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:
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
The top 3 questions Canadian expats want answered:
1. Do you pay taxes when you bring money back to Canada?
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!
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
- 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
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
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
- Becoming an absolute magnet to the opposite sex ('you're from LA?
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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"
- 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
- 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!)
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
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!
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
- 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
- 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:
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
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
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.
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 www.cargoportthailand.com).
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
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
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
4. Consider air-cargo. We moved once by using only air cargo - selling
all our big belongings. Air cargo was:
- 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
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
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
- 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.
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
- 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).
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!)
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: http://www.drivetest.ca/en/license/exchangeReciprocal.aspx
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.:
"...you 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
...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
- 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
- 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 $100 or more a day in port charges (!)
Sean Currie has this suggestion regarding faxes:
"I´m considering moving back to Canada and came across
your site. One suggestion regarding the need for a fax number with
the shipping companies:
You can get a free phone number that people can call or fax to. You
can´t answer the phone, but it gives you a free US number, and
any faxes are sent to the e-mail that you register with as attachments
(as are the voice mails).
Hope this helps. Thanks for the site."
Paul's ad-on: On-line fax services
are a very useful tool. In addition to Sean's specific suggestion,
above, search Google for "online faxes" and you will get
a number of online fax services that might meet your need. These services
replace the need for a physical fax machine.
you arrive in Canada.
At the airport when you arrive:
- What to have on you, and ready to present, upon leaving the
- Returning Canadian Residents (Canadian citizens returning to take
up residency in Canada):
- Your completed BSF186 form
- Your inventory of goods to follow - a packing list, preferably
valued of what will be following you in a container or whatever
other shipping method you choose. You will need to declare at
least a total C$ 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
- 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
- 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
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:
- 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!"
- 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
- 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.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
- 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
- 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 months...is
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
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:
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
With best wishes,