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Moving Back to Canada

Resources for Expatriate Canadians returning to Canada after living in the U.S. or further abroad


Moving Back to Canada from the UK


Important News:


Need help with your move back to Canada? Please engage my professional support if I may be of be of help.



Welcome to the resource page for Canadians moving back from the UK! Here you will find resources and tips from other Canadians specific to your return to Canada.

The main Moving Back to Canada resource page has links to a full set of resources for you to access, so be sure to check it out as well!

Topics & Resources


Moving to Canada from the UK considerations

Introduction


Returning to Canada from the UK would seem to be a pretty straightforward move. After all, Canada is a former British colony, we share a common national language, and both countries are progressive and have modern societies.

Whether you considering moving to Canada from England, Ireland, or Scotland, there are many similarities. But there are also many differences between the UK and Canada to be aware of. This resource is designed to help you understand how Canada and the UK are different in order to empower you to decide two things:

  1. If the move back to Canada makes sense for you at this time in your life. And...
  2. ...if the answer is "yes", how to make your move back to Canada a smooth and confident one!

Most of the discussions I have with Canadian expatriates living in the UK include explorations of indecision around whether it makes sense to move back given their particular situation. Unlike their counterparts living in the U.S., who generally want to know the "hows" of moving back, Canadians living in the UK are more focused on the "should I move back?" question.

Let's start by looking at the commonalities and differences from the context of consideration of a move back to Canada:

Some of the commonalities between Canada and the UK:


Some of the differences between Canada and the UK, in the context of a potential move back:


Debbie B. shares her thoughts in 2021 on differences to get used to when you move back to Canada:

For Canadians returning from the UK after a long absence, they should steel themselves for a banking system that is much less user-friendly than the UK one. Simple transactions like setting up a regular loan payment are more complicated than in the UK. And they should be prepared for the shock discovery that you can't use debit cards for online transactions in Canada. Trying to get a credit card takes weeks rather than days. And if you're unlucky enough to be an HSBC customer, your debit card will not be contactless. I have no idea why, but there it is.

And get used to having to buy your alcohol at a different shop than your supermarket.

The other thing that mystified us at first was the lack of 'satnav' in cars. When we finally bought our car, we learned that everyone uses their phone and 'carplay' to navigate. Which works perfectly well, and cleared up the 'where's the satnav button' question for us.

But, and I can't stress this enough, it is wonderful to be back. We feel we decidedly 'dodged a bullet' by managing to get out of the UK when we did. We love the North Shore, with it's easy access to the waterfront and mountains. Ivor is golfing regularly and - once we get moved into the flat - I will be joining the local kayaking/rowing club in Deep Cove and getting back on the water in May. I miss being able to paddle, and can't wait to get going again.
Read More

Topics & Resources List | Your experiences? | Returning to Canada Support



How does this help you understand whether to move back to Canada?


Perhaps the following three questions can help with clarity on moving back, and whether it makes sense for you:

  1. Are you deeply embedded in the UK culture and society? If yes, removing yourself from that culture and trying to establish yourself in Canada may be a shock...and perhaps a big shock, one that could take years to come to grips with. One client I worked with was so torn between very close cultural and social ties in the UK and his desire to move back to Canada that he decided to stay in the UK.

  2. Canada is a vast place. It is not a "hop, skip, and a jump" away from Paris, per my example above. While many places in the UK are more costly to live in than Canada, wages and salaries in Canada are much lower, on average. This makes it harder to live an easy-flowing international lifestyle in Canada. If you live an urban, sophisticated, European-connected life in the UK then are you willing to give up the geographic accessibility and lifestyle you have now in order to live in Canada?

  3. How are you oriented? Toward creating your own life and culture or toward fitting into another? If you are a free thinker and love creating your own life amid generally open physical, mental, and social structures, Canada is for you. If you want to quickly plug into a culture that fits who you are and that gives you a sense of social/cultural security, the UK is perhaps a better choice (assuming the UK culture is the one you want to be part of!)

    I worked recently with an actor and director client who really struggled with the decision to repatriate or not. She so dearly loved the culture of the UK and her exciting social life in London, hanging out with others who love art, film, and the deep cultural roots there. However, her real opportunities for professional growth were from offers of work in her native Vancouver and Los Angeles. What to do? This was a no-win situation for her. In the end, she did move back to Vancouver and has taken the next steps in her career there.

Joanne L. shares her considerations about moving back in 2021:

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 forgoing 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.
Read More


Feedback shared with me by a UK writer and radio personality considering moving back to Canada:

My biggest concern is whether or not I can fit in after living away for 30 years. All my friends and professional contacts are in the UK. Also, I still have a son and grandson here too. But my brothers and sister, nieces, nephews, cousins live in Ontario (family) although I have few friends there anymore and very few professional contacts. But the desire to return to be near family was strong...Most of all I want to get re-acquainted with family but can I adapt to the culture after so long away??

A final note: UK expats, those moving to Canada permanently, and Canadian returnees from the UK have in recent years created stronger social ties to each other in Canada. UK style pubs, for example, are in every major city in Canada and it is quite easy to connect to others via social media and in-person. So, despite my challenging questions above, there are ways to move back to Canada and stay connected to British culture and interests.

Topics & Resources List | Your experiences? | Returning to Canada Support



Resources for returning to Canada from the UK


Retiring in Canada


A common question I hear from clients moving back from the UK:

"Can I move my pension to Canada?

When I clarify with them their goal in asking this question, I hear: They would like to move their entire state pension lump sum value to Canada to be paid to them in regular monthly payments by the Canadian government, not the UK government.

The answer: No.

Great idea, and it would simplify your monthly payments nicely, but you cannot move your whole pension as a lump sum to Canada.

Of course, when you move back to Canada you can receive your monthly pension payments, in GBP, to your bank account in Canada. You will have to deal with the conversion costs every month (fees and changing value of the GBP/CAD currencies) and there are some wrinkles, such as your pension won't "increase" every year because you don't live in the UK. The official UK Gov site on this. It can be a bit hard to decipher the actual impacts of moving to Canada from this site, but trust that you won't be double-taxed on your pension income.

Some feedback on *state* pensions from J. McBride, a Canadian in the UK:

Great website, thank you. But please point out that Canadians who have worked in the UK do NOT have 'favourable' pension arrangements if they retire in Canada. Their UK pensions are 'frozen' at the time they leave the UK for Canada, and are not uprated in line with inflation. (This is not true if they retire to some other countries, including the US).
British pensions in Canada

This is a very sticky point for many retirees who have pensions coming from the UK that are not indexed because they live in Canada. There is a organization called Alliance of British Pensioners who are working to change this. I first learned about this group from a bumper sticker on a car in Victoria, BC!

For sure this is a concern, particularly in these times of change in the UK, Europe, and in Canada, too. If you are going to receive a fixed, non-indexed pension in Canada, the conversion rate between the GBP and CDN is of increased importance. If you see a slow degrade in the purchasing power of your pension over time, coupled with a decline in what the GBP/CDN exchange rate, you may find the quality of your lifestyle under threat. However, if the GBP strengthens when the country comes fully out of the BREXIT complications, you could see more CDN for your GBP when your pension gets send to you.

See the Foreign Exchange section on this page about historic conversion rates and if you are going to receive a fixed pension from the UK, please take care now to "hedge" other investments and savings to ensure that you can protect the quality of your lifestyle.

There is now a dedicated "Retiring in Canada" resource page on this site. Here you will find a pension terminology comparison chart and resources and tips covering the whole process of preparing and making the move back to Canada to retire. I created it in response to the growing number of returning Canadians who are returning to Canada from the UK, U.S., Australia, and further abroad to retire here.


Topics & Resources List | Your experiences? | Returning to Canada Support



Moving your belongings


Sea container for moving your belongings to Canada

Unless you plan to bring a few suitcases and boxes with you by air, a 20' or 40' sea container works well. The sea route between the UK and North America is direct and well-serviced by shipping companies, making a move to eastern and central Canada (Toronto, Ottawa, etc.) a pretty standard and relatively modestly priced move for the distance your belongings will travel. If you plan to move to the west coast of Canada plan for your container to take significantly longer to arrive as it will either go through the Panama canal or arrive on the east coast of Canada and be sent by train to the west coast.

What to bring:

Due to shipping costs, low-value items and those that won't be of use in Canada (appliances that run on 220v, for example) are not worth shipping.

Some general items that are worth shipping to Canada with you:

What not to bring:

Topics & Resources List | Your experiences? | Returning to Canada Support



Moving pets to Canada


Moving your beloved canine or feline family member to Canada

Moving a beloved canine or feline family member from the UK to Canada is very doable! While larger animals (such as horses) or smaller ones (such as birds, ferrets, and even hamsters) can be moved, the process is different for each and physically bringing them presents some logistics challenges. If you have small or large animal, do research ahead of time what is possible and engage the help of an international pet moving service if you need really special care.

But for modest sized dogs and all house cats, Richard L. shares his experience and suggestions for preparing and flying with them to Canada:


After living in the UK for 20 years, I decided to move back to Canada after the passing of my second wife, to be closer to my children and grandchildren in the Toronto area. It was imperative that my little miniature dachshund come back with me. After research, I found that some airlines (including Air Canada) allow small dogs in the cabin with you. I made sure that the carrier was in compliance with the airline policy (size and weight) and that all his jabs were up to date including a Rabies vaccination (which is not usually given in the UK as Rabies does not exist there). Get a Pet Passport from your vet (that is essential).

Be aware, UK regulations state you can EXIT the UK with a dog/cat in cabin with you but you cannot ENTER the UK with a dog/cat in cabin. It is very important that when booking your flight, you state you wish to bring your dog on board with you and not in the "hold". There is a weight restriction on the size of the animal also so larger dogs cannot fly in cabin.

Confirm with the airline a few days before departure, that they have your pet marked for in cabin flight. Arriving at the airport only to find out they don't could be catastrophic. On the day of the flight, do not feed him and only give water. Your carrier can be lined with a puppy training pad in the even he needs to go desperately. Book in EARLY to deal with any issues that may arise. I had no trouble fortunately and all went well, We flew business class back to Canada and my dog Reggie was very well behaved.

We were of course on arrival at YYZ referred to secondary inspection, where I declared there was chattels and wares following. Border security and customs inspected Reggie's Pet Passport and flagged us through withy no issues whatsoever. Reggie became a Canadian Citizen immediately. Good luck / Bonne Chance.
Read More

Thank you, Richard, for laying out for others how to make the journey home with their pets smooth and easy!


Topics & Resources List | Your experiences? | Returning to Canada Support



Taxes


As mentioned above, Canada and the UK have a tax treaty and so you don't have to anticipate major tax problems when you move back to Canada.

Your return to Canada will likely entail advising investment, pension, and tax authorities in the UK with attendant paperwork to fill out. But again, there should be no significant tax impact to you as a result of your return and of being in Canada unless you have very significant investments you are keeping in the UK.

From the many UK clients I have worked with, one context does require some significant forethought and preparation: If you plan to continue owning real estate in the UK while living in Canada. In this case, be sure to get a credible third-party valuation done on your property around the time of your move to ensure that any capital gains that accrue after you move are accurately accounted for so that you won't pay tax on gains earned before you move. Note: Once you are resident in Canada your world-wide income and capital gains from all sources become taxable in Canada.

If your situation is complicated I do recommend engaging my services and perhaps also obtaining professional advice from a tax accountant in Canada who specializes in international taxes (I can help you assess whether you need an accountant).

Actually finding a professional tax accountant in Canada who has the expertise to handle the implications of a move from the UK is not easy! I have vetted lots of accountants across Canada and have only a handful who are both experts AND have great interpersonal skills. One individual and firm who stands out for UK / Canada tax planning and filing expertise:

Mo Ahmad, WestMark Tax

Mo Ahmad
Founder and Partner
WestMark Tax
Canadian offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary

Web site: WestMark Tax

Phone: 604.637.9775 (Vancouver)


Note: I receive no commission or kickback of any kind for this recommendation,
so you can trust that this is unbiased referral.

Topics & Resources List | Your experiences? | Returning to Canada Support



Transferring Funds to Canada & Foreign Exchange


Part 1: When to transfer funds to Canada


The UK economy is very different than Canada's and our respective currencies will not move in a predictable pattern between each other. Here is a 4 year graph of the GBP-CAD exchange rates, to give you a picture of where rates have been and are now:

GBP timing considerations when converting to Canadian dollars

Source of the data for this graph: OFX - Foreign Exchange.

As of the latest update of this chart, the GBP is below the average exchange rate vis a vis the CAD for the last 4 years. There is a bit of a disadvantage of doing exchanges from GBP to CAD at this time but this may change at any time so keep an eye on exchange rates. If you are moving back now and need to move a large amount as part of the move be sure to use a foreign exchange firm as they can help you get a "target" rate by timing a transfer to the market in a way that can save you thousands of dollars.

Some foreign exchange considerations:

Check today's current GBP to CAD exchange rate:

Note: Exchange rates change every minute and the rates quoted here are "Market" rates. Your final exchange rate will vary from it (more or less to you) depending on the rate at the time of your transaction.

OFX Currency Converter

Part 2: Exchanging funds to CAD from GBP (or another currency)


Suggestion: Don't transfer money to Canada through your bank and have your UK or Canadian bank do the foreign exchange for you as part of the transfer! If you are exchanging GBP to CAD and sending the funds to Canada use a dedicated foreign exchange company for the exchange. For GBP 5,000 or larger amounts, you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars on very large amounts compared to having your UK or Canadian bank do the transfer and exchange. Really. No joke. No risk. It just works.

Use an FX company when converting to Canadian dollars from GBP

Three foreign exchange firms that my clients recommend:


1. Torfx - Professional, solid, great exchange rates, up-front and no-nonsense in their dealings with clients. Used by my clients, who referred Torfx to me.

TorFx has three special benefits that may be of interest to you:

First, they assign someone to work with you in setting up your account, making exchange timing decisions, and getting things done. You are not just dealing with an impersonal "system" but will have a real person to work with instead. You can still do things online but there is the reassurance of having someone to be of support.

Second, TorFx can help you "lock-in" rates. For example, if you plan to buy a house in Canada in a few months they can help with a "forward contract" and/or the ability to wait for a certain exchange rate, at which time the foreign exchange transaction is done. This allows you either immediate certainty that you will not "lose" if the exchange rate changes and/or the ability to gain if the GBP goes up, for example, between now and when you want the funds in Canada in CDN.

Third, TorFx can hold onto your funds until you need them. In conjunction with the second benefit above, they can act as a temporary "bank" for weeks or months if need be between the movement and exchange of your funds. This minimizes transaction costs in moving money into and out of bank accounts and allows for the opportunity to wait for a good exchange rate.

2. OFX is long-standing international and very professional foreign exchange firm. Many Canadians around the world are very pleased with OFX for their one-time or on-going transfers + foreign exchange conversions (such as having pensions converted monthly on their way to Canada). OFX has offices in the UK and in Canada as well as other major financial centres. They offer excellent exchange rates that can save you at hundreds or thousands of dollars on larger amounts being converted.

3. Wise (former name: TransferWise)- Also used by my clients and recommended to me by them, Wise is transparent, straight-forward, and clear in their dealings with clients. Check out their nifty "borderless account", too.





Your idea? Your thoughts? Your experiences?

Your ideas, considerations, and experiences?


Please share your ideas, thoughts, and experiences relating to returning to Canada from the UK. Your input will really help others who are considering the move as well. A big thank you on behalf of the many people you will be helping!

Thank you!

Paul Kurucz
Canada


Latest update to this resource: May 2022.





Would you like help with your move?


Paul Kurucz

Would you like help with your move?


Paul Kurucz

Would you like help with your move?


Paul Kurucz

I offer professional support to help you prepare for a smooth and easy return to Canada so you can feel confident and organized!

Your questions about when to move back, taxes, investments and finances, bringing back your household belongings, health care, and more will be answered promptly and professionally, with resources to back up what you need. My 18 years of supporting over 1,200 clients gives me a depth of expertise across all aspects of planning and returning to Canada.

Paul Kurucz - Canada


A happy client:

Hi Paul,

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

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

With best wishes,

Caroline

Feedback from a UK visitor to this web site:


Thank you for your informative site. I should have signed up for your support. I am ready to throw our belongings in the Atlantic I am so fed up with trying to figure everything out.

Paul's professional support





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