This article is intended to be of support to the thousands of expatriate Canadians in the U.S. and around the world who intend to move back to Canada in 2021 and for those who are in the process of doing so already.
The events that began in March 2020 and continue to unfold are unprecedented in their scale, scope, and future uncertainty. We are in "new territory" as a country and as a world.
What we know for sure is that there will be major impacts on the economy of Canada and the U.S. and those of most other countries.
There will also be social and political impacts.
Here are some questions, considerations, and stories shared by other Canadians in 2020 and 2021 that may help with your decision as to whether to move back in 2021:
I think of this time as the end of the children's game "musical chairs". Since 2017 I have witnessed Canadians abroad and others wishing to live in Canada migrating at an increasingly rapid pace and with more and more urgency. Many were looking for a proverbial "safe chair" to be in if challenging times hit their world. This peaked in the months leading up to February 2020 where immigration hit a record high in Canada and returning Canadians were even impacting real estate prices in certain markets because of their numbers.
The music came to a stop in March 2020. You were either in a proverbial "safe chair" or you were caught without one. Sadly, millions of people in Canada and the U.S. had no "chair". They do not have the financial, health, and personal resilience to weather these challenging times easily and smoothly. I have compassion for them all.
Through the summer and fall of 2020, and right through to April 2021, the flow of Canadians moving back ramped up in numbers again. While I wouldn't describe it as an "exodus" from where they are living, it is definitely a very large homecoming to Canada from the U.S., Hong Kong, UAE, UK, Germany, Holland, and many other countries.
In summary then, yes, more Canadians have been returning to Canada recently. Many, many more than in previous years. And from my work with lots of these returnees as my clients I can say that most found what they were looking for: Safety and the opportunity to create the life they desire in Canada.
America has typically been the land of opportunity. Canada has typically been the land of safety. This is still true to a certain extent, but Canada is now a place of opportunity, too, if you can get in alignment with how Canadians think and how wealth is created here.
However, many people exchange opportunity for safety and find it a pyrrhic victory. If you consider a move to Canada to be both - safety AND opportunity - you can do really well. But if you are only looking for safety? You might not be satisfied with your choice to return to Canada at this time. Canada is not immune to the challenges facing the world. We will go through some economic and social changes in 2021 and beyond. Are you ready to take the good and the bad of these changes if you move back now?
Once the current challenges are resolved Canada will be stronger and opportunities will abound in full strength. My "read" on the U.S.? As a country they still have a ways to go before the systemic challenges in their country are fully addressed and a new path forward on many levels is achieved. The transition for them will not be easy. But in the end a stronger U.S. will emerge. A different U.S., but a stronger one.
And the UK? Europe? Arabia? Australia? Asia? Latin America? India?
The challenges of this time will impact each country and region differently. Some will rebound fantastically, seeking and embracing this time as an opportunity. Others will struggle for years with the changes that are underway.
In summary, yes, there will still be opportunities to find work or start a profitable business, to find a great place to live, and to build a wonderful life in Canada if you come back in 2021. Everything won't be proverbial "sunshine and roses" from an economic perspective for the next 12 months, but neither will we be in economic ruin, either.
I am hearing from a lot of Canadians who were planning to move back in 2020 and 2021. Many shared their very legitimate concerns and distress about having their hard work and plans put on hold or changed completely. For example, a job they were offered in Canada has now disappeared. This can lead to feelings of "What do we do now?!" The following thoughts are an invitation to step back from your plans for the move and the current upset in the world and consider what might be best for you in the new reality we are in.
Background: What is a move to a new country, really?
When you planned to move to a new country originally (the one you are in now) you had hopes for a better life in some way: A career opportunity, more money, a new relationship, an adventure, a better lifestyle, perhaps a chance to enrich your children's life, etc.
One aspect that may have been conscious or may have only been on the edge of your awareness:
"I need to challenge myself and grow as a person."
In almost every case where someone moves abroad there is a quiet voice inside helping them make the decision to move to a new country. This quiet voice is what helps each person step through fear and uncertainty because there is an inner knowing that personal growth will come with such a move.
When you move back to Canada you may think you are returning to the same place you came from. However, in both literal and metaphoric terms you are not coming back to the same place! Canada has changed and so have you - often in deeper and more fundamental ways than you consciously know.
In many ways, then, a move back to Canada is really like moving to a brand new country!
Invitation: If you think of Canada as moving to a new country that you have never lived in before I invite you to ask yourself this question:
"Why am I moving back to Canada, really?"
And then I suggest you put yourself into the frame of mind of moving somewhere new.
If you do this you can step back mentally and emotionally from your existing move plans and anticipation of what life will be like in Canada. This "stepping back" will help you access two things:
A. A state of emotional calm that comes with detachment and thoughtfulness. This state of calm can help you look anew at what life might be like in Canada for you given the changes happening right now here and everywhere.
B. The opportunity to consider your career, location, and lifestyle options in a fresh light: Stay where you are now, move back to Canada, or go somewhere else in the world.
When you combine a calm, detached, and thoughtful perspective with a new consideration of your options I can almost guarantee that you will think new thoughts and have new ideas!
Whether you decide to continue on the path of moving back to Canada or not you will be able to do so with new perspectives on how to make it happen! This can include potentially moving to a different province because real estate is becoming much cheaper there (read: Alberta), deciding on a new career, trying new ways to make money (your own online professional service or offline business?), crafting a lifestyle that is healthier for you, or simply choosing to see the move as a personal growth opportunity, just like you did when you moved away from Canada originally, even if this reason wasn't fully conscious at the time.
If you have been away for many years or decades your move back to Canada in 2021 may be more like moving to a new country than like moving back to the country you left because Canada has changed and so have you. Why not treat it as an adventure and take the perspective of "Let's figure this out!!"
There are many opinions out there from family, friends, colleagues, and the media about whether you should move back or not move back. I suggest not taking these opinions too seriously. Gain new perspectives and ideas from what other people share but keep their opinions at arms length from your unique personal context and considerations.
Only you know what is best for you!
Here are a few questions that might help you determine if moving back to Canada in 2021 is right for you:
In summary, there is no "should" about whether to return to Canada in 2021 or not. There is only what you and your family need, whether this is a good time to do so, and whether you have the resources, strength, and patience to make the move happen right now, during these times of change and upset in the world and in Canada.
Do what is right for you!
Laura Benne shares her experiences in June 2021:
After living in Northern California for 41 years I left last year in mid-July . I managed to sell my little mobile home in Mendocino County before the raging fire season. I drove across the country during the pandemic and managed to stay healthy. I have been living with my niece in Pittsburgh since then. At the end of the month I will fly to SFO and pickup my belongs and drive across the country and then into Canada. Since I am fully vaccinated my hope is that I can cross the border with a minimum of fuss.
Graham Topp shares his thoughts in May 2021 for an upcoming move home:
I moved to Hong Kong from Canada in 1990 and will be returning at the end of June 2021 after 31 years away.
Needless to say, we've been quite busy planning for this trip. A few quick things that we've been dealing with:
1. Shipping. We have a lot of stuff. One quote for shipping was for CAD$34,000 (!). The company couldn't tell us when our furniture etc would arrive due to congested ports. Maybe two months, maybe six. We decided to sell it all.
2. We have a dog and a cat. We'll be leaving them both in Hong Kong for a few months as both Air Canada and Cathay Pacific can't take them at this time. We're hoping things will be easier in the months ahead.
3. We're hoping that Canada will drop its hotel+home quarantine requirements soon. If not, then we have an added expense and more to do before we leave.
All in all, we're looking forward to Canada, but things would have been easier in a non-pandemic year!
Shelly Goulding shares her thoughts in April 2021 for an upcoming move home:
Crossing the border is definitely complicated in these times. What is important to consider is how many jurisdiction borders you are actually crossing to get to your destination. In our case, that means U.S. States, the U.S.-Canadian border, and then a provincial border (New Brunswick to Nova Scotia). Each has its own COVID-related restrictions and quarantine requirements -- and many have their own travel forms to be filed prior to border crossing. Right now we plan to fill out three forms -- ArriveCAN, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia -- to ensure that we are allowed to get to our new home. Keep an eye on changing policies and the additional document requirements (beyond just the forms) at border crossings.
I was pleasantly surprised to get a very personable person on the phone in Nova Scotia to help reassure me that our plan made sense. Not surprised that he was personable, but that I wasn’t on hold forever and that he really took (or pretended to, which is all I needed) interest in our situation, had solid answers for me, and made sure that all of my questions were answered. I called the official Nova Scotia government site, for what it’s worth.
[Suggestion: For those who have flexibility in the timing of their move back to Canada and can easily put a "pause" into your plans consider doing so until the summer or fall of 2021 until move and border crossing logistics ease up for more complicated provincial contexts such as those of NS, PEI, NB, QC, and ON.]
Margaret Suddards shares her thoughts in March 2021:
I was delighted to find your website that helps we expats to repat. So here is a bit of my story on how I have used you tools and ideas. Perhaps some of my dilemmas will help someone else make their repatriation plans.
I am 76, single, retired of course, living in California, and have lived in the US for most of the past sixty years. I became a US citizen about 10 years ago while retaining my Canadian citizenship and passport.
Returning to Canada has been on my mind since I retired, but the impetus just wasn’t there. I have six siblings, all friends, in Alberta and BC, and family in various other parts of Western Canada, and no family in the US. Last summer I was able to spend three months in Alberta and BC with the family and also looking at real estate. The combination of being alone during the pandemic, climate risks (massive forest fires near Santa Cruz last year), realizing that if I sold my house I could afford something equally nice when I relocated, and the political upheaval in the US tipped me over the edge. In January this year I began planning my move.
I found your checklist for US residents returning to Canada very helpful and go back to it regularly to confirm that I have dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.
... Its been a tough and anxiety provoking few months, enough that I asked my personal physician for some anti-anxiety pills - I’ve only taken one but its nice to know I have them. Leaving my friends here, my beautiful house I’ve spent 20 years getting where I want it, Wilder park and year round hiking, the marine air, etc. etc. It helps that my three sisters are excited about my return and have been doing everything they can to help. Making a decision on something I wasn’t sure about always helps to allay the anxiety.
My house went on the market last Wednesday and tonight I will have many offers to review. I have some medical and dental procedures planned for the next month, but then before the end of April I think I will be ready to go. Seems pretty scary to say it.
Thanks for your dedication to the website. I’m sure I am not the only person who has found it helpful.
Ralston Maloney shares his perspectives on their move:
I am so grateful for your excellent articles on moving to Canada..Thank you! My wife and I are dual citizens of Canada and the US, have been living in the US for the past twenty years and are in the middle of planning the move back to Canada. The pandemic has not allowed us to see our children and grandchildren for the past 14 months and who live there. (Brampton, Ontario) and so we have decided to move closer to them. We are finding out that the cost of living there is much higher than where we are in Chattanooga, TN. Consequently we are faced with some of the same questions you raised, and which have given us a different perspective. We are continuing to work through the issues as we plan our return.
Marie Galarneau shares her family's experience and decision: (thank you, Marie!)
Thank you for writing this article, it made me realise that we made the right choice. My family and I were meant to move to Canada from Australia in early May to be reunited with my family.
After having lived in Australia for 13 years this was a particularly big and emotional move for me. I was mentally ready, the boxes had been picked up for shipping, we had found an apartment in Quebec and given our resignations and then our flight was cancelled and we realised that our chances of leaving in the next few months was, well, uncertain.
Considering the current situation we realised that we were much better off staying than rushing to leave. We were lucky enough to keep our rental and at least one our two jobs (the other one we still don't know yet). Deciding to stay for up to another year was a very emotional decision to say the least, but I know we made the right one. Keeping some normality going for our girls in an environment that they know was also at the forefront of making this decision.
My heart is with everyone in a similar situation, but just keep in mind that we will get there eventually!
Edith K. shares her cheerful outlook: (thank you, Edith!)
Needless to say, my plans for moving to Canada are on hold for the foreseeable future, but I certainly have not given up on my plans. I'm as determined as ever, if not more so, to make it to Canada at some point ASAP!!!
Laureen shares her considerations: (thank you, Laureen!)
Thank you for sharing your stories and relieved that I'm not the only one going through this at this time. I have lived and worked in Mexico for ten years and feel very blessed and fortunate to have done so.
Was planning on riding this pandemic out here and then last week started thinking about going back to BC. My family and older children think it would be better because we don't know how long this virus could last and I work in the tourism industry.
Some days I have thoughts that I'm wasting my time here, wondering and waiting when life will resume.
Came to the conclusion that safety is first and I'm afraid to get on a plane at this time.
Should I stay or should I go now?
Paul's comment: The world-wide tourism sector is in for a couple of rough years, not surprisingly. Both Mexico and Canada will be hit hard.
Gerald shares his story: (thank you, Gerald!)
I moved to the States in 1995, thinking at the time it was a good move (career-wise) and knowing some of the downside risks of moving here as well. When I became an American (dual) citizen it was with all of this in mind.
I finally got together with the love of my life (also Canadian by birth and a dual citizen) in 1998. Together we've built a good life in the Pacific Northwest. Now, though, it is time to get back to our family and friends in Canada. The plan to do this has been complicated in the past year by a number of natural (read "pandemic"), economic, and political factors that seems to make the move back more difficult.
Thanks to Paul for setting up this page, and to those of you who have contributed your perspectives.
I look forward to hearing more from you all.
Lauren shares her story: (thank you Lauren!)
Like many people in these strange times I'm feeling a lot of "I should have" emotions. I'm a dual citizen living in the US, married to an American. We've discussed moving back to Canada for years, but now, the urgency has hit us both very hard. We would be returning with a small business, so our concerns are for the requirements of sponsorship as well as business. What I've found is that researching as much about the area we want to move to, the infrastructure and support from local government is invaluable... No matter how long it ultimately takes. I'm very grateful for your guidelines as a resource, feeling a little less alone!
Kayode shares his story: (thank you Kayode!)
I'm a Canadian currently living in the United States, and my situation is such that I would like to move back, specifically to Halifax Nova Scotia. While I was born in Montreal, I have visited Halifax on multiple occasions, and I would absolutely love to live their upon my return. I am confident that the money that I have saved will keep me afloat for at least six months. I'm not married, I have no kids, and no real property. Whenever I do move back, I won't be carrying much with me. My biggest concern is the time it will take me to find work. Even before COVID and all the issues its caused, finding work has always been challenging. The few jobs I've ever had that lasted longer than a year, where jobs I got through knowing people, or bypassing the traditional job searching process. Despite all my job experience, I can't even get called into interviews. Am I just that massively unhireable, or is it something else. The last thing I want is to move back, and encounter the same situation, never even being considered for an interview, much less hired, after having completely uprooted my whole life. All I know is that I want to be back home.
Maja shares her considerations: (thank you Maja!)
Like many, I've been flip-flopping about the decision to move back to Canada from the UK for years now, mainly to be closer to my aging parents. The current situation of me not being able to spend the summer in Canada (as I usually do) has really put a sense of urgency to come back. So here I am, wanting to make a very emotional decision, whereas my British husband is very pragmatic/realistic about finances/employment during the current situation. So it's a head vs heart decision in many ways. I've said quite a few desperate things during the situation, particularly about employment, or lack there of---''you could always be a logger for a while!''...that's not that wacky of a suggestion, is it :-) ??
Sheila shares her journey and considerations for moving back at this time: (thank you, Sheila!)
I came to the UK initially for six months and stayed for 40 years but always in my heart I wanted to return to Canada. When I retired with a good pension I went back to Canada and lasted four years before on the spur of the moment (missing friends and the better weather) I moved back to the UK. It was 18 months post Brexit and I thought the horror stories about it in the Canadian press were exaggerated but found out they weren't. Having now lived through the terrible Covid pandemic experienced here and being very frightened by it all that is facing the UK and Europe I plan/hope to move back to Canada where I do believe it is a lot `safer' whatever that means. It may be nostalgia but I have heard stories very similar to mine about people leaving Canada after a period of living there and then coming back because of all the benefits of wide open spaces, friendliness etc. On a note of caution getting a job has always difficult as a foreigner/immigrant in Canada and now I imagine it will be even more so for those who need to find work in their chosen field. It does not apply to me but for those who do need employment it needs to be a consideration.
Mark shares his thoughts relating to his life in Asia and his connection to Vancouver (thank you, Mark!)
I browsed through it a year ago or so since my second (older) brother has moved back to Vancouver from Manila to try his luck to get a job for himself. He didn't have luck at first, which became worse when COVID-19 came around in 2020. So far, he's got a part time job. But a recent conversation with him indicates that he'll likely come back to Manila again due to the job market slowing him down, likely before the end of the year if things don't change. Had to remind him that it's slow everywhere else.
To be clear on the record, he and I are dual nationals. But my first (older) brother moved to the US in the 1990s and is an American now.
Thinking about his situation in Vancouver (and I heard that the cases of COVID-19 in British Columbia are coming down), I'd say that we were fortunate to move there after high school. The things I missed about Canada is the friends I made, both those who immigrated ahead of me and those I've met in university.
I've been a resident of the Philippines since I moved back in 2015 due to family (Father says "Home is where the heart is") and health reasons (I'm healthy now). While it was good to reconnect with family and some of my friends, I realized that things have changed since I've been living in Vancouver to study. I got naturalized in my early 20s and appreciated the things my father did to ensure we had a place there.
If there's anything I'd see from my (second older) brother's situation, it's probably that he had high expectations that he can easily get a job related to Business Development considering that he worked in BD-related jobs in Southeast Asia.
What I missed about Vancouver is the absence (or the prevalence) of traffic, not being worried too much on safety considering that the Philippines has some terrorism issues and the fact that I'm not that well known by reputation just by being myself. Here... my family's known due to my father being involved in the stock exchange. So the pressure is there to work in a field that I have no expectations in.
As I type this, my plan to move to Singapore to get a Masters degree (and maybe live there if I can get a job afterwards) is postponed due to the outbreak. More and more I feel frustrated and tired that I can't connect any more further with my friends and some parts of my Manila-based family, due to a combination of my experience in getting a BA in Political Science. I'm currently doing remote-based internship with a risk management company in Washington DC for a few months ever since I got laid off my first job and being doing free volunteer work.
In the meantime, I've been sending some money slowly to my CIBC account in Vancouver just to build it up overtime. If there's anything I learn from my brother's experience in Vancouver, it's not to expect anything so soon. A challenge for me is to do remote work full-time from Manila for a company/institutes in at least Canada or the US due to time zones considering my work experience. I'm still looking.
While he had been working with reputable companies, sometimes with my father, he's frustrated that it doesn't translate to maybe a mid-level position like a manager. We both are frustrated that when he gets interviews from Canada, the company wants him to be physically present in the country before they consider him for a job offer. I think this part, in my opinion, is too cumbersome especially with the pandemic.
The only way I can go back is if a job offer is ready before I can fly back. The only place where I can think of is with the provincial/federal government, where they are more flexible for me to apply from abroad.
Joanne shares her journey and considerations for moving back: (thank you, Joanne!)
My husband and I moved here as young 20 somethings looking for adventure. He did a Doctorate at Cambridge and I started my professional career. Neither of us have ever really worked in Canada. We were part of the brain drain.
Twenty years on, we've built ourselves and our children a really nice life in central London. Many holidays to Europe, a beautiful home, fulfilling jobs, kids in great private schools and a nice set of friends. However, we are toying with moving back to spend more time with our ageing parents. I feel that we will be sacrificing a lot for our parents and wonder if this huge upheaval, risk and uncertainty - particularly now with a pandemic raging - will be worth it. I'm particularly worried about whether we will find jobs in Toronto in our mid-40s (again, with a recession-induced pandemic as a backdrop) as all of our professional contacts are in London. I'm also worried about whether our children will be foregoing a great education here.
I'd greatly appreciate any tips from anyone in a similar position, and whether your move back to Canada was fruitful in the end. Thank you.
I hope these questions, thoughts, and stories are of value to you!
Consultant and Advisor - Moving Back to Canada