Here you will find an array of resources and tips from other Canadians specific to your move from the U.S.
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 United States can be a smooth process, with only a few wrinkles to be careful with. Having the world's longest undefended border certainly makes our countries similar in culture and trusting of each other in many ways, despite the occasional family disagreement.
Some of the commonalities between Canada and the U.S. that returning Canadians can rely on:
Some of the differences between Canada and the U.S.:
Shirley Farrell shares her insightful story of moving back to ON from Nevada:
I finally made it back to my native Country of Canada. The city of Cambridge in the province of Ontario. With two dogs, and two cats it was not a really easy drive from Nevada...but we made it! 6 days on the road...about 2300 miles. I brought rabies vaccination papers signed by the vet for each of my animals to give to the Canadian Border Crossing Agent. (she was very nice). We had the cage covered with the two cats in it, but she didn't ask to see inside the cage.
We have been in town for about a month, (December). Thrust ourselves into the beginning of winter, but we really like the change. A little bit of a culture shock when it comes to the prices of things...more expensive than Las Vegas. We'll get used to it. My schnauzer loves the snow, he wants to go outside all the time. It was so hot in Nevada last summer, and the heat never seemed to really go away even in November...it was still 75 degrees. We like the cold...so much healthier.
There are many resources here for job seekers and people over 55, which is what we are. I'm looking for a job until my retirement date 3 years from now. I already made some work contacts. So many places to walk here, without having to worry about being a victim of crime. We didn't bring any of our furniture...but we've managed to find used items with the help of my son, and everyone is so generous when it comes to giving things away that they no longer need. Glad I saved my gloves and scarves: One really needs them here.
Canadians are a helpful bunch and very friendly. They love their coffee too...Coffee and doughnut shops everywhere. Tim Horton's for one. Lots of little family owned businesses. Quite a bit of culture and great food. We walk almost everywhere because we live downtown. America was kind to me, but there is no place like home!"
My only other thought is that when Canadians move back to Canada, they should embrace the winter and not hide from it...makes it much easier.
Thank you, Shirley, for sharing your experiences and insights! (Please share your ideas, considerations, and experiences relating to returning to Canada from the USA!)
The health care system in Canada is quite different from that of the U.S., as you most likely know.
Understanding these differences is important if you are retiring to Canada, have chronic or worrying health concerns, or have medications you wish to ensure continuity of when you move back to Canada.
Key differences include how you access health care, how elective procedures are handled, and the general philosophy towards health care.
Because of the number of questions I have received from clients relating to differences between the U.S. and Canadian health care systems, I have created a dedicated resource page to help Canadians returning from the U.S. understand these differences and to answer frequently asked questions:
Health Care in Canada - How Canada's health care system is different from the U.S. system.
Most Canadians returning from the U.S. consider buying real estate before they arrive or soon after. And for many good reasons, including the strong USD which in comparison to the CAD gives you a 30% bonus as of the writing of this.
Moving back from the U.S. gives you some very specific advantages over Canadians moving from other countries:
However, there are also real differences between the U.S. and Canadian real estate markets and how to go about researching and buying property in Canada. And you may not have purchased a property recently in the U.S. or in Canada, so the process can feel quite uncertain. To help with this, I created a dedicated "Buying Real Estate in Canada" resource on this site:
Buying Real Estate in Canada - A resource for Canadians living in the U.S. or abroad.
As well, I have a free monthly newsletter that can help you keep up to date on what is happening in real estate in Canada. It is part news and part educational topics that cover a range of topics of concern and interest to Canadians:
This section of the USA resource focuses on general move logistics. Note: The home page of this web site is the main resource for general logistics considerations and is very comprehensive. This page contains USA-specific resources and suggestions only.
If you find the planning overwhelming, the Moving Back to Canada Planner / Checklist organizes the steps into an editable check list format.
Before diving into the logistics considerations, here are a few considerations from Emily T. on her move back. Why I post this feedback first is because it illustrates a few principles that if followed will make your move much more smooth:
Bill Rose shares his experience and thoughts:
I think the other thing that worked in our favor was we crossed at lightly used, 24 hr border crossings - no officers were stressed or overworked, and we never waited in a line-up. We moved to a small town, so personal interactions are WAY more important here than in a big, faceless city, and we had great experiences working with bankers, insurance, utilities and the Registries people. We also had maintained a Canadian bank account over the entire 22 years we lived in the US; for sure that helped on the banking side. We were also prepared to be patient and friendly, even though the wheels of government turn slowly and frustratingly, at times.
My final observation is that having a utility or bank statement - PRINTED and MAILED to you - with your new Canadian address was enormously helpful. A couple should have BOTH names on this statement. Printing out a .pdf version is NOT the same, so DO NOT SIGN UP for electronic delivery of all your statements! Switch to e-delivery AFTER you're done with settling in! We added the City water/sewer bill to our Binder - many times that was what an official needed to see we were "legit".
We also went through very straightforward steps to re-activate SINs (your site was spot-on with ORIGINAL birth certificates and marriage certificates), and all the other steps it has taken to get re-established in Canada.
Your site has been immeasurably helpful, so thank you for compiling that resource!
Thank you, Bill for sharing your thoughts!
Emily T. from her return to Canada from the U.S.:
In order to forward to international addresses, you need to fill out a paper form at a US post office. US post office employees may tell you (as they did me) that you can do this all online, but they are INCORRECT. The online form only works for changes of address within the US, which is obviously not helpful. For international relocations you need to get the paper form in person, and if you fail to do this before leaving for Canada you'll have to write a letter to your formerly-local US postmaster and hope he or she is helpful.
If you have any way to open a Canadian bank account in advance of your move it's going to make your life a lot easier. When you open a new bank account, the first check deposit you make into it may not actually be accessible to you for a period of time (may be up to a month depending on the bank) so if you can get this out of the way before you actually need to use the bank account it will be more convenient. Consider depositing cash instead of a check if you can, as this will be available right away. Also note that it will take 2 weeks to get any checks for a new account, and depending on your city, you may be asked for post-dated checks to pay your rent, so this can cause some issues with renting an apartment. And, the sooner you open a bank account in Canada, the sooner you can start building up a credit rating which will make it easier to get a credit card right away when you arrive. If you don't have a bank account until you arrive, you probably won't be able to apply for a credit card until you've paid a few bills/received a few paychecks, in other words, a month or more. If you'll be in that situation, be aware you'll need to keep using your US credit card for a month or more and ensure you have funds to cover it still in the US.
You'll need to get a new mobile phone number in Canada, which means switching out your sim card from the old phone. Remember that nowadays your old phone number will be tied to all sorts of online accounts, such as your bank account, and you'll need to log into all of them and update your phone number before the old one stops working, otherwise if you forget your password or need phone verification for some other reason, you won't be able to do this. Also, there is a big difference in mobile phone plans so it's worth doing some research on the best deal depending on where you live. If you'll be in a big city, some of the smaller, newer companies like Freedom mobile offer excellent deals with unlimited texting to US and Canadian numbers which may be worth checking out as well as the "big name" providers.
Thank you, Emily, for sharing your useful logistics thoughts!
Because Canada and USA are connected by great road systems, moving your goods can be done quite easily. Coming across the Canadian border is pretty straight forward. Here are some tips:
Just a quick note to thank you again for your advice and your web materials. Among many, one piece of advice we took was to move ourselves. We hired a U-Haul truck and crossed the border a week ago. Given we did a good job of documenting our truck manifest and the goods to follow, the Customs stop was less than 10 minutes! Couldn't have gone more smoothly. We saved a ton of time and a ton of $ too. We're back in Chicago loading a second truck and know that the next (& final) border crossing trip will go great. Once we get settled, I'll be sure to write a testimonial story on your website. Meanwhile thanks again for your help.
There are four types of movers available to you:
You are pretty safe with "top-tier" movers because they have a reputation to uphold and are in the business of being professional. It is the second group, "Professional movers", where the challenges can happen and you need to do your research. I found this great article by Consumerist (The publication arm of the non-profit Consumers Reports - Consumer Union), which goes into some detail and provides great resources for choosing a moving company in the U.S.:
How to Protect Yourself from Getting Scammed by Bad Movers
Ann shared her U-Haul move experience:
We're self starters and while our move to the US was a corporate transfer, our return was self funded and thrifty. Husband drove a U-Haul truck containing all our possessions; we handled vehicle exporting (from US) and importing (to Canada) ourselves without professional help. It can be done! Here are a few things that come to mind.
Moving by U-Haul
On the U-Haul website you can find affiliate businesses that offer services such as packing, loading and unloading. We did all our own packing but used the website to hire affiliate movers for loading and unloading. For a long distance move, the van needs to be properly loaded to keep everything safely in place. The Atlanta loading crew (Nimb Moving) was amazing!
We printed labels with big numbers and stuck them on each packed box and item. We filled a spreadsheet as we packed, entering on each row the item number and a short description of the contents. We later added an estimated value for each item, then printed off the spreadsheet and attached it to our BSF186 form. Canada Customs praised the quality of this documentation. When we arrived in Victoria, most of our stuff went into storage while we stayed with family and waited for our house to sell in the US and subsequently found a house locally. The packing inventory turned out to be invaluable when we had to go into storage and find things we needed on a couple of occasions, and when we eventually moved to our new home. Movers would say "73?" and the person holding the list would say "dining room!"
Blackball Ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria
On the recommendation of your website [see contribution below for recommendation], we entered Canada via the ferry from Port Angeles. US Customs in Port Angeles and Canada Customs in Victoria were both very pleasant. US Customs in Port Angeles will process a vehicle export on any sailing of the Coho (at least, this was true when we came - readers should always check current information). This is not true at Peace Arch on the mainland, where they only do vehicle exports during certain office hours.
Thank you, Ann, for sharing your experience!
Emily T. shares her experience of engaging moving services for her return to Canada:
I was really disappointed to find out how very UN-helpful many of the moving companies I contacted were. Several didn't bother to ever get back to me, others required repeated follow ups just to get a quote out of them. I am guessing they prefer to work with corporate clients on larger profit moves, and aren't that interested in individuals, but it was no less frustrating. I ended up finding a company called "My International Movers" (http://myinternationalmovers.com) which had good ratings and excellent responsiveness, and was far and away more helpful than anyone else I contacted (even companies other people had recommended to me).
Thank you, Emily, for sharing your experience!
Moving less than a container load (LCL) of belongings back to Canada from the U.S.? George V. moved to Victoria, BC and shares his story of receiving his pallet of personal belongings:
It turned out to be fairly easy to receive the pallet. I received a phone call from Canadian Freightways that they had my pallet in their bonded warehouse, and I could come by and pick-up the paperwork. I took the paperwork over to customs house along with my list of goods to follow. The customs officer checked items off the list and then stamped the paperwork, which I took back to the warehouse. The sufferance warehouse fee was $97.00 for one pallet (which included a 48 hour storage time period). After that I could have contacted UPS freight about delivering it to my house. With all of the pallet being able to fit into my vehicle, I just took possession of it at the warehouse and drove it home myself.
What I would look into for any possible future shipments is to see if there is a price difference for just having it shipped directly to the warehouse vs. having it shipped to the house. Might save a bit of money that way.
Thank you, George, for sharing your story!
Marilyn shares her experience of using professional movers for her move back to Canada:
I moved back to London, Ontario, Canada after 42yrs living in the states. I found the move went very smoothly. I had professional movers, we had all the documents in order, basic moving inventory sheets. I was told to go to the London airport to customs, my movers had to go to secure warehouse, they faxed over my copy of documents within 10 minutes I was given the clear and my movers were back on the road again, it was simple as 1,2,3.
Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing your story!
Lynne P. shares her experience of moving back to Canada through Victoria:
Looking for a great place to cross the border from the US to Canada (in BC)? I highly recommend taking the Coho ferry from Pt. Angeles to Victoria. Total time for us to go through the entire "entry" process (myself, my husband, our mover and moving van, 2 cats, 1 dog was 45 minutes from the time we got off the ferry until we drove out of the Customs area with all our papers stamped. oh, and it really helps to have your B4 and B4a forms [now BSF186 and BSF186A] completed ahead of time (be as detailed as possible) - and of course, have all the papers relevant to your vehicles ready to show US customs and then Canadian Customs. Btw, if you have your vehicle papers all in order (pink slips and other required papers), the US Customs at Pt Angeles don't make you show those papers 72 hours in advance (which it says on the forms). Highly competent and pleasant Canadian officials (and the guys in Pt Angeles with whom we dealt with for the vehicles were great too)
Thank you, Lynne, for sharing your experience!
Bringing your dog or cat with you to Canada can be very straightforward, or not. The only paperwork you need is a veterinarian's rabies clearance certificate. If you are driving across the border, you simply present the certificate, if asked. Easy.
That said, if you wish to fly your pet to Canada, each airline has their special instructions and processes, and because your pet is going over the border, you will need to plan this a bit more carefully if they are flying unaccompanied. But generally, flying works well for dogs, cats and even, in the case of one of my clients, a budgie!
Emily T. shares her pet repatriation experience:
I brought a small cat with me, and decided that rather than drive for days with a miserable cat, it would be better to fly and get it over with in a few hours, then ship the car. Air Canada has direct flights from most major US cities and they allow pets under a certain weight (15lbs I think?) to be taken into the plane with you as carry on. They recommend a soft-sided pet carrier (I used the "Jet Sitter Luxury Soft Sided Pet Carrier" https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01MEI0BTG with some "Dry Fur Pet Carrier Insert Pads" in case of accidents) and this fits under the seat in front of you. You will need to get a rabies vaccination certificate from your vet to bring with you (customs will need to see this when you arrive) and both my vet and the airline recommended AGAINST any tranquilizers. Warning: when exiting the US, the TSA made me take the cat out of the carrier and walk through the metal detector holding the cat. If your pet is likely to try and escape (and this is a terrifying area for a pet) you may want to put them in a collar/harness in advance.
Thank you, Emily, for sharing your experience!
Returning to Canada from the U.S. with your vehicle would seem to be a simple exercise, right? After all, large numbers of vehicles that are sold in USA are actually made in Canada! And we have had a long-standing automotive pact and now a free-trade agreement with America, right? And we have almost identical driving systems - cars, roads, etc!
Unfortunately, despite the seeming logic of Canada and the U.S. similarities, bringing your American purchased vehicle back with you (called "importing") is a process you have to work through step-by-step and diligently.
In summary, you follow these general steps:
If you plan to import your USA purchased vehicle into Canada, I suggest doing your research and planning early in your moving process. Here are three links that can help you do your own vehicle export & import:
Cost me all of 15 minutes and $35 for both vehicles to get my ITN online with these guys : Simplified Trade Solutions. Highly recommended - when I registered both vehicles separately on their website, expecting to pay $35 each, they spotted the duplication and put both vehicle on the same form for one price. Impressive for a low cost online service!"(Thank you for the great tip, Tony!)
Take your time to really understand the process to ensure it works smoothly for you!
Some feedback from D. Panting on his experience:
We just moved back to Canada from the U.S. Part of that was importing our vehicle. I used your page for directions and wanted to confirm that everything went very smoothly. I used Simplified Solutions (as recommended by one of your other readers) to generate and file the ITN. Using their link to my Port of Entry, I emailed the ITN, Title, and the VIN ahead of time, and when I got there the whole thing went smoothly for both the export and then import. Hardest part was finding how to get in to the U.S. POE without crossing the border! Thanks very much for sharing all this great information!
Be sure to come to the border on weekdays in business hours only! A suggestion shared by C. Morris who returned in 2020:
My family and I successfully relocated to Canada last week and your site and planner was a HUGE help.
One piece that almost caught us out was vehicle exporting. A key detail that I found out after digging deeper was that the US Export offices are open 8am to 3:30 or 4pm on weekdays only. We had already booked movers for a weekend so this posed a problem. We ended up working around it by driving up to the border a couple of days before the move to get the export stamp (then turning around to go back to the US which was not straightforward). Not everyone may be within easy driving distance to the border. It might be useful to note the export restriction to weekday business hours in the vehicle section of your site so that people who want to export vehicles in a single trip are sure to plan their crossing appropriately.
Thanks again for creating this valuable set of resources! We’re thrilled to be in Canada now.
Catching you up on the fabulous adventures of Purleen (2015 Prius V)
Wow, it has been a while since I've written about her, yet she has been a cause of intense concern since last summer when I first became aware of the effects of her somewhat checkered past. Oh, and her name is derived from the color listed on Toyota's description of this Prius -- Pearl, not white, but Pearl.
That title stamped 'REBUILT" has meant months of worry -- especially since if you google how to import a car into Canada -- the language of their legal requirements is SO rigid. Here it is in one version, most of the others are similar:
Salvage or rebuilt salvage vehicles can be imported into Canada as parts-only vehicles through a Vehicle Imported for Parts Form Form 3 regardless of the source of the damage. However, once a vehicle has entered Canada on Form 3, it can never be licensed in Canada.
Phew -- as you recall, I tried to get her cleared before actually moving here, but that effort (22 hours driving in 24 hours) was stymied at every turn.
Okay -- most cars brought here just need to pass one test -- to get a Safety Standards Certificate. And that can be done briefly and inexpensively at any Canadian Tire store. But Purleen needed another -- the Structural Inspection Certificate -- because of that "Rebuit" -- kind of like her Scarlet Letter. (!)
So late last week, after I had spent hours of effort to try to wind up my very complicated change of country financial issues -- I had to take on Purleen's citizenship.
I only had a few days because this had to be done before January 24th -- I officially entered Canada on 11/24/19, and the time limit to get her approved was 60 days. I was told if it didn't happen in this time frame, that was it. She would be "undocumented" and deported! :(((
So I went to Canadian Tire, they said they could do the safety standards test, not the other. AND they could not recommend a mechanic for me, that is against the rules. I decided not to do a half assed job -- to look for a place that could handle both.
My first day of calling, after several efforts, I found a guy in London (about an hour's drive from here) who could do it -- but it would take TWO DAYS!!! What?? I told him I would look for someone in Sarnia (2 hours drive) because they had a border crossing and might be more accustomed to this request. If I found no one there, I would call him back and stay over for the 2 days!
I located a shop in Sarnia, the man who answered the phone told me I would have to speak with Fred -- the only guy there who could book this thing. I left my number and waited to hear back. Fred didn't call. The next day, I called again, was told Fred was out, and left my number again. Fred didn't call. That was a Friday -- on Monday, I called again, no Fred, but I asked the man who did answer if this would need 2 days to get completed.
"Oh yes, Ma'am -- we will need your car for 2 days!" Argh! I left my number again and asked for Fred to call back. I was beginning to accept the 2-day requirement, no choice.
Fred didn't call. So I googled mechanics in Woodstock and Kitchener -- finally got a guy who said he knew of a guy in Kitchener, but not the name or number. "Just google body shops, you'll find him! Might be called something like 'Deluxe'." I told him how hard this process was turning out to be, and he responded: "Right, ma'am -- a lot of shops stopped doing them because of the paperwork."
Argh again! I googled body shops in K-Waterloo -- there were a lot of mechanics/body shops with "Deluxe" as part of their name. I finally made one last call -- this one had a Lamborghini on the website, that conjured up all kinds of images of $$$ out the window.
A gruff and accented voice answered the phone with "Jimmy here" -- and I made my request. "Certainly, I can handle that for you. Bring your car in tomorrow."
"Will this take 2 days?" "Oh no, only about 4-5 hours. I'll get it completed for you tomorrow."
WOW! I questioned him again, wanting to be sure we were talking about the same thing. "Yep, I do those all the time. Can you get here by 10:00 a.m.?"
"Yes, I'll see you then. Is there a library nearby?" "Not far, and I'll take you over, no problem!"
Jimmy turned out to be as good as his word. For some reason, he didn't give his last name -- but from the card I picked up in his shop, his full name is Jimmy Minassian, and he is Armenian (I recognized the name from a couple I married years ago).
On our drive to the library, I asked how long he had been doing this work. He smiled and said: "You know, it's been about 20 years now. I get clients from all over the world -- and it's only because I decided that you need to find out what you're good at, then make it work. That's what I did back then."
What a delight! He came back to the library and picked me up around 2:30, gave me both certificates -- and I thanked him profusely. The fee was close to $1,000 -- but well worth it since I could now keep my car (and she's turning out to be pretty accomplished on snow -- very relieved to find that out)!!!
So yesterday, I went back to Service Ontario with all the paperwork, and Purleen is now a Canadian citizen!
I can highly recommend Jimmy's work and attention to detail, as well as his kindness in dropping me at the library to spend the day. And Kitchener is centrally located in Ontario, so if you have any clients with the rebuilt issue, he's your guy.
Here is a link to his website (he omits the last "e" from Delux)
Thanks much, Paul, for all your assistance, big hugs, Marian
Heidi Krajicek on her return with vehicles and being organized:
Your website really helped me organize and prepare documentation for my border crossing. I moved back to Canada in August after 15 years in the US. My crossing went smoothly. Preparation for export of my vehicles from the US included going to the US side of the border with prepared export forms just before I went to the Canadian side. I put all documentation in a binder, labeled it and prepaid online (Identification copies, RIV, Vehicle Titles, Insurance, Tabs, Driver's Abstract, Simplified Solutions forms printed). I had the 14 day quarantine address and contacts that were going to help me listed. Although I would have liked to keep it all online - I felt a printed copy is just easier for border officials to leaf through. Also avoids any issues if you can't access your online folders for some reason.
The whole process took 1 hour for both sides of the border. I would recommend using Simplified Solutions to export. You need this and the ITN number. On the BSF186A Personal Effects Accounting Document, you must list value of items - even if it's old books (i.e. 10$) just an estimate. You also need to add the total of all good imported. Total value of vehicles imported is listed separately.
After my quarantine, in BC the Federal RIV inspection agency was Canadian Tire. They will need copies of the stamped Export Title and the Canadian import 186A form, stamped by the Canadian border showing when the vehicle entered Canada. Once the Federal RIV inspection is done - then you get to do the Provincial Inspection. After that you will need to get insurance. This is where your Driver's Abstract, your previous insurance history, the 196A form from the border listing the value of your vehicle, and your federal inspection forms from Canadian Tire or other approved federal inspection agency.
It was a process, but the process was made easier following the tips on this website.
Be patient, don't get flustered with the paperwork, be prepared, have copies and be ready to just take your time at the border : )
Thank you, Heidi, for sharing your experience and wisdom! "Be patient, don't get flustered with the paperwork, be prepared, have copies and be ready to just take your time at the border : ) " Excellent guidance!
Bill Rose on his experience with vehicles coming from the U.S.:
Your previous correspondents are 100% correct - prepare early and DIY. The documents we needed for our car included the CLEAR title, the Bill of Sale (I got ours by contacting the finance group at the dealer we purchased from - they scanned it and sent to me), Work orders showing all mandated recall work was completed (get copies from the dealer), the RIV document, and the ITN export form. I put everything in a binder and no matter who we talked to, I brought the entire binder with me. You just never knew who was going to want to see what, so I brought everything. Also note, always, always bring your passport with you whenever you talk to an official - it is the highest and best form of identification.
We exported at Portal in North Dakota/North Portal, SK and registered in AB. The export was as you've described - we emailed the ITN a week or two ahead, PHONED the US Portal CBP office to ask for directions (!) to get into the export office, and it took only 30 mins with a US officer. They stamped the title with an "exported" stamp. If you are super detailed, have google maps "satellite" view of the border crossing printed out and note the directions to their office directly on the map.
On the Canadian side, we had the car, a boat and all our possessions with us in the Uhaul van (we made quite a convoy), so the border process took about 2 hours. We were ASKED the value of our car, which was a bit of a surprise, but I had researched some online used car sites for similar cars in SK, I was ready with a CAD$, at the lowest realistic figure. We got the $10,000 deduction you mention, then a formal-looking receipt called "Casual Goods Accounting Document" that showed we paid Excise Tax and GST. We also got copies of a "Vehicle Import Form - Form 1". BOTH the RIV form and "Form 1" are needed for all subsequent steps, along with the Title and Bill of Sale, at least in AB. We also did some paperwork for our possessions, but that was as you described in your website. The officer was friendly and easy to work with. It did help having The Binder [Bill notes in another part of his feedback that he has a single binder with all his documentation in it, which kept him and his wife organized].
Canadian Tire did the RIV inspection - I had previously decided on them during the online RIV application process - then I also called ahead for an RIV appointment. Make SURE the inspector stamps/initials BOTH the RIV form and the "Form 1". The RIV people sent us via Canada Post the certification label that is adhered to the drivers door pillar, stating the vehicle complies with Canadian safety requirements. In AB, The Registries is the province-wide offices that handles vehicle registrations, plates, etc. They started our registration paperwork via their online system, then us a provincial inspection form that MUST be completed within 2 weeks of the issue date and by an authorized inspector - we had a local Chev dealer inspect our Subaru. We paid almost $200 for the inspection and completed form. We then arranged for insurance (you need your driving records!) and went BACK to The Registries, with all the paperwork and proof of insurance where they finally registered our car and gave us new plates. There was a fair bit of running around.
I think the other thing that worked in our favor was we crossed at lightly used, 24 hr border crossings - no officers were stressed or overworked, and we never waited in a line-up.
Thank you, Bill, for sharing your experience!
Ann on "exporting" their vehicle from the U.S.:
If taking a car with you to Canada, not only does it have to be imported into Canada, first it has to be exported from the US. To do this yourself you have to get an EIN from the IRS, then use the EIN to apply for an account on the CBP ACE portal, then you can use the ACE account to submit an AES Direct application to export a vehicle. You can do all this online and it's not as bad as it seems but the process takes a few days. You have to fax the vehicle title and ITN (a shipment code issued by AES) to the US border crossing you plan to use, 72 hours before arrival. Instead of using the ACE system yourself you can pay a broker to get the ITN for you, but you'll still have to fax US customs and present yourself and the vehicle.
Thank you, Ann, for sharing your experience!
John M. on using a broker for his vehicle:
Having just returned to Calgary from Denver after 42 years in the US, I would STRONGLY recommend using a broker for exporting an auto from the US, as well as any import into Canada of business assets - in my case, a very expensive vfx workstation which I transported in the car to keep my personal goods-to-follow and business assets separate.
I'm at heart a DIY kind of guy and I waded into both processes and related paperwork with lots of coffee, the best of intentions and a strong belief that I could learn what I needed as I proceeded. I quickly realized that I was in quite over my head.
I was absolutely delighted to discover that the fees charged for exporting a car from the US (in my case USD ~80) and importing business assets (in my case USD ~140) were WELL worth the amount of time and brain damage I saved myself.
When I pulled up to Sweetgrass/Coutts at the Montana/Alberta border, I knew the paperwork was correct, and the border control folks knew the paperwork was correct too. I'm sure they were just as relieved as I was that it wasn't going to turn into a cluster.
The company I used was Cole International (there are many others) - which operates on both sides of the crossing. I found them all to be professional, courteous and very responsive, even for my one-time, "small scale" jobs.
Paul, many thanks for your site! It helped me prepare, well in advance, for one of the most difficult, anxiety-producing things I have done in a long, long time.
I am now almost completely unpacked (good thing - my lower back just filed suit against me) and am simply thrilled to be living again in my home town and my beloved "home and native land."
In these times, it is a privilege, an honor and a blessing to be Canadian!
Thank you, John, for sharing your experiences, suggestions, and feedback! And like you, I have a deep appreciation for the gift of being Canadian!
Emily T. on shipping her vehicle:
I decided to ship my car up rather than go through the hassle of selling it, and was initially recommended "Snowbirds Auto Connection". The form on their web site apparently goes to an unanswered void, so I had to call up to get a quote. Possibly this should have been a warning to me. They gave me a good quote and a choice of two dates, 1 March or mid to late March. As I wasn't flying up till the 7th I chose the later date and left my car behind with a friend for pick up, only to have the company suddenly flake and inform me they didn't plan to do a shipment in March or April. Since at that point I'd already left the country, this was pretty concerning, and the responsiveness of the company was very disappointing. Ended up cancelling my contract with them and finding another, "US Canada Auto Transport" (https://uscanadaautotransport.com) who were prompt, competitively priced, and very helpful. Possibly worth mentioning I had also contacted a third company "Ship Your Car Now", but their pricing was several hundred $ higher and they were extremely slow to respond and required 2 follow-ups to even get a quote to me.
Thank you, Emily, for sharing your vehicle shipping experience!
James B. shares his experience:
We passed through the land border at Port Huron. We had followed the instructions for exporting our vehicle and received an email directing us to the customs office on Water Street in Port Huron. Completely wrong! The actual office is located on the bridge to Canada. Access is off Pine Grove Ave, either directly, or via the nearby duty free shop. Drive onto the bridge and stay to the far left. Do not proceed to the toll booth. Stop on the side on the road near some Jersey barriers. Walk around a railroad style gate and into an unmarked office. You may need to ask for directions - tell them you want to export your vehicle. After we found the right office, things went smoothly. An officer took our car's title, looked up some info on his computer, walked out to see our car and stamped the title. We were done! The experience was illuminating. Although the US government threatens large fines if you do not formally export your vehicle, they make it nearly impossible to actually do it. No signs of any kind point you to the correct place. And they provide inaccurate (wildly inaccurate) directions to the responsible office.
Thank you, James, for sharing your experience!
Karen shares here experience of moving her vehicle back:
I just moved back to Ontario after 30 years in the US. Please be aware of the new laws regarding any vehicle you are bringing across the border. The Canadian officials were great and very helpful. The American side is another story. Make sure you check out their website and be prepared to hire a broker for the paperwork they don't allow individuals to do any of the exporting by themselves. Give yourself lots of time, it took me three weeks before I could get mine across and there are only certain crossing that tend to this part of the journey. I had the paperwork they were very picky about it. Good luck.
Thank you again, Karen, for sharing your experience!
Marilyn (from above) also shares her experience with importing her vehicle into Canada from the U.S.:
The confusion came when I received 3 different direction how to apply and were for my car plates and licenses.
Your drivers license comes from testing office, Ontario has understanding with most of the states, if you do not have any validation for 2 years or more on your record. You're not required to take either written or drivers test. Cost $72 for 5 years.
Have documentation from your insurance company stating how long you have been with the if there had been any violation
Have your complete drivers history, you can down load that from the computer. In Indiana it was the department of DMV
Insurance, check around, I was quoted $165 a month for my Ford Escort for full coverage. Another company estimate was to $85 a month Finally I received some what reasonable quote $65. Full coverage for my Escort in Indiana $45 a month for full coverage.
I have been shocked by what the car insurance and Cable service here, but that's another story. Ontario requires $1 million dollar coverage.
Car safety and emission check certification. Emission cost set by Ontario $35, safety check average additional $75 totaling $140. Ouch, my car passed the emission test, but, they ding me on my head lights covers were too dull due to age.
It was never suggested to me by my mechanic they should be replaced. I had tiny rock chip that had been in my main windows, for years but they won't accept it. One glass repair place said, the whole window needed to be replace, cost $300. The chip was 1/4 of dime in size I called around and had it repaired for $100
Once every thing was repaired I had to go back in my Safety check shop and have the repair check again, once passed I had to take the certification to Service of Ontario where I paid for my plates another $86
Take all certification, provide of plates purchase, owner ship papers from Service of Ontario back to your insurance agent so they can document your car is licensed and plated.
Extra note, I was told at Canadian customs at Port Huron, the U.S. government is requiring all cars entering Canada for new residents with cars 10 year old or newer must be notify the U.S. department of transportation of your move and have your car register, by faxing over a form 72 hours prior to moving, You fax to department of transportation and you pick up a stamped received formed at the port of entry. Since my car was older than 10 years I was able to by past that requirement.
Thank you again, Marilyn, for sharing your experience!
Over the years I have occasionally had people ask me if they could continue to work for a U.S. company but live in Canada or continue to help U.S. clients when living in Canada. Then in 2020 it became a tsunami of requests. The questions ranged from "Is it legal to do work in Canada for a U.S. company?!" to "How do I set it up?!"
The answer to both these questions? "Yes!" and "Carefully!"
In summary it is entirely legal to work in Canada for a U.S. employer and to keep working for U.S. clients. You can simply move back to Canada and continue working for 1, 2, or 3 months until you are clear you are going to be set up life in Canada and that this arrangement is going to last with your employer or clients. But by then you must take action to set yourself up in Canada in one of several different legal forms for doing so. These include: A U.S. employee but paying taxes in Canada, opening a Canadian division of your U.S. company, as a contractor, independent business professional, service provider, or even as a consultant/advisor. All these have different benefits and trade-offs.
But this is not something to wait on until you are here in Canada. It is best to get this started and prepared for before you move back to Canada as there are many factors to consider and things to plan for.
I have created a full resource on the topic as it is a big one:
Working in Canada for a U.S. / foreign employer or clients
Many Canadians are moving back for the purpose of retirement.
For this reason, I created a dedicated Retiring in Canada resource to compliment this "USA" resource.
In the Retiring in Canada resource you will find a pension terminology comparison chart and specific guidance and tips covering the process of preparing for and making the move back to Canada for retirement. I created it for the growing number of returning Canadians who are retiring back to Canada not just from the U.S., but also from Australia, the UK, UAE, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore.
Melanie Lanfear shares her experiences of moving back to BC from the U.S. to retire:
I can’t thank you enough for how much you, and your website, helped me in preparation for the move....it was absolutely life saving!!!
... I have no regrets whatsoever about retirement in Canada, have made great new friends, and am loving life in beautiful South Surrey, BC.
If I were to offer any advice to someone contemplating such a move it would be to start early, be very organized, and make lots of “to do” lists. I probably started 2 years in advance (a luxury not available to most I realize), selling household items, making key financial decisions, liquidating US assets, etc. I ended up shipping my car, and that I probably wouldn’t do again...it’s a LOT of paperwork on both sides of the border, very time consuming and somewhat costly. Other than that, everything went extremely smoothly as I was well prepared.
Again, thanks so much for all you do...it’s an invaluable service, and having the answers to your questions makes the transition back to Canada so much easier.
There are a number of legal aspects to consider when moving back to Canada from the USA. For some returning Canadians this may be the most complicated step in their planning, or at least the one that they need to think through carefully. Dual citizens in particular will find this important. While a lawyer is not normally needed to handle most of the legalities involved in a straight-forward move back to Canada, you may wish to engage a lawyer if your situation is very complex in the areas of pensions, wills, child custody, business ownership, etc. Here are a few legal considerations that may be of value to Canadians returning to Canada from the U.S.:
The following stories can give you a sense of some of the possible legal aspects involved in returning to Canada from the U.S.:
Paul M. shares his experience on what happens if you don't give up your green card:
Happy to be in Canada right now. Please, do not forget to return your green card ( if you had one) and get a confirmation of return. I could not do this when I returned several years ago and I just completed the abandonment process. Expensive to do after the fact, especially if you have not submitted reports yearly to the IRS. There is a way but it will cost you a bundle.
Emily T. on the Canadian SIN and dormant bank accounts:
Dormant SIN number:
If you've been out of the country for an extended period of time, your SIN number will have been put into a dormant state in Canada. You'll need to go to a Service Canada office to let them know you're back in town. You'll need to bring ID (such as your passport) and an ORIGINAL copy of your birth certificate. They will NOT accept a certified copy. If you don't have this, they can be ordered online through Services Canada in the province you were born, but you'll need to allow at least 5 business days and preferably more, so plan ahead.
Dormant bank accounts:
Canadian banks seem to be more draconian than most about putting bank accounts into a 'dormant' state if you don't have any transactions on them for a year or two. If you left a bank account behind, check with your bank well in advance of your return (ideally, check this in person if you visit before the final move). If they're dormant, you may not be able to transfer funds into them in advance, which you may want to do.
Thank you, Emily, for sharing your experiences and clear guidance!
Ann on Social Insurance Numbers going dormant:
We had no idea that our SINs were dormant until we tried to check into our CPP eligibility, after we'd been back in Canada for over a year. We had filed income tax returns during this time, but Service Canada's records are separate from CRA. You have to visit a Service Canada office in person with photo id, SIN card, birth certificate (if Canadian born) or citizenship certificate (if not Canadian born), marriage certificate or other documentation re name change (if not using birth name). We were told to expect a document by mail in about 30 days, after which we'll be able to apply for PACs (Personal Access Codes) and finally get My Service Canada online accounts. We would have gotten on with this sooner had we known about it. Apparently a SIN is made dormant after 5 years of inactivity.
Thank you, Ann, for sharing your experience!
Chris G. shares this tip:
If you have wills and trusts set up in the US, you may want to talk to your US attorney about estate planning before you leave US. Additionally, you should talk to a Canadian attorney about estate planning once you get there.
Thanks, Chris G. for this tip!
Rosalynn V. shares her experience and tips from their experience on submitting Green Cards and reductions in CPP or Social Security under a "double windfall" rule:
My husband and I have just retired after 17 years working in the US, and have returned to Victoria, BC. We're glad to be back, but the transition was rockier than we had expected. Your website was helpful, so I thought I would share a couple of tips for other returning Canadians.
1) You must "Abandon your Permanent Residence Status" once you return. The form, I-407, is readily available on the USCIS website. It tells you that you can mail the form in, along with your card. However, it is very hard to find WHERE to mail it. So, here it is: Former LPRs residing in Canada should mail it to:
[See the address noted above]
We were a bit anxious about entrusting this to the mail. We couriered our forms and cards, and heard back within a week by email, and received the formal acknowledgement within ten days. Much easier than doing it at a port of entry or at the consulate.
I would also like to alert your readers to the fact that, if you are receiving CPP benefits, US Social Security will reduce your SS benefit by up to half of your CPP benefit. This will also affect any spousal benefit. This ruling also applies to any pension derived from income on which you didn't pay Social Security taxes - that is, any foreign pension. CPP reports to Social Security. Social Security calls this ruling the Windfall Elimination Prevision, and I urge your readers to read about it on the SS website. We had no idea that this treaty even existed, until we were informed by SSA that our combined benefits were to be reduced by nearly $300 US per month, and that we have to pay back the overpayment. A very nasty shock, with serious consequences for our financial comfort.
Thank you, Rosalynn, for sharing this valuable information!
Many returning Canadians have green cards and have lived in the U.S. for many years and decades. Moving back comes with the decision to give up their green cards but at the same time a question arises as to whether they should apply for dual citizenship prior to moving back. This can be because they would be deemed "covered expatriates" and be subject to a hefty "exit tax" from the U.S., because they have children, investments, businesses, etc. in the U.S., and for other reasons, such as wanting to maintain the freedom to accept a U.S. job in the future should an amazing opportunity arise.
The decision as to whether to become dual-citizens has both practical and personal aspects. Here are some of the key positive reasons, drawbacks, and common misconceptions relating to the question of becoming a dual-citizen:
Positive reasons to become a dual-citizen of the U.S. and Canada:
Drawbacks of becoming a dual-citizen of the U.S. and Canada:
There are "very few" downsides to becoming a US citizen and therefore having dual citizenship. As with any legal commitment of such a magnitude there will necessarily be some. But for most people these downsides are not only few, but normally small in nature, too. For example some people think that by remaining only Canadian citizens they cease all tax filings and responsibilities to the U.S. when they move back to Canada only to find out that their many years of living in the U.S. means that they have ties financially that now result in them having to do some U.S. tax filings for the rest of their lives.
There will be a few areas of tax that you will need to prepare for when you become a dual citizen. For some people this added new variable in their decision making is not to their liking. They don't like to think, plan, and prepare and they prefer to be told what to do. For the rest managing their financial and tax picture proactively is a small price they pay for having more options, freedom, flexibility, and empowerment to live a bigger and more financially and personally rewarding life as a dual citizen.
A few specifics:
Summary: The decision and suggested actions
Whether to apply for U.S. citizenship prior to moving back to Canada depends on a number of variables including practical and personal considerations. And depending on your context and the state where you live in the U.S. the citizenship process can take between 8 months and 2 years to complete, potentially impacting your move timing plans.
Most of my clients considering dual-citizenship already have good reasons for pondering the choice and most choose to become dual-citizens before moving back to Canada. Only those who are absolutely sure they won't want a future relationship to the U.S. choose not to.
In summary, most dual citizens do find the benefits far outweigh the costs both financially and personally. The one main cost is learning more about how dual citizenship works from a financial and tax perspective and planning accordingly.
What does this all lead to? My suggestion is to spend some time reading up on Canada/U.S. dual citizenship implications from a tax and legal perspective so you will understand how your different options would play out. There is much written about it as there are so many dual citizens living in Canada (and in the U.S.). There are hundreds of accountants in Canada who specialize in cross-border taxation or who regularly do dual-filings of tax returns for clients as there are so many people who are dual citizens or have strong U.S. ties. When the time comes you can also use their services to help with taxes if your context is more complex. Again, most dual citizens find the fees they pay for a tax professional's help is an "investment" that pays off in many ways, including potential tax savings they couldn't have by being a Canadian citizen only.
As these topics are inter-related with each other, I have grouped them under a common heading. I would caution everyone reading this to be very careful with regards to your financial preparations for your move, as you will read below. No, I am not "fear mongering" to get your attention or to offer you some sort of expensive solution. Just recommending that you be proactive, careful, and "prepared" before you return to Canada.
Because a minority of returnees who do not appropriately prepare ahead of their return to Canada from the U.S. run into BIG problems that often have very expensive costs. Enough said. Now on to the topics...
Most returning Canadians have more than one pension in the U.S. and often several. They are, of course, one or more 401k, IRA, Roth IRA, and Social Security and/or another public or private pension. I have seen couples with up to 7 or 8 different pensions because of the different organizations and industries they have worked in. However, a typical picture that returnees have:
Example: A Canadian citizen couple (not dual-citizens) who are still working in the U.S. before returning to Canada. Their pension picture:
In this case, the example couple must do something with their 401k's as once not employed and subsequently not in the U.S. they cannot keep their 401k's. Typically, if they have USD $25,000 or more in their 401k's they would "roll over" these funds into IRA's and "park" them until starting to draw them down after retirement age. If you are a Canadian citizen (only - not a dual-citizen) you must choose what to do and you must do so early, typically as soon as 3 months before you finish working.
A Canadian who worked in a U.S. investment firm helped inform these steps on how to roll over your 401k into an IRA:
Caveat: Everyone's context is different. The above steps are for general guidance only and may not apply to you. Be sure to understand your particular situation and how your 401k needs to be handled as well as your IRA and Roth IRA if you have them. For example, dual-citizens have different options. The above process applies more to Canadian citizens, typically ones who are giving up their green cards.
If you move back to Canada you are entitled to receive your Social Security benefits. Due to the U.S./Canada tax treaty, you will receive 100% of your benefit in Canada when you return. And only 85% of that will be taxable in Canada. Nice! The tax treaty between the U.S. and Canada is very complex but well-travelled and if you have a straight-forward situation, it is quite understandable.
If you worked less than 30 years you will be subject to the "Windfall Elimination Provision" ("WEP) in the U.S. Most people want the full entitlement of their U.S. Social Security rather than a reduced amount because they also receive Canadian CPP and OAS. Why? Because they get more money this way when it is converted to CDN and in their bank accounts! So, if you are entitled to full amount of U.S. Social Security, Consider starting these payments *before* you start CPP & OAS in Canada! Then the Canadian side will be reduced, if the Canadian government decides to do so. In some rare cases people even choose to not start CPP and OAS at all, so as to ensure they get the larger U.S. payments, that after the exchange rate, are worth quite a bit more in Canadian dollars.
Note: If you worked in the U.S. for 30+ years with "substantial income" the "Windfall Elimination Provision" does not apply to you. In other words, your U.S. Social Security won't be reduced if you subsequently receive any CPP and/or OAS payments in Canada.
Interesting bit of information: Are you not entitled to U.S. Social Security? But wait: If you are married to an American citizen who receives U.S. Social Security you are entitled to U.S. Social Security as well! You can receive 50% of your spouse's monthly amount, even if you never worked in the U.S., never contributed to Social Security there, and never paid taxes in the U.S. Nice!
Working with U.S. Social Security offices: Do you need to change your address and/or update your Social Security bank deposit information with the U.S. Social Security administration before, during, or after your move back to Canada? Do not call their 1-800 number or try to get this done at a regular Social Security office! They are not equipped to handle non-resident Canadians!
Visit and/or call a Social Security office at the town or city on the U.S. side nearest to the Canadian border you will be living at. These offices have been designated to help people living in Canada who receive Social Security. A couple of stories to help you understand more:
A cautionary story regarding Social Security shared by Sheila H.:
"I moved back to Canada after decades in the USA.
I had started SS a year before I returned March 30 of this year. I did notify SS of my new address in BC Canada, and had started getting auto deposits into my Canadian bank. I did not visit the USA for over 6 months. Did not think that was an issue.
Then got a letter saying SS would not pay as I was not a USA citizen and was out of the country for more than 6 months.
Here’s a bit more of what I found out when I called them. When talking to a SS rep at the national level, they will deny that anyone who is not American can get SS after 6 months out of the country, short of returning every 6 months for 3o days, not that they even tell you that. The second rep I talked to said this too but I then read to them from their own document outlining requirements per country and nationality, or the tax treaty document, and asked them to look at the docs. That rep said they only give general information.
This national rep then suggested I talk to only the Bellingham office (my nearest border SS office).
The Bellingham rep said yes, in general, as you carefully say, [Paul] Canadians can get SS there, and put in the order to fix things. I have to call back to ensure it went through.
In reading the SS pamphlet on the tax treaty, it specifically suggests that a SS office near the border be contacted for assistance. Not the national number. Also, after 15 minutes on hold, the call is rolled over to a national rep, who knows nothing. The rep warned me of this and said after 15 minutes hang up and try again. Make sure it is the border field office you are talking to."
Caveat: In doing some detective work with her, I found out that she had not yet given up her green card and this is why this situation *might* have happened.
Summary: If you dot all your "i's" and cross all your "t's" when leaving the U.S. then only good things SHOULD happen with U.S. Social Security. If, however, something does happen, contacting a border office is advisable, not the national number, per this story.
Thank you, Sheila, for sharing your experience and information on who to contact if you run into U.S. Social Security questions!
Marian H. shares here experience of working with Social Security offices in Chicago and the one nearest her on the U.S. side of the border:
The Social Security office in Fort Gratiot, Michigan (just across the border at Sarnia, Ontario) is wonderful as well, they were knowledgeable and very helpful!
And about Fort Gratiot -- I have visited the Social Security office in Chicago a couple of times, and it was never a positive experience. This one was much better organized -- type your issue into a monitor when you enter, then take a seat until your number is called. I had to check "other", and I think that meant I got a very experienced officer to work with since this wasn't the usual thing (copy of SSA certificate, etc.). This guy knew exactly what to do, what numbers he needed for direct deposit (very different from the US), all of that. Excellent! :)))
Thank you, Marian, for sharing how the office you visited handled your needs.
In the past Canada and the U.S. had very separate investment and banking systems. Slowly but steadily they are becoming more integrated now, but remain quite different still.
It is important to separate investments from banking as they operate under different laws and are at different levels of integration between Canada and the U.S.
Investments are tightly controlled on both sides of the border and it is not easy to simply move your investments to Canada. Worse, the legal system makes is so that if you are a Canadian citizen moving back (not a dual-citizen) you must either move your investments or cash them out. A forced situation because you legally cannot have a U.S. investment account if you are a Canadian citizen living in Canada. You must open a Canadian one instead.
If you manage your investments by yourself in the U.S. using E*Trade or an equivalent system you can do so just as easily and powerfully through the top rated online brokerage in Canada called Questrade, or another online brokerage in Canada.
Canadian banks also offer self-directed investment divisions, such as CIBC's "Investor's Edge". Not as powerful as Questrade, but for more simple management of portfolios, such systems will do. Questrade and the investment divisions of banks can help you move your portfolio from the U.S. if you don't wish to "cash out" your portfolio. But note that if you choose to move a portfolio rather than cashing it out you may have to do some careful tax planning as taxes on the U.S. will likely apply when moving a portfolio. Many returning Canadians simply sell their securities portfolios in the U.S. and set up new portfolios in Canada to simplify their move and taxes.
Like in the U.S., if you have a fully-managed investment portfolio with an investment "advisor", you can have the same in Canada. Here are a few companies that can help you make an investment move across the border:
Raymond James arguably has the strongest cross-border team, with a full department of tax and legal professionals who just focus on Canada/U.S. cross-border investment management. Some Raymond James advisors in Canada are also cross-border licensed to manage investments in the U.S. and Canada, adding depth to their overall ability to work with Canadians moving back.
A Raymond James cross-border licensed investment advisor who works with many returning Canadians and can help with a move to any province: Harp Sandhu.
Owen D. shares his experience with Schwab for his move back to Canada in 2020:
It took me a while to get to the right person at Schwab to get the following information, and I thought it might be helpful for others returning to Canada from the States if they are wondering what to do with their Schwab account when they move.
To keep your retirement accounts with Schwab when you move from the United States to Canada, you only have to provide them with a change of address form proving your address in Canada. They also want your passport etc to verify your identity as well as a utility bill showing your new address in Canada. Once the form is processed, the account becomes a Schwab International Account. There are a couple of restrictions that people need to be aware of that are different from a regular, US based Schwab account. One, only retirement accounts can be ported over from the US domestic account to an international account and have most of the same trading powers. (ie, Roth Ira, SEP Ira, 401K) You cannot purchase mutual funds with an international account*. However stocks and ETFs are totally fine to trade, you can buy and sell them at your discretion. If you have an individual trading account (a non retirement account) it can be ported over, and all the positions that were taken in the account will remain intact at the time the account switches to an International Account. However the only thing the account holder can do with this account is sell positions or withdraw money - you can no longer use type of investment vehicle as a regular trading account. (To remedy this situation, you can liquidate and move that money into one of the Canadian investment companies and continue trading from there.) The nice thing about the fact that a personal investment account can port over without any change with the positions in the account is that if one had a position that is not at the prime moment to sell, it can be held until such a time that selling makes more sense.
The customer service rep (she was really good!) also said it was not a problem if one cannot provide a Canadian mailing address immediately. In that case the Schwab account will be considered a US based account (as the US based address will still be the address of record with Schwab until such a time as the Canadian address is supplied). However she said it is not a problem at all if there is “limbo” period of time after the move is made, before a permanent address is found. As we are making our move during the height of the alarming covid virus outbreak in the US, this last bit is ever so appreciated.
I was also told that one could not purchase CDs through Schwab once we have moved out of the country.
* as I do not own any mutual funds I am not clear if the mutual funds would "port" over to the international account. It seems plausible that they would allow them to remain in the account, but with "sell only" restriction in place. This would need to be verified with Schwab, I am just making a guess on this.
Thank you, Owen, for sharing your experience with Schwab and what you can and can't do with their international account.
There are several important things to consider ahead of your move regarding banking and transferring funds to Canada. These include:
Cross border banking options from Canadian banks
A very nice development in recent years is cross-border banking. Major Canadian banks now have solid cross-border banking services that allow you to have a full range of U.S. and Canadian accounts and investment assets, accessible online.
there are Canadian-owned banks in the U.S. that allow you to have dual-banking systems for easy movement of your funds or if you will continue to have a presence in the U.S. after you move back.
Examples: RBC Canada and RBC Bank Georgia and TD Canada Trust and TD Bank USA.
Don't use your bank to do your foreign exchange transactions
Important: Do not use a bank (your U.S. one or a Canadian bank) to do your foreign exchange transactions! You will typically save thousands of dollars on large transfers by using a dedicated foreign exchange firm.
Details: Transferring Money to Canada and Foreign Exchange.
Consider using a USD account with a Canadian bank
Most banks in Canada now have useful USD accounts that you can send your money to from the U.S. with no foreign exchange cost until you decide to convert it to CDN later.
More on this: One assumption has been that when you move back to Canada you will simply move your funds to CAD. A nice innovation in recent years has been the USD bank accounts available in Canada from all major banks. If you plan to travel in the U.S. after you move back to Canada, or simply want to receive your pension in USD, for example, and not convert it, you can have a USD bank account that is accessible online or through many Canadian ATM's, even! Yes, you can withdraw USD from some Canadian ATM's now.
Don't have a bank account in Canada yet? The easiest thing to do is to visit Canada and open one while there, using your U.S. address at that time. This will not affect your non-resident status in Canada, to be clear.
Large transfers initiated from Canada can be problematic!
Many of my clients do not know that Wells Fargo, for example, does not allow you to initiate a wire transfer of more than USD $5k without you being in a bank branch. So you move back to Canada, phone Wells Fargo to send your $100,000 to a Canadian bank, and they tell you to come into a branch (in the U.S.) to set it up. Hmmm...not fun!
Be careful to check with your bank and investment company(-ies) to make sure you can initiate large transfers to your Canadian bank account when you are in Canada. Chase Bank allows up to USD $50,000 to be initated by phone, for example.
If you are selling a U.S. property that will close after you move to Canada plan ahead and consider giving your lawyer or a trusted family member Power of Attorney to wire transfer the funds to you in Canada.
Julie S. shares what she learned in 2021:
I thought I'd share back what we learned incase another one of your clients needs help. Fidelity allows unlimited wire transfers. Also, Chase clients with more than $250k USD can convert their account to a "Private Client" account and then go into a branch to fill out a wire authorization form for high or unlimited amounts initiated by phone.
Elijah R. shares an important warning about arranging your banking and money transfers before you move back to Canada:
Used one of the exchange services to transfer our money. This saved us thousands. We went with Wise [former name: Transferwise].
One thing we would have done differently is started this process earlier. We did not anticipate the difficulty in moving our own funds that was driven by each bank we use having different random policies that created hurdles and delays. Some have a wire limit per day, some have a micro deposit requirement, some have a 30 day waiting period for linked accounts, and so on. I would have begun the process at least a month earlier had I known there would be so many delays and issues to resolve, and also would have lowered my expectations that I was getting complete information from customer service agents when trying o resolve issues. Give yourself as much time as you can, do not expect it will go smoothly even if it “should” especially if you need the money in Canada by a certain date! There are also some options available to you in a branch that you may not be able to access once you are across the border.
As mentioned earlier on this web page, Canada and the U.S. have a tax treaty that is well documented, well understood by our governments, lawyers, and accountants, and has the benefit of lots of experience - it has been around for awhile.
For most returning Canadian clients I work with, preparing their tax context for a move to Canada is not that challenging. It can be confusing and concerning, however, until they understand the actual facts of their situation. Adding to the confusion can be stories they read online or hear by word-of-mouth that something horrible will happen to them. This is simply sensationalism and usually outright misinformation. I always suggest we discuss all aspects of their financial situation openly and clearly, where I can explain for each part what the impact of their move will be (usually it is little or no impact!) Clients are relieved and empowered when they get unbiased and clear information on their situation.
However, there are some very important tax issues to be aware of when preparing to move back to Canada if your situation is more complicated. Here are a few to help you understand why is critical to prepare ahead:
If a client's personal financial situation is complicated, such as having many U.S. assets, business assets, complicated personal trusts, etc. to consider, I will sometimes refer my clients to a trusted cross-border tax accountant. There are lots of tax accounts and lawyers in major Canadian cities who have experience with American-Canadian tax challenges. Unfortunately, there are only the rare few who are experts, act professionally, and communicate well with clients.
Recommendations of cross-border tax accountants, please!
If you are currently working with a cross-border accountant you are extremely pleased with and can recommend, please let me know!
Suzanne shares her insights on Canadians renouncing U.S. citizenship for tax reasons:
US citizens continue to renounce in record numbers. Currently, 75% of the people renouncing US citizenship live in Canada, the UK and Switzerland. There is now nearly a year long wait to renounce at the US's Toronto consulate, in spite of the renunciation fee being recently raised to US$2,350! Because of the US's unique tax laws, Canadians with US citizenship find it necessary to do this to completely extricate themselves from the US tax system and re-establish themselves as Canadians with the same opportunities as their fellow Canadians (which includes saving for retirement). However, what many Canadians returning home don't realize is that Green card holders must also make a proper exit from the US tax system by submitting a DHS Form I - 407 in order to remove themselves from the US tax system.
Here are some of the considerations currently facing Canadians leaving the US:
Thank you, Suzanne for generously sharing your thoughts!
Ann shares a Roth IRA tax tip:
In order to avoid Canadian taxation of Roth IRA withdrawals, you have to send a one-time letter to the Canadian Competent Authority as detailed here [update: the link is now pointing to an RBC report that explains the Roth IRA one-time election process clearly]:
Thank you, Ann for generously sharing your thoughts!
Chris G. shares his planning tips from his move back to Canada from the U.S.:
- Get all of your health records from all of your providers before you move.
- I had my parents switch their utility bill to my name a few months before my arrival (I'm staying with them until I move into my Calgary house which is rented out). This will help me start building credit. [Editor's note: Be careful with this as under some circumstances this may trigger you being considered resident for tax purposes as of the start of the utilities switch date]
- I'm setting up a mail service that will allow me to see online any mail that was delivered to my old address. The company I am using is US Global Mail.
- Download as much transaction history from all of your US accounts before they become unavailable.
- Set up cross border banking. I have a Chase account in US and a TD Canada Trust in Canada. I opened a TD Bank account in the US so that I can flow funds back and forth between TD Canada trust and Chase. TD Bank and TD Canada trust make it easy to flow funds. They are my windows to both countries banking systems.
- Get a credit check done in the US before you leave (eg Experian, Equifax, etc). This may be useful.
- CRA has a form that determines residency status. I had to fill this out because for 2 months I worked from Canada (while I was there buying a house and setting kids up in schools). They determined that I was a "non-resident". This helped me in doing my tax returns.
- Keep your US bank and a credit card for at least a year after your move. I plan to keep mine for at least a year.
- If you're going to be self employed, incorporate your company in advance, set up corporate bank accounts. I did all of this 3 months before my move date. I can now hit the ground running when I get there.
- Understand what you will be doing with any US retirement plans. You may be able to leave a 401K plan in tact. You may have to roll over to an IRA. Either way this requires research and should not be left until the last minute.
- Vehicle. I purchased a vehicle last year (in my moms name). I have a family of 6 so every time I visited Calgary I had to rent a vehicle. This cost me $2000 every time, so I bought an old minivan for $8000 that I used during my visits.
Thank you, Chris for generously sharing these great tips!
Be sure to check out the dedicated Taxes, Accounting, and Banking page for more general coverage of these topics as well as more depth on some topics applicable to not only those returning to Canada from the U.S., but also for those moving back from all over the world.
In the second quarter of 2021 exchanging your U.S. dollars (USD) for Canadian dollars (CAD) means you are continuing to receive lots of colorful Canadian bills for your green U.S. bills, though in March and April 2020 the CAD was quite a bit lower than recent times due to the turmoil in the stock markets, the crash in oil prices, and complications around the world at that time. The exchange rate continues to be very favourable from a long term perspective, despite this recent rise in the CAD.
When I was teaching overseas in the late 1990's, one Canadian dollar only got me $0.70 cents American. When I returned to Canada, the exchange rate had shifted so much just in the last few months before I returned that I lost C$14,000 on the exchange rate change. Enough to buy my family a nice little new car at the time.
The good thing? I had "hedged" some of my money in Euros, which went up dramatically at the time, meaning I ONLY lost $14,000 (a silver lining to my cloud)
Some foreign exchange considerations:
In real estate the keystone wisdom is "location, location, location". When managing two or more currencies the wisdom is "hedge, hedge, hedge". This means mixing your holdings between U.S. dollars, Canadian dollars, Euros, Swiss Francs, Yen, etc. Hedging is always the safest bet if maintaining the value of your money between where you are living now and Canada is your priority.
Note: This is not about buying some of these currencies - the actual money itself (which you can do if you wish!) - but rather about buying stocks, bonds, and ETF's that include investments from other countries. Owning some safe stock market investments that are based in other currencies is the easiest way to hedge your currency risk.
For a more in-depth look at foreign exchange, including how to send money from the U.S. to Canada and save hundreds or thousands of dollars in doing so, see my full resource on the subject:
Moving Back to Canada: Foreign Exchange
This is likely the most important consideration of all, particularly if you have lived in the USA for many years.
"The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence".
This saying implies that you are only seeing the bright side of a move - not what you are giving up. Or that you have "rose-colored glasses on", seeing only the good aspects of Canada that you want to see because of a situation you are dealing with in the U.S. The truth for most people is that things are good in Canada! We feel generally safe, have a respectful and supportive government, and a civil society. On the other hand, it is cold and dark here in the winter, people are quite risk averse, and we don't like change.
When I went overseas the grass was definitely greener. When I came back to Canada, it seemed greener, but not as green as when I went overseas. My perceptions of things had changed - my values, goals, and passions were different, and raising two children simply cost a lot of money in Canada - money that seemed harder to earn in Canada than overseas.
Perhaps a really careful consideration of your lifestyle preferences, considerations, and aspirations will keep your thinking clear on moving back to Canada.
Some thoughts on lifestyle:
Kirsten shares her experience of moving her family back from the U.S. in this inspiring story:
I just found your website today and am enjoying it. I thought I would share our experience. We are a Canadian-American family that relocated to Canada from the U.S. almost a year ago. We are also a unschool/homeschooling family with 4 children.
I (the wife), was born and raised in Winnipeg but moved to the U.S. in 1995 for a job (physical therapist) and subsequently met and married my American husband and we resided in the States for the first 14 years of our marriage and had all of our children there. I became a citizen of the U.S. and am therefore a dual citizen. My children are also dual citizens.
About a year and a half ago, we were living in Idaho and things were looking quite bleak. My husband had lost his business, then a short lived job in California in 2009 and had been unemployed for a year and a half at that point. I was working at a job that was getting progressively more stressful while I longed to be home more with my children.
Not seeing the U.S. economy improving any time soon, we decided to make a move to Canada where it looked more likely that my husband could find work in his field. I was offered a job in Saskatchewan so we started the immigration process for me to sponsor my husband and soon after, we headed to Sask. He was granted a 6 month visitor permit at the border so he was able to accompany me and the kids to Canada while awaiting his PR application to be processed. 5 months later, he was granted PR status and within a few WEEKS, he had landed a great job in Calgary! So, we made another move to Calgary and we have been here almost 6 months now.
I am not going to say this process has been easy! We found the immigration paperwork very complicated and time consuming but we managed to get through it without a lawyer, thanks in big part to the Canadavisa online forum where we received many answers to our questions. And of course moving a family of 6 twice in a 6 month period was not fun either....BUT we feel all of the hard work, expenses and hassles we had to overcome were so worth it because right now my husband has his dream job that he has hoped for years to find! We definitely feel that our quality of life has improved, our working conditions in Canada are better and even though some things do cost more here (like taxes, gas and groceries), we have noticed that other things tend to cancel that out (like not having to pay for costly health insurance premiums and deductibles, and receiving the monthly Child Tax and Universal Child Care benefits and homeschool funding).
We also find Alberta to be very homeschool and family friendly and we have met some great people so far!
I am a little nervous about doing our taxes in both countries for the first time this year but I am sure we will get through it fine, and once I do, I plan to sit down and do a full cost of living comparison between the 2 countries for our particular situation.
We are definitely happy we made the move to Canada!"
Thank you, Kirsten, for sharing your experiences and insights!
Received from a Mrs. S. McDougall, moving back to Canada from the U.S.:
Found your site interesting and informative. We've immigrated to the U.S. from Canada 3 times since 1983. Each time, a trip to the consulate to get a 'green card'. Each time, more expensive and difficult.
I would advise anyone who is moving back to Canada from the U.S. to first consider getting their dual citizenship if they qualify. (you do not have to give up your CDN Citizenship to do this.) If you should ever change your mind, and want to move back to the U.S., it will be a lot easier, I'm sure. And less expensive.
The worst part about moving back to Canada? We had to give up our green card in order to get Canada health coverage. (yes, there was the 3 month wait in NB) And, it took awhile to get used to the GST! Yikes! ...
Finally, for those who move back for health coverage, well, your mileage may vary. IF you can FIND a doctor, then hopefully you will get a GOOD doctor. My husband ended up with a hip replacement at 47 because of incompetency. Pulled muscle indeed!! And when we were moving to the US the last time, we could NOT find a doctor in the capital city of NB. After calling every doctor within an hour\'s drive, I finally had to BEG a doctor to just give us the immunizations that were required, they didn't have to take us on as new patients. I couldn't believe it. In a big city! Anyway, I've heard of other 'horror' stories regarding healthcare in NB, but I'm sure we have them here too [in USA].
OTOH, my mother's double mastectomy went as well as could be expected and the visiting nurses were exceptional. I guess it just depends on where you are and who your doctor is, if you can find one.
Hopes this adds to your perspective.
Sincerely, Mrs. S. McDougall
Thank you, Mrs. McDougall, for sharing your insights and suggestions!
Marilyn shares her perspectives on costs in Canada:
I found that cable service in the London [Ontario] area is out of sight and I have been told all through out Ontario its very high. I say shop around to the smaller independent service companies.
It was been a battle with Rogers service from the start, I called prior to the move and was given a estimate, well with in my budget The salesperson came to my residence here in London, we again went over my budget, he was here for 2 hours!! Then I received email of contract, I was shocked by the monthly amount. It was $60 more than I was given, my computer speed is about 1/2 of what am used to and they service in blocks not unlimited computer time or down loads. I have been more than disappointed and shocked.
After several phone calls I though things were straighten out, only to receive a bill for over $496. I called immediately, and it seemed someone had coded the entire contract wrong.
Over all I have found cable, TV and phone bundling, internet service much higher than the leading cable service in the U.S. (Comcast) I have been customer of them for 21 years, in several states, and had excellent service and NO limitation of down loads or computer use.
I can't stress enough to shop around for every purchase and service.
Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing your story! And I concur with Marilyn's advice: "Shop around for every purchase and service when you return to Canada!"
Please share your thoughts, considerations, experiences, and wisdom relating to returning to Canada from the USA. I will post them here as help for others. Along with a credit to you will be a big thank you on behalf of the many people you will be helping!
Latest update to this page: May 2021