Canada offers many wonderful things to those returning home, such as safety, great public services, freedom, being close to family, seeing old friends, a system you can trust, and of course, the beautiful Canadian nature - mountains, lakes, forests, rivers, and more.
However, there may also be challenges if you are a citizen returning to Canada. You may have to contend with reverse culture shock. Or possibly first-time culture shock, if your spouse and/or children have never lived in Canada before. The logistics of moving home and setting up your new life can also be daunting - what to sell, what to take with you, how to ship your stuff - all good questions and options hard to choose from. Moving back to Canada from the USA or Mexico may not seem to be too much of a challenge, but there are surprising similarities to the considerations of those moving back to Canada from the UK, Australia, India, China, or the UAE.
This resource site started from my experiences returning back to Canada after spending over 6 years in the Middle East with my family. Our youngest son was born in Dubai. To him, we were emigrating to Canada. For the rest of us, it was a big move back to the land of taxes, rules and regulations, rain and snow...and of course, fantastic geography, a liberal Canadian society, Tim Horton's, reliable services, and much more.
Since starting this site, I have researched literally hundreds of questions for Canadians getting ready to move home and have added the findings to my original reflections. Every year generous Canadians from all over the world contribute tips, tales, and suggestions from their own experiences preparing to move back to Canada, keeping this site up-to-date with practical advice. Our combined wish is that you have an easy and exciting move back to Canada!
If you find this site useful please "pay it forward" to those moving back to Canada in the future by sharing what you have learned. Please contact me with any thoughts, insights, and wisdom you can share!
Finally, everyone's situation and context is unique. Should you have questions you would like answered by in a professional and friendly manner I also offer professional support for your move back to Canada
Welcome back to Canada! May your move be smooth, easy, and exciting!
Latest updates: October 2019. Canadians far and near who have visited this site since 2003: 1,000,000+
Leaving the U.S. to retire back to Canada? Some thoughts from Paul Kurucz and of a client are in this New York Times article! ...
And if you are planning to retire in Canada, check out the "Retiring in Canada" resource page on this site!
The "safe harbour" effect is when a storm is coming, ships do their best to find a safe harbour to get protection from it. For many Canadians abroad, their psychological safe harbour right now is their homeland of Canada (surprise, surprise!) And not only Canadians: Immigrants, too, see Canada as a safe place to build their lives during these times of turmoil in the world.
What are the implications? For one, real estate prices from July to September in Canada rose significantly, and so did the challenge of finding a place to rent. Learn more about what is happening in real estate in the monthly Real Estate in Canada newsletter (see sign-up below).
And the October 2019 edition.
Professional support is available for your real estate, tax, move timing, investments, logistics, and lifestyle questions when planning your move back to Canada.
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"
This question is easy for some to answer, but not so easy for others.
Sometimes, a decision to move back or to stay abroad is not an easy one. Here are a few of the common challenges in the decision making process:
"My husband/wife can't find a job here. I am fine, but they are not happy here."
"My parents are getting old and I want to come back to Canada to take care of them. But my spouse's job is here overseas, my children are settled and doing well, and we have our friends and support group here."
"I have never felt fully at home here. Everything is "fine", but it is not Canada and not the culture I grew up with. I want to go "home" to what I knew when we left Canada."
"I want to move home to Canada but my spouse is from here and doesn't want to leave his home, family, culture, and country to move to Canada."
I hear these same themes many times a year in my work with clients and from stories offered by Canadians living abroad. Challenges such as the ones quoted can cause couples and families a lot of stress. There is no easy solution for most people, but one thing you can do is to use the discomfort of the situation to learn and grow as a individual, couple, and family about what is important to you. You can explore what you want your life to offer you and what changes you might undertake in your own thinking, beliefs, and patterns to find where you need to be in the world.
Some questions that might help:
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.
- 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 loooove your accent')
- Becoming an absolute magnet to the opposite sex ('you're from LA? Wow!)
- Always having a conversation starter ('And where are you from?')
(Source: Linkedin, Trailing Spouse Network group,)
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.
Tanya explains how "wanderlust" took her family back abroad after moving back to Canada:
Before moving to the Middle East, my husband and I lived in Taiwan for 7 years. When we first arrived, we went to observe a teacher who was from Ottawa, our home city. We became fast friends and when we all moved back to Ottawa, we ended up buying townhouses right next to each other. Unfortunately (mostly for him) we have wanderlust and needed to travel and live abroad again! He takes every opportunity in the summer when we go back to visit to remind us of how we abandoned him!
(More insightful stories from returning Canadians are shared later in this section)
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.
Here are 5 common profiles of Canadians moving back. I have seen these from long experience working with clients and from my own time living abroad. Please note that you may be an exception - many people are. If, however, you do find one that is close to your reality, it may help you have a more successful move back to Canada by clarifying your target state of mind, lifestyle, and goals.
A. "Ultra-organized". This person or couple knows exactly where they are moving to in Canada, they plan the whole move well, and they get what they want. Life tends to give you what you envision if you are laser-focused and very, very clear in your mind and heart. These returnees are generally happy when the move is over and their life is settled in Canada because they created their desired perfect lifestyle.
B. "Family move". Hope for a better future for their children motivates this move. I have many clients returning from the U.S. right now for this reason. However, this also applies to families returning from all over the world, and particularly from places that are in turmoil. Families generally create a good life in Canada because they ground their move in family priorities and values, reflecting the life stage they are in.
C. "Career move". "Opportunity" and "timing" are the motivating factors for this returnee profile. Life presents an opportunity and it happens to be the right time to move back to Canada. Following an opportunity back to Canada results in a staged experience: First comes excitement, then reverse culture shock, and finally, after a year or two, a new life balance in Canada. Individuals and families both experience symptoms of adjustment. What helps this group? A ton of careful consideration, planning, and personal support for themselves and each other after they arrive.
D. "Healthy Nomad". This individual or couple makes life happen through a combination of planning well, listening to their intuition, trusting things will work out, and being open to new experiences in a cheerful manner. This is more a "non-linear" return path, but results in a life that delights them. Overall, this group is happiest in Canada the soonest, because their cheerful "take-life-as-it-comes" attitude allows them to figure things out, find great people to connect with, adapt and grow personally, and create an meaningful life here. Hmmm...I bet this group would create an amazing life wherever they went!
E. "A shot in the dark". Pushing away from something defines this group. Fear for their safety where they are, a divorce, a lost job, death of a spouse, etc. are reasons this group moves back to Canada, often to the locale they left or to where they have family living in Canada. This group sees Canada as "safe haven" and a place to retreat, rest, heal, and re-build their lives. Happiness for this group takes time as their move is not really about Canada, but about ending one phase of their life and starting another. I honour the decision people make to return to Canada when faced with real challenges in life. Canada is a great country to pause, re-group, and prepare for the next steps in life.
Please share your thoughts on these profiles and your reason for moving back to help make this resource better! Thank you!
Karin Q., generously sharing her experiences and where she finds herself in 2019:
Hello, thank you for the informative site.
I'm a Toronto born woman visiting for two weeks near Toronto.
I admit I cried from relief reading this article...other people go through similar feelings? All mixed up inside and churning pros and cons around???
Now 39, wish I read this article when I was 20. Would have saved myself a lot of torment!
Visiting ------- this week, I'm thinking what is important to me? What can I give, how and who to and where? Very hard questions.
I moved to The Netherlands in 2000, after I finished Uni in Toronto. Actually, six weeks after. This was for a variety of reasons, primarily running away from my Dutch born Mother's extreme mental health issues. (My father is Toronto born and raised). To add, living a life in the suburbs, getting away from people I thought I knew, being out of the potential rat race and not really wanting that 'good' house, car, job or having people close to me watch my progress in life were all reasons for seeking something more.
I never even once worried about finding myself with people who did not know me, and was almost proud to be 'new' or have that clout everywhere I went in Holland. Questions asked of me where not so much of where I was from but fresh questions about who I was. Loved it! And time with my Dutch family was great too. I got a great job at a European head office of a well-known American corporation.
It wasn't all good, and that's important to note. It's not easy when you start abroad, letting others help and support you with things you need to do that you think you should be able to handle. Mind you, the same could be said of returning to Canada...I should know!!! And as you go on, I've realized that the house, job and transportation still 'need' to happen somehow, and quickly, no matter where you are!
In 2007, I moved from my Dutch Uncle's house in Amsterdam, and a good job, now with a US clothing brand head office in Amsterdam, to a small village in North West of England, -------- for a guy. We had been to Canada together and enjoyed the same things. He was from ---------, worked in HR, loved gardening, was an only child, so very independent, everything seemed good. Then he went into his own business. I has okay jobs with marketing agencies and even managed an animal charity retail location working with awesome volunteers.
Despite my successes, I moved back to Canada in November 2015, after my Godmother, (she used to be in my life in my teens when things at home were not good and so now calls herself my Godmother) suggested it a year earlier. The economy in the UK was, honestly in a slump, my job with a charity paid very little, making ends meet was hard. --------, it turned out was not the marrying type, more long term but living separate as he looked after his parents at his childhood home.
I met a woman in her 80's in ---------- in 2014 who had grown up there, but moved with her husband to Ontario in the 1950's after they married. They raised two daughters who still live in Canada. She moved back with no friends and one brother in the -------- area. She told me once that her husband and her decided to retire in the UK, after he finished his career with CN Rail. Poor health kept him in Canada. Now on her own after his death a few years ago, she made the move on her own. A 'push' she said was her neighbour. Her neighbour asked how her husband was, as they had not seen him lately. He had been dead for thee months. She missed and really wanted what she had growing up. The familiarity of small-town Britain in the 40's. But it wasn't to be found. She now volunteers at a charity shop, and lives in a modern apartment complex.
Back to my story, where my decision to move back was helped when my Godmother said she would help support me. And I hadn't been 50+ years out of my birth country, only about 14.
Great I thought. I have lived overseas, I worked at awesome places, been travelling, know interesting people, now a promise of a good life in Canada. Maybe reconnect with my brother and his partner, and their three boys. Very awesome....
Not. With no experience of working in Canada, I was told my first week back at a job agency in Oakville, my job options in my field of business, Marketing, were far and few between. Start at the bottom. I received many thousands of dollars from my Godmother, but that went to near $0 in 8 months after looking for a job, buying a laptop, travelling around the Greater Toronto Area, rent to my brother-in-law for a room in their house for 6 months and deposit plus first month on a small studio apartment in Mississauga.
I found a job as a supervisor in a big box US chain store.
I was interviewed by Canada Immigration on two occasions as I stupidly did not realize or think (or want to think) to ask how to re-enter Canada after being away - and just literally asked for a renewal on a very expired Health Card....plus I was missing vital documents required to 'just pick up life' again. I don't know now what I expected, but it wasn't what I experienced. I needed a guarantor for EVERYTHING as I has no credit history in Canada. I was literally feeling like a broke criminal. No one was interested in my life over there, in the UK or Holland. I had even less contacts, no friends, an elderly Godmother making demands, and my brother's common law wife had her own life and friends and three boys, including twins with autism. Where was my head?
I left with very little in two suitcases in 2017 back to --------. I cried for what seemed a week afterward back in the UK staying with --------'s parents. At 37, I felt I should be settled, married or something more than what I was. ------------ called a time out on our relationship. I found a job relatively quickly with a European Sports Retailer Head office as a Manager in Customer Care. Starting again is not easy. Brexit looms, as a dual citizen with Holland, what does that mean for me?...and coming into a work environment where almost everyone worked with someone in past roles with other companies in call centre work, not to mention the grey weather...lack of any Dutch or Canadian familiarities that bring contentment...even for a short period, it's stressful.
It's 2019, and I feel like I need to be back in Canada to help my Godmother as she is forgetful, in poor health. She is so very angry I left her in 2017 after her support. My dad's mom, 92, did not recognize me last week on a visit. But two years ago, in early 2017, she had driven me for lunch to a local restaurant! Should I be here to see her while she's with us?
I realized I could have stayed and made it in2017, if I had just noted down this website’s suggestion of being honest with myself. What am I looking for? What can I accept and what is I can offer and where? How do I make what I want a reality...thinking with the head not heart is just denial. People moving back should never ever assume that experience, new exciting exotic people or travelling is a passport to a life back in Canada. Canada may seem familiar, but it too will have moved on.
And you still have to wake up, pay bills, taxes and get in 8 hours of work a day, thinking about dinner.
Gosh, what a mess. My 'Godmother' only retired to Canada in her late 40s after her life in Germany because her husband thought it would be a great thing to do. Now 81, she wants to go back to Germany as her husband died last year and she does not like Canada but she says finding a life back in Germany after 30 years would be hard. Her family in ------- has promised to help, but she is realistic that that promise may well be gone after a few months.
Do I want to be in a home at 90, if I'm here that long, and think, "Well, I should have been there for family..." or "Why didn't I just run off to a small village in Holland and do what I wanted in life?"
I love being different. I love being the one in the office who can correct people on things North American, or talk to the Dutch colleagues. But family and what I want are pulling me apart. If I could afford it, I'd be a year or two in Canada and a year or two elsewhere.
The novelty of people asking where in the world are you? wears off pretty fast!!
Thank you, Karin for generously sharing your truth with readers here. It will make a real difference to those in similar situations.
Cathy G., reflecting on the challenges and joys of living in Australia but wanting to come home to Canada:
I am a Canadian living in Australia since 2005 with my Australian husband. I constantly want to move back "home" to be close to my four adult children, and my mother who is 96. We are in our 60s now and seriously trying to work out how best to move there, especially worried about what to bring, what to leave, will we like it, how to sever ties here and get new ones there. I never realized I would need forms to return to Canada, and the forms to apply to sponsor 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 give up their way of life, you just can't be in two places at one time, sadly. If there is a way to do that, I would love to know how! Cheers!
Thank you, Cathy, for sharing your experience and suggestion!
Planning to move back to Canada to retire? Check out the "Retiring in Canada" resource page!
Tammy M., reflecting on the challenges of living abroad (and exploring if to return to Canada):
I want to thank you for this invaluable site! I am determining whether or not I should return back to Canada. After the initial vacation period overseas, I am finding myself without employment and missing my family. My husband however, has a job and direction and is really enjoying not having to work in the harsh Canadian climate.
I can honestly say it has been the most difficult time in my marriage. Living overseas has pushed to the forefront what each of us truly values in life: what we value in our relationship with each other, as well as, our immediate family.
It is an obvious question to ask, "Why do I want to move back to Canada?" However, it is difficult to come to a decision when you know the financial costs involved and the new dynamics you have in your relationships when you return after a few years or more.
Moving becomes a question of, What do I want to give up? Is this need to move back based on reality or what is being experienced in the immediate situation?
Back to why I am sending this . . . Thank you. your site is unscrambling questions that keep going round and round and it is enabling a path toward an informed decision. Thank you also to the contributors for sharing their experiences and pointing out various aspects of their move.
Thank you, Tammy, for sharing your experience!
The following story was shared with me by a Canadian who moved back recently. Due to the personal nature of this story, her name has been withheld at her request and identifying details modified to protect her family's privacy.
We had been living in the United States for 11 years when I knew I wanted to move back to BC. Our children only knew the American elementary school system; I knew I wanted our children to be back in the Canadian School system and have the choice to enter the French immersion program. But my husband did not want to approach his Company about the move because we had just received a visa extension when I presented the issue of moving back. My husband did not want to rock the boat with the Company because we would have one more year left on the visa and that was the agreement with his boss. Also, a huge issue would be the time difference between the offices.
I was certain that the time was going to be in the summer and consistently told my husband we needed to make the move for the sake of the children. I reminded him that we had moved there for his sake his career and now it was time to make the move back for the kids sake... it was important for me too that the boys would get some time in an elementary school setting to make new friends before entering the high school years. I kept telling my husband how important it is for the boys to develop new friendships that they could carry into their adulthoods back in Canada. It was important too that we knew we would keep in touch with the friends we had made in the states too. We feel blessed with the rich friendship experience.
When it became clear to me that my husband was in denial about how serious I was about moving back I insisted we have the discussion together. I basically told him I would go with the kids in the summer and we could set him up in a little apartment there - we could support his job that way... And I was serious. I think it was my strong foot down that finally made it clear to him that it was going to happen whether he was ready for it or not. So he got the nerve to tell his Company and it ended up being absolutely okay.
Now that we are back in BC, my husband spontaneously hugs me and says thank you for getting us back home!!!! AND the kids love their new school and are making friends easily and are keeping in touch with all their friends in the US! It's all good... phew.
These stories are indicative of the difficult decisions that dozens of families I have worked with faced when deciding whether to return to Canada or not. In all cases, there has been no "right" or "wrong" choice. Only one that helped each family move forward or one that held them back from the natural change, growth, and happiness they wanted.
And here is one more story, shared by E. Cernakova on the challenges of being back in Canada. Personal information has been replaced with ... to protect their privacy:
I moved to the GTA in September, after discovering that finding a job in the Ottawa Capital region was challenging, given my overseas work experience in the past 5 years. Getting security clearance was not an easy process, so I chose to return to the GTA where I had more contacts...
Early November I was hired ... on a 12 month contract... . It's kind of a "survival" job for now, which has allowed me to get settled in a shared flat (shocking what is happening with gentrification throughout the GTA and extreme rents) and slowly start to feel more settled in.
I am fortunate, and count my blessings with a great boss and a job that isn't too taxing and just covers the essential: rent, bus pass, food, storage costs... added benefits and pension... It's extremely challenging to be back here, with such high living expenses. But I am highly skilled, and believe I will be successful in finding opportunities to increase my overall income...
So I consider myself to still be "transitioning" back to life here in Canada. For expats like myself who were overseas alone (one income) and had debts to settle while overseas, it's not an easy thing to return with minimum savings. Sometimes we just have to leave - and I don't regret coming back to the GTA when I did as I have to continue working for at least 10-15 years; I felt I had to get back into the Canadian workforce.
My advice to all my friends still overseas, especially those who are older than I am and much closer to retirement, is to stay put and make as much money as they can where they are. Bring back as much savings as you can, as it's insanely expensive in NA and costs a LOT to return. Incomes have not kept up to par with the cost of living. I feel as if some companies think they are still operating in the 1990s! There are days when I think: it's just as expensive to buy groceries, rent a flat etc. here as it is in the Gulf but I am making 50% less. Ouch.
If you plan on buying real estate in Canada for when you move back, this is the time to begin exploring where you want to live and the state of the real estate in that area. The following section will takes this a step further...
Things happen. Having a current will that will cover you before, during, and after your return to Canada is simply wise.
I have partnered with Canadian Legal Wills to offer you an easy, inexpensive online will creation tool, regardless of where you are in the world and where you will be moving back to in Canada:
Create a Canadian expatriate Last Will and Testament online
Are you registered with the Canadian Government to have online access your CPP, OAS, tax return filings, RRSP, TFSA, etc information?
If not, register now so you can see where you stand from when you left Canada. This may help you feel more confident in preparing for your move, particularly if you will be retiring in Canada now or in a few years from now. But for everyone young or old, the information available online is super useful, such as understanding how much RRSP and TFSA contribution room you will have available when you arrive back, which can help with tax savings in the first year or two you are back in Canada.
Note: If your SIN (Social Insurance Number) has been made dormant because you have lived outside of Canada for 5+ years, you will have to get it re-activated by an in-person visit to a Service Canada office when you visit Canada next or by phoning them and getting a re-activation form done and sent it.
Apply here to access your information online:
My Service Canada Account
Note: The Canada Revenue Agency (RRSP, TFSA, Tax) has a separate web site and account. However, once you have a "My Service Canada Account" and are logged in there is an internal link to the Canada Revenue Agency web site so you don't have to register twice for two separate accounts. You can use the one account and bridge over to the Revenue Canada information internally. Easy.
New Resource! See the Buying Real Estate in Canada resource page for a deep dive into the process of buying real estate in Canada for your move back or as an investment for the future if you don't plan to return to Canada for a while.
Roanna Stevens, on finding a place to live:
I think for us one of the most difficult things has been finding appropriate housing for our family. We have never lived in BC so searching for an apartment/condo to rent near Vancouver has been daunting. One thing that I am glad someone told us was that we should look at getting "transitional" housing rather than signing a one-year lease. This proved to be great advice! Since we had a time frame in which we had to find a place to live, we ended up in a basement suite in Burnaby on a month-to-month lease. The location was great...the suite was not. However, it did give us time to start looking around and to determine what area would be best for us to live in. It was also SO much easier to look for a place when we were already in the general area. I had been doing the Craigslist thing from Bangkok but, in a city like Vancouver, you really need to jump on housing when it shows up. If it's a good place, it won't be available for very long. Eventually, we found a great place, at a fair price in an area we felt suited us.
Thank you, Roanna, for sharing your experience!
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:
Corrine R., who moved to ON from Australia:
Also, get people to get an address asap and internet as we needed an address to get access to school, ohip, etc. we spent 100's of dollars sitting in cafe's just to get free wifi to apartment hunt and job hunt, etc.
I also had a dormant RBC bank account that I reactivated and started using my debit card on. After 2 months of spending like crazy, I realized I racked up over 100 dollars in bank charges. Get onto a bank account that allows unlimited transactions!!
Helen H., who moved to Burlington, ON in 2017:
You were also VERY right when you mentioned that I would hemorrhage money! The price of a used car was clearly more than I had budgeted for. Had I realized that, I would have shopped for this a year before I moved back. One pleasant surprise was that groceries were cheaper and fresher than what I was used to in Florida! Go Canada! So glad to be back home.
If you have been out of Canada for many years and have severed all important ties (per CRA stipulations to ensure non-residency), you have little or no current credit history. Be ready to face the following:
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:
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, particularly, 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.
Some specific things you can discuss:
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. Only a current rabies vaccination certificate from a legally licensed veterinarian is required for bringing in a dog or cat.
For more exotic pets, check with the Canadian Government's Food Inspection Agency for the latest rules.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Flying with pets
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!
To learn about how the Canadian health care system works, particularly in contrast to that of the U.S., please see the Health Care in Canada page.
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.
Thank you Laura for this information!
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:
Please comment on your thoughts and experiences on this question to add to this site! (contact Paul) Thank you!
Ask around with friends, your employer and fellow employees, and online via discussion boards.
Research moving companies and services:
There are several shipping options available to you:
Learn all the "ins and outs" of the moving business:
I wanted to fill you in a bit on our experience of shipping our goods from Bangkok to Vancouver as you provided so many helpful tips for us (thank you SO much)! Actually, the shipping of our household goods ended up being one of the areas that went the smoothest in our international move! We used a shipping company that a friend recommended (and she had had a friend recommend them to her!) and they were superb. Also, their agent on the Vancouver end was excellent as well. (If anyone visits your website and wants a recommendation for a shipping company in Bangkok, I'd HIGHLY recommend CargoPort Thailand. We dealt with a gentleman named Tony who was brilliant. Their web site is www.cargoportthailand.com).
One thing that did catch us a bit off guard was that Tony mentioned they would have to look in each box that we had packed (I guess to make sure we were in fact only shipping household goods). I panicked a bit (since we had done our own packing and the boxes were VERY tightly packed and I didn't want them being totally unpacked) but he simply looked in the top of each box. It was good that we knew ahead of time though so that we didn't tape up the boxes too tightly! I also had prepared a list of the goods we had so they used that as the packing list.
Thank you, Roanna, for sharing your experience!
A cautionary experience: I was contacted by someone who did not have a good experience with a shipping company. Here is their story and my suggestions:
(Names of the individual and the shipping company withheld as I cannot confirm both sides of the story)
"Hi, we have been scammed and robbed by ---------------- relocation company. This a Canadian company that "services" many cities in the world: https://-----------------
We had to pay over 10,000 USD to be able to recover our things because this had our stuff kidnapped, after paying them us over 10,000 USD (of a 7500 USD quote). Therefore a service that had to be less than 8000 USD, ended on over $20,000 USD.
This people have scammed and robbed people for years, there are many sites telling horrible stories about them (unfortunately I did not read them before making business with them).
I do think it is very important to caution everyone who reads your web page of the wrongful activities of this company.
We are currently talking to lawyers and insurance company as most our things arrived very damaged and a Sony HD 60" flat screen arrived totally destroyed, so we haven't published our story, but here are some links [links withheld] on how people have been scammed by this people.
Please let us know if we can publish our story in you site and what is the proper manner to do so.
We really think consumers should be warned!!!"
My suggestions from the above experience:
Really research and learn about the moving industry in the country you are leaving. Here's how to lower your risk:
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).
Alternatives for reducing moving costs, for those moving from US or possibly Mexico back to Canada.
Consider these ways of reducing moving costs:
- if you have a car, purchase a trailer for it and self drive back
- if you don't have a car or any large items to move back e.g. appliances, then consider mailing your items using the US mail to a town just the other side of the border. US mail lets you send domestic mail, up to 70lb in weight for each item. Length plus width plus height of each item must be less than 130". Cost is approximately $52 per item close to these maximums. So if you had 20 boxes close to these maximums that would be $1000. Compare that to $1500 for base rental of a small 1 way truck, before buying gas and other moving costs. You then rent a truck from your new town in Canada for the day, drive down and pick up your goods from across the border. At least, this is my plan
Thank you for your site - got me thinking through my move back from the US!
Thank you, John, for sharing your practical suggestions!
I found your website to be invaluable when planning my move back to Canada. I lived in San Diego, CA for 35+ years and wanted to return to Canada. The organization of the website spelled out each step very clearly. The unknowns of my return were answered. I was most impressed with the information given about the selection of a moving company. I attribute this very successful part of my return to the articles that helped me chose a moving company that not only provided information about packing but also assigned a coordinator who referred me to a contact in Canada to assist with the border crossing details. Everything went smoothly with this aspect due to the suggestions concerning the preparation of the necessary paperwork prior to reaching the border. I cannot stress enough the importance of planning. Your site supported the tips provided with real life experiences that prepared me for all aspects of this move.
Thank you again.
Thank you, Yvonne, for sharing your experience!
This can include special sports/recreation items like scuba gear, expensive furniture, or expensive vehicles for which you would take a loss if you sold it in a rush in the last month before you leave.
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:
Building connections now will make the transition when you arrive in Canada easier. If you have favorite musical concert to look forward to when you arrive this will be another anchor in Canada you can hold onto during the frantic last minute preparations. Have a camping trip planned with your kids. Have a family reunion planned. Stuff like that.
Unless you are retiring when you return to Canada (which many people are), getting work in Canada is one of the big challenges you might face. Why? There is an old saying that a house that is lived in is easier to sell than one that isn't. The same applies to getting a job in Canada: Having a job already in Canada means it is easier to get another from your current position. An employed person seems more attractive than an unemployed one. Now add in the fact that the job you just had was not in Canada, nor perhaps in some recognizable place like the United States, and you have a first screening disadvantage on jobs you apply for.
And it gets even more challenging: I once had a middle-aged gentleman from the UK apply for a job that I was hiring for (in Canada). He had a "Higher National Diploma". I required a "Bachelor Degree". Guess what? In my youthful ignorance I assumed it wasn't comparable or valuable enough and he didn't get past first screening. In later years when I learned what a Higher National Diplomas was - basically equivalent to a Bachelor's degree - I realized that he was not only qualified, but likely an excellent candidate. (Sigh. Sorry!).
How do you beat this seeming disadvantage when you are returning to Canada and want to find employment? Some tips:
If you plan to work in the Canadian federal government, a provincial government, police, airline, or many other organization that requires you be checked for legal issues in your past, consider getting a "Certificate of Good Conduct" or "police clearance" from the country you are living in now. It will be much harder to get once you are in Canada!
Douglas Giesbrecht shares his suggestion on this in 2018:
I have not lived in Canada for + 30 years. I am currently living in Abu Dhabi [UAE] for the last 11 years. When moving back to Canada I recommend to ask the police in the country you have a residence permit in, a Certificate of Good Conduct. I have this from many countries. It is a great document to have in the back pocket. If moving to Canada for working and if you enter into most professional positions, consulting positions, or government a background verification may be required. Most HR departments for companies hire security firms to perform this task. If you have been away it is difficult for security consultants to verify where you were in this global world we live in...for people that have been away for many years, like my self. As a non resident you disappear entirely except for your passport. So, if going back to Canada to work you should have this document, to officially back up your credibility.
This also should be accompanied by a “confirmation of employment"from the employers where you have worked.
In Canada the RCMP issues Certificate of Good Conduct directly. Many countries issue them through various departments.
Many police and immigration departments are requiring this to obtain residence visa or working visas even coming from Canada.
Thank you, Douglas, for sharing this!
Can you "convert" your current foreign one to a driver's license in the province you will be living in?
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!
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!
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!
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).
Be sure it indicates 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.
Suggestion: When I first returned to Canada I was quoted a really high car insurance rate in Ontario 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.
For those moving back to BC:
First, understand that there is one insurance company in the province: ICBC. Despite what you might hear, it is a blessing. Drivers in BC pay less for their insurance than the private insurance schemes in all other provinces and most of the rest of the world. When you visit an insurance broker in BC they may try to sell you private insurance on top of your ICBC liability insurance. I don't recommend this: Stick to ICBC for both your liability and your collision coverage. You won't have hassles later with a private company if you do need to make a claim.
Second, as of September 1st, 2019 if you originally left BC to go abroad, Vincent P. shares some good news he learned:
I checked with ICBC and this info might be useful for any of your clients in similar situation:
Because I have a gap between when my license expired (Feb 2014) and now and I don't have any proof/documentation of a clean insurance record during this gap, they don't recognize my prior driving record and clean insurance history.
But if a person had a vehicle and car insurance in their name outside of BC, and they have proof of no claims, they would get discounts.
However, starting 1st Sept 2019, they will no longer have this policy to require proof of clean insurance record for any gaps and will look at driving records going back to 40 years.
Thank you, Vincent, for sharing this valuable news!
Get this letter from the licensing authority of 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.
Talk to all your health care providers before you move. This can include your doctor's and hospital records, history of medications, children's inoculations, etc. Great to have even if you don't have ongoing health concerns. In an emergency, having these records on hand would be much easier than trying to retrieve them remotely later. (Thanks, Chris G. for the suggestion to include this!)
(Formerly called a B4 form). Carefully fill it out (see note below) and get required documents prepared. This document, a PDF guide for returning residents, and much more is available from the new "Canadian Border Services Agency" web site:
BSF186 form link:
What do you put on your bsf186 form? Individual items? Groupings? And what values?
Here are examples for you to follow. The key is to use general groups and nominal or zero values for all your goods, except very expensive items:
Books - $50
Kitchen items - $100
Clothes - $0
Living room furniture - $200
Television - 3 years old - $200
Canada Customs staff are going to look at your list for any items that are restricted (ivory), controlled (guns and alcohol for example), being imported for re-sale, or brand new and possibly taxable items (a one month old Macbook Pro you just paid C$3,500 for). They are NOT interested in your used household goods for personal use or their values.
Note: If you have lived outside of Canada for 5 years or more, duties and taxes will be waived on items you have purchased in the last 6 months before you move back, such as a new laptop.
5 year exemption information source: https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/mrc-drc-eng.html
Sometimes people get worried about dealing with Customs when they arrive back. Here is feedback from someone who moved back in 2018, making clear the experience most people have when they come through:
Passing through Customs was a non-event. We had all forms filled out, which pleased the Customs Officer at the airport.
Goods cleared through customs with absolutely no issues. I actually got a comment that my BSF 186 was "actually filled out! Nice!" He then went out of his way to help me out and give me very useful information I hadn't asked for and wasn't expecting.
Not in your suitcase! The handbag you will be carrying onto your plane. You will need the paperwork at passport control at the Canadian airport at which you arrive. And you may need to show your cash and gold coins/bars to prove how much you are bringing into Canada. So having all this ready for easy access in your handbag will make things easier.
Note: Packing cash money, jewellery, gold in your handbag. Yes, you can bring any amount of cash (not limited to $10,000) in your handbag. Yes, you can bring your personal jewellery and will pay no duties or taxes on it when you arrive. And yes, you can bring gold coins, bars, etc. with you on the plane or in your vehicle (if driving over the border from the U.S.)
If the value of your cash and gold coins/bars is over $10,000 you will have to declare how much the value is. Again, you will not have to pay duties or taxes on this amount, just declare it. Personal Jewellery? No declaration of it as "currency or currency equivalents". It is just part of your personal belongings. No valuation needed as long as it is not for re-sale in Canada and is part of your personal belongings.
Finally, I mention this elsewhere on this site, but please: If you have a lot of cash, gold coins/bars, or expensive jewellery (any of these > $100,000 in value) please consider a "bullion and valuables" courier company instead of taking it yourself. This is for safety reasons, particularly if you are going through more than one airport or will have a stopover. Why take a risk?
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.
This is a list of all the things you need to do particularly for the last 2 weeks and last 2 days.
In the case of former residents, you must have owned, possessed and used the goods abroad for at least six months before returning to resume residence. The six-month stipulation will be waived if you have resided abroad for five years or more.Source: CBSA's web site
While most change of addresses can now be done online in the modern world, there are many countries where paper-based and even in-person address changes are required. Better to do these latter ones while you are still in-country!
This is an important one:
You will not get health coverage by Canada's "universal" health care system for the first 3 months you are resident again in Canada if you are moving home to British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, or New Brunswick. Other provinces do not require a waiting period - simply apply for immediate coverage to the health authority in the province you are settling in.
If you are moving back home to BC, ON, PQ, or NB, you have three choices:
Jane, a Canadian moving back from the U.S. notes her reason for returning to Canada:
I am a 60 yr. old, unemployed, female moving back to Ontario because I can no longer afford to live in the U.S.A. without health care....
What is the value of the Canadian health care system? If in doubt, watch Michael Moore's film "Sicko".
And note that health care is not free in Canada - in BC unless your employer pays it, you pay $37.50 per month, per person, for your health care (as of 2018).
Thank you, Jane, for sharing your reason for moving back!
Kate, moving back to Manitoba, comments on the waiting period for her health care coverage:
One item you should re-investigate is the section on Health Care Coverage. We are returning to Canada and have been assured by Manitoba Health that we can be covered, as soon as we register with them, As long as we provide certain documents to them immediately: Proof of residence (i.e. proof of property purchase), our airline tickets (showing when we arrived), and proof of citizenship. There may be other requirements by province, but it is really unfortunate if there are people believing they must go 3 months without coverage and/or paying ridiculous fees for coverage...
...It is possible that insurance companies are not aware of this situation (at least not the one we originally contacted and Luckily did not pay for!), Or that they choose to be ignorant to this situation. We were lucky that we phoned Manitoba Health to clarify when our coverage would start, before paying an insurance company.
Follow-up: Kate is correct: Manitoba does not require a waiting period. However, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick do require a 3-month waiting period for public health insurance to start.
Thank you, Kate, for sharing your experience!
Bradley M., moving back to BC, on the BC health care waiting period:
We just moved back from the Middle East, upon arriving back in BC we were told that we did not qualify for BC Health Insurance for three months. Indeed, the province refused to issue us our Care cards because we do not qualify for 90 days, even though we are returning Canadians. Luckily there is a place in Duncan where our children can still receive medical treatment for free, but we'll have to get 'visitors insurance' for three months. I had no idea that the government would refuse coverage, especially to a family with children.
Thank you, Bradley, for sharing your experience!
Because many Canadians living abroad vacation in Canada at different times before their move back, "your last vacation in Canada" has been put here as a separate section.
The last trip to Canada you make before returning permanently is a wonderful time to prepare for your move home. For those who hadn't considered a trip to Canada before your return, I strongly recommend it! The best time is at the beginning of your decision to move back process, as you will find out where you might want to live, what life will really be like, and it gives you a chance to reconsider if returning to Canada makes sense for you at all!
Assuming moving back to Canada does make sense for you, and a trip to Canada sometime in the last year before you return is possible, here are some things you can do while visiting Canada for the last time before you move:
Here are some things to not do while you are vacationing in, or visiting, Canada for the last time before you move:
Returning Canadian Residents (Canadian citizens returning to take up residency in Canada):
If you are not a Canadian citizen or already established Permanent Resident - 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 might need.
They will steer you towards the right person.
Suggestion: Having your neatly completed BSF186 and attached 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.
All the suggestions above, for when you arrive by plane, apply to when you drive over the border by car. However, here is one more:
Be sure you received export clearance on the U.S. side prior to crossing, per the procedure for bringing your car into Canada as stipulated by the Registry for Imported Vehicles (RIV) process.
From a client in 2018:
I have since found it [exporting] that it's really not as hard as it seems. Just a lot of steps. There's really only one step you need a broker for to export: the AES filling. Simplified Trade Solutions will do this for you for $35 USD.
Suggestion: 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 wrinkles and helps you feel more confident about the crossing, a point of contact that makes many people nervous. 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:
CBSA Contact page.
(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 CDN $10,000 ore more in cash, gold bars, or other forms of "money" with you when you arrive? A suggestion from Patty Juno:
"Would add one thing to Part 3:... the form if you are carrying more than 10K in currency - which returning teachers sometimes have, having just got their last paychecks and cleared out their bank accounts in the country they are leaving, etc."
[The CBSA web page entitled "Crossing the border with $10,000 or more?"]
[The CBSA Form E677, Cross-Border Currency or Monetary Instruments Report - Individual]
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.
Really. Do take regular fun breaks and healthy time-outs. Heather M. on her experience of the first few weeks back in 2018, waiting for her shipment and setting up her new life in Canada:
Your tip on doing something fun or for yourself every day has been an anchor throughout the last few weeks. It is all too easy to get buried in moving logistics and then the stress and terror become all consuming. Getting outdoors everyday and trying to explore my surroundings has helped keep my stress and disorientation a little more in check.
I have found your site quite valuable and have passed it on to colleagues that are moving back to Canada. The bit I would like to offer as thanks is a current number for the CBSA office to make an appointment to clear a container out of the Vancouver ports. When I called 604-666-0547 I was able to book my appointment for this and the agent I spoke to said that I needed to provide the manifest from the shipping company, an inventory c/w approximate values, passports for the entire family and proof of being abroad, in my case, for nine years. For the latter I plan to bring in my expired and present passports, utility bills I have saved over the years and a salary letter from my last employer.
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:
As a result of your choice of the hard way, you will have to submit your shipment to a search. This causes delays, charges (you have to pay for Customs to inspect your shipment!), damage during inspection, and probably impoundment and possible permanent loss of some of your goods if they decide to send some of your things to Ottawa for x-ray or further investigation.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Suggestion: Choose the easy way.
The Easy Way: When you go to Customs to get final clearance on your shipment, do the following:
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! There are people who actually went through the hard way (their goods were searched) and it was not pleasant.
So take the easy way! There is no guaranteed way to make sure your goods won't be searched, just ways of dramatically lowering the risk that they will be.
One family's experience:
When we got to the Vancouver airport, I went to the customs area to present the form B4 [now BSF186]. It seems they no longer process things the same way. They asked how old the stuff was that we were bringing WITH us and that was it. Then, they gave me a sheet of paper with a phone number to call once our goods arrived in Thailand. No B4 [now BSF186] form or any other forms! This made me a bit nervous but, when our goods did arrive in Vancouver, we called the number on the sheet of paper and made an appointment (well, they actually told us when to come) with Canada Border Services Agency. As per your advice, I didn't send my husband solo to our appointment!! In fact, my husband and I and two young daughters all went together. It was a breeze! The agent was delightful and gave my girls stickers and even let them stamp our paperwork! We were in and out very quickly and she faxed the necessary documents to the shipping agent right away so our goods could be released. Wow!
Note: I love such stories because experiences like this do happen regularly. HOWEVER, be sure to complete your BSF186 form and any other required forms for your particular moving circumstances. Like anyone else, hard-working CBSA staff are reluctant to cause anyone extra work. If you are friendly, courteous, and polite, you will do just fine, regardless. Having your B4 with you just makes it easier for them to go easy on you. Enough said.
Please share your experiences so that I can post your stories, anecdotes, advice, and tips that will help other people! Thank you!
Michelle Gay, a Canadian who moved back from Asia, writes:
One thing that has really struck me - I have been back for 10 months...is that people move on. I really thought that the friends and family who I kept coming to visit all those years....were in a strange sense waiting for me to pick up where we left off. Coming back I realized that my relationships were kept alive because for the most part, I initiated them (called people to say I was coming home and do the driving to see them). Now that I'm back, I realize people moved on a long time ago and I've just been visiting their lives over the years. So in moving back, my insights would be to tell people that moving back is in many ways just like starting over again. You should prepare to carve out your life and reinvent yourself again.
I'm still loving the English speaking world though! I lived in Asia for over eight years and wow - to join a class, to eavesdrop on the bus, to walk into the store and listen to advertisements...I'm still appreciating being able to understand my environment.
Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your experience!
Mrs. Arti Meyers, now in Toronto, generously shares her experiences and tips:
We have been back in Canada for 11 months now. We left in 1989 for the first time, and then since then have lived in London twice, Barbados and New York. Since 1989, we have lived in Canada for 3 years, dropping in and out.
This was our 3rd return home.... and maybe three times lucky. We find that the move HOME is always the most difficult move to make... because we expect or want it to be comfortable, natural and easy.... but this is usually not the case. I have to admit that the 3rd move home has been the best of the three. Perhaps this is because we have learned about what to expect, and have learned a few tricks.... or perhaps its because we are older and wiser....
Things that were particularly trying this year were trying to find a doctor in the Toronto area.... public health care in Canada seems to be a big problem here now. Be sure to go and get your health cards immediately, and probably the best short term health care option is to go to the walk in clinics that are set up. They are better than I had expected, and after waiting an hour or two, at least the problem gets dealt with. (personally, I prefer the British health care system that offers people the choice..... We used our local public care when it was convenient, quick and we felt confident with it, and when we had something of more concern, or something we needed attended to immediately, we used private health care.... we could use both, and that made a lot of sense!)
The other huge pain in the *** was the telephone company! We thought we'd go with Rogers for cable, internet, phone and cells... for 5 people. They overcharged us by hundreds of dollars every month ---for months, and honestly June was the first time that we received a correct bill. Do you know how many hours on the telephone this took - This is a problem.
The other problem is in terms of work.... and if you have been out of the loop for a long time, it is really difficult and hard to work to get the network going again, to try to get work. The networking is key, and this was what my husband did... but honestly after almost 20 years away, the network is more outside of Canada than within Canada.... and that is ok because we have lived globally, and that is really our community.(My husband is now a consultant and this trip is in the Middle East and Europe!)
In terms of acclimatizing, 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 women's 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 involved in expat type activities with a more international crowd who had a fresh view of Canada and the city. This was a good idea, and a great insurance policy in case things with old friends & family was dull or not magic.... as it turned out for me, I was so busy with my nuclear family, old friends and greater family, I had little time for this.... BUT ... I would recommend it as a good idea, and a way to make the transition easier.
Thank you, Arti!, for sharing your experiences and thoughts!
You will face lots of challenges and enjoyments. Watch for typical culture shock and some ups and downs of emotions, but bear with them: They are natural.
Paul Kurucz - Canada
A happy client:
Just to update you - we landed and sailed through customs! So thank you so much for all of your advice...It was a thoroughly pleasant experience...
... this is to say thank you for everything. Your advisory has been so incredibly helpful and saved us considerable time and removed room for error.
With best wishes,
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.
See the new Professionals For Your Team page on this site for a listing of immigration consultants and other professionals trusted by returning Canadians!
"Cross-border and expatriate issues" - A great little resource for Canadians returning from the U.S. specifically.
See the dedicated Taxes, Accounting, and Banking page on this site for more depth on tax questions returning Canadians are concerned about.
See the new Professionals For Your Team page on this site for a listing of recommended cross-border tax accountants and other professionals trusted by returning Canadians!
Moving back from the USA? Please see the USA page for other mover/moving options specific to, and available only to, Canadians returning from the U.S.
"We used Crown Movers from the UAE to Canada and they were very professional and careful with our contents." - V. Vanti, May 2018.
Using a foreign exchange company over the bank to send the deposit for my condo saved me about $660! I didn't expect that much of a difference.Note: For insight and suggestions of companies (with Canadian client testimonials!) which can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on transfer and foreign exchange, see the Transferring Money and Foreign Exchange page on this site.
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