Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What I Learned Moving Back to Canada from USA


We recently moved back to Canada from the USA after 20 years living in Dallas and Leesburg Virginia.  The move was not easy as there was no corporate relocation support and it was cross border.  What did I learn from the experience?


  1. Get a good mover, preferably a Canadian company that does a lot of cross border moves.  Luckily, we ended up with a Canadian moving truck driver as our American movers subcontracted to his company (Bigham).  He knew all the tricks to make a cross border move work well.
  2. Don't bring your US car to Canada unless it has special value to you or it is a domestic junker.  Keep that 60's Corvette and do the paperwork/pay the taxes to bring it with you as it has real value to you.  That 2010 Chevy will likely cost little to get across the border as it is NAFTA and worth less than $10K.  On the other hand, your 2013 Audi will attract a lot of taxes and fees, and when you arrive in Canada, the dealer will treat you like you have Ebola.  The trade-in value will be way less than in the USA, they will moan about it being a US car, etc.
    1. Another issue is that the nasty CBSA folks at the Canadian border will throw a hissy fit if you cross the border in a car with US plates after you re-immigrate to Canada.  There is no valid reason for this, but a rule is a rule and this is Canada where we all follow the rules.  Worst case, they will make you abandon the car at the border.  The US border people don't care what car you drive as long as you have your passport and are not doing anything illegal.
  3. Don't bring your liquor with you legally.  There is a program to bring your wine collection into Ontario and the provincial taxes are quite low.  However, the federal government will soak you for a lot of taxes and duties and generally make your life miserable.  If you have really valuable wine or liquor that you really really want, go for it, but expect to pay a lot.  On the other hand, if you pack it yourself and don't tell the movers, they will put it on the truck, and then ...
  4. Don't call the Canadian border services helpful 1-800 number.  They are very helpful, but they give you generic answers that may or may not apply to the border crossing you use.  Every Canadian border crossing seems to be run like its own little racket and they will likely tell you that you have the wrong information, the wrong forms, and you cannot do what the 1-800 people told you.  Just call the actual border crossing you will use, talk to the rude people on the phone, get their name, then follow what they say.  You will probably have less hassles.
  5. Don't move anything yourself except for valuable items like jewelry.  There are complications if you move your stuff in multiple separate loads.  Call the border people to get the details on how to handle multiple loads if you have to do this.
  6. Set up a brokerage account in Canada so you can transfer US$ to them and get them to exchange this money at close to the market rate.  If you don't do this, you will lose 2-3% on every dollar you move from US to Canada.  So if you sell your $500,000 house in USA and move the money to Canada, you could lose $10-15,000 US without this service.
  7. Get friendly with a bank branch in Canada prior to the move.  Meet the manager, explain what you are doing, get bank accounts set up, etc.  You will likely need them to help you later. They can help you with exchanging money (see 5. above) and they can probably get you set up with credit.  The Canadian credit bureaus will likely not be able to identify you as a previous Canadian with a credit history as Canadian credit card companies do not demand your SIN when you apply for credit - I don't know why.  You will be treated as a new immigrant and you will get bupkis credit cards.
  8. Get a US credit card with no transaction fees for foreign transactions with a high credit limit.  You will need it for a while due to the issues noted in 7. above.
  9. Get a US PO box in a border town so you can get packages and mail from the USA.  You can go pick them up and save a lot of hassle.  You can also give this new address to your credit card companies, banks, etc.  
  10. Check out this later post on how to handle investments.

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