Moving from Canada to the U.S.

What's the process for moving to the U.S.?

August 2020 Update: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, entry regulations into the U.S. have changed. Because moving is considered essential business, you can still cross the U.S./Canadian border. Depending on the travel restrictions in the city you’re moving to, you may be required to quarantine once you arrive. You can get this information from the local health department, and get COVID-19 updates from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Cross-border moving can be complicated. Along with the usual moving tasks, you have to get yourself, your family, your pets and your belongings from one country to another. The process will vary depending on your citizenship and the way you move. Take a closer look at the things you need to know when preparing for this type of move to the U.S.

United States flag flying over a blue sky.


Citizenship and Moving

U.S. citizens can return to the United States, but depending on how long you've been gone, there may be slightly different processes. A "returning resident" is someone who is a citizen (or someone who formerly resided in the states) who is returning from temporary life abroad. Returning residents can be exempt from paying duty fees.  If you moved permanently (but plans changed), you might be classified as a nonresident, which mostly just means you may have to pay duty taxes on your items. Learn more about what to expect when you return here.

If you're not a U.S. citizen, you'll have to apply for residency before you move. And everyone, regardless of citizenship, will have to get their belongings across the border (more on that below).

Applying for Temporary and Permanent U.S. Residency

If you’re a non-U.S. citizen moving to the States, be sure you have the proper proof of residency status before moving day. Otherwise, you could be held at the border and not permitted entrance. The type of authorization you need depends on your reason for moving to the U.S. and how long you plan to stay. A description of each option below can help you determine which to apply for.

Temporary workers visa

This type of visa allows people to enter the U.S. for temporary employment. Before you can apply, your employer must file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129 on your behalf, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must approve it. Read more about the process of applying for a temporary workers visa.

Immigrant visa for permanent stay

An immigrant visa allows you to move to the U.S. permanently and gives you the ability to get healthcare, a Social Security number and earn retirement. Obtaining an immigrant visa requires sponsorship by your family or employer. The process involves someone submitting a petition, it getting approved, using an agent, filing an application and passing an interview.

Green card

Green cards also offer permanent status (like immigrant visas), but there are some differences. A visa holder has to work in a certain industry, whereas a green card holder can work in any occupation. Green card holders can travel freely in and out of the U.S., and they can apply for citizenship. They also get many legal rights including insurance, Social Security, retirement and can own property. The steps to apply can vary but typically involve completing an application, passing a biometric screening and an interview and someone sponsoring you.

U.S. citizenship

The path to citizenship starts by being a green card holder for five years (or if you’re to married a U.S. citizen, the wait is three years), and then completing the 10 step naturalization process. This process includes an application, interview, an exam and taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

Options for Moving to the United States from Canada

You can do one of two things: handle the move yourself or hire a company to help. Doing it yourself will likely mean crossing the border in a rental truck and clearing your items at the border. 

Using a moving company is the easier option, since they will handle the transport of your furniture and belongings. While there are full-service movers who handle Canada-U.S. moves, their services come at a premium. U-Pack is a great option for easy moving at an affordable price. All you have to do is pack and load the equipment, and we drive it across the border — leaving you to travel to your new home in the States however you want.

U-Pack will clear the shipment on your behalf with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as long as we have the proper paperwork including your I-94 entry record (find out below if this applies to your move). Once we cross the border, we’ll deliver the equipment to your new home (or to a nearby service center if you choose a terminal move). It’s a quick, convenient way to get your belongings into the United States. You can get a quote online or by calling to check prices and service options.

Learn more about U-Pack Canada moves:

Documents Required when Moving Household Goods into the U.S. 

Before the move can take place, you must complete the necessary paperwork. The requirements can vary based on the company you use, but U-Pack tries to streamline the service. Just give a copy of each of these document to the driver at pickup (or to a service center employee if you load onsite) to ensure your belongings aren’t held at customs.

The documents you need will depend on whether you’re a returning U.S. citizen or a newcomer. Here’s what you’ll need to move with U-Pack:

  • Copy of your passport or visa. Returning U.S. residents need to provide a black and white copy of their passport photo page to show proof of citizenship. Non-U.S. citizens need to provide a copy of their visa to confirm that they’ve been approved to move themselves and their household goods into the country. If you won’t get a visa before arriving in the U.S., email for help.
  • U.S. Customs Form 3299. Both U.S. citizens and Non-U.S. citizens must complete this Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles form.
  • Copy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection I-94. Send a copy of your I-94 Form or entry record to the origin service center or (not required for U.S. citizens).
  • An itemized list of what you’re moving. You’ll be required to provide an itemized list of all the household goods you’re moving with their approximate used value in USD$.

If you plan on crossing the border with your items, the process is a bit more tedious. Check out this CBP FAQ to learn how to make the process as streamlined as possible. 

For questions specific to U.S. Customs, call 1-877-227-5511 within the U.S., or 202-325-8000 outside the United States.

Important Things to Note about Moving from Canada with U-Pack

To complete a successful cross-border move with U-Pack, make sure that:

  • The name on your Bill of Lading and U-Pack Move Plan match the name on all documentation
  • You’ve paid the customs administration fee of $32.00 required for all moves from Canada
  • You’re NOT moving any of the following with U-Pack:
    • Vehicles. This includes anything with a VIN number (boats, trucks, cars, ATVs, jet skis, motorcycles, etc.). If you need to ship a vehicle, contact Mr. Car Shipper® at 877-528-9627. If you're driving to Canada, check out this guide on crossing the border by car.
    • Items from our Do Not Ship list. This includes commercial goods, illegal, poisonous, flammable, corrosive and perishable items.
    • Pets. If you’re bringing a dog, cat, bird, turtle or other pet into the U.S., be sure to read these tips on moving pets to the USA.


For questions about moving household goods from Canada to the USA with U-Pack, call 844-362-5303844-594-3077 or leave a comment below. We're happy to help!