Moving Back to Canada
Moving Back to Canada

Frequently Asked Questions


These FAQ's are from Canadians living in the USA, UK, Australia, Hong Kong and many other countries who have visited the Moving Back to Canada web site and have engaged my professional support for their return to Canada.

If you have a question that is not listed below, please check out the full Moving Back to Canada web site. It is comprehensive, up-to-date, and free!

Still need help? Please engage professional support for your move back!




Interview: Paul Kurucz


In this November 2018 interview with Allan Nichols of the Canadian Expat Association, I highlight some of the key areas to prepare for as you plan your move back to Canada, based on questions I am frequently asked.





The Frequently Asked Questions:


  1. What do I need to do to "become" a resident of Canada again?

  2. When I return to Canada do I have to pay taxes on the money I earned while living overseas?

  3. Which provinces have a 3 month waiting period before I can get public health insurance?

  4. Can I bring my car (vehicle, trailer, RV, etc.) back to Canada?

  5. How do I renew my Canadian Driver's License while I am living abroad?

  6. Can I purchase a vehicle, register it, license it, and insure it in any province without having a Driver's License from that province?

  7. Can my foreign husband/wife/spouse come to Canada with me when I return, to live and work there?

  8. How much money will the government deduct from my pay in Canada? ("Canada is a high tax country")

  9. How do I replace my lost or stolen wallet and/or Canadian passport and/or other identification that I might need to return to Canada?

  10. My old Canadian Social Insurance Number is "dormant". Can I get it back when I return to Canada? Or do I need to get a new one?

  11. How do I fill out the BSF186 Form correctly? (formerly called the B4 form)

  12. Can I, and should I, buy real estate in Canada before moving back?

  13. How do I give up my 'Green Card' when I move back to Canada from the U.S.?

  14. May I come back to Canada if I have had a criminal conviction in the U.S.? (or further abroad)

  15. Declaring CDN $10,000 or more at the Canadian border/airport when you arrive: Is this only cash? What about gold and jewelry?

  16. How do I bring my wine collection to Canada with me?

  17. I want to change my last name. When should I do this? before or after I move back?

  18. What can I do when I have no credit history or landlord references in Canada? How can I rent (lease) a house, townhouse, apartment, or condominium to live in when I move back?

  19. Should I move back to Canada on December 31st or January 1st of the following year for tax purposes?

  20. How do I legally move my children back to Canada after my spouse and I separate/divorce?


Latest update:

Your question not here? Check out the full Moving Back to Canada web site or engage my professional support for your return to Canada.





1. What do I need to do to "become" a resident of Canada again?


Answer:

Canada Revenue Agency

In some countries the government controls your residency, even if you are a citizen of that country. This is not the case in Canada: You do not need to "register" your residency upon return. No police will come knocking on your door. In fact, there is no way to actually "register" your residency in Canada!

That said, some government agencies are interested if you are resident or not. When you return, you are the one who triggers whether they know or not. Here are three parts to answering the question about becoming a "legal" resident of Canada after living abroad:

  1. In order to bring your personal belongings back to Canada without duty or customs fees you have to verbally declare that you are a Canadian returning to take up residency in Canada when you cross the border, either by land, sea, or through an airport. Your belongings and possessions, called "household goods" or "HHG" in movers terminology, must be detailed clearly and fully in a list you make up beforehand. The form you will need to complete, from the Canadian Federal Government's web site.

  2. In order to access services such as health care and libraries you will have to show some proof that you are now living in Canada. This can be an apartment rental lease, a utilities bill with your name and address, etc.

  3. Finally, on the first tax return you file, you will have to declare the date you resumed residency in Canada, so your taxes can be calculated from that point forward.

That's about it. Your residency is formally "declared" upon crossing the border if you are returning with belongings to follow after you. If you have no goods to follow, you "become" a resident immediately upon arrival without declaring anything to the government. Access to services begins when you register for these services (exception: Medical, which starts 3 months after you arrive in some provinces) and tax implications begin through your first tax return filing.


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2. When I return to Canada do I have to pay taxes on the money I earned while living overseas?


Answer:

No tax on your belongings when you move back to Canada

Generally speaking, the answer is "no". If you have lived overseas for several years, had few ties to Canada while you were away, and established a clear residency outside of Canada, you will be considered to have been non-resident, and are not required to pay tax in Canada on your assets, investments, or income earned abroad.

There are exceptions, however. Examples of situations that can represent a significant residential footprint in Canada and may call into question whether you are actually non-resident...or not:


These "ties" to Canada can be signals to the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) that you are actually significantly tied to Canada and you may be "deemed" by the Canadian Government to have maintained your Canadian residency. Therefore you will be liable for Canadian taxes on your non-Canadian earnings.

Another exception is if you work for the Government of Canada while outside the country. In this case, you are still considered a Canadian resident, unless you have some sort of special contract that stipulates otherwise.

Countries that have a tax treaty with Canada (like the USA) ensure that double-taxation does not occur. If you paid tax in the U.S. while living there, you won't be taxed on your American earnings when you return to Canada.

In summary, the dividing line on the tax issue is pretty straight-forward for most folks: If you live several years outside of Canada, with a clear severing from residential ties to Canada when you left, then you don't pay taxes in Canada. If you have been gone a short time and/or maintained ties to Canada: You pay taxes.

For more information on the tax question visit the Government of Canada's web site:

Individuals - International and Non-resident Taxes


Would you like to talk to a real, live person about tax, investment, or real estate questions you have as you plan your move back to Canada? I can help. Please use my professional support services to get private, confidential, and expert support for your current situation and returning to Canada planning. - Paul Kurucz




3. Which provinces have a 3 month waiting period before I can get public health insurance?


Answer:

waiting period for health care in Canada The provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick have a 3 month waiting period before you can access public health insurance. And so does the Yukon Territory. In all other provinces you can become insured immediately.

For the 3 month waiting period you can buy private health insurance. It is available through many major Canadian insurance companies.

One commonly used plan is offered by Blue Cross, which offers both visitor/traveller insurance AND a plan for those waiting for the 3 months before coverage starts. Here are their plans for Ontario:

Blue Cross Ontario Visitors to Canada Plan

"The Visitors to Canada plan provides up to $50,000, $100,000 or $150,000 (based on the chosen option) in quality insurance coverage for non-Canadians and their families travelling in Canada or to returning Canadians that are not eligible to government health insurance plan due to an extended leave." (bolding added)

British Columbia (BC):

Pacific Blue Cross Visitors To Canada Plan

"For returning Canadians awaiting eligibility for the Government health insurance plan to begin."

Tip: The Pacific Blue Cross plan also covers travel to the U.S. and Hawaii, in case you wish to travel there during the 3 month waiting period! Check out the fine print of any policy...there are sometimes great bonuses built in!

(This tip shared by Tania T., returning to Canada from Australia. Thank you, Tania!)

An alternative to the Blue Cross plans in Ontario and BC are very similar "Visitors to Canada" plans offered by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) in Ontario and the British Columbia Autombile Association (BCAA). These are very safe, trustworthy organizations and their insurance policies will also serve you well.

Note: Paul Kurucz and this web site have no affiliation with Blue Cross, CAA, or BCAA, and do not receive any compensation for referrals to these organizations.


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4. Can I bring my car (vehicle, trailer, RV, etc.) back to Canada?


Answer:

Bringing your car back to CanadaBringing a car, other motorized vehicle (an RV for example), or a non-motorized trailer back to Canada can be pretty straight-forward, complicated, or impossible. I strongly suggest that anyone considering "importing" their vehicle to research their particular vehicle situation carefully.

Note: You may only bring a vehicle into Canada from the U.S. Not from other countries.

If you are returning from the U.S. with a vehicle you will have to work through the Registry of Imported Vehicles (RIV) web site.

http://riv.ca

Suggestion: Start this process early!

The USA page of this web site has more information and several very useful client experiences and tips on bringing your vehicle(s) back from the USA when you return to Canada.

Full legal stuff: The relevant Canadian government web site, with the legal and tax stuff required to import a vehicle: Warning! Scary complicated government lingo! Just for reference if you need more details for a complicated vehicle import situation:

http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/dm-md/d9/d9-1-11-eng.html

Why this FAQ?

Some messages from clients and visitors to this web site about "importing" their U.S. vehicles into Canada when they moved back:

"What is interesting is that I did not know that if you import a car that is on the RIV list and is also 15 years old it gets in without duty, taxes etc and also does not have to go through the review process. Also the process for car exportation from the USA is a little complicated as you must get an appointment and process all the paperwork 72 hours before arriving at the border and leaving the USA. Also it is recommended to hire a broker and do the process through it."

Another message:

"you don't have anything on here about bringing your american car over the border for use in canada. going thru hell right now, and have had a us car rental since the 1st wk in january; currently the 29th of january. have had to go over the rainbow bridge 3 times as of tomorrow it'll be 4 times to check on my car in a ford dealership, thank god for those guys, installed my day time running lights. so as such the resources would be good here, its a long drive from niagara falls to oklahoma city if I cant get the car over to canada."


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5. How can I renew my Canadian Driver's License while living abroad?


Answer:

Changing your U.S. or driver's license to a Canadian one Every province has their own driver licensing process, and all are a bit different. Below are British Columbia and Ontario processes, as examples. For other provinces, just Google: "[Province] Driver's License renewal" to find the appropriate provincial web site that explains that province's process. For all provinces, see the "IMPORTANT:" note below.

For Canadians with a BC Driver's License:

You must renew your BC Driver's License only while physically present in BC so that you do it in-person. ICBC, which handles licensing of drivers in the province, has a simple web site that explains your options:

ICBC driver's license renewal information

In summary, they are pretty easy going - you can renew 6 months in advance or up to 3 years after it has expired. Note, however, that you cannot drive in Canada after it expires. If you go over 3 years, you will have to apply as a new applicant, with a written test, road test, etc. YUCK!

For Canadians with an ON Driver's License:

You must renew your Ontario Driver's License in-person unless your renewal form says you don't need a photo taken. Like BC, Ontario gives you 180 days ahead of time to renew, so that you have plenty of time to get it done. However, they seem stickier than BC on expired driver's licenses:

"You can renew an expired driver's licence, without taking tests, within one year of the licence expiry date." Note: This applies to regular licenses, not learner permits, temporary, suspended licenses, etc. After one year but less than 3 years, you will have to take a vision test, too. After 3 years Ontario is like BC: You have to start the licensing process from the beginning (TESTS!)

In summary, like BC, you have some leeway both before and after your regular driver's license expires in Ontario. Here is the Ontario web page that explains all the options and details:

http://drivetest.ca/licences/licence-exchanges/licence_exchange.html

IMPORTANT:

Renewing a Canadian driver's license has implications for your residency status. If you are living outside of Canada and renew your Canadian driver's license while still outside of Canada, carefully weigh renewing against all your other ties to Canada. A driver's license renewal by itself is a very small tie to Canada. Renewing plus having other ties to Canada, such as a Canadian credit card and other ties, might constitute a case for the government claiming that you are actually still a resident of Canada, with resulting tax implications.


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6. Can I purchase a vehicle, register, license, and insure it in any province without having a Driver's License from that province?


Answer:

Yes!

Licensing and insuring a car in Canada If you are moving back to BC, specifically, and do not have a valid BC Driver's License (BCDL), you may still purchase, register, license, and insure a vehicle in BC. You are required to have a driver's license to drive the vehicle, but it doesn't have to be a BCDL.

The catch: In order to get a discount on your insurance for your safe, no-accident driving, you require a BCDL. This means you will pay full-price for your insurance without a BCDL.

When you do get a BCDL, and you bring a record of your clean driving history from another province or country within 6 months of the start of your insurance policy, you will get a discount, pro-rated back to when you applied for the insurance, according to my conversation with ICBC, British Columbia's public vehicle insurer.

Here are the details:  Insurance Discount for New Residents (ICBC)

A note about Manitoba:

"Manitoba appears to require you to be a "Manitoba resident" to register a car there, but MPI's website rate calculator appears to suggest it is possible to register and insure a vehicle there without a Manitoba driver's license, but you will not get any rate discount. The rate calculator also allows you to get a insurance quote as a "non-resident" and it is actually cheaper than a quote given for a resident (for lay-up coverage). Very weird."

- Mike G. (Thank you, Mike, for sharing this!)

Note: I have no information on other provinces. Can anyone help me with this for other Canadian provinces?


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7. Can my foreign husband/wife/spouse come to Canada with me when I return, to live and work there?


Answer:

Yes!

Bringing your spouse to Canada - Permanent Resident status

However, they must become a legal Permanent Resident (PR) to be able to stay, live, and work for the long term.  Note:  In 2015 a new pilot program was introduced to allow spouses living in Canada to work while waiting for their PR status. Great news for many!

The process of "sponsoring" them is pretty clear and well-established. Here is the relevant Government of Canada link that explains everything:

Sponsoring when you are already living in Canada:

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/applications/spouse.asp

Sponsoring when you are living outside of Canada right now:

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/applications/fc.asp

Note: To be clear, your husband/wife/spouse will not immediately get Canadian citizenship - this is about getting them Permanent Resident status: the legal right to live and work in Canada. Application for Canadian citizenship is a related but different (and longer) process.

An American comparable process is the "Green Card" versus "American Citizen".

For more information on what a Permanent Resident is in Canada:

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/newcomers/about-pr.asp

Have further questions or a more complex sponsorship / immigration situation? I recommend the services of a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC). I have two I can recommend:


Professional support for your move back to Canada.




8. How much money will the government deduct from my pay in Canada? ("Canada is a high tax country")


Answer:

Canada is a high tax country myth Urban myth or truth? Is Canada a high tax country that leaves you much poorer every month than in the U.S., for example?

Simple answer: Canada is not a high tax country. You keep most of your income!

Longer answer:

There are a lot of factors that complicate this answer and lead to "apples versus oranges" comparisons that really don't make sense.

For example, is the government payroll deduction rate lower in the U.S. than in Canada? Yes.

Does this mean you automatically have tons more cash in your pocket every month in the U.S. than in Canada? Absolutely not.

If you compare overall costs of living between Canada and the U.S. over a 10 year period, for a middle class family of 4 who lead a healthy lifestyle, you will likely find little difference if you factor in housing price impacts, medical costs, healthy food, and other factors.

Take home pay calculator for Canada:

A lot of people believe a myth that Canada is like Sweden - 80% of your pay goes to the government in taxes (not a fact, but yes, they do pay higher taxes in Sweden). The belief that Canada is a high tax country is simply not true.

Check for yourself: The Canada Revenue Agency, of the Federal Government, provides an online payroll deductions calculator for you to play with and see what your "take home pay" looks like at various salary levels.

http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/esrvc-srvce/tx/bsnss/pdoc-eng.html

Hint: Use a bi-weekly pay period and minimal claim levels in your calculation. And when you put in your salary, be sure it is your gross salary for 2 weeks pay, not your pay for a month or annually (assuming you chose a bi-weekly pay period).

Final Important note:

Canada is truly an "apple" and the U.S, an "orange". A much better comparison to use than financial pay comparisons is "quality of life".

According to various "most livable cities" indices, Vancouver is typically about #5 in the world and Toronto is #15.

Where do U.S. cities rank? Not even in the top 10. Mercer's ranking puts San Francisco, the first American city to appear on the list, as #27 in the world.

Hmmm....now which country do you want to live in?


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9. How do I replace my lost or stolen wallet and/or Canadian passport and/or other identification that I might need to return to Canada?


Answer:

What you can do when you lose your wallet while living or travelling overseas Losing your wallet and ID while overseas is a pain. There are typically several hoops to jump through to get new credit/debit cards, ID, and passports. A few suggestions, should you find yourself in this situation:

Act immediately on the following fronts:

- Contact the local police and file a report if you are sure of a theft. You may need a copy of this report for later bureaucratic hoops.

- Contact your bank and get your credit and debit cards cancelled and re-issued if you have lost your wallet.

- Contact the nearest Canadian consulate or embassy and engage their help with replacing your passport.

- If you are employed overseas, advise your employer of your situation and engage their help with any legal issues around replacing your lost / stolen documentation. Often times your legal right to work in a country is tied specifically to your employer, not just to you. For example, you may need to get replacement proof of your work visa.

- Let some close friends know your situation. You may need their help to vouch for you to authorities.

Considerations:

Be proactive in getting the process underway. Replacement of your id is an urgent priority in your life. Don't delay.

Do not try to travel regionally in your country of residence or internationally without your ID. Not every country has internal freedom of mobility as we do in Canada. And getting caught without your ID is often seen as a very suspicious situation by foreign police and officials. Don't risk it.

Relax! You are not the first person to have their ID stolen. It happens. You likely not have been negligent. Just unfortunate. Replacing your ID follows well established processes, though will take a bit of time and money.

Resources: (all links open a new browser window)

Government of Canada - "Lost or stolen belongings abroad"

Government of Canada - "Lost, stolen, inaccessible, damaged or found passports"

Government of Canada - "Canadian offices abroad"


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10. My old Canadian Social Insurance Number is "dormant". Can I get it back when I return to Canada? Or do I need to get a new one?


Answer:

Reactivating a dormant Canadian Social Insurance Number Your Canadian Social Insurance number is used for all federal government services, by your employer to deduct and remit income tax, and for benefits you receive. It is yours for life. After some years of not being used, the Canadian government will make your number "dormant" to protect from fraudulent use of it.


When you return to Canada, visit a Federal Government "Service Canada Office" to have your Social Insurance Number "turned on" again. Easy.


Service Canada Office Locations: http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/tbsc-fsco/sc-hme.jsp

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11. How do I fill out the BSF186 form correctly? (formerly called the B4 form)


Answer:

How to fill out the BSF186 form The BSF186 form is for importing your personal household goods that you ship to Canada and that arrive AFTER you come to Canada. Canada Customs wants to see a list of what you are shippng into Canada to ensure that you are NOT bringing in the following:


And they want to see any new, expensive items, such as a brand new C$3,500 Macbook Pro or a new $10,000 Persian rug because for these items you may have to pay taxes and duties.

What do you put on your BSF186 form? Individual items? Groupings? And what values?

Here are examples for you to follow. The key is to use general groupings and nominal or zero values for all your used household goods, except brand new expensive items (less than 6 months old that may be subject to tax and duties):

Books - $50
Kitchen items - $100
Clothes - $0
Living room furniture - $200
Television - 3 years old - $200
...

However, you only have a few rows on the BSF186 form to put a longer list of your items! So, you can make up a full list of what you are shipping using a Word Processor or Spreadsheet program, print it out, write "see attached" on the BSF186 form, and attach your list to the form.

What about belongings you bring with you in your vehicle when you cross the border, or in your luggage when you arrive at a Canadian airport? For these belongings, make up a simple list of what you have with you to show the Canada Customs Officer. No BSF186 form needed for what you have in your vehicle or luggage, only for household goods that are arriving by shipment after you get to Canada yourself.


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12. Can I, and should I, buy real estate in Canada before moving back?


Answer:

How to buy real estate in Canada The decision to buy real estate in Canada before moving back depends on many factors. Everyone's situation is a unique one. Here are some things to consider when thinking about buying real estate in Canada before moving back:

Many of my clients want to buy real estate in Canada prior to their return. During my consultations with them we explore a range of financial, tax, logistics, and lifestyle considerations prior to a purchase. This gives them signficantly more clarity and confidence for their purchase considerations.

Because this is a more complicated investment, I always recommend being very careful with your research, planning, and lifestyle considerations before buying Canadian real estate if you are still a non-resident of Canada.


New resource! Check out the "Buying Real Estate in Canada" page on this site, for Canadians returning to live in Canada and Canadians living abroad and wanting to invest in property in Canada.


Professional support for your move back to Canada.




13. How do I give up my 'Green Card' when I move back to Canada from the U.S.?

Handing in your Green Card when you return to Canada


Answer:

Relinquishing your U.S. Green Card, or "Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Residence", in official U.S. government lingo, can be done at a land border before you cross into Canada, at a U.S. consulate in-person, or by mailing in U.S. Government form I-407

Here is the official web site you can refer to:

"Abandonment of lawful permanent resident LPR status"

A few people have asked me if there is a best way. From the experience of my clients, at the border is pretty quick and easy. Sometimes there are lineups at the consulate, but again, it is not a challenging process nor are there long waits this way either. I haven't heard of anyone who has mailed in the I-407 form. I suspect that there is an emotional component to doing it in-person that you would not get by mailing it in. Giving up your Green Card is, after all, a signficant milestone in your life. "One door closes..."

One possibly startling question you will likely be asked verbally, and in writing, when you give up your Green Card: "Is this move in any way politically motivated?"

Just giving you a "heads up"...


Please share your experience of giving up your Green Card to help other returning Canadians. I will add your wisdom to this FAQ. Thank you!


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14. May I come back to Canada if I have had a criminal conviction in the U.S.? (or further abroad)


Answer:

Entering Canada after criminal convictions in the USA or further abroad

I recently met with a CBSA Officer to seek first hand information to answer this question. Generally, the answer can be "yes", you may move back to Canada if you are a Canadian citizen and have had criminal convictions in the U.S. or further abroad in the past. However...

...a few notes:

  1. The CBSA Officer you talk to at the land border or airport when you arrive has the power to let you in, or not. It is important, therefore, to be careful to understand how your past convictions will be assessed. The web site noted below details what you need to know.

  2. The key wording is "past convictions". Any outstanding warrants, on-going legal proceedings, recent convictions, etc. in the U.S. may result in you not being admitted into Canada. If you are really "done" with all legal complications in the U.S. or further abroad, you are in a good position to return and be allowed back into Canada.

  3. You will be allowed into Canada if you have outstanding debts in the U.S. or abroad, for example. Outstanding warrants for your arrest, fraud, skipping bail, pending court proceedings, serious recent convictions, etc. are the challenging situations that may make you inadmissable into Canada.

  4. If you left Canada with outstanding criminal or civil legal challenges outstanding in Canada when you left, you may find yourself challenged by CBSA officers when you arrive at the border, or even arrested at that time, depending on the severity of the situation when you left. In this case, it is highly advisable to seek legal counsel - a Canadian lawyer - before you arrive, to help you assess your case.

The official Government of Canada "Overcome criminal convictions" page.


In summary, having a complicated life legally in the past does not mean you can't come back to Canada. It does mean, however that you need to understand how the past may impact you, so you can return to Canada with confidence.


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15. Declaring CDN $10,000 or more at the Canadian border/airport when you arrive: Is this only cash? What about gold and jewelry?


Answer:

What is included in the CDN $10,000 limit at the border of Canada when you arrive

I went to a CBSA office in November 2017 and asked them this question in-person. Here is what you must declare when you arrive at the border of Canada by land or airport: All of the following that individually, or as a total, add up to CDN $10,000 or more:

What is not included? Personal jewelry. If you have personally owned jewelry, that you have owned for a long time, and intend to keep in the future for your personal use (not re-sale), you do not have to declare it as part of the CDN $10,000 limit. This is irrespective of whether the jewelry is worth C$10,000, C$50,000, or more.

Note: PLEASE don't bring really expensive jewelry, high values of gold, or other currencies with you when you travel! If you have over $50,000 in value for any of these, please use a secure shipping company instead - one that specializes in shipping valuables. This is just for security reasons! Thieves are smart: They seek information on people carrying valuables and can target you with sophisticated methods so as to relieve you of your valuables. Canada is generally a safe country and less of this kind of theft happens here than in other countries in the world. But it can still happen here, too.

Finally, to answer a related question: No, you will not be taxed on the CDN $10,000 or more when you declare it. Seriously: No. Your legally and legitimately earned and owned money, gold, and other assets are not going to be taxed when you bring them back to Canada as part of your return to take up residence again.


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Importing or bringing your wine collection to Canada with you

16. How do I bring my wine collection to Canada with me?


Answer:

The answer to this question is a bit more complicated than what can be quickly summarized in an FAQ, so I produced a separate resource page for this question:

"Moving to Canada with a wine collection?"



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Changing your last name

17. I want to change my last name. When should I do this? before or after I move back?


Answer:

Scenario: You are moving back to Canada soon after a change in marital status and you wish to change your last name. Now, however, you have a Canadian passport in your married name, and perhaps the same last name on a second country passport, driver's license, pension, legally registered on a real estate title, and more in Canada and/or in the country you are moving back to Canada from.

I hear that there can be strong emotional reasons to change your last name and I honour that changing it promptly may feel really good. That said, changing your last right right before, during, or immediately after a return to Canada can cause you grief in terms of legalities and logistics.

So, if you don't have many months of time left before you move back, please consider changing your name after your move is fully completed. To be clear: The best time to change your name is BEFORE you return if you have complicated non-Canadian legal context because it is normally much easier to change a name while in the country you are going to leave, particuarly if it is far away (Australia, Dubai, Hong Kong, etc.) But again, if you only have a few weeks or a month or two left before you return, waiting until you are back in Canada and fully settled is by far the easier time to change your last name from a legalities and logistics perspective.


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renting with no credit history

18. What can I do when I have no credit history or landlord references in Canada? How can I rent (lease) a house, townhouse, apartment, or condo to live in when I move back?


Answer:

I once saw an application to rent an apartment that was 4 pages long and asked for an incredible amount of information, including bank account numbers, credit card numbers, etc. I just laughed and put about 1/4 of what was asked.

That was all the landlord actually needed. No previous landlord references, to be clear. I did put a personal one, but it wasn't even checked.

There is a lot of fear that comes up when considering renting an apartment, condominium, or house. "Will I win the lottery among all the people who apply?" "Will I be seen as a good potential tenant?" "Will I be rejected because I don't have a credit history in Canada?"

This fear makes it hard to get over the fact that a good tenant is an asset to a landlord. If you are returning home to Canada and planning on renting a place, here are a few things you can do to help yourself more easily rent a property - and feel good about the process, too:

  1. Talk to property managers, leasing agents, and landlords yourself, in-person. No, don't try to rent a place completely by text message, email, whatsapp, or even by phone from abroad. Arrange to meet in-person. I estimate that 75% of the decision criteria landlords use is from their interpersonal interactions with a potential tenant. Since they cannot legally screen potential tenants using certain variables that are also impossible to identify from electronic communications, they rely on in-person conversations and "live" assessments of potential tenants.

  2. You might say "Yuck! Having to meet a potential landlord in-person makes my situation worse!!" Actually, quite the opposite: You are just returning from living in the U.S. or further abroad. And what the landlord sees: You have money! "All Canadians who lived abroad have money. That is why they went abroad - to make money." Your time out of Canada can be seen as an asset, whether you actually have a lot of money or not!

  3. And "NO!!" (said emphatically). Your race, gender, age, etc. are NOT the variables potential landlords use to screen potential tenants. Instead, they are looking for openness, honesty, maturity, conscientiousness, stability, cleanliness (hint: How you dress and present yourself = how you will take care of your rental property in the minds of a landlord), your expectations, your requirements, your lifestyle, your employment, etc. These are things you have control over presenting when you meet and communicate with potential landlords!

  4. In some places, you can engage the services of a real estate agent or personal representative to help you lease a place (I do this for some of my clients moving to Vancouver or Victoria). This agent or representative adds credibility to your story. When I arrive to view a property on behalf a client who can't make it to Canada to do so themselves, I ensure that my client is presented in the best light possible. And because I arrive professionally dressed, and act professionally, I am the proxy for my clients being trustworthy tenants.

    As an aside, Toronto is an example of a city in Canada where a real estate agent actually makes a commission from a signed lease, by-the-way, so they are motivated to find you a place and get the landlord to accept you as a tenant. Most small or medium sized cities in Canada do not have this kind of arrangement with real estate agents.

  5. If your first communications with a potential landlord is electronic, be sure to let them know you are a "Canadian citizen returning home to Canada after having lived and worked in _____". Not: "I was surfing in Hawaii for 5 years and am now moving back to Canada because I am broke and need a job." This is an exaggeration, of course, but you get the idea: Present yourself as an interesting and desireable potential tenant.

    When you send an application for tenancy, include a cover letter which includes the 3 reasons you will be a great tenant. Like with a cover letter for a job application, a rental cover letter sets you apart from 99% of others who do not do this. Hint: I did this once in a tight rental market and the property management company was VERY pleased to rent the house to me. From the way they treated me, there was no question that I was the #1 potential tenant.

In summary, don't worry about not having a current Canadian credit history, no previous landlord references, etc. Instead, present yourself as an asset to a potential landlord and in no-time you will have a great place to live.

Important note: If you are ever asked to wire-transfer a deposit after electronically communicating with a potential landlord, or are asked to pay funds in-person to "hold" a rental, for example, do not every send or give this money. There are regular scammers who fleece unwary and innocent renters and disappear with their money in major cities in Canada. You show up at your "rental property" to find the owners are at home and are very surprised to meet you, knowing nothing about any rental of their property.

Please don't let this be you! I know you are concerned about renting a place. Having a place to move into when you arrive back in Canada will be a huge relief. But don't jump at the first opportunity to do so. Come to Canada first to visit, or stay in a short-term accommodation when you get here permanently first. Take the time to seek the perfect place, rented from a reputable property management company, leading agent, or landlord.


Professional support for your move back to Canada.




Timing your move back to Canada for tax reasons

19. Should I move back to Canada on December 31st or January 1st of the following year for tax purposes?


Answer:

Neither. For 95% of returning Canadians there is no tax benefit or cost to moving back on December 31st or January 1st of the following year...or any other day of the year.

Why?

Because you pay taxes in Canada on world-wide income earned, and capital gains accrued, only from the day you return to take up residence in Canada forward to the end of the calendar year. Any residual income or end-of-contract payouts from your time abroad that are received (not "earned") shortly after you return are similarly not taxed in Canada.

So, feel free to move back any time of the year!

And to be clear: You will not even declare foreign income or capital gains earned before you return on your first Canadian tax return, even if it was earned in the same calendar year as when you moved back.

So, who are the 5% who do have a move timing issue? No, they are not you. Seriously. They are very special cases, such as: "Someone moving back to Canada to start an already arranged job in Canada that pays > CAD $100k per year AND who is choosing to collapse a U.S. 401k pension worth < CAD$200k per year". Or "Someone who is selling business assets or ownership shares with a complex multi-year payout including income/interest provisions in their agreement."

See? I told you it was not you. ;-)

If you are moving back to Canada with a complex set of variables to consider, such as the sale of a business and/or home, pensions, investments, a continued work relationship with an employer or customer in the U.S. or abroad, engage my professional support for your move back to Canada. There is a 95% change you won't have a timing issue. But it will feel a lot better to have this assurance.

A real timing issue to consider:

Finally, there is a real timing issue to consider...but it is not tax related. Move back to Canada in May if you can. Why? Because moving back to Canada in October or November, at the start of winter, really sucks. You are entering 6+ months of cold, snow, wind, and forced in-door living. Yuck. Not a great way to start your happy memories of life in Canada. (Unless, of course, you are moving back to southwest BC or Vancouver Island - these are the only two places in Canada that avoid real cold and long winter conditions. And outdoor winter activities in BC? These include skiing on some of the best ski runs in the world. 'Nuff said.)


Professional support for your move back to Canada.




Bringing children back to Canada after marital separation/divorce

20. How do I legally move my children back to Canada after my spouse and I separate/divorce?


Answer:

I will not soften this topic: It is usually a tough situation for the parent wishing to move back to Canada with her/his children. The other parent - the one who is being "left" when the initiating parent wants to move back to Canada - typically has the legal right to be involved in the lives of their children ("access to their children"), meaning that it is very difficult to move children out of a state/region/country without their written and legally attested permission.

"So, that's it? I just give up and resign myself to being stuck here until my children are legally adults?!"

No. Some considerations:



In summary, feeling you may not be able to move back to Canada with your children can be a big challenge emotionally and psychologically. Fact. And yes, you may be stuck for some time. Acknowledging these realities may actually be the first step to finding a path forward...a path that with patience can lead you to the freedom and life you desire and need for yourself and your children.







Moving Back to Canada Planner!


Planner / Checklist for your move to CanadaA ready-made, customizable list of things you have to prepare for your move back to Canada, organized on a timeline approach. Save hours of work and the stress that you might not think of it all.

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Do you have questions you would like answered?


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

Paul Kurucz - Canada


A happy client:

Hi Paul,

Just to update you - we landed and sailed through customs! So thank you so much for all of your advice...It was a thoroughly pleasant experience.

This is to say thank you for everything. Your advisory has been so incredibly helpful and saved us considerable time and removed room for error.

With best wishes,

Caroline

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