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 update: September 2017.
Canadians far and near who have visited this site since 2003: 500,000+
We are in the news!
Leaving the U.S. to retire back to Canada? Some thoughts from Paul Kurucz in this New York Times article! ....
An excellent year for Canada!
2017 is becoming a great year for Canada economically, with 290,000 new jobs created so far.
A good time to move back, perhaps?
The full story:
"2017 an economic win for Canada..."
Previous News Postings
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 web site:
Why move back to Canada? Some thoughts on the decision to move back...or not. (below)
Preparations you can do ahead of your move back to Canada:
At the top of this page you will find links to resources such as FAQ's, pages for Canadians moving back from the U.S., UK, Hong Kong, or Australia, foreign exchange, getting your kids into a Canadian university, and more!
The top 3 questions Canadian expats want answered:
- "Do I have to pay tax on money I bring back to Canada when I return?" (No!)
- "Will my household goods that I bring back be taxed?" (No!)
- "How do I stay a non-resident for tax purposes but still keep Canadian health care?" (You can't)
Have more questions?
This web site has the answers for you!
Feeling overwhelmed or unsure about some aspects of your move? Would you like professional support for your move planning, tax, investments, logistics, move timing, and more questions? Get help! - Professional Support for your return 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
- 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.
Why move back? Stories from your fellow Canadians:
Cathy G., reflecting on the challenges and joys of liviing 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!
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
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
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?
| 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 takes this a step further...
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 abundanct sector-spectific as well as general work opportunities. British Columbia is also booming: Vancouver, Victoria (the lowest rate of unemployment in Canada as of summer 2017!), 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.
- Buy a residence ahead of time (if you can afford to)...
- ...but consider renting it out before you arrive. Owning a house may jeopardize your non-resident status with the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) if it appears you are "living" there. This would be yucky if you have been enjoying lower or non-existent taxes in your off-shore country! So, rent it out at arms-length (not to a family member), set it up as a "vacation property", or keep it fully empty as an "investment" to ensure you are not deemed resident in Canada.
- Tip: Buy a house in December or January: The best time for buyers. You can quite often get a great deal.
- Having a house ready for you and your family when you arrive means you can get excited about where you are going to be living in Canada. You will have a mailing address for forwarding your mail when you return. You will have a place to send your household goods when you move back. And you will have a place for your family to land when you arrive (lower costs - see finances below). All very helpful logistical details.
- DON'T buy a house if you are unsure of where is the best place in Canada for you to settle. Rent one instead, giving yourself the freedom to figure out what feels best. Sometimes "what comes next" in life is not perfectly clear and we have to wait until it does become clear. If you are in such a situation, don't buy a home now. Rent instead (which of course typically can't take place until you get back to Canada).
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
- 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!
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, ...
- Pets! Britain was notorious for not letting pets into the country without a 6 month quarantine. If you have owned pets for a long time, this is no news to you if you have lived overseas. That rule has changed recently. Now Brits can bring in pets from certain countries (in the EU) with a vet's sign-off regarding rabies, etc. We knew people who would go to live in Europe for several months on their way to Britain just to get a vet's approval for their pets so they wouldn't have to be quarantined.
What about Canada? If you own a pet, bringing it to Canada is far less onerous. Typically a current rabies vaccination certificate from a legally licensed veterinarian is all that is required for bringing in a dog or cat. However, check with the Canadian Government's Food Inspection Agency for the latest rules:
Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
- Flying with your pets is a challenging process. Some of my Australian clients have found out in 2017 that airlines there won't allow pets to accompany you on the plane. Even after appealing to government, who said it was fine, the airlines continue to point to the government as the reason they can't allow this. What to do? A family there was quoted $3000 each for their two pet rabbits to be moved to Canada by professional pet movers in Australia. Another client chose to simply remain in Australia because she couldn't take her cat with her.
If you are planning on returning with your pets from a country other than the U.S. (from which it is easy to drive them across the border) please research your options now for flying your pets to Canada.
A client, flying her dogs from Singapore to Canada in 2017:
I am in the process of the getting the rabies shots for the animals and two will be going cargo and one in cabin with me. Their reservations with the airline have been confirmed. Animal relocation can be crazy expensive and hence why so many are given up. Going as excess baggage is definitely huge savings as is not using an agent which is possible going into Canada due to the lesser regulations required.
- Children's vaccinations are another issue of concern to some parents. Vaccinations are wonderful things from the perspective of public health. They have minimized or eliminated the threat of some common illnesses for decades in our societies. But they also cause damaging and fatal reactions to a small percentage of children. They can also do other damage to the just forming systems of many more children. Damage that doesn't show up until later in these children's lives. Further compounding the debate is that often newer, less harmful vaccinations are not adopted immediately by public health departments, doctors and hospitals. So children may be unnecessarily being given older, more harmful versions.
Every country in the world has different policies on vaccinations. Many mandate such vaccinations. And each country has a different brew they give to children at different times. At birth, for example, my son was given a TB shot. For the rest of his life he will test positive for TB because of this. However, there was a significant risk that we would be exposed to TB in the country we lived in and those we traveled to, so this was a balanced risk for us.
Canada does not require vaccinations at birth nor as a condition for entry for returning Canadians. However, expect that public schools do require them on entrance. Can you object and be excused from this? If you do not want your children vaccinated, likely being excused will be on a case-by-case basis, depending on the school or area you are moving to. No-one likes playing games with important things you believe strongly in, but just as most people find in other parts of the world, there is more than one way to a goal. Sometimes you have to "work the system" a bit to get what you want in an imperfect world.
Thanks to a Canadian in Australia for suggesting pets and vaccinations for addition to this document!
- Criminal record checks are a pain when done from overseas. Laura Walker in the UK had to get one done from there and found it took 6 months from overseas but could have taken 48 hours from within Canada. If you need a criminal record check done for a new job in Canada that you will start upon arrival, getting a record checked in Canada upon arrival or on the last visit before you arrive home would make sense.
Thanks Laura for this information!
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 stuff 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.
- Research moving companies and services.
- There are several shipping options open 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 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: Insecure - your cargo gets bunched with others
- it may be opened and pilfered from, damage as your boxes
will be repeatedly moved and bashed by often poorly paid
- 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, 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
- 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 big bucks.
- 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 home 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).
Roanna Steven's experience moving her family back to
Canada from Bangkok to Vancouver:
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
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:
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!!!"
Suggestions from the above experience:
Really investigate the moving game. 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
- 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
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
Thank you again.
- 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 a frightening
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
- 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 overseas from Canada,
you should be able to ship it back to Canada, as long as it
has not been modified mechanically.
- Details on importing vehicles to Canada can be found on
the Canada Customs web site.
- Begin making contacts in Canada for jobs, social events, social groups,
etc. which you want to get involved in when you arrive. Making connections
now will make the transition 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.
a job in Canada ahead of time...if you can. Unless you are retiring
back 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).
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
- 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 new "Careers"
page for more in-depth help with getting a job and restarting your
career in Canada.
- Driver's license
- 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
will 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).
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!
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!
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!
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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 clean with CRA is "Cash
into Canada, then you, then your goods". In that order. This
can be important to keep a clear picture of you as a non-resident.
- 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!
- If significant amounts of money arrive in the months after you
arrive, CRA may question whether this is income earned after you
took up residency in Canada. Ooooopppssss!!!
- 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 formal 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 - link as of March 2017:
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 brand new expensive items (less than 6 months old that are subject to tax):
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 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.
- 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.
- 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 item over C$10,000 is a problem. You may have to pay tax
and other complications can occur. Best not to bring any item
over C$10,000 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 won'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.
- Prepare and send out change of address notifications.
- Prepare your health insurance in Canada. This is an important one:
For some incredible reason, 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
- 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
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 $70+ per month, per person, for your health
care (as of 2016)
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
...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.
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."
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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, this section is put here as a separate section.
The last vacation you take before returning home is a wonderful time to prepare for your move home. Some of the things you can do:
- Set up schooling or home schooling for your kids.
- Buy a house.
- Set up a bank account (not a credit card, however - remember CRA residency issues)
- Research where you want to live.
As you can see, there are many things you can do. Here are some suggestions for what will be helpful to do so that your arrival goes smoothly:
- Set up a contact address, phone number, fax number, and e-mail address.
This is important. When you prepare your paperwork for the shipment
and the shipping company you must have a Canadian destination address,
a Canadian contact phone number, and a fax number. Use a relative's
number if you can be sure that you can be easily reached at these numbers.
You will get several phone calls and faxes after you arrive. Be ready
- HINT: The rest of
the world has moved to e-mail. The shipping industry and some government
departments have not completely done so yet. They still use faxes
and it really throws them off if you say you don't have access to
a private fax machine. Prepare for this: Get access to a fax machine
and fax number to receive faxes before you arrive home. IMPORTANT:
Many of the communications will be time sensitive. Missing an Agriculture
Canada or shipping company fax could mean your shipment will be
sitting at a dock and you won't know. Each day it is sitting in
port can mean $100 or more a day in port charges (!)
Sean Currie has this suggestion regarding faxes:
"I'm considering moving back to Canada and came across
your site. One suggestion regarding the need for a fax number with
the shipping companies [is to use an online fax service]
You can get a free phone number that people can call or fax to. You
can't answer the phone, but it gives you a free US number, and
any faxes are sent to the e-mail that you register with as attachments
(as are the voice mails).
Hope this helps. Thanks for the site."
Paul's ad-on: Sean's originally suggested company is no longer in operation. On-line fax services
are a very useful tool. To find online fax services that are easy to use and cheap, search Google for "online faxes" and you will get
a number of services, one of which might meet your need. These services
replace the need for a physical fax machine.
What to do when you get to Canada
At the airport when you arrive:
- What to have with you, and ready to present, upon leaving the
- Returning Canadian Residents (Canadian citizens returning to take
up residency in Canada):
- Your completed BSF186 form
- Your inventory of goods to follow - a packing list, preferably
valued of what will be following you in a container or whatever
other shipping method you choose. You will need to declare at
least a total C$ figure of what your goods are worth.
- Your passports
- Liquor permit if you have decided to bring alcohol into Canada.
- Immigration papers if you are not Canadian citizens.
- 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.
- 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 is returning to Canada in December 2011,
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
- 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.
At the land border when you are about to drive into Canada:
- Do all of the above that you would do at the airport, but
be a few more things to consider:
- If you are bringing pets, be sure you have your vet clearance
- If you are importing your vehicle to Canada, be sure you received
export clearance on the U.S. side
- 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)
Leslie Baker's experience of coming back by a land border:
"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 $10,000 or more 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
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:
- Hint: Clearly note on
your fax 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
- 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 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!
- Hint: 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
- Second choice: Bring your spouse.
- Third choice: Go alone. No problem doing this, just
plan to have the following 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 are 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! Horror stories abound - real ones
I have heard personally from returned expats who actually
went through the hard way (their goods were searched).
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 B4 [now
BSF186] and any
other required forms for your particular moving circumstances. Like
anyone else, hard-working Customs 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
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!)
- 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.
Good luck and welcome back to Canada!
Home | Get help - Professional Support
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:
- Armstrong & Glen - Tax Support Packages for Returning Canadians
There are many good cross-border tax accountants in every province. One challenge, however, is that most accountants like to deal with clients they can bill monthly for on-going services. Returning Canadians who simply need a one-time consultation and tax filing support for their return to Canada are normally ignored by accountants because of this. I have arranged support for your one-time or continuing tax support needs at clear and reasonable costs with a trusted tax partnership called Armstrong & Glen. They are located in Alberta but can help Canadians returning to any province. Note: I do not receive any compensation or commission from this recommendation, so you can trust that it is an unbiased referral.
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
- "Robert R. MacDonald - Canadian Expatriate Tax Consultant".
'Nuff said. If you use Robert's services and were referred from this
web site, please tell him. Also, please contact
me and let me know if you were happy with his service.
I used Robert's services between 2002-2005 to help me
with my first relocation back to Canada, and then to deal with my
taxes while renting out a property and then selling it after I had
gone abroad again. He was professional, informed and saved me a
lot of money. He even advised and taught my property management
company how they should be dealing with my accounts properly. This
year, as I contemplate another move back 'HOME" I have
decided to contact him before I even return, so that he can advise
me on the best way to set up my return." - Lana Y.
- 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. Specializes in many parts of the world in moving corporate
and oil industry expats, so offices in Toronto and Alberta but not other
parts of Canada.
- 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.
- Navut.com - This
site can help you find the best neighbourhood to live in. Only major
cities in Canada listed, but a great resource that can help you craft
the lifetyle you want when you move back to Canada.
- 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.
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
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.
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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