Thursday, November 10, 2016

How to Move to Canada from the USA



We recently moved from the USA back to Canada, and given the Trump election, there seems to be a lot of interest in immigration to Canada by Americans.  So how do you do it?

You can check out my previous posts on lessons learned and differences between the USA and Canada for some info, but I will try to make this more of a step by step description.


  1. Canada welcomes immigrants, so you will not find a lot of ridiculous barriers like the USA puts up for legal immigrants.  However, this is Canada and there are rules to be followed.
    1. You may have a family connection that entitles you to Canadian citizenship.  If so, go for it.
    2. You may qualify for a NAFTA visa if you can get a job in Canada.  Check out this link.
    3. You can apply for immigration and you may get special status if you have particular skills.  Check out this Government of Canada link. 271,660 people moved to Canada legally in 2015 by applying, the information is here.
    4. You could get your company to transfer you to Canada and they will handle the paperwork - this is an ideal solution.
    5. You could try it out by living in Canada for under 6 months as a tourist.
  2. Once you have status to immigrate, you need to do all the usual things that you would do in the USA if you were moving, except there will be some more paperwork and some differences.
  3. Finding a house is easy.  Get a realtor in the Canadian location of your choice.  Alternately, search for a rental.  Put your US house up for sale.
  4. Canada uses lawyers to do property paperwork, not title companies.  Your realtor will be able to refer you to a real estate lawyer.
  5. Visit a Canadian bank during one of your visits before you buy your house or rent.  Talk to the branch manager.  Explain that you are an immigrant.  You will be surprised at the reception because they deal with immigrants all the time, they will probably offer you special incentives to bank with them.  Talk to them about getting a mortgage, the process is similar to the USA except you do not have a credit score in Canada, so you need the bank to help you out and get your US credit rating, check out your assets, then pre-approve a mortgage.
  6. Talk to the bank about getting a good exchange rate for the large amount of money you will be transferring from the USA to Canada after your US house sells.  If you pay the standard exchange rate, you will lose 3%, which could be a lot of money if you have equity in your US house.  Most banks can offer a lower exchange rate through their brokerage department or through a special arrangement.
  7. Get a US credit card that does not charge for foreign transactions, like the Capital One World Mastercard.  You will need it until you get a Canadian credit card, which might take a while.  Don't close your US bank accounts right away, you can close them later over the phone.
  8. Call some Canadian moving companies and book your move (see previous blog post here).  Most are part of an international group like Allied and they will get the local Allied affiliate to do the estimates in the US.
  9. You will not be covered under the government health plan in Canada for 3 months so you need to buy travel insurance in the USA for the first three months you live in Canada.  It is not too expensive.
  10. You can bring your cars with you when you move to Canada, but it is not easy or useful in all cases.  See this blog post and this post.
    1. If you have an older US car, bring it, you will likely pay a nominal amount at the border
    2. If not, you will likely get a better trade-in in the USA and you can then buy whatever car(s) you need in Canada.  
  11. Call a Canadian insurance company before your move to get car and home insurance.  Canadians love insurance, there are lots of options.
  12. When you arrive in Canada with your furniture, there will be a few unusual activities:
    1. You will have to go to the local Canada Customs office with your moving truck driver to clear your furniture.  It costs nothing but takes a little time (an hour or so).
    2. There could be a wait if the border gets backed up so you may have to adjust your move-in date
  13. You will need to transfer your drivers license to Canada, similar to the USA.
  14. Go to your provincial services office to sign up for health care (there is a 3 month wait, see above).
  15. Go to the federal government service office or call them to get a Social Insurance Number (equivalent to the US Social Security Number).  You will notice that the office is much nicer than the equivalent US SS office and the employees are smarter and happier - welcome to Canada, where we love our government and want it to function well.
  16. By the way, none of Canada's prime ministers or premiers are narcissistic, mysoginist, racist, ignorant, nasty frauds.  But you already know that...


Photo credits: Flickr and Flickr

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