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!
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:
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. Before we get into my insights gained from the many Canadians in the UK I have worked with here is a great little video on this topic in October 2023 by a Canadian who has lived in the UK for years: Is life better in Canada or UK (An Honest Review).
Let's start by looking at the commonalities and differences from the context of consideration of a move back to Canada:
Q: "How are you going to get to Vancouver for your meeting tomorrow? [from Toronto]The sheer size of Canada gives people a different sense of scope, perhaps, than that of people living in the UK. Cities are not as close together in Canada as they are in the UK. Canada is not close to various European centres in absolute terms, too. While you can easily fly from London on a super-cheap flight to a weekend in Paris, you cannot easily do the same between Vancouver and Paris or between Vancouver and New York.
A: "I'm going to take the overnight train."
I worked as a teacher in the Alberta school system before working as a teacher in the UK system for 10 years. I would pick Alberta’s school system in a heartbeat. There is a huge class divide here in the UK in terms of education. A private education does offer a more sophisticated option but state schools certainly do not. The curriculum was stable and well planned in Alberta. In the UK, it continuously changes according to whichever education minister is in power which causes immense problems for both staff and students. Recruitment is such an issue that many students outside of London end up taught by supply teachers for subject such as maths and sciences. However, the biggest drawback to me is that the UK system builds a sense of failure in most students from a very young age. Everything is about a test. The Canadian approach is more wholistic building confidence, breadth of subject knowledge (more like the IB program) and other important skills like teamwork and creativity. Canadian students consistently outrank UK students on international Pisa testing. If there is one thing that is drawing me back to Canada, from an educator's perspective, it is the wish for a Canadian education over a UK based one.
My first shock occurred 3 days after I arrived in June -- a dental emergency ended up costing me $1000 of which my travel insurance paid half. (Lesson - make sure you have travel/medical insurance and check that it covers dental). If my teeth had been injured I would have received full payment but root canal is not fully covered.
My second shock occurred this week -- the cost of car insurance!! Wow!!! In the UK, I paid roughly $350/year fully comprehensive. I've been getting quotes here in Ontario from between $1200-1700 per year! (4-5X higher!)
I've semi-retired and am living on a modest pension so this is not an insignificant cost. And, I need a car in order to get around. (Third shock is the shocking lack of affordable and convenient public transport that I was used to in Scotland -- and over 60s were given bus passes which allow you to travel free anywhere in Scotland + 1/3 off rail fares.)
If anyone has advice about cheap car insurance, I'd appreciate it.
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.
Perhaps the following three questions can help with clarity on moving back, and whether it makes sense for you:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
Thank you, Richard, for laying out for others how to make the journey home with their pets smooth and easy!
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:
Founder and Partner
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.
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:
Source of the data for this graph: OFX - Foreign Exchange.
As of the latest update of this chart, the GBP is about the average exchange rate vis a vis the CAD for the last 4 years. This is a relatively good time to do exchanges from GBP to CAD 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:
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.
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.
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!
Latest update to this resource: November 2023.