top tax accounting professional specializing in U.S. and Canadian tax. Consider Shawn if you are moving back from the U.S. and want to set yourself up with a clear tax plan and on-going dual-filing and reporting support. Shawn has a genuine interest in getting to know clients and their needs...and is simply a very nice person to work with.
- Blair Dwyer - Dwyer Tax Law. Very high-end and among the "best of the best" in Canada for tax law. If you have a complex tax situation and the wealth to hire the best, Blair is the person to work with. I met Blair to discuss various tax contexts affecting expatriates and returning Canadians. I can attest to his expertise and professionalism.
- Alberta: Armstrong & Glen - Tax Support Packages for Returning Canadians
There are many good cross-border tax accountants in every province. I have arranged support for your one-time or continuing tax support needs at clear and transparent costs with a tax partnership called Armstrong & Glen. Note: This team is more virtual than "meet in person" as one of their partners lives abroad and they do work with a U.S.-based U.S. accountant.
- Allan Madan - Greater Toronto Area (GTA) - http://madanca.com/
Allan and I had a phone conversation discussing the needs of returning Canadians and their international tax context. He is not only professional in his work but also very personable to interact with. This is a rarity, as many of my clients will attest. Also, his web site has up-to-date video resources and blog postings of value to returning Canadians who wish to do a deeper dive into understanding what is going on in Ontario and Canada.
I went though a lot of bad, expensive, and incompetent accountants before finding Allan's firm. I hope others can benefit from my quest. His firm has been proactive and reasonably priced for years. - T. Gorender, 2018.
- Mel Dam - Oshawa - http://damincometax.com
I highly recommend Mel Dam from Dam Income Tax in Oshawa, Ontario. (Yes, that's really the business' name). I've been using him for years including before/during/after my two periods of living abroad." - Barbara Eshpeter-Jenkins
- 1st Move International
- A UK to Canada household goods shipping company.
- Crown Worldwide - Relocations - a top tier mover. Expect it to be expensive but thorough.
"We used Crown Movers from the UAE to Canada and they were very professional and careful with our contents." - V. Vanti, May 2018.
- Allied Pickfords
- This is a top tier mover. Expect it to be expensive but thorough.
General Moving Back to Canada Resource sites:
- A company that can help you find the cheapest way to transfer your money back to Canada from many countries in the world. An alternative to using the banking system.
From a client in May, 2018:
Using a foreign exchange company over the bank to send the deposit for my condo saved me about $660! I didn't expect that much of a difference.
- The Canadian Expatriate Association. Lots of useful resources and
links here for Canadian expats abroad.
- More to do with investing your money and avoiding being declared resident
of Canada, but regular articles on preparing to come home. Focus of
this company is selling investment products and tax consulting services,
but they have some useful resources in their newsletters and on their
- The name does not say it all. Information for expats and wannabe expats
now living in Canada. Some useful resources and lots of links to other
potentially useful sites.
- OneStop Canada - Customs and Immigration - a great resource page with links to useful CBSA resources and forms for when you arrive back to Canada.
(Thanks to Patty Juno for suggesting this page for inclusion here!)
Planet Studios - Been Abroad? - a resource site for people who are
returning after being abroad. Free resources and classes. Getting involved
with a supportive community can really help.
- "Moving to Canada" guide produced by Atlas Van Lines. A nice summary document that is useful to expats as well as the intended audience of people moving to Canada for the first time.
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Back To Canada by Paul
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Photo credit(s): Canada flag at the top of this page: "Canada Flag",
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Canada plane: "Air Canada Boeing 767", Flickr.com, User: abdallahh,
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