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Moving To Canada

Canada: There are plenty of sites offering information on how to apply for a Canadian Immigration Visa and many more offering services (paid of course) to help you do it. One of the major issues I had during the immigration process was the actual move itself and what happens when you arrive. I have received plenty of emails through my information website, onestopimmigration-canada.com, asking for additional help and advice about what forms are required, what to expect at the Canadian customs and what to do when they first arrive in Canada.



I won’t pretend this article will answer all questions for everybody, but I’ll be giving as much background as I can with more, detailed information backing it up from the website in the text or by links to the appropriate authority. I’ll start with one of the biggest headaches ” the house sale (if you own) and packing up for the move.

Packing Up

When it comes to moving house there are several theories as when to put the house up for sale. Basically, we were told to wait until called for medicals as at least then you are over half way through the process. We were lucky in that we had somewhere to go, so we put the house on the market as we just wanted to have it sold and out of our hair! Even then, as “Our Story” shows, we had trouble. If you own your house you need to asses the local housing market and though its always a gamble, plan your house sale and know at what stage in the immigration process you will put it up for sale.

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Everyone’s circumstances are different, but once the visa is issued, you only have 12 months from the date of your MEDICALS to physically land in Canada. One big worry I had was that we wouldn’t be able to sell the house quickly which in turn would delay our landing. If you miss the 12 month deadline, you will probably have to redo the medicals at a fair cost and then resubmit form there. Or you could land in Canada with your house unsold back in your native country with all the problems that entails. With many people’s houses being their main source of settling funds, you’ll need to have that money in the bank as soon as you can after landing.

If there is anyway you can find temporary accommodation then to have the house sold is one less headache you need when you are moving countries. You may pay rent for a while but at least you know what is in the bank when you arrive in Canada and this allows you to budget properly for your new life.


We used the whole exercise to get rid of all our old or unwanted things and start again. It comes down to economics if it costs more to insure, store and ship something than its worth. The decision on whether to insure or not is a personal choice and depends upon the value of the items you are shipping and don’t forget to take into account any excess fees you have to pay in the event of damage or losses. You will need to build a list of all the items you are bringing into Canada and give their values in Canadian dollars.

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This is probably easiest to take it from the inventory drawn up by the packing company ” give as accurate assessment of value as you can but don’t spend weeks on it. If you have a box of kids toys for example ” put your best guess at the value on the list as follows:

1. Box of assorted used kids toys C$100.00
2. Box of photographs No commercial value
3. Queen size bedC$850.00

And so on. You will be expected to have several copies of your packing list and a form B4 (Goods to follow) with it upon your arrival so make sure you have at least 3 copies in your hand luggage. Its ok to have too many but a pain if you don’t have enough!!

You will also need a similar list for any items you bring with you on the day of arrival and also any other subsequent shipments (we had an extra large box of things couriered in a totally separate shipment just before we left).

The chances are you will be using a specialist international moving company to move your possessions to Canada. Depending upon where you are moving from, you may have a long wait for your things to arrive at their final destination. You may also decide to store the property in your home country while you find the home of your dreams so make sure you allow for storage charges and extra insurance. These charges soon mount up and can give you a nasty surprise.

One thing I’ll say about the moving companies is that you are paying them for a service, if they are a good company they will be able to advise on the correct paperwork etc and formalities that will ensure a smooth arrival and customs clearance in Canada. You don’t need your shipment to be turned away from the port of entry (very expensive when they order its return to the original port of departure) or you end up liable for extra taxes etc. because of incorrect paperwork. You may well be able to have it repaid once you prove it is legitimate but you will still be out of pocket in the short term.

Most shipping agencies charge by the cubic foot and have several schemes offering different rates – “share a container” or “Full container”. The Full container service will have the container packed and sealed at your residence. The shared container service will see your possessions packed at your residence and then transported to the companies’ depot. Once there it is packed with other items to complete a container.


As with everything, your circumstances depend on whether you’ll bring any pets over with you. There are strict rules to be adhered to for the Importation Of Animals – as with most countries – so please ensure you fully understand what is required.

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There are a few things to consider – if you are going into rented accommodation on your arrival having a pet will seriously restrict your choice of home. The local bylaws concerning pets are fairly strictly enforced leading to large fines if broken so make sure you understand them!
Make sure any inoculations are in date and you have the records. Also, it isn’t cheap to transport animals so bear that in mind too. Its worth delaying the arrival of your pet if possible to give you time to settle in and complete all the arriving formalities with one less thing to worry about. After a long and stressful journey do you really need to stay at the airport for several hours while the vet inspects your pet and completes all the necessary paperwork? Then you have to organise the transport to your accommodation (if they take pets) with a stressed out animal!

At the end of the day, moving countries is enough of an upheaval without leaving the family pet behind. That was the case for us so we brought our 3 year old Golden Retriever “Boris” over about 2 weeks after us. Boris was in kennels for 2 weeks prior to his departure during which time he had a custom travel kennel made for him and time to get used to it. All the necessary paperwork and vets examinations were handled by the shipper and he was booked on a scheduled flight. On the day of the flight he wasn’t put in the kennel until the last minute before loading which kept the time in the kennel restricted.

When we collected him all the paperwork was in order and all we had to do was go to the customs hall in the Calgary Terminal (pay a C$30.00 import duty) and then return to the cargo terminal with the release paperwork to collect one seriously excited dog!

Arrival Day

I guess it would be the worst nightmare if you landed without the correct documentation so hopefully we can help avoid that! It is essential that these items are carried in your HAND LUGGAGE and not packed away in a suitcase. All the Immigration processing takes place before you reclaim your baggage.
Your Canadian Immigrant visa and confirmation of Permanent Residence for each family member with you.

A valid Passport or other official travel document for each family member (normally must have a minimum of 6 months left before expiry).

Sufficient funds to cover your living expenses for 6 months.
Two copies of a detailed list of ALL the personal or Household items you are bringing with you. These lists must state how much the items are worth in Canadian Dollars.

Two copies of a list of items to follow – if you are shipping things later. Again, the values in Canadian Dollars must be shown.

For the goods to follow we used the insurance values we had stated to make it easier (as described above) and had made detailed lists of everything to come and in what shipment they were in. The Canadian Customs and Border Crossing Agency (CBSA) are responsible for enforcing the laws and provide the form B4 for personal effects accounting. You should receive a checklist and detailed instruction on what is required for your arrival in Canada when you receive your immigration visa’s I know when we had our visa’s issued they were accompanied by a checklist of documents.

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If you have any questions please contact your nearest High Commission or the CBSA BEFORE you leave your home country ” one good tip is to ensure any important documents or transcripts are translated into English or French as required (if they aren’t already) before you arrive . For a more detailed overview go to our Customs and Immigration page.

It may be advisable to carry any other personal documents in your hand luggage as well. The Citizenship and Immigration Canada E-Book “A Newcomers Introduction to Canada” gives excellent advice on this matter.

As with most countries around the world, Canada takes its security extremely seriously and will not bend the rules for anybody. The guidelines are quite straight forward and to ensure a problem free arrival its imperative you stick to them. There are two main pamphlets available to assist you depending upon your circumstances.

RC4151 – Settling in Canada is the document to guide you if you are settling in Canada for the first time or after being abroad for over 3 years (For Canadians)
Also, for those who are moving to Canada to study or work temporarily the pamphlet RC4220 Entering Canada to Study or to Work will be your guide.

Ensure all your possessions you bring with you are listed with values in Canadian Dollar have two copies ready – one to keep and one for the officials. To speed things up when you land you can download and print the forms B4 and B4A from the CBSA website. It’s best to have all your lists typed out to make life easier for the officials. Also, you will need the same forms for the goods to follow (if any). No import tax or duties are payable on settlers personal and household effects as long as you have owned, possessed and used them prior to arrival in Canada. If possible try and find any receipts and/or registration documents to support this.

There is also a scheme for wedding gifts if you are newly married or about to be married within 3 months of your arrival in Canada. It is worth noting that any items you will be using for commercial purposes will be subject to regular duties at the current rates.

With the recent international clamp downs on terrorism and money laundering it is essential that if you physically carry on your person, over C$10,000 or foreign equivalent in cash, bonds or securities you report it to the customs official. There isn’t any limit on settler’s funds but failure to follow the rules may result in the seizure of the cash and/or big fines. See the pamphlet RC 4321.

Good Luck!

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