Moving from the U.S. to Canada
August 2020 Update: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, regulations for entry into Canada have changed. Because moving is considered essential business, Canadian citizens, permanent residents and those who meet entry conditions can still enter Canada, but you may be required to quarantine when you arrive. Learn more about current Canadian border measures and requirements.
Canada is known for many things: hockey, universal health care, a low crime rate, great public schools and friendly citizens. These things and more lead many people to think, “I want to move to Canada,” and maybe you do, too! Whether you have a new job opportunity, hope to hone your French language skills, or want to move back to Canada because you’ve lived there before, there’s some planning to do to make sure the process goes smoothly.
Keep reading to learn:
- The requirements for immigrating to Canada
- How to get your belongings across the border
- What paperwork is required to move to Canada
- How to clear your household goods from Customs
- How to move miscellaneous items like cars and pets
Requirements for moving to Canada
Before immigrating to Canada, you’ll have to determine your eligibility and apply for a visa/work permit/permanent residency (unless you are a returning Canadian citizen, then you only need your Canadian passport). For new residents, the application process can take several months (or years, in some cases), so start the process as soon as possible. Along with the paperwork for the visa, you’ll also need documents to cross the Canadian border (more on that below).
Do I need a passport to move to Canada?
Maybe. It depends on how you're traveling to Canada. If you’re traveling by car (or boat), you’ll have to prove U.S. citizenship. While you can do that in other ways, a passport is ideal (and actually required for the trip when you’re planning to stay permanently — house hunting trips or short visits can be done without a passport). Most airlines also require a passport, and some may need additional documents, so check before departing if you’re traveling by plane.
Note: If you don’t have a passport and need one quickly, be sure to check processing times. Routine and expedited service times can vary based on the time of year.
Moving household goods and furniture to Canada
Moving your entire household is very involved no matter where you’re moving to. But a long-distance move that requires crossing an international border means even more pieces to manage. One of the most important choices you face is picking a moving company that meets your needs.
Canadian moving companies
While you could rent a truck to drive to Canada, crossing the border with all of your belongings can be difficult, and making a long drive in an unfamiliar rental truck may not be ideal for everyone.
Another option is to hire a traditional van line moving service. Some full-service moving companies will move in or out of Canada, but since they do all the work for you, their prices can be high, and their delivery times can be long.
Because of these reasons, the easiest way to move to Canada is with a cross-border moving company like U-Pack®. As a “you pack, we drive” service, we make moves to Canada simple. Here’s how it works:
- We deliver the moving equipment to your door
- You load your belongings
- We handle the transportation
- Your shipment crosses into Canada with U-Pack
- U-Pack holds your shipment until you clear your items with Canadian customs
- We deliver your belongings to your new home, or you can unload at a local service center
We service moves to or from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. You can check serviceability to your location when getting an online moving quote.
Note: U-Pack does not provide service for intra-Canada moves.
How much does it cost to move to Canada from the U.S.?
U-Pack rates are based on where you’re moving to/from, the move date and how much you’re moving. A U-Pack moving quote will outline all of the details of the price. The only extra cost is a $60 Customs Administration Fee. You can get a moving quote online or by calling 844-362-5303844-594-3077.
Learn how U-Pack keeps costs low and how to save on your move to Canada with this resource: The Cheapest Way to Move between Canada and the U.S.
A note about moving mattresses to Canada
It may seem strange to call attention to mattresses specifically, but Canada has guidelines for bringing used or second-hand mattresses into the country. In order to bring them with you, they must be cleaned and fumigated (including a certificate showing these requirements have been met). There are several companies that will come to your home and perform this including those specializing in upholstery cleaning or pest control. If you’re having trouble finding someone who can perform a cleaning, it might be best to sell your mattress and buy a new one after arriving in Canada. For more information, read the information from the Canadian Border Services Agency.
Other important tips for moving to Canada with U-Pack
You’re required to complete two customs forms (BSF186 and BSF186A), which are itemized lists of your belongings and their approximate Canadian dollar value. This process will be much easier if you take inventory while packing. It's important to properly fill out these forms using these tips:
- When completing the BSF186 and BSF186A, leave the dark shaded areas blank. The Canada Border Services Agency will fill in those blanks when you submit your form.
- When listing your household goods on the BSF186 and BSF186A, the description can be general (e.g., “1 box of dishes”).
- The value of your goods is in Canadian dollars and on a per item basis. Example cookware = $40 (not fry pan = $20, soup pan = $20). Use a value you feel is current for what the item could be sold for at that given time.
- When choosing a classification type, fill out the form to the best of your ability. You will have the opportunity to explain any special classification circumstances to a customs officer when you clear your belongings in person.
Please note: The customs forms when moving from Canada to the U.S. are different. Read more about those here.
Other necessary paperwork
Along with the completed customs forms, U-Pack also needs a clear, black and white copy of the photo page in your passport and a copy of your visa/work permit/permanent residency document. You can email these documents to email@example.com (please include your reference number and “Customs Paperwork/Documents” in the subject line). If you won’t get your visa before the move, notify our Customer Care team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s also vital to ensure that the name on your U-Pack documents, like the Move Plan and Bill of Lading, match the name of your required documentation.
Clearing items after they arrive in Canada
You must self-clear your items at the Canadian Customs Office within 40 days of the shipment crossing into Canada. A U-Pack representative will call you when your belongings arrive. Ask them for the shipment manifest (a document you’ll need to clear the items) and verify the location of the Canadian Customs Office.
When you go to the Customs Office, take the original BSF186 and BSF186A forms, your passport, your visa and your shipment manifest. They will stamp the manifest, which will remove the hold placed on your shipment. Return the stamped manifest to the Canadian U-Pack service center in person, by fax, or email to email@example.com. Once the service center has the stamped manifest, you can schedule delivery.
Things you can’t take with you
After you reserve the move, U-Pack will send a Do Not Ship list, which is imperative to follow. It’s important to note that while U-Pack moves occurring within the U.S. can include motorcycles or ATVs, we are unable to ship anything with a VIN to Canada.
Moving a car to Canada
U-Pack doesn’t move automobiles, so you have two options: either driving the car to Canada or shipping it. If you plan on driving your personal vehicle to Canada, learn about the process of crossing the Canadian border. To ship a vehicle, contact Mr. Car Shipper® at 877-528-9627 for a quote.
Moving with pets
There are certain requirements established by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for pets entering the country. Make sure to complete all the steps, which might include testing and quarantines, before entering Canada. Learn about the process of taking pets to Canada here.
Have questions about moving to Canada?
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