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A Packing List for Americans Moving to Canada

A Packing List for Americans Moving to Canada

During the last US presidential election, there were plenty of promises made by folks that if “their candidate” did not win the election, they were moving out of the US. The preferred destination in most cases: Canada.

Even the town of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia got in on the action. Cape Breton created an effective campaign to showcase the beauty of the island and touted it as a great place to escape US politics. They received so much traffic on their website the evening Trump won, the website crashed.

And now, in just a few months, candidates will start posturing for the next US presidential election, even though it’s still 2 years away.

Just in case you’re thinking about taking the plunge and relocating to Canada, I thought I’d put together a list of what to bring and what to leave behind.

Before I get to the list, I must add that immigration to Canada is not easy. It took us 3 ½ years to obtain our permanent resident status. During the process, I was fingerprinted 6 times because the FBI and the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) were unable to verify my information. Yes, that’s 6 times. And that wasn’t the only snafu in the process, as you’ll see from the following list.

What to Bring:

Parka – Make that a really thick parka

School Transcripts – The final documents the RCMP requested to complete our immigration process were the transcripts from the schools my husband had attended. No joke. Apparently, you need to be a pretty good student to get into the Great White North.

Extra Money for Taxes – Where we live in Ontario, the highest income tax rate is 46.2% (federal and provincial). In the US, the highest income tax rate is 37% (federal). But the threshold for the highest tax rate is much higher in the US as compared to Canada. In the US, it’s $500K for individuals versus $220K in Canada.

On a positive note, you do get an extra 15 days to file. Tax Day in Canada doesn’t roll around until April 30.

On a negative note, even if you move to Canada, you’ll still have to file (and possibly pay) US income taxes. The US is one of only 2 countries in the world that require its citizens (regardless of residency) to file taxes every year. The only way to avoid filing is to renounce your citizenship.

Related: The Joy of Paying the IRS to Not Live in America

Language App – If you want to really experience certain parts of Canada, like Quebec, you’ll need to be able to speak English and French. Although almost all French Canadians are bilingual, it’s nice to at least try to speak the language of the land.

Your Sense of Adventure – Canada is a gorgeous country, filled with some unbelievable scenic vistas. The photo was taken on a family vacation in Nova Scotia. And if you want to experience the Northern Lights, there’s no better place than one of Canada’s territories: Yukon, Northwest Territories or Nunavut.

What Not to Bring:

Swimwear – It’s been 7 years since we moved to Canada and I have yet to take a dip in any body of water (pool, river, lake or ocean). The thought of shivering while trying to swim just doesn’t appeal to me.

Guns – Drop’em at the border. Although Canada and the US have similar gun restriction laws (what’s considered non-restricted, restricted and prohibited), Canada has much stricter rules regarding background checks and safety training for anyone applying for a gun license.

The first question you’ll be asked as you cross the border is if you’re carrying any weapons. In all the times we’ve crossed the US/Canada border, we’ve only seen Border Patrol throw out the tire strips once to stop a car. Then, very quickly, a lot of armed guards circled the car and all the passengers were commanded to get out of the vehicle. It was fascinating to watch.

Your Appetite – I’m probably going to get a lot of hate for this one. You need to understand, I’m from the South. And if there’s one thing Southerners know, it’s good food.

While the ethnic diversity of Canada leads to some great international cuisine, Canada isn’t known for its food. Unless you like poutine. I prefer to put my gravy on biscuits rather than fries.

Boatloads of Patience – Immigration is not an easy process. It took us several years to gain permanent resident status. If my husband had been without work (for over 30 days) at any time during those 3 ½ years, we would have been deported back to the US. And the Canadian government is serious. Our realtor told us many horror stories of people (who had been laid off) trying to sell their homes in a rush due to deportation.

The Process of Moving to Canada is Not Easy

For us, it’s been a roller coaster of a ride.

We’re currently in the process of applying for Canadian citizenship. Being dual citizens of the US and Canada will give us more options when it comes to education and employment for the kids and will give us affordable healthcare options for the entire family.

Let’s just hope that the citizenship process goes much more smoothly then the permanent residency process. And a lot quicker!

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2 thoughts on “A Packing List for Americans Moving to Canada”

  • I’m curious – have you weighed the pros and cons of retiring in one country vs the other? I’m a canadian living in the US and I wonder if it makes more sense to retire here (certainly the weather is better) or there = where free healthcare will become more important as I age.

    Would love your thoughts.

    PS – I’m surprised by your feelings about the food. If you’re in toronto, you’ve got a city full of amazing food. I’m assuming you’re either north of the city, or in the kitchen/waterloo area (in which case, I get it).

    • Hi Caren,

      Bingo on the KW. We get to Toronto several times a year and you’re right, the food is much better there. We’ve also found good restaurants in the Collingwood area. I have no idea why the restaurants in KW are soooo bad!

      Yes, we’re constantly talking about the pros and cons of one country vs the other. The biggest issue is healthcare in the US. We have been quoted as much as $1500 to $2000 per month for private insurance. The health share programs look like a good alternative and seem to be popular with early retirees, but they’re very new in the industry. We are expecting to pay much less for supplemental insurance in Canada (which will cover prescriptions and travel).

      We don’t like the winters here, so that’s why we’re contemplating splitting our time. I am not thrilled with the prospect of owning 2 properties, so we may choose to rent while we are in 1 country and have a permanent residence in the other.

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