I am writing this post to document my experience of relocating from US to Canada in November 2022. Me and my family lived in the US from January 2017 to November 2022. Due to certain immigration related issues we decided to look for opportunities in Canada after June 2022 and finally made the move in early November. In this post I will cover some points regarding wrapping up your life in US as well as setting up things in Canada. I hope this post can serve as a guide and help people who will be going through a similar experience in future.
Let me first start with my Canada immigration status. Both me and my wife are Canadian permanent residents. We did our soft landing in 2018 and collected our PR card. In February 2020 we were blessed with a son and he does not have a permanent residency status in Canada yet.
Another aspect to clarify here is that - I did not move to Canada through my US employer. I resigned from my job in the US and moved to Canada to join a new employer.
Below are some of the most important points/steps that I personally experienced while planning this move.
- US born child who is not yet a PR of Canada - Since our son does not have a Canadian PR status - we were given a visitor record by CIEC at the border checkpoint. This visitor record is valid for 1 year and can be used as a valid document for his stay in Canada. This document can also be used for enrolling him in daycare, schools, etc.
- Credit cards - In my situation I wasn’t moving to Canada with a lot of cash in my Canadian bank account. Hence I was dependent on US credit cards for almost a month. While in US I had multiple credit cards - regular financial institutions cash bank cards (Bank of America, Chase, American Express), wholesale store cards (Costco card from Citibank), retail store cards (Old Navy, J Crew, TJ Max) and some app specific cards (like Uber card from Barclays, Venmo card). I cancelled all my cards - ordered new travel credit cards from Bank of America and Chase with a higher credit limit and only carried them with me to Canada. These 2 cards supported all my expenses in the first month. Pro tip - check if your existing credit card works outside US and if there is a foreign transaction fee associated to it.
- Car - I sold off my car in US. I had read many blogs on this particular topic and I came to the conclusion that unless there is a specific sentimental/personal reason attached to the vehicle you own in US - there is no real reason for you to import it into Canada. After I made this decision, I started looking for vehicles in GTA area by contacting the dealerships and they were very prompt in responding. I would suggest that once you have decided the make, model of the vehicle you want to own/lease in Canada - reach out to the respective dealerships immediately. Once you have chosen the vehicle and the vehicle has been assigned to your name, the dealership would ask you to pay a deposit (I paid CAD $1000) and will give you a receipt. I dealt with multiple dealerships but my experience with Mazda of Brampton was exemplary. Both the sales and the finance persons I was working with were really prompt, helpful and understood my situation. If you are planning to sell off your vehicle in US then please keep the below points in mind -
- Cancel vehicle insurance in US once it’s sold.
- Return any kind of electronic toll devices/transponders like EZ Pass transponder.
- Driving to Canada using a rental vehicle - Since I was living in Philadelphia area which is well within driving distance of GTA, I had decided to rent a vehicle from AVIS and drive it across the border from Niagara checkpoint. It is a ~7 hours drive and I decided to break it by taking an overnight stop over at Rochester. Tip - you may only find one way cross border vehicle in the airports and the local AVIS rental location wasn’t allowing me to book one vehicle all the way to GTA. I decided to break down the rental into 2 parts - greater Philadelphia → Buffalo airport & Buffalo airport → Mississauga. Pro tip - what I actually ended up doing was I extended the Trip 1 by 1 one more day and changed the destination to Mississauga. You can make these changes from the AVIS app or their website. I am sure similar features would be available in any other leading car rental company.
- Driver’s license and getting driving history abstracts from US - You will need to furnish driving history of 2 last year without any breaks in order to be eligible for G licenses. You can get the driving history records from the corresponding state DMV websites. Pro tip - while getting the driving history from the DMV - please check if the abstract has details of at least 2 years. People like me who were in visa in US had their DLs renewed as per the visa extensions hence the abstract will be tied to the start & end dates of the last visa extension that you received. For example - in my wife’s case. the PennDOT (Pennsylvania’s DMV) was showing driving history from early 2021 (as per the last visa extension start date) and therefore she didn’t have continuous 2 years history. From my experience with Drive Test Center in Mississauga - unless you show continuous 2 years of driving history in US - you are not eligible for G licenses.
- Opening a bank account in Canada - I had opened a bank account in HSBC Canada while was I was still in US and didn’t have a physical address in Canada. I was pleasantly surprised by the ease with which it was approved, online banking details were shared and even their mobile app was working from US. I had to open a bank account before traveling because I had to transfer some funds for the deposits of my house rental in Canada. Pro tip - it takes at least 2-3 days for funds transfer between US to Canada so please keep that timeline in mind while you are planning anything. Unlike transferring funds to India which happens almost instantly, US to Canada money transfer takes time.
- Finalize moving company - In my situation I was moving with all my furnitures and belongings from US to Canada. Hence I had to find a reliable moving company. I took quotes from 8-10 companies and the quotes varied from US $10,000 to $6,000. I went for Transcontinental Moving based in Montreal and they charged me CAD $6,500 for moving. I spoke to Andy Cohen from Transcontinental during the entire time and I had a very good experience with them.
- Canceling memberships, subscriptions in US - Please go check the different memberships (like gym membership) and subscriptions (like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.) to see if they will work in Canada. I cancelled my gym membership and the subscriptions which will not work in Canada before moving. Some of your US subscription will work in Canada too (for example Netflix), but the content that you will see here will be Canadian content. However you may want to compare the subscription price that you are paying in US vs. the subscription price in Canada to make a decision.
- Mobile phone connection - I had an unlimited plan with Verizon while I was in US. I am continuing with the same plan in Canada as coverage in Canada is part of the plan. Please check with your phone company about your plan eligibility. I have recently taken a Canadian phone number as there were some websites in Canada which weren’t accepting a US number. However you can easily survive with a US phone number alone if you want to.
- Finding a rental house and real estate agent in Canada - Unlike US, in Canada you need to work with a local real estate agent to find and apply to a rental listing. Try to get references from friends, family, etc. while searching for real estate agents in Canada and avoid going with someone totally new. I checked with my friend in Canada and was referred an agent who was really prompt and helpful. You will be asked to pay at least 1 month of rent upfront by wiring that money to the broker’s bank account. It takes at least 2-3 days for funds transfer between US to Canada so please keep that timeline in mind while you are planning anything.
- All financing plans - One last thing to consider is to review all the on going financing plans in US and whether you want to pay them off or keep them open before moving to Canada. The reason it is important is because you cannot use Canada bank details to pay off any on going installments in US. The money will be deducted from a US bank account only and therefore - more the number of financing plans open - you will need to maintain that much funds in your US bank account every month.
Hopefully the above information helps you. Please feel free to send me a message if you have any follow up questions or need more information for any of the above points.