Moving Back To Canada - A resource for Canadian Expatriates returning to Canada after living in the U.S. and abroad


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Moving back to Canada is Exciting!

Canada offers many wonderful things to those returning home, such as safety, great public services, freedom, being close to family, seeing old friends, a system you can trust, and of course, the beautiful Canadian nature - mountains, lakes, forests, rivers, and more.

However, there may also be challenges if you are a citizen returning to Canada. You may have to contend with reverse culture shock. Or possibly first-time culture shock, if your spouse and/or children have never lived in Canada before. The logistics of moving home and setting up your new life can also be daunting - what to sell, what to take with you, how to ship your stuff - all good questions and options hard to choose from. Moving back to Canada from the USA or Mexico may not seem to be too much of a challenge, but there are surprising similarities to the considerations of those moving back to Canada from the UK, Australia, India, China, or the UAE.

This resource site started from my experiences returning back to Canada after spending over 6 years in the Middle East with my family. Our youngest son was born in Dubai. To him, we were immigrating to Canada. For the rest of us, it was a big move back to the land of taxes, rules and regulations, rain and snow...and of course, fantastic geography, a liberal Canadian society, Tim Horton's, reliable services, and much more.

Since starting this site, I have researched literally hundreds of questions for Canadians getting ready to move home and have added the findings to my original reflections. Every year generous Canadians from all over the world contribute tips, tales, and suggestions from their own experiences preparing to move back to Canada, keeping this site up-to-date with practical advice. Our combined wish is that you have an easy and exciting move back to Canada!

If you find this site useful please "pay it forward" to those moving back to Canada in the future by sharing what you have learned. Contact me with any thoughts you can share! I also offer professional support for your move back to Canada, should you have questions you need answered.

Welcome back to Canada! May your move be easy and exciting!

Paul Kurucz

Vancouver Island, BC

Latest update: April 2016.

Canadians far and near who have visited this site since 2003:

> 400,000



Latest News

May 18, 2016

"Expat depression and repatriation"

In this blog posting on her site "The Expat Partner's Survival Guide", Clara Wiggins touches on some very important concerns. Being prepared for your move back to Canada psychologically is really important!   

Check out our "Why move back to Canada?" section for more insights and real stories from returning Canadians!

This site is in the news!

Leaving the U.S. to retire back to Canada? Some thoughts from Paul Kurucz in this New York Times article!  .... read more.

Previous News Postings

Moving Back to Canada Planner

Now available for immediate download!

A comprehensive companion planner and checklist for moving back to Canada now available for immediate download. In easily editable Microsoft Word format so you can customize it to meet your planning needs.

Includes a free bonus guide! "Truth About Canada - 10 insights to empower you and your new life in Canada"

Purchase and Download now:

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Older News & Updates




How to use this web site:

Why move back to Canada? Some thoughts on the decision to move back...or not. (below)

Preparations you can do ahead of your move back to Canada:

More Resources

Scroll up to see a list on the left side of the page of resources such as FAQ's, pages for those moving back from the U.S., UK, or Australia, foreign exchange, getting your kids into a Canadian university, and more!

The top 3 questions Canadian expats want answered:

1. Do you pay taxes when you bring money back to Canada? (No!)

2. Will the household goods I bring back be taxed? (No!)

3. How do I stay a non-resident for tax purposes but still keep Canadian health care? (You can't)

Have more questions?

This web site has the answers for you!


Why move back to Canada?

This question is easy for some to answer, but not so easy for others.

Common reasons for moving back to Canada:

  • Your job or contract overseas ends.
  • Your employer moves you back.
  • You are tired of living abroad and want the familiarity of Canada again.
  • You want to live in the Canadian lifestyle again.
  • You have family and friends to return to.
  • You want to raise your children in a Canadian context.
  • You have an elderly parent to take care of.
  • You need access to the public health care system in Canada.
  • You have just gone through a relationship breakup and want to retreat and regroup in Canada.

The most common challenge in the decision making process:

Sometimes, however, it is not an easy decision. The most common challenge in the decision making process about whether to return to Canada or not is this:

"My husband/wife can't find a job here. I am fine, but they are not happy here."

Sadly, this is pretty common and can cause couples and families a lot of stress. There is no easy solution, but one thing you can do is to use the discomfort of the situation to learn as a couple, or as a family, about what is important to you - what life is supposed to offer you and what changes you might undertake in our own thinking, beliefs, and patterns to find where you need to be in the world:.

Why do you really want to move back to Canada right now?

Are you running away from something or running to something in Canada?

Where should you be right now for you to do what you need to do?

Answering these questions in complete honesty (to yourself) will really help you understand what you want from life in Canada. It may also help you decide if perhaps Canada is even the right place for you to come back to right now!

To help you get started with your answers, here are some of the reasons people like being expatriates - why they like living away from their home country.

What will you miss from the expatriate lifestyle?


  • Meeting amazing people
  • Finally being away from home
  • Having this once-in-a-life-time experience
  • Realizing that things can be done differently
  • Change– yes we can
  • Being out of our 'comfort zone'
  • Realizing that not everything at 'home' is perfect
  • Learning a new language properly
  • Showing your visitors from home around your new hometown
  • Being a font of knowledge on your home country
  • Knowing how to cook differently ('Teach me to...')
  • Being popular just because you're foreign (exotic) ('I looove your accent')
  • Becoming an absolute magnet to the opposite sex ('you're from LA? Wow!)
  • Always having a conversation starter ('And where are you from?')

(Source: Linkedin, Trailing Spouse Network group,)

The ping-pong effect

My family and I experienced a peculiar situation and I have heard from many people who have gone through it too. I call it the ping pong effect. Here is how it happens:

You return to Canada and after a few months or a year find that life just isn't working out - you can't get a job you like, you don't fit in, your family doesn't fit in, you don't have a tribe here anymore, and/or you miss the international lifestyle.

So, you pack your bags and head off to another international assignment.

As of the writing of this, friends of ours are doing exactly this, after finding that getting good work in their field in Canada is really a challenge. I did it the ping pong back out after 9 months back in Canada and the U.S. and almost cried the day I landed back overseas on my second gig. Going back overseas felt like going home.


If you are not completely at peace with moving home to Canada but are making the move anyway (because of the end of a contract that didn't get renewed, for example), I often counsel people who engage my professional support services to consider their move a "wintering over" in Canada - a temporary move until they either find their "place" in Canada or decide to head back out again. Don't make expensive decisions and final pronouncements unless you are really certain about moving back to Canada


Why move back? Stories from your fellow Canadians:

Cathy G., reflecting in 2015 on the challenges and joys of liviing in Australia but wanting to come home to Canada:

I am a Canadian living in Australia since 2005 with my Australian husband. I constantly want to move back "home" to be close to my four adult children, and my mother who is 96. We are in our 60s now and seriously trying to work out how best to move there, especially worried about what to bring, what to leave, will we like it, how to sever ties here and get new ones there. I never realised I would need forms to return to Canada, and the forms to apply to sponser my husband are daunting! It requires my salary amount, and of course I would not have created a salary again in Canada until after I get there.

Reading your site has been thought provoking and even though it has opened a whole can of worms, it is lucky that I have found your site, thank you for being there! I love Australia actually, and am totally nervous about moving back to the cold and rat race from our pristine forested land of 20 acres (purchased for less than a city lot in Canada) where we have just built a brand new house, with our own hands. We also have a very spoiled cat that we adore and who we are afraid won't survive physically or mentally being thrown in a cargo bay of a noisy airline.

It won't help me now, but my biggest tip is never go out of your way to get romantically involved with someone who lives in another country! One of you must always give up their way of life, you just can't be in two places at one time, sadly. If there is a way to do that, I would love to know how! Cheers!

Tammy M., reflecting in 2014 on the challenges of living abroad (and exploring if to return to Canada):

I want to thank you for this invaluable site! I am determining whether or not I should return back to Canada. After the initial vacation period overseas, I am finding myself without employment and missing my family. My husband however, has a job and direction and is really enjoying ot having to work in the harsh Canadian climate.

I can honestly say it has been the most difficult time in my marriage. Living overseas has pushed to the forefront what each of us truly values in life: what we value in our relationship with each other, as well as, our immediate family.

It is an obvious question to ask, "Why do I want to move back to Canada?" However, it is difficult to come to a decision when you know the financial costs involved and the new dynamics you have in your relationships when you return after a few years or more.

Moving becomes a question of, What do I want to give up? Is this need to move back based on reality or what is being experienced in the immediate situation?

Back to why I am sending this . . . Thank you. your site is unscrambling questions that keep going round and round and it is enabling a path toward an informed decision. Thank you also to the contributors for sharing their experiences and pointing out various aspects of their move.

The following story was shared with me by a Canadian who moved back in 2012. Due to the personal nature of this story, her name has been withheld at her request and identifying details modified to protect her family's privacy.

We had been living in the United States for 11 years when I knew I wanted to move back to BC. Our children only knew the American elementary school system; I knew I wanted our children to be back in the Canadian School system and have the choice to enter the French immersion program. But my husband did not want to approach his Company about the move because we had just received a visa extension when I presented the issue of moving back. My husband did not want to rock the boat with the Company because we would have one more year left on the visa and that was the agreement with his boss. Also, a huge issue would be the time difference between the offices.

I was certain that the time was going to be in the summer and consistently told my husband we needed to make the move – for the sake of the children. I reminded him that – we had moved there for his sake – his career – and now it was time to make the move back for the kids sake... it was important for me too that the boys would get some time in an elementary school setting to make new friends before entering the high school years. I kept telling my husband how important it is for the boys to develop new friendships that they could carry into their adulthoods back in Canada. It was important too that we knew we would keep in touch with the friends we had made in the states too. We feel blessed with the rich friendship experience.

When it became clear to me that my husband was in denial about how serious I was about moving back I insisted we have the discussion together – I basically told him I would go with the kids in the summer and we could set him up in a little apartment there - we could support his job that way... And I was serious. I think it was my strong foot down that finally made it clear to him that it was going to happen whether he was ready for it or not. So he got the nerve to tell his Company and it ended up being absolutely okay.

Now that we are back in BC, my husband spontaneously hugs me and says thank you for getting us back home!!!! AND the kids love their new school and are making friends easily and are keeping in touch with all their friends in the US! It’s all good... phew.

Preparations you can do ahead of time:

Starting 1 year ahead of your return to Canada

  • Decide where you wish to settle in Canada.
    • If you already own a property, have a job to come back to, or wish to live near relatives this may be a moot point for you.
    • If you are not set on a province/city/region that you have to go to, this becomes a very important decision. You have changed in your overseas experience. You will find most Canadians charmingly provincial at first. The charm wears off fast. Soon you will be wondering when you can go back overseas to be with more worldly folks. Really. It won't take long to feel this way. To help make the transition easier, consider what your values, interests, and goals are. Choose regions of Canada that suit your family. If you feel that you want a liberal, worldly social set, consider Ottawa, Vancouver, etc. If you wish for a more conservative surrounding, consider London, ON, or a smaller center in a conservative region. If you want nature and outdoors activities, BC tops the list (by a long shot - of course I am biased as I live there!). The most important thing to remember is that you are different. Canadians haven't changed. You probably no longer fit into your old life in Canada! You will have to create a new fit. Prepare ahead and you won't be so culture shocked.
    • Jobs and careers are an important consideration for some people. If getting a job is a higher priority for you, then some simple homework will tell you where the best job markets are in Canada for your skill set and experience. In general, Toronto is almost always a good place to find work as it is so large. Alberta as a whole has been booming for many years due to oil wealth there and there are many jobs there. Finally, Vancouver is vibrant and continues to offer career opportunities for most people.

      See our Career section for much more on returning to Canada and getting a job here.

  • Buy a residence ahead of time...
    • ...but rent it out for 6 months or a year before you arrive. Owning a house and keeping it empty may jeopardize your non-resident status with CRA (Canada Revenue Agency). This would be yucky if you have been enjoying lower or non-existent taxes in your off-shore country! So rent it out at arms-length (not to a family member).
    • Buy a house in December or January: The best time for buyers. You can low-ball sellers and quite often get a great deal.
    • Having a house ready for you means you can get excited about where you are going in Canada. You will have a mailing address for forwarding your mail. You will have a place to send your household goods. You will have a place for your family to land when you arrive (lower costs - see finances below).
    • DON'T buy a house if you are unsure of where is the best place in Canada for you to settle. Rent one instead, giving you the freedom to figure out what feels best. Sometimes in life what comes next is not perfectly clear and we have to wait until it does become clear. If you are in this situation, don't buy now. Rent instead (which of course can't take place until you get back to Canada).

  • Roanna Stevens, on finding a place to live:

    I think for us one of the most difficult things has been finding appropriate housing for our family. We have never lived in BC so searching for an apartment/condo to rent near Vancouver has been daunting. One thing that I am glad someone told us was that we should look at getting "transitional" housing rather than signing a one-year lease. This proved to be great advice! Since we had a timeframe in which we had to find a place to live, we ended up in a basement suite in Burnaby on a month-to-month lease. The location was great...the suite was not. However, it did give us time to start looking around and to determine what area would be best for us to live in. It was also SO much easier to look for a place when we were already in the general area. I had been doing the Craigslist thing from Bangkok but, in a city like Vancouver, you really need to jump on housing when it shows up. If it's a good place, it won't be available for very long. Eventually, we found a great place, at a fair price in an area we felt suited us.


  • Prepare your finances.
    • If you wish to leave money off-shore, prepare for that now. Open appropriate accounts, make appropriate investments, choose your money's geographic domicile.
    • Keeping clear track of your finances while overseas and when returning is recommended, particularly if you have to account for your income as a salesperson, a small business owner, or as an independent contractor.

    • Canada is expensive if you have to live in short-term accommodations, rent a car, eat out a lot, etc. when you move back.
      • Budget for 3-5 thousand dollars a month (yes, a month) for a typical family to live in short-term furnished accommodations, rent a car, eat at restaurants, and buy things needed for your new life.
        • The sooner you can get settled in your own accommodation and buy a car, the sooner you will stop the hemorrhaging of your bank account.
        • Assume that it will take a minimum of 2 months to get settled and 4 months to get really settled. That's right: Count on up to C$20,000 to just get settled (family of 4 example) in a new place in Canada.
        • Staying with family members sounds like a good idea, but if your family has enlarged, or if your kids have gotten a lot older in the years overseas, staying with family will get very difficult very fast. Your parents have gotten a lot older during your years overseas. Your other family members think you are rich because you had an expat lifestyle. They won't be happy with you camping in their basement. After all, since you are rich, why don't you just stay in a hotel?
        • Don't mess up your early exciting experience in Canada: Stay in your own separate, private accommodations when you arrive back. You will thank yourself later and so will your family members!

    •  If you have been out of Canada for many years and have severed all important ties (per CRA stipulations to ensure non-residency), you have little or no current credit history. Be ready to face the following:

      • You will not have a current credit history. Banks and credit unions may tell you "Oh, no credit history is OK. At least it is not negative!". In my experience, this is not true. No recent Canadian credit history is the same or worse than negative credit. You have not been "in the system", and therefore, you are an unknown variable and as such, are a risk. You may be denied loans, mortgages, and credit cards. And with all the identity theft going on, even more reason to say "no!" to "strangers" (you!).

      • The only normal way to get loans, mortgages and credit cards is to have a job - even if you have $100,000 cash in the bank! The Canadian financial lending system is based on lending against income earning through provable normal sounding employers - and not against you or your assets.

    Hint: A burgeoning market is growing for self-employed, exceptional folks (like you!) for mortgages. The key person here is the mortgage broker. A very useful person to get to know. If you are planning on getting a mortgage when you arrive back, find a good mortgage broker. Skip banks completely. Skip credit unions (with the exception of perhaps VanCity) as they are no longer credit unions anyway, but banks in disguise)

    • A newer set of credit card options have emerged, with good news for returning Canadians.  CIBC, for example, offers "Newcomer" and "secured" credit card options. These allow you to quickly get a credit card, which is an essential tool for getting things done in Canada online, for travel bookings, and for securing rentals:

      The Royal Bank offers a full "Newcomer" banking and credit package which returning Canadians cannot access. I phoned them in August 2015 and after hearing that newcomers excludes returning Canadians, asked them how this group can access RBC services. They were clear that services for returning Canadians are handled at the branch level and credit would be offered only at "branch discretion". Further "branch managers would have to go above and beyond to research returning Canadian credit and try to get credit history from the other country."  I offer this story only as an illustration of the patchwork of possibilities. Returning Canadians are on few people's radar.

      (Note:  I am not affiliated with CIBC or The Royal Bank of Canada in any way. These two are noted only as examples. Please check with your preferred bank(s) for options they offer.)

      A review of secured credit card options in Canada:

      In any case, check with your preferred financial institution to see if they offer a newcomer or secured credit card option, which will allow you to get a card quickly and begin building credit.

    • Some other options to consider:

    Keep your overseas bank account and credit card. Leave some cash in the account to allow you to use your credit cards for 6 months or more, until you get credit re-established and your new credit cards in Canada.

    Get a job. Any job that pays a decent amount and is with an organization that is "normal" sounding. Then load up on your financial needs and tools. Then quit the job. Once you are in the game and a customer, you have all the tools you need. The hard part is getting to play in the game in the first place.

    Keep up a relationship with a person of influence in a financial institution in Canada. A friend or family member in a financial institution can make the "no credit" problem disappear - after all, they personally know you went overseas. You are not a risk: You are an asset to Canada! Bringing home your new-found worldliness and capital! (Yeah, right!)

    I’m New To Canada – Tips To Build Your Credit History Fast - Great article targeted at Canada's new immigrants, but applies just as well to Canadians returning home without a recent credit history.

    Sad note: The division between the haves and the have-nots in Canada has never been bigger. The have-nots are permanently relegated to the world of "money stores", handouts, stealing, fraud, selling drugs, and the black market of pawing stoled goods. The Canadian financial system is contributing to this problem more now than every before. Unless you are a member of the traditional workforce, you may have problems obtaining what are now essential tools for helping you be successful and more efficient in a modern economy: Credit cards, loans, mortgages - even essentials like a internet, telephone and hydro! You no longer have constitutional rights to a phone and heat for your house (remember privatization?) Well, your telephone *corporation* looks first at your credit history before giving you service, not your rights as a citizen of Canada!

    Happy note:  On the positive side, social services in Canada are really pretty awesome compared to most other countries in the world, despite their short comings being portrayed in the Canadian media. So those in the weakest position in Canadian society can get a wide range of support from government, NGO, social enterprise and charity services. These services include help setting up essential services or simply giving access to these services for free.

  • Prepare your children for the change by discussing it with them early, openly, and fully.
    • This is a double edged sword: On one hand it will help with planning. On the other, it will mean that the last year and the last few months in particular will go by slowly . It will mess up friendships a bit for them. However, it is my philosophy (yours may be different) that children need to be part of family decisions. By being honest, open, and keeping them more or less fully up to date on family plans your children will be able to actively prepare mentally. Not telling them until much closer to the move date will shock them and could make them feel helpless, stressed, and overwhelmed. You will be the one they take their frustration and insecurities out on as a result!
    • Prepare them for the schools they may be going to. If you plan to home-school in Canada: Find out what the home schooling "climate" is like in the region you are going to live in.
    • Discuss the benefits of your move home. Benefits most often include time with Grandma and Grandpa, access to great public libraries, shows/concerts/events, access to Canadian sports, outdoor activities they might not have had access to, a common language, freedoms and rights, etc.
    • Get them ready for what you will and won't be taking back to Canada with you. Furniture, toys, souvenirs, etc. Identify which toys are touchstones for them to feel secure and safe with. Have one or two of these items with them through your final months abroad and then pack them for the airplane ride, too, so they are close and handy.

  • Pets, children's vaccinations, criminal record checks, ...
    • Pets! Britain was notorious for not letting pets into the country without a 6 month quarantine. If you have owned pets for a long time, this is no news to you if you have lived overseas. That rule has changed recently. Now Brits can bring in pets from certain countries (in the EU) with a vet's sign-off regarding rabies, etc. We knew people who would go to live in Europe for several months on their way to Britain just to get a vet's approval for their pets so they wouldn't have to be quarantined.

      What about Canada? If you own a pet, bringing it to Canada is far less onerous. Check with the Canadian Government's Food Inspection Agency for the latest rules:

      Canadian Food Inspection Agency. (Thanks to a Canadian in Australia for suggesting pets for addition to this document)

    • Children's vaccinations are another issue of concern to some parents. Vaccinations are wonderful things from the perspective of public health. They have minimized or eliminated the threat of some common illnesses for decades in our societies. But they also cause damaging and fatal reactions to a small percentage of children. They can also do other damage to the just forming systems of many more children. Damage that doesn't show up until later in these children's lives. Further compounding the debate is that often newer, less harmful vaccinations are not adopted immediately by public health departments, doctors and hospitals. So children may be unnecessarily being given older, more harmful versions.

      Every country in the world has different policies on vaccinations. Many mandate such vaccinations. And each country has a different brew they give to children at different times. At birth, for example, my son was given a TB shot. For the rest of his life he will test positive for TB because of this. However, there was a significant risk that we would be exposed to TB in the country we lived in and those we traveled to, so this was a balanced risk for us.

      Canada does not require vaccinations at birth nor as a condition for entry for returning Canadians. However, expect that public schools do require them on entrance. Can you object and be excused from this? If you do not want your children vaccinated, likely being excused will be on a case-by-case basis, depending on the school or area you are moving to. Or you can fake the paperwork quite easily. No-one likes playing games with important things you believe strongly in, but just as most people find in other parts of the world, there is more than one way to a goal. Sometimes you have to "work the system" a bit to get what you want in an imperfect world. (Thanks to a Canadian in Australia for suggesting vaccinations for addition to this document).

    • Criminal record checks are a pain when done from overseas. Laura Walker in the UK had to get one done from there and found it took 6 months from overseas but could have taken 48 hours from within Canada. If you need a criminal record check done for a new job in Canada that you will start upon arrival, getting a record checked in Canada upon arrival or on the last visit before you arrive home would make sense. (Thanks Laura for this information!)

6 months ahead of your return to Canada

Jack Novak posed many interesting questions around the following central theme:

Keep your goods and ship them or sell them and travel light?

Jack researched these questions in the context of moving overseas, wondering if people were happier taking a container of their possessions, for example, and shipping them back to Canada when they return, or were happier selling and going originally in suitcases alone.

I (Paul Kurucz) did it both ways. When I first went overseas my boss there said "Sell everything and bring only suitcases!" We did just that and unfortunately, regretted doing so...sort of. We were expecting our second child on the way overseas and having a container load of books, toys, and baby equipment, furniture, etc. would have really helped. We did get a generous furniture allowance, but in the end it would have been better, perhaps, given our particular point in family life, to have our "stuff" with us.

On the other hand, we had the opportunity to spend time experiencing our new country of residence without the emotional comforts, crutches, and chains of our physical stuff. So we definitely benefited from the adventure that moving our life in 6 suitcases resulted in.

Your point in life is important, I think: My boss was in his 50's, had no children, and loved to travel with his wife. To them, moving meant traveling light and enjoying the freedom of their point in life. So my boss' first advice made sense...from their perspective.

We did a second tour overseas and this time sent a container and returned to Canada with one some years later.. Great idea! We loaded up on cool stuff you can't get in Canada (art, rugs, furniture, etc.) on the way back because once your container is paid for, you can load it up to the very top with stuff at basically the same flat rate cost as 1/2 empty.

In summary, a few good questions might therefore be:

  • Where are you in your life? Do you *need* your stuff for what you want to do now and for the next few years?
  • Do you have a lot of emotional attachments to your stuff? How might this affect your experience after arriving ?
  • What is the cost of shipping versus buying new stuff when you arrive back in Canada?
  • What do you want your life to look like when back in Canada? An apartment full of stuff might not be an attractive outcome...on the other hand, an empty 5 bedroom house might not be either!

Please comment on your thoughts and experiences on this question for addition to this site! (contact Paul)

  • Find out how people from your part of the world move their household goods ("hhg") back to Canada. Ask around.

  • Research moving companies and services.
    • There are several shipping options open to you:
      • Go home with suitcases only
        • Pluses: No shipping costs, ready to move anywhere in Canada, flexibility, traveling light.
        • Minuses: You will miss your "stuff" very quickly, costs in Canada for buying all your furniture, kitchen stuff, etc. are extremely high (remember GST and PST?).
      • Ship a bunch of boxes/crates home by air freight
        • Pluses: Stuff gets there fast, stuff is secure, you can pick up your stuff from your nearby airport.
        • Minuses: Very expensive, limited by size and weight limits, gets there too quickly - a problem if you don't already have accommodation lined up.
      • Ship a bunch of boxes/crates home by sea freight.
        • Pluses: Inexpensive, gets there more slowly (if you need time to get settled, this may be a good thing).
        • Minuses: Insecure - your cargo gets bunched with others - it may be opened and pilfered from, damage as your boxes will be repeatedly moved and bashed by often poorly paid laborers.
      • Ship a 20' or 40' container by sea freight.
        • Pluses: You lock it with your own personal padlock at the end of it being packed - you unlock when it arrives in Canada - very secure, a fixed and large amount of space, little or no damage if you are involved in packing it, opportunity to ship home larger furniture, you have your full household ready to go when it arrives (you don't have to buy much in Canada for your new house - big savings)
        • Minus: Expensive (thousands of dollars) to rent a container (but may be totally offset by savings of not having to buy new furniture in Canada), takes up to 6 weeks to get to Canada.
    • Learn all the ins and outs of the moving business.
      • If you can pack all your possessions, you will save thousands of dollars. Moving companies make most of their profits on the packing phase. Pack your own and you will see sad faces from the moving company sales representative.
        • Some moving companies won't do business with you if you want self-pack. They will give you serious-sounding, but ridiculous reasons why they must do the packing. Don't listen to them. Find a moving company who will let you pack if you want to save big bucks.
      • You may be able to handle air freighting or container shipping by yourself. Or not, if you live in a part of the world where corruption is rampant.
      • Never leave for home until you have all the paperwork from the shipper in hand. Never fly out with the words "I will send it to you soon!" ringing in your ears. Leave with the original shipping manifest and bill of lading in hand. Canada Customs must have this when you arrive if you want to clear your goods through customs!
      • Insurance on your container's goods is likely a scam. Many people who pay it and then try to claim for goods that got damaged in transit never get paid out. Or get paid out a pittance. The contract is packed with exceptions in fine print. If you have some extremely expensive, irreplaceable items then insure them individually and professionally and ship them by air freight. Otherwise, skip the 2, 3 or 4% insurance charges the moving company wants you to pay. The ship won't drop your container overboard. Your stuff will get there (particularly if you use the container shipping method).

      Roanna Steven's experience moving her family back to Canada from Bangkok to Vancouver:

  • I wanted to fill you in a bit on our experience of shipping our goods from Bangkok to Vancouver as you provided so many helpful tips for us (thank you SO much)! Actually, the shipping of our household goods ended up being one of the areas that went the smoothest in our international move! We used a shipping company that a friend recommended (and she had had a friend recommend them to her!) and they were superb. Also, their agent on the Vancouver end was excellent as well. (If anyone visits your website and wants a recommendation for a shipping company in Bangkok, I'd HIGHLY recommend CargoPort Thailand. We dealt with a gentleman named Tony who was brilliant. Their web site is

    One thing that did catch us a bit off guard was that Tony mentioned they would have to look in each box that we had packed (I guess to make sure we were in fact only shipping household goods). I panicked a bit (since we had done our own packing and the boxes were VERY tightly packed and I didn't want them being totally unpacked) but he simply looked in the top of each box. It was good that we knew ahead of time though so that we didn't tape up the boxes too tightly! I also had prepared a list of the goods we had so they used that as the packing list.

    A cautionary experience: I was contacted in October 2010 by someone who did not have a good experience with a shipping company. Here is their story and my suggestions:

    (Names of the individual and the shipping company withheld as I cannot confirm both sides of the story)

    "Hi, we have been scammed and robbed by ---------------- relocation company. This a Canadian company that "services" many cities in the world:


    We had to pay over 10,000 USD to be able to recover our things because this had our stuff kidnapped, after paying them us over 10,000 USD (of a 7500 USD quote). Therefore a service that had to be less than 8000 USD, ended on over $20,000 USD.

    This people have scammed and robbed people for years, there are many sites telling horrible stories about them (unfortunately I did not read them before making business with them).

    I do think it is very important to caution everyone who reads your web page of the wrongful activities of this company.

    We are currently talking to lawyers and insurance company as most our things arrived very damaged and a Sony HD 60" flat screen arrived totally destroyed, so we haven´t published our story, but here are some links [links withheld] on how people have been scammed by this people.

    Please let us know if we can publish our story in you site and what is the proper manner to do so.

    We really think consumers should be warned!!!"

    Suggestions from the above experience:

    Really investigate the moving game. Here's how to to lower your risk:

    1. Check with other people who have used moving companies where you are now living. Communicate directly with them about their experiences. You can find these people by asking around about who arrived recently or who left the country recently.

    2. Which moving company does your local Canadian or other country Consulate/Embassy use to move their employees in and out of the country you are in? Wouldn't it make sense that they would use a trusted moving company?

    3. Which moving companies do large corporations, NGO's, large international charities, etc. use to move their employees in and out of the country you are in? Same logic: These organizations will know the best moving companies.

    4. Consider air-cargo. We moved once by using only air cargo - selling all our big belongings. Air cargo was:

    • ultra-fast.
    • cheaper than I thought.
    • you pack and unpack your own goods, saving money and controlling the packing quality.
    • major airlines are generally very professional about air cargo in all respects.
    • you don't generally need middle-men
    • the process was much less hassle in all respects than container or LTL moving.

    The only downside? We moved only a few large boxes of memorabilia and expensive-to-replace items. We had to travel "light".

    5. Use the internet to really check your chosen moving company, particularly if you have any concerns after considering the above suggestions.

    In summary, I don't advocate at any point in life to live in fear. Living abroad and returning to Canada should be exciting and joyful. Rather than fearing what could go wrong, or alternatively just throwing yourself at the mercy of the first moving company that has a sweet-talking salesperson, do some research through other people in your personal network (if you don't have this network, develop it!), check in with your instincts, and if conflicted or worried, consider a different approach to the move (a different company or method).


  • Book your moving/shipping company.
    • Get a firm price quote.
    • Build a clear and professional relationship with your mover.
      • Hint: One of the things I discovered about being successful in life is that it is not the quality and quantity of what you know that is important, but how good your questions are. Part of building a clear and professional relationship with a mover is asking lots of good questions. If the mover can answer them well, you have some confidence in their abilities. They also come to know that you are a customer who they need to treat professionally. If you get back from your questions: "Yes, yes! We take care of all that. Just leave it to us!" this can mean a range possible things, from "they really know their stuff" to "eeekkkk - my container went to the Ukraine by mistake?!" In either case, I suggest asking lots of questions and insisting on clear and full answers, particularly in the context of your moving company. I found out lots of things I needed to be prepared for, and that made my life a lot easier, by asking lots of questions.
    • Make sure he/she knows that you will be talking to many fellow expats about your experience after you move.

    John Morrison, a Canadian who moved back from the U.S. suggests:

Alternatives for reducing moving costs, for those moving from US or possibly Mexico back to Canada

Consider these ways of reducing moving costs:

- if you have a car, purchase a trailer for it and self drive back

- if you don't have a car or any large items to move back e.g. appliances, then consider mailing your items using the US mail to a town just the other side of the border. US mail lets you send domestic mail, up to 70lb in weight for each item. Length plus width plus height of each item must be less than 130". Cost is approximately $52 per item close to these maximums. So if you had 20 boxes close to these maximums that would be $1000. Compare that to $1500 for base rental of a small 1 way truck, before buying gas and other moving costs. You then rent a truck from your new town in Canada for the day, drive down and pick up your goods from across the border. At least, this is my plan

Thank you for your site - got me thinking through my move back from the US!

Yvonne Berglund, who moved back to Canada in 2014:

I found your website to be invaluable when planning my move back to Canada. I lived in San Diego, CA for 35+ years and wanted to return to Canada. The organization of the website spelled out each step very clearly. The unknowns of my return wereanswered. I was most impressed with the information given about the selection of a moving company. I attribute this very successful part of my return to the articles that helped me chose a moving company that not only provided information about packing but also assigned a coordinator who referred me to a contact in Canada to assist with the border crossing details. Everything went smoothly with this aspect due to the suggestions concerning the preparation of the necessary paperwork prior to reaching the border. I cannot stress enough the importance of planning. Your site supported the tips provided with real life experiences that prepared me for all aspects of this move.

Thank you again.



  • Sell off anything (like your cars) that will be hard or expensive to sell near the time of your departure.
    • Many people sell their cars at the last minute before they get on the airplane for Canada. Car dealers overseas know this and low-ball you. Since you are desperate, you take what they offer. You regret keeping it that long. You kept it because you needed it up to the end, you told yourself. NOT SO! If you had sold it earlier at a price the vehicle was worth you could have saved thousands of dollars! Here is how to do it:
      • Sell your car early (2-3 months ahead at least)
      • Rent a vehicle on a short-term lease for the remaining time.
      • You will have pulled your cash out and relieved yourself of the stress of selling it at the last minute. You will have a frightening amount of stuff to do at the end before you leave. Save yourself the extra grief of trying to get rid of your vehicle at the last minute.
      • The money you save by getting a good price will often cover the short-term lease and more!!
      • Another bonus: You don't have to worry about maintenance, repairs or possible breakdowns in the last few months!
      • If you wish to bring your car home with you, note that you can only import cars from the U.S. and only under certain conditions.
        • If you originally shipped the car overseas from Canada, you should be able to ship it back to Canada, as long as it has not been modified mechanically.
        • Details on importing vehicles to Canada can be found on the Canada Customs web site.

  • Begin making contacts in Canada for jobs, social events, social groups, etc. which you want to get involved in when you arrive. Making connections now will make the transition easier. If you have favorite musical concert to look forward to when you arrive this will be another anchor in Canada you can hold onto during the frantic last minute preparations. Have a camping trip planned with your kids. Have a family reunion planned. Stuff like that.

  • Get a job in Canada ahead of time...if you can. Unless you are retiring back to Canada (which many people are), getting work in Canada is one of the big challenges you might face. Why? There is an old saying that a house that is lived in is easier to sell than one that isn't. The same applies to getting a job in Canada: Having a job already in Canada means it is easer to get another from your current position. An employed person seems more attractive than an unemployed one. Now add in the fact that the job you just had was not in Canada, nor perhaps in some recognizable place like the United States, and you have a first screening disadvantage on jobs you apply for.

    And it gets even more challenging: I once had a middle-aged gentleman from the UK apply for a job that I was hiring for (in Canada). He had a "Higher National Diploma". I required a "Bachelor Degree". Guess what? In my youthful ignorance I assumed it wasn't comparable or valuable enough and he didn't get past first screening. In later years when I learned what a Higher National Diplomas was - basically equivalent to a Bachelor's degree - I realized that he was not only qualified, but likely an excellent candidate. (sigh).

    How do you beat this seeming disadvantage when you are returning to Canada and want to find employment? Some tips :

    • Great real estate: "location, location, location". Great jobs: "networking, networking, networking". OK, so networking can feel distasteful to many people. But it is necessary for most. Some networking suggestions:
      • Join service groups like Rotary. They are international, so why not do join in your overseas location before you return? Then you can transfer over and find yourself smack in the middle of a group of welcoming, supportive people (= job)
      • A lot of cities in Canada have "newcomers" clubs for anyone new to the city for less than 2 years.
      • Use your industry association to make contacts by attending trade shows/fairs/conventions in the year before you come back.
      • Come back 1-3 months ahead and just knock on doors of organizations directly in line with your experience and interests. Or make contact with their overseas branch in the location you are in and ask for Canadian contacts from the folks in the overseas branch. They might be more willing to help, often being expats themselves, than those in the Canadian location.
      • Talk to people, talk to people, talk to people. Canadian friends, former Canadian co-workers & bosses, family members. Let them know you are looking for work after arriving back from an exciting time overseas. Your excitement over returning to Canada and cool anecdotal stories you share will go a long way to Canadian employers seeing you as interesting. Remember: Most Canadians want to travel. You are a kind of "hero" to them - you not only traveled, but LIVED overseas. Cool. Share this "Cool" with them. And watch your excitement turn into an interesting opportunity here in Canada for you through networking.
    • Start your own business. Really.

      "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." (Chris G., May 2014).

    • Seek out a smaller firm that does business internationally. They will understand you better than a 23 year old assistant manager of the XYZ local credit union in ABC town in any province in Canada.
    • Go back to work overseas...but live in Canada. Many opportunities exist to help other countries export to Canada. Examples, students from other countries who want to study in Canada. Firms who wish to export to Canada. You can be their agent, start their local subsidiary in Canada, or act as their representative here. Cool.
    • Network with everyone and anyone you meet in Canada and abroad. Tell them your story. Oh, yes, I already mentioned networking as the best (yes, the best) way to get a great job fast in Canada.

    • Did I mention networking?

    • Check out the new "Careers" page for more indepth help with getting a job and restarting your career in Canada.

  • Driver's license
    • Can you "convert" your current foreign one to a driver's license in the province you will be living in?
      • Every province has its own special rules regarding "reciprocity" between their driver's licenses and those of other countries. Reciprocity means being able to exchange your license back and forth between those countries. Some provinces are easier and more flexible than others, but in general, there is reciprocity between many "first world" countries and Canada.
      • When I first went overseas I ensured that my driver's license from BC had a long expiry so that I would have the opportunity to not lose it. Even so, after many years overseas I renewed it while on vacation back in Canada. However, I understand that many people wouldn't worry about that or would simply not have the opportunity to do so. If you do have the chance to keep your current Canadian license without impacting your non-residency status, I suggest doing so.
      • Suggestion: Once you have decided which province you will settle in, check out that province's web site to see if there is reciprocity with the country /state. If there is not, you will have to apply as a new driver. If there is reciprocity, more paperwork is now required for some provinces, including proof of length of time you have been driving and even proof of your driving record (accident history).

      Michael Hartman added this in April 2012:

      I come from a country that does not have a reciprocal licensing agreement, and I've been worrying that I'd have to go through the graduated license restrictions (in Ontario). However, here's a link I found that you may want to post for the benefit of your readers. It shows that there is a process that can be followed that results in waiving all the waiting periods, meaning you can immediately take the full test and (assuming you pass), skip the restricted driving phases.

      (Thank you, Michael, for sharing this!)

    Kathleen Hunter's experience with Ontario:

    There is a new rule in Ontario ... - to exchange a driver's license one needs to provide proof of having a valid driver's license in one of the countries or states with which Ontario has reciprocity - this has to be a letter on the letter head of the state or country - no faxes, no copies, no emails - in my case NH will only provide this after I fill out a form and have it notarized and mail it to them - they will then mail it to me - no Fed Ex - only snail mail.

    (Thank you, Kathleen, for sharing your experience!)

    Paul's addendum: Ontario's rules on reciprocity:

    Laura Walker's experience:

    A Canadian living in the UK and preparing to take up residence in Canada, Laura researched driver's licenses and whether you can exchange your overseas license for a Canadian one without doing a test. She was able to change her Canadian driver's license for a UK one when she first went overseas. Ontario, for example, allows a direct exchange of driver's license if you have more than 2 years driving experience, for "drivers from other Canadian provinces, Canadian Forces-Europe, U.S.A., Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Germany, France, Great Britain, Austria and Belgium." For people from other countries who have let their Canadian driver's licenses lapse, you may have to take a new test! Check the details noted on the web sites of the province in which you intend to take up residence. As well, individual employees at individual offices of your province's licensing division may interpret your situation differently.

    (Thank you, Laura, for this information!)

The last month before you leave for Canada

  • Get your cash out of the country you are in to an off-shore account or back to Canada.
    • A practical policy for keeping things clean with CRA is "Cash into Canada, then you, then your goods". In that order. This can be important to keep a clear picture of you as a non-resident.
    • Goods that proceed you can be a problem as you are not there to clear them. And you may be deemed resident from that point forward by CRA. Which means you might pay tax on your final earnings overseas!
    • If significant amounts of money arrive in the months after you arrive, CRA may question whether this is income earned after you took up residency in Canada. Ooooopppssss!!!

  • Get a letter from your employer, indicating:
    • That you worked for them.
    • Where you worked - what country.
    • For how long, specifically.
    • If you have more than one country of residence while working at the same company, ensure the letter details exactly how long and in which countries.

    This letter is of value if you get asked to prove where you were, what you did, and how long you did it there. This might be asked when you just return at the airport (though rarely asked for), at tax time, or when applying for Canadian public health care, for example.

    Self-employed overseas? Simply bring one copy of each of your local hydro bill, children's school fees, telephone bill, etc. A few of these showing your overseas footprint is just as good as a letter from an employer. Another option: Sometimes utility companies and other agencies will give you a letter indicating length of service and a clean credit status (always useful).

  • Get a letter from your overseas car insurance company indicating the length of time they have a record of no claims for you, when you cancel your car insurance. This can be VERY handy for obtaining discounted car insurance in Canada. Hint: When I first returned to Canada I was quoted a really high car insurance rate by a couple of insurance companies because I didn't have recent car insurance history in Canada. I persisted in shopping around and the 4th or 5th place I checked accepted my older history and my overseas records and gave me a huge discount! Be sure to shop around when you get back! A recent contact (2012) told me a similar tale, so this tip is very applicable today.

  • Get a letter from your driver's licensing authority in the country you are living, indicating your driver's license history with them (length of time licensed, clean record, class of license, etc.) If you know the province you are going to in Canada, ensure that the driver's licensing reciprocity requirements of this province are met in the letter. This is a new (2011) and unexciting development in Canadian bureaucracy - exchanging your driver's license now requires a letter in some country cases. More information on driver's license exchanges.

  • Get all of your health records from all of your providers before you move. This can include your formal doctor's and hospital records, history of medications, children's inoculations, etc. Great to have even if you don't have ongoing health concerns. In an emergency, having these records on hand would be much easier than trying to retrieve them remotely later. (Thanks, Chris G. for the suggestion to include this!)

  • Get your BSF186 form (formerly called a B4 form), carefully fill it out and get required documents prepared. This document, a PDF guide for returning residents, and much more is available from the new "Canadian Border Services Agency" web site - link as of December 2015:

    BSF186 form link:

    Thank you to Laura Walker in the UK for this information.

  • Pack your BSF186 form, letter from your employer, and other required documents in your handbag (not your suitcase!) that you will be carrying onto your plane. You will need these at passport control at the Canadian airport at which you arrive.

  • Move your e-mail account over to an international or Canadian internet service provider. Then you can ensure more or less seamless transfer of your on-line presence. This note is for people who have email accounts with their employer or tied to their country. If you have been using a Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail account, for example, these are universal and you don't need to change them.

  • Make a time line oriented check list of all the things you need to do. Particularly for the last 2 weeks and last 2 days.

  • Pack, pack, pack.
    • Do not pack the following:
      • Alcohol...unless you know exactly what you are allowed to bring into Canada - check with Customs and you must obtain an import declaration from your provinces Provincial Liquor Control Board. You will most likely have to pay duties on anything over your personal allowance.
      • Same applies to tobacco but less paperwork.
      • Food products, including seeds, clippings, branches, spices, etc. DO NOT PACK FOOD. When your shipment arrives in Canada it will be held up by Agriculture Canada until they are satisfied there are not possibly contaminating food, molds, or contaminating non-native plants or organisms.
      • Firearms (duh!) One of the nice things about Canada is that guns are not pervasive. Let's keep it that way!
      • Illegal hunting trophies or souvenirs (i.e. ivory, etc.). Usual banned stuff.
      • Any goods that belong to someone else. This messes up the process and could mean the difference between a costly and damaging search of your goods and a simple "You're cleared!". Either declare all the goods yours or don't bring other people's stuff with you. Get them to ship their own.
      • Anything else you don't want confiscated by Customs if they search your container.
    • Special packing considerations:
      • Any item over C$10,000 is a problem. You may have to pay tax and other complications can occur. Best not to bring any item over C$10,000 unless you really must. And then do your homework ahead of time on issues relating to this with CRA.
      • Any cars, boats, motorcycles, motorbikes, motor homes, aircraft, etc. Check with CRA on importing regulations or requirements.
      • Gifts - minimize the value of gifts you are bringing in. If gifts have a high value you get into tax and import duties considerations. Simple rule: Keep total value of gifts under C$100 and you won't have any trouble.
      • All goods must be owned and in your possession for more than 6 months. Have receipts to prove this with you for any possibly contentious items you may be bringing in.

Received July 2013 from a Mrs. S. McDougall, moving back to Canada from the U.S.:

" said: 'Things to not pack: Firearms (duh!) One of the nice things about Canada is that guns are not pervasive. Let's keep it that way!'

That is really an opinion not necessarily based on fact. For one thing, not all guns are handguns owned by psychopaths. There are generations of hunters in my family (in Canada) who supply their families with deer and moose meat each year, as well as bird hunting. Also, some are actually antiques. We ended up bestowing our grandfather\'s antique 1919 Winchester on our son, because it was too complicated to get it through the border to the U.S. (inherited years after we moved to U.S.)"

Response: Certainly my note about firearms and Canada is an editorial opinion. Thank you for your comments, Mrs. McDougall.

  • Prepare and send out change of address notifications.
  • Prepare your health insurance in Canada. This is an important one: For some incredible reason, you will not get health coverage by Canada's "universal" health care system for the first 3 months you are resident again in Canada if you are moving home to British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, or New Brunswick. Other provinces do not require a waiting period - simply apply for immediate coverage to the health authority in the province you are settling in.

    • If you are moving back home to BC, ON, PQ, or NB, you have three choices:

    1. Have your overseas health coverage extended for 3 months past your return date. If you have a good track record with your overseas health insurance, they may be able to offer this coverage. Or your employer overseas might pick it up. If you are simply being transferred home by an employer, they likely will cover this anyway.
    2. Buy 3 months worth of health insurance here in Canada. The cost can be quite high: We checked into it for our family of 4. $700+ for coverage up to $60k, with a large deductible.
    3. Go three months without health insurance. You assume the risk and potential costs of any health issues that come up. Risking no coverage, if you are in good health, it is another option. After all, 4 billion people or more in this world have no "health coverage" or even access to western-style medical care. Is it so ridiculous to think that you might go three months without coverage and still emerge whole, sane, and with your finances intact?

Jane, a Canadian moving back from the U.S. notes her reason for returning to Canada:

"I am a 60 yr. old, unemployed, female moving back to Ontario because I can no longer afford to live in the U.S.A. without health care...."

What is the value of the Canadian health care system? If in doubt, watch Michael Moore's film "Sicko".

And note that health care is not free in Canada - in BC unless your employer pays it, you pay $70+ per month, per person, for your health care (as of 2015)

Kate, moving back to Manitoba, comments on the waiting period for her health care coverage:

"One item you should re-investigate is the section on Health Care Coverage. We are returning to Canada and have been assured by Manitoba Health that we can be covered, as soon as we register with them, As long as we provide certain documents to them immediately: Proof of residence (i.e. proof of property purchase), our airline tickets (showing when we arrived), and proof of citizenship. There may be other requirements by province, but it is really unfortunate if there are people believing they must go 3 months without coverage and/or paying ridiculous fees for coverage...

...It is possible that insurance companies are not aware of this situation (at least not the one we originally contacted and Luckily did not pay for!), Or that they choose to be ignorant to this situation. We were lucky that we phoned Manitoba Health to clarify when our coverage would start, before paying an insurance company."

Follow-up: Kate is correct: Manitoba does not require a waiting period. However, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick do require a 3-month waiting period for public health insurance to start.

Bradley M., moving back to BC in summer 2015, on the BC health care waiting period:

"We just moved back from the Middle East, upon arriving back in BC we were told that we did not qualify for BC Health Insurance for three months. Indeed, the province refused to issue us our Care cards because we do not qualify for 90 days, even though we are returning Canadians. Luckily there is a place in Duncan where our children can still receive medical treatment for free, but we'll have to get 'visitors insurance' for three months. I had no idea that the government would refuse coverage, especially to a family with children. ."




Preparations you can do while vacationing in Canada for the last time before moving home.

  • The last vacation you take before returning home is a wonderful time to prepare for your move home. Some of the things you can do:
    • Set up schooling or home schooling for your kids.
    • Buy a house.
    • Set up a bank account (not a credit card, however - remember CRA residency issues)
    • Research where you want to live.
    • ...
  • Set up a contact address, phone number, fax number, and e-mail address. This is important. When you prepare your paperwork for the shipment and the shipping company you must have a Canadian destination address, a Canadian contact phone number, and a fax number. Use a relative's number if you can be sure that you can be easily reached at these numbers. You will get several phone calls and faxes after you arrive. Be ready for them.
    • HINT: The rest of the world has moved to e-mail. The shipping industry and some government departments have not completely done so yet. They still use faxes and it really throws them off if you say you don't have access to a private fax machine. Prepare for this: Get access to a fax machine and fax number to receive faxes before you arrive home. IMPORTANT: Many of the communications will be time sensitive. Missing an Agriculture Canada or shipping company fax could mean your shipment will be sitting at a dock and you won't know. Each day it is sitting in port can mean $100 or more a day in port charges (!)

    Sean Currie has this suggestion regarding faxes:

    "I´m considering moving back to Canada and came across your site. One suggestion regarding the need for a fax number with the shipping companies:

    You can get a free phone number that people can call or fax to. You can´t answer the phone, but it gives you a free US number, and any faxes are sent to the e-mail that you register with as attachments (as are the voice mails).

    Hope this helps. Thanks for the site."

    Paul's ad-on: On-line fax services are a very useful tool. In addition to Sean's specific suggestion, above, search Google for "online faxes" and you will get a number of online fax services that might meet your need. These services replace the need for a physical fax machine.

When you arrive in Canada.

At the airport when you arrive:

  • What to have on you, and ready to present, upon leaving the plane:

    • Returning Canadian Residents (Canadian citizens returning to take up residency in Canada):

      • Your completed BSF186 form
      • Your inventory of goods to follow - a packing list, preferably valued of what will be following you in a container or whatever other shipping method you choose. You will need to declare at least a total C$ figure of what your goods are worth.
      • Your passports
      • Liquor permit if you have decided to bring alcohol into Canada.
      • Immigration papers if you are not Canadian citizens.
      • Receipts for any item that Customs might want proof that it was in your possession for more than 6 months. Persian rugs, expensive art, computers, etc.
      • Proof of your being overseas as a non-resident, for tax purposes - a work contract, proof of residency overseas, etc. I brought this documentation with me but was never asked for it by customs staff. Apparently, it is required. Better to be safe than sorry! (Thank you, Gloria, who is returning to Canada in December 2011, for suggesting this be added here!)

    • If you are not a Canadian citizen - you are immigrating, coming with a work permit, or are bringing in an inheritance, the paperwork differs. Check with CBSA and CRA for details on what you need.

  • Declare to the Passport Control person that you are resuming residency in Canada. They will steer you towards the right person.
    • HINT: Having your neatly completed BSF186 and inventory in hand will please and delight the CRA personnel who will work on the paperwork you need to clear your goods later. Pleasing and delighting CRA staff by making their lives easier (ie. they don't have to fill out the BSF186 or ask you too many questions) will mean a reduced risk of hassle in clearing yourselves now and your goods later.

At the land border when you are about to drive into Canada:

  • Do all of the above that you would do at the airport, but be a few more things to consider:

    • If you are bringing pets, be sure you have your vet clearance papers
    • If you are importing your vehicle to Canada, be sure you received export clearance on the U.S. side

  • HINT: Did you know that each border office has a phone number for Customs and another for Immigration? If you have a complicated situation, you can call either the customs or immigration office (depending on your situation), explain when you are crossing, and ask for their instructions on how to handle your situation. Then, when you actually drive through, you have a name of the person you talked to and an explanation of the instructions you were given! This goes a long way to smoothing out any potential wrinkes and helps you feel more confident about the crossing, a point of contact that makes many people nervious. The phone numbers can be a bit tricky to obtain, but starting with the central Customs phone number can lead you to the actual border office numbers:

    (use the option to speak to an agent)

Leslie Baker's experience of coming back by a land border in July 2014:

"We have just returned to the GTA after living in the States for 33 years. We were rather apprehensive about the move and all the problems which goes with it. At the Fort Erie border the whole took maybe 30 minutes. After reviewing the completed paperwork for the personal belongings and the car, they never even came out to look at the truck or the car. The officers could not have been more pleasant. Getting the OHIP was a breeze, again no issues at all. All and all easy if all your ducks are in order."

Paul: Welcome home, Leslie! May everyone's return be as smooth and easy as yours...

Preparation pays off - Don and Erin Aspinall's experience:

"We just wanted to say a BIG Thank You for your site and it's excellent advice. We just moved (2 days ago!) from Dublin, Ireland to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Customs officers at the airport were well impressed with our paperwork. Thanks to your advice, we had everything in order, including our B4 [now BSF186] and shipping forms. It was a breeze to go through Customs at the airport and then at the Harbour office. "

Paul: Welcome home, Don and Erin! May everyone's return be as smooth and easy as yours...

Carrying $10,000 or more with you when you arrive? A suggestion from Patty Juno:

"Would add one thing to Part 3:... the form if you are carrying more than 10K in currency - which returning teachers sometimes have, having just got their last paychecks and cleared out their bank accounts in the country they are leaving, etc."

[The CBSA web page entitled "Crossing the border with $10,000 or more?"]

[The CBSA Form E677, Cross-Border Currency or Monetary Instruments Report - Individual]

"Can they search my cell phone when I cross the border?"

The question was asked by a Canadian citizen coming back to Canada. I recently heard from an American who was coming to visit Canada. He was asked by CBSA staff at the border the name of the person he was going to visit in Canada. When he told them the name of the person, they asked to see this person's name on his cell phone.

My sense is that this was just a cross-check by CBSA staff to get a sense if he was telling them the (full?) truth about his visit (which he was). I think it is some kind of test of a person's story. And I can't imagine they would ask Canadian citizens coming over the border - just visitors.

Interestingly, asking for access to cell phone contacts may touch a raw nerve with some people. We live in a pretty safe country and one that generally respects personal privacy and dignity. In some unnamed major countries, however, having the name and phone number of a person who has spoken out against authority can mean a death sentence for that person if they can be tracked through a telephone number. And it will likely mean instant suspicion or worse for you, if you have that person's telephone number in your phone's contact list.

I hope CBSA staff understand this sensitivity. I think people feel their contact information is part of their privacy. Revealing it casually might feel like submitting to a physical strip search - an invasion of your very personal privacy.

To be clear: I fully support and advocate only one principle when crossing the Canadian border, or any country border, for that matter:


Be absolutely open, transparent, and safe when crossing borders. Don't bring anything that you feel you have to hide. Never lie. And never have a reason to lie.

We live in great country that will support you if you bring your hope, clear spirit, and integrity with you when you come (back).

It's a karma thing.


In the first week after you arrive:

  • Take regular fun breaks. Make moving home an adventure.

    • Hint: Get inexpensive but spacious accommodation and a vehicle - FAST. The sooner you get these, the sooner your bank account stops hemorrhaging.

  • Phone the local representative of the shipping company. Their partner company in Canada who will physically and paperwork-wise handle your shipment. Introduce yourself and let them know you have arrived and are awaiting your shipment. They may have paperwork for you to fill out or instructions on how to deal with Customs clearance.

  • Everything is different and you are in the early honeymoon phase of moving home. Enjoy it, but also make sure that your honeymoon isn't seen differently by extended family members who haven't left Canada...spend time with them, but not too much!

In the first 2 months after you arrive:

  • Obtaining Agriculture Canada Clearance:

    You may receive a fax or telephone call from your moving or shipping company that Agriculture Canada is holding your shipment pending confirmation of the contents before they will release it. Don't be afraid: This is a common and standard practice. Just fax them a contents list.

    Adam Lossing's experience returning to Vancouver and getting his container cleared in July 2011:

    I have found your site quite valuable and have passed it on to colleagues that are moving back to Canada. The bit I would like to offer as thanks is a current number for the CBSA office to make an appointment to clear a container out of the Vancouver ports. When I called 604-666-0547 I was able to book my appointment for this and the agent I spoke to said that I needed to provide the manifest from the shipping company, an inventory c/w approximate values, passports for the entire family and proof of being abroad, in my case, for nine years. For the latter I plan to bring in my expired and present
    passports, utility bills I have saved over the years and a salary letter from my last employer.


  • Hint: Clearly note on your fax to Agriculture Canada that there are no seeds, spices, food, dirt on any garden tools, etc. in your shipment. Make it easy for them to say " <sound of rubber stamp hitting your paperwork> Released!"

    Clearing Customs

      • You can do this the Hard Way or the Easy Way:

        • The Hard Way: When you go to Customs in your nearest Canadian city to obtain final clearance of your shipment once it has arrived in Canada (you will most likely have to do this) you break every logical preparation rule:
          • You didn't prepare your paperwork neatly, clearly, and completely.
          • You are bringing in lots of suspect stuff - alcohol, cigarettes, a car, lots of persian rugs, etc.
          • You are dressed poorly - or too fancily.
          • You haven't showered that day - or shaved.
          • You don't take off your sunglasses when you go up to the Customs counter.
          • You go to customs at 4:00pm, when the employees are tired and want to go home.
          • You don't like Customs, the Customs officer you interact with - and you tell them so.

        • As a result of your choice of the hard way, you will have to submit your shipment to a search. This causes delays, charges (you have to pay for Customs to inspect your shipment!), damage during inspection, and probably impoundment and possible permanent loss of some of your goods if they decide to send some of your things to Ottawa for x-ray or further investigation.

        • Hint: Choose the easy way.

        • The Easy Way: When you go to Customs to get final clearance on your shipment, do the following:
          • If available, bring a child with you. If possible, have them engage with Customs officer if they are not shy. You have just presented yourself as a family moving back to Canada - a family who is normal and has nothing to hide. Your kids just want their toys to play with from the shipment.
            • Second choice: Bring your spouse.
            • Third choice: Go alone. No problem doing this, just plan to have the following in place:
          • Make sure your paperwork is impeccable.
          • Don't bring in anything that will cause the Customs officer to look twice at your paperwork.
          • Dress cleanly and neatly but not too fancily. You want to project a normal, wholesome Canadian appearance. Too fancily will imply that you are a drug dealer and that there are 300kg of cocaine in your shipment. Too shabily and who knows what you are projecting.
          • Visit the Customs office at a reasonable hour of the day. 9-11am is good, as is 1-3.
          • Be nice to the Customs officer. Take off your sunglasses and be courteous and pleasant with them. An easy customer is a customer who gets their paperwork stamped "Cleared" with no search or other hassle. Instant release of your goods is what you are aiming for.
          • YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! Horror stories abound - real ones I have heard personally from returned expats who actually went through the hard way (their goods were searched). So take the easy way! There is no guaranteed way to make sure your goods won't be searched, just ways of dramatically lowering the risk that they will be.

One family's experience:

When we got to the Vancouver airport, I went to the customs area to present the form B4 [now BSF186]. It seems they no longer process things the same way. They asked how old the stuff was that we were bringing WITH us and that was it. Then, they gave me a sheet of paper with a phone number to call once our goods arrived in Thailand. No B4 [now BSF186] form or any other forms! This made me a bit nervous but, when our goods did arrive in Vancouver, we called the number on the sheet of paper and made an appointment (well, they actually told us when to come) with Canada Border Services Agency. As per your advice, I didn't send my husband solo to our appointment!! In fact, my husband and I and two young daughters all went together. It was a breeze! The agent was delightful and gave my girls stickers and even let them stamp our paperwork! We were in and out very quickly and she faxed the necessary documents to the shipping agent right away so our goods could be released. Wow!

Note: I love such stories because experiences like this do happen regularly. HOWEVER, be sure to complete your B4 [now BSF186] and any other required forms for your particular moving circumstances. Like anyone else, hard-working Customs staff are reluctant to cause anyone extra work. If you are friendly, courteous, and polite, you will do just fine, regardless. Having your B4 with you just makes it easier for them to go easy on you. Enough said.


  • Please share with me your experiences so that I can post any stories, anecdotes, advice, and tips that will help other people! Thank you!


Final stories from Canadians who moved back

Michelle Gay, a Canadian who moved back from Asia, writes:

One thing that has really struck me - I have been back for 10 that people move on. I really thought that the friends and family who I kept coming to visit all those years....were in a strange sense waiting for me to pick up where we left off. Coming back I realized that my relationships were kept alive because for the most part, I initiated them (called people to say I was coming home and do the driving to see them). Now that I'm back, I realize people moved on a long time ago and I've just been visiting their lives over the years. So in moving back, my insights would be to tell people that moving back is in many ways just like starting over again. You should prepare to carve out your life and reinvent yourself again.

I'm still loving the English speaking world though! I lived in Asia for over eight years and wow - to join a class, to eavesdrop on the bus, to walk into the store and listen to advertisements...I'm still appreciating being able to understand my environment.

(Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your experience!)

Mrs. Arti Meyers, now in Toronto, generously shares her experiences and tips:

We have been back in Canada for 11 months now. We left in 1989 for the first time, and then since then have lived in London twice, Barbados and New York. Since 1989, we have lived in Canada for 3 years, dropping in and out.

This was our 3rd return home.... and maybe three times lucky. We find that the move HOME is always the most difficult move to make... because we expect or want it to be comfortable, natural and easy.... but this is usually not the case. I have to admit that the 3rd move home has been the best of the three. Perhaps this is because we have learned about what to expect, and have learned a few tricks.... or perhaps its because we are older and wiser....

Things that were particularly trying this year were trying to find a doctor in the Toronto area.... public health care in Canada seems to be a big problem here now. Be sure to go and get your health cards immediately, and probably the best short term health care option is to go to the walk in clinics that are set up. They are better than I had expected, and after waiting an hour or two, at least the problem gets dealt with. (personally, I prefer the British health care system that offers people the choice..... We used our local public care when it was convenient, quick and we felt confident with it, and when we had something of more concern, or something we needed attended to immediately, we used private health care.... we could use both, and that made a lot of sense!)

The other huge pain in the *** was the telephone company! We thought we'd go with Rogers for cable, internet, phone and cells... for 5 people. They overcharged us by hundreds of dollars every month ---for months, and honestly June was the first time that we received a correct bill. Do you know how many hours on the telephone this took - This is a problem.

The other problem is in terms of work.... and if you have been out of the loop for a long time, it is really difficult and hard to work to get the network going again, to try to get work. The networking is key, and this was what my husband did... but honestly after almost 20 years away, the network is more outside of Canada than within Canada.... and that is ok because we have lived globally, and that is really our community.(My husband is now a consultant and this trip is in the Middle East and Europe!)

In terms of aclimating, my 16 year old son did this seamlessly. Here is a tip. Get involved right away in something that you are passionate about... he is a sports guy, and joined the football team on the 3rd day of school... then the rugby team.... it was a great way to meet good guys, be involved and slip right into the middle of high school! My daughter started university here at Queens in Kingston, Ontario, and although she missed London and her friends there, she said that it was so easy to meet friends, and this was a natural time of change, so this was also seamless.... that is another point, that if you can make the moves at natural change times, and that makes things much easier.

In terms of the family and friend interaction... this was a really upsetting one in moves gone by,...but this time we were wiser, so were not expecting hugs and kisses and weekly visits...... It was as we knew it would be on move home #3..... our dearest closest friends were there for us and continue to be our dearest friends....Our families were there a bit overall....and that was just fine. I think that the trick is to understand that you have been away, and that people have continued their lives without you.... so it is best to just try to make sure that you are creating an independent life, without overly relying on old supports.

Finally, after having been part of womens groups in new york, london and barbados....I thought that I would join the Newcomers Club in Toronto (we had never lived in Toronto) , so that I could stay involed in expat type activites with a more international crowd who had a fresh view of Canada and the city. This was a good idea, and a great insurance policy in case things with old friends & family was dull or not magic.... as it turned out for me, I was so busy with my nuclear family, old friends and greater family, I had little time for this.... BUT ... I would recommend it as a good idea, and a way to make the transition easier.

( Thank you, Arti!)

  • You will face lots of challenges and enjoyments. Watch for typical culture shock and some ups and downs of emotions, but bear with them: They are natural.

    Good luck and welcome back to Canada!


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Need help? Have questions?

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

Paul Kurucz in Victoria, BC, Canada

July 2014: A happy client:

Hi Paul,

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

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

With best wishes,


professional support


Useful Links

Note: I have reviewed these sites to be sure they are legit. I have not personally used the moving companies, however. Please let me know your experience, either good or bad, and I will keep this list updated and useful for all.

Government Resources:

  • Canadian Border Services Agency - Created in 2003, this agency and this web site has the BSF186 form and lots of other information and resources or returning residents. (Thanks to a Laura Walker in UK for finding this new agency web site and sending it to me for inclusion here).

  • Canada Revenue Agency - CRA - main site. All things taxes.

Moving Companies:

  • 1st Move International - A UK to Canada household goods shipping company.

  • - this service will get you several quotes from reputable shipping firms. I have been in communication with the owner of this business, who started the business primarily to ensure new Canadian immigrants get treated well by moving companies. Also includes useful resource information on the move back process.

  • Crown Worldwide - Relocations - a top tier mover. Expect it to be expensive but thorough. Specializes in many parts of the world in moving corporate and oil industry expats, so offices in Toronto and Alberta but not other parts of Canada.

  • Allied Pickfords - This is a top tier mover. Expect it to be expensive but thorough.

General Moving Back to Canada Resource sites:

  • - A company that can help you find the cheapest way to transfer your money back to Canada from many countries in the world. An alternative to using the banking system.

  • - This site can help you find the best neighbourhood to live in. Only major cities in Canada listed, but a great resource that can help you craft the lifetyle you want when you move back to Canada.

  • - The Canadian Expatriate Association. Lots of useful resources and links here for Canadian expats abroad.

  • - Well, the name says it all. Some relocation information and other goodies on this site. A popular discussion forum on this site. They also have a travel service.

  • - More to do with investing your money and avoiding being declared resident of Canada, but regular articles on preparing to come home. Focus of this company is selling investment products and tax consulting services, but they have some useful resources in their newsletters and on their web site.

  • - The name does not say it all. Information for expats and wannabe expats now living in Canada. Some useful resources and lots of links to other potentially useful sites.

  • - "Robert R. MacDonald - Canadian Expatriate Tax Consultant". 'Nuff said. If you use Robert's services and were referred from this web site, please tell him. Also, please contact me and let me know if you were happy with his service.

    • "I used Robert's services between 2002-2005 to help me with my first relocation back to Canada, and then to deal with my taxes while renting out a property and then selling it after I had gone abroad again. He was professional, informed and saved me a lot of money. He even advised and taught my property management company how they should be dealing with my accounts properly. This year, 2014, as I contemplate another move back 'HOME" I have decided to contact him before I even return, so that he can advise me on the best way to set up my return." - Lana Y., September 2014.

  • OneStop Canada - Customs and Immigration - a great resource page with links to useful CBSA resources and forms for when you arrive back to Canada. (Thanks to Patty Juno for suggesting this page for inclusion here!)

  • Small Planet Studios - Been Abroad? - a resource site for people who are returning after being abroad. Free resources and classes. Getting involved with a supportive community can really help.

  • "Moving to Canada" guide produced by Atlas Van LInes. A nice summary document that is useful to expats as well as the intended audience of people moving to Canada for the first time.


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