Tips on Moving from the U.S. to Canada
Mar 8, 2023
Relocating to Canada from the United States
For U.S. citizens who wish to live in another country, Canada can be a good choice because of its proximity and similar way of life. Though it’s often known for being a friendly place with universal healthcare, Canada has a lot more to offer new residents. Whether you’re new to the country or returning home, moving there can be easy if you’re prepared. Follow these 5 tips for the best moving experience.
1. Request personal identification and travel documents early
If you don’t already have an official U.S. Passport or a certified copy of your birth certificate, request these documents as soon as possible so you’ll have them in time. Processing times will vary and could take six months or more, and you can’t get into the country without them.
Crossing the border into Canada by car or boat will require proper identification to prove your U.S. citizenship, and most airlines will require a passport. You’ll need a passport and a visa if you plan to establish permanent residency or citizenship in Canada. Returning citizens will only need their Canadian passports.
Here are some other personal documents you might need depending on your situation:
- Marriage certificate or divorce papers
- Adoption certificates
- Driver’s license
- Auto insurance and car registration documents (if you’re importing a vehicle)
- School or college records
- Trade or professional certificates/licenses
- Previous employment documentation
Health and vaccination records
Learn more about the different processes on the Government of Canada’s immigration and citizenship website.
2. Apply for Express Entry if you qualify
Canada has a streamlined online process for skilled workers who wish to move to the country.
There are three different programs of Express Entry:
- Canadian Experience Class. For skilled workers who have worked in Canada within the last three years.
- Federal Skilled Worker Program. For skilled workers who have worked outside of Canada.
- Federal Skilled Trades Program. For workers qualified in a skilled trade who have a certificate or a job offer.
If you meet the criteria for one of the Express Entry programs, you can also apply for the Provincial Nominee Program to further speed up the process for residency. Through the program, provinces and territories of Canada can request or show preference for certain types of residents like students or skilled workers in a particular field.
3. Hire an experienced moving company
Making a long-distance move — especially to another country — can be stressful for anyone, so you need a company that can take the guesswork out of an international relocation.
You could drive a rental truck to Canada, but crossing the border with all your household belongings isn’t the best choice for everyone. And full-service moving companies that service Canada can have high prices and long delivery times.
Often, the easiest and most cost-effective way to move to (and from) Canada is with a moving service like U-Pack®.
Here’s how we work:
- 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
U-Pack services moves to or from Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec. You can check serviceability to your location when getting an online moving quote or by calling us at 844-362-5303844-594-3077.
Note: U-Pack does not provide service for intra-Canada moves.
4. Follow Customs rules for bringing or shipping belongings to Canada
When you’re relocating to Canada, you’re allowed to bring most household belongings with you. However, there are rules and regulations to determine what things will or won’t have a duty fee.
Generally, most privately owned items like books, linens, furniture, clothing and other personal possessions are duty-free. Equipment used for businesses such as company cars or farm equipment will have duty fees.
You can learn more about duty requirements on the Government of Canada’s website.
Restricted or prohibited items
Some things are restricted or prohibited from crossing the border into Canada, and these rules can vary based on whether you’re moving to Canada or are already considered a permanent resident. It’s best to check with the Canadian Customs Office if you’re unsure of your status or how to properly import something.
These things can be subject to duty fees, prohibition or restrictions:
- Baby or child safety equipment (Must meet Canadian safety standards)
- Business equipment
- Firearms and other explosives
- Food, plants or animal products
- Gifts valued at more than CDN $60
- Health products (including prescription and over-the-counter medications)
- Used mattresses
Note: It’s also important for U-Pack customers to follow the “Do Not Ship” list they’ll receive after reserving their move.
Importing a vehicle to Canada
Most standard household moving services (including U-Pack) don’t move automobiles, so if you’re not driving the car into Canada, you’ll need to ship it. To ship a vehicle, we recommend contacting Mr. Car Shipper® at 877-528-9627 for a quote.
Note: While U-Pack can generally ship motorcycles and ATVs in our moving equipment, Canada does not allow any motorized vehicles with VINs to be shipped with household belongings.
When moving your pets to Canada, they must meet the requirements established by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Make sure to complete any testing and quarantines before entering Canada.
5. Prepare Customs paperwork ahead of time
You have to complete two customs forms before you arrive in Canada (BSF186 and BSF186A), which are itemized lists of your things and their approximate Canadian dollar value. This process will be much easier if you fill out the forms while packing.
Complete both forms the best you can. You’ll be able to explain any discrepancies to a customs officer while clearing things in person.
Clearing belongings in Canada
You must claim your shipment at the Canadian Customs Office within 40 days of it crossing into the country.
You’ll need to bring the following forms with you to the Customs Office:
- the original BSF186 and BSF186A forms
- shipment manifest
U-Pack moving paperwork
If you’re moving with U-Pack, a representative will call you when your things arrive in the country. Ask for the shipment manifest (you’ll need it to clear the items) and verify the location of the Canadian Customs Office.
Along with the completed customs forms, U-Pack will also need 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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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 email@example.com.
Customs will stamp the manifest — this removes the hold placed on your shipment — so you can return the form to the Canadian U-Pack service center. Once the service center has the stamped manifest (in person, by fax, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org), you can schedule delivery.
Note: The name on your U-Pack documents, like the Move Plan and Bill of Lading, must match the name of your other documentation.
If you have questions about U-Pack services, getting a quote or the process of moving to Canada, let us know in the comments or call 844-362-5303844-594-3077 to speak to a moving consultant. We’re here to help!
Need to move in the other direction? Learn more about the process of moving from Canada to the United States.
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