Moving Back to Canada? Here’s a Timeline!

We’re quickly coming up on the “Two Months Before We Move” date, and it’s so exciting! I have my Google Calendar all colour coded (Daily chores, appointments, events, etc), and it’s thrilling to see more and more purple – move related tasks – coming up on the calendar. This has been SO long planning, it’s great to have things finally happening, you know?

I am a gigantic logistics nerd, and have had everything scheduled and on the calendar since the moment we had a vague target moving date. Once we scheduled a firm moving date, I updated everything, and have been obsessing over it ever since.

With the mass exodus of Canadians leaving the USA right now (I’m in multiple groups specifically geared towards Canadians moving themselves and their American spouses/families home!), I figured it would be a good idea to publish a timeline to help others. I know how overwhelming things can be, it’s a HUGE undertaking – and having things laid out can really make it seem more do-able.

So, here’s a list I came up with. Most of it is based on our situation (Canadian married to an American, spousal sponsorship applied for/approved while still in the USA, have pets/no kids moving with us), but can be easily adapted for your particular situation. Some things will vary based on province you’re moving to (for instance, health insurance). Maybe you’re moving back alone and don’t have to worry about immigration issues, etc. It should be a good start, and will hopefully inspire you to think of other things more applicable to you. (“Oh, that reminds me, we should _____!”).

All of these are ideal suggested time lines, for planning ahead. If you find yourself on a shorter timeline, just do anything under the time line target dates you’ve missed ASAP.

So, here we go:

As Early as Humanly Possible:

* Look into your employment / schooling situation in Canada. Will your schooling / certifications transfer over? Will you need additional education? Are you qualified to do your job in Canada? If you’re currently in school, will your credits transfer? Plan accordingly!

In our case, it turned out that my husband isn’t qualified to do the career he’s been doing for 20 years in the USA, as he doesn’t have a degree. So, he’s been doing some university here in the USA, and applied for University in Canada once we move.

* If you are married to an American (or someone from another country), look into the immigration process for Canada, and decide whether you want to do it yourself, or hire a lawyer. In our case, it was just my husband, we decided to go for spousal sponsorship from the USA, and it was VERY easy and straightforward, no lawyer needed. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

* Consider learning / brushing up on French. If a non-Canadian is moving up with you and is going on the points system (rather than by spousal/etc sponsorship), French competency is good for some points. It also opens up more possibilities for employment.

* Contact an accountant that specializes in cross-border financial issues and find out everything you need to. There are tax implications for EVERYTHING. Get expert advice, schedule anything you need to (tax filings, when would make the most sense to transfer assets, etc etc.

* Research the logistics surrounding buying a house, as applicable to your situation. There are tax penalties for foreign buyers and non-resident buyers. Know what you’re getting into, early!

1 ½ years Before Moving:

* Decide on a firm moving date if you can. This will form the point from which you work backward on this list!

* Apply for residency for any non-Canadians, if that’s the way you’re going. We found the process very easy, and we liked having everything set before we moved. If hiring a lawyer, find one now.

* If you’ve had any kids in the USA and have not yet obtained Canadian birth certificates for them, do so.

* Figure out the basic logistics for HOW you’re getting back. Driving or flying? Taking a moving van yourself (U-Haul, etc), or hiring a moving company. If you have pets, how are they getting back? Will you visit ahead of time to set up a place to move directly to, or will you rent/stay in hotels while looking for a place? Schedule anything that needs to be scheduled.

In our case, our cats were a major deciding factor for us. We’ve heard too many horror stories about flying pets, and we don’t want them to be stuck in a kennel somewhere – exposed to kennel diseases – while we get our situation figured out. So… we bought an RV to move them from here to there, and for us to live in while we find a place. Unorthodox, yes… but when it comes down to it, renting won’t even be an option, so we had to get creative!

1 Year Before:

* If you’re selling a house, walk through and decide on everything that needs to be done in order to sell. Room by room, come up with a list of repairs to make, etc, and schedule it. It’s a lot easier to pick away at things well in advance, than to rush it all right at the end.


1 Year to 6 Months Before:

* If you are moving in the summer, book your movers WAY ahead of time. Many Canadians moving home are using U-Pack – and they tend to book up well in advance. Even if you’re moving in the off season, you should still contact your moving company 6 months in advance to ask about when you should book with them.

* If you’re moving to close to the border, consider signing up for the NEXUS preferred travel programs.

* If your passport(s) are not up to date or valid, renew one or both, as applicable.

* Start a zip up file folder/binder for your important paperwork for the move. Ours has pockets for:

Travel Documents: Passports, NEXUS cards, my husband’s immigration documentation and permanent resident card, etc

ID Documents: Birth and marriage certificates, SIN paperwork

Itinerary Info: Moving company paperwork, hotels you’re staying at, RV park contract (in our case)

Vehicle Paperwork: Bills of sale, vehicle registrations, importing/exporting paperwork, etc

Packing Manifests: Copies of the paperwork that will go to both the border and the moving company

Vet Papers: Vaccination records, etc

Banking Info: Bank account paperwork for Canadian accounts, any Canadian credit card paperwork, etc. Copies of past tax returns (Can be good for obtaining a bank account/loans in Canada)

Mail and Cell Phone Paperwork: Info for the Canadian cell phone account we set up, info on the two PO Boxes we set up.

Job Search: Copies of reference letters, resumes, etc.

6 Months Before:

* Research mobile phone providers in the area you’re moving to. Find out if your current phone – if you’re keeping it – is compatible. Contact your current service provider to find out what you will need to to in order to transfer it (Pay off the phone, any extra fees, if they have to unlock it, etc)

* Take a trip to Canada if at all possible, do to as much of the following as possible:

– Set up PO box. As we are moving relatively close to the border, we also got a PO box in New York, just in case.
– Get a cell phone with a Canadian number, set up a bank account.
– Try to get a Canadian credit card – we were approved through our new cell phone provider.
– Reactivate your SIN if it’s gone dormant (Just go to a Service Canada location, it takes only minutes!)
– Check out neighbourhoods, etc

* Email yourself your Canadian mailing address and phone number, if applicable. It’s good to have in easy reach!

* Set up a Canadian based paypal account, link it to your Canadian bank account.

* Contact a local real estate agent and get an idea of the time line you’ll want to work with for your area. If you have a set move date, add in key dates based on this. (When you need the house completely cleared out to show, when you’ll need a dumpster for – if applicable, etc)

* Check into your benefits, see what you’re entitled to before you leave the job, and when you qualify. Book those appointments for before you leave the job: Eye exam, dental cleaning, etc.

* Look into the health insurance situation in the province you’re moving to. Some provinces offer health coverage as soon as you arrive, others – like Ontario – have a waiting period. You may need to arrange for interim health insurance for once you arrive. You can do so well in advance!

* Make a bucket list of things you want to do/experience in your area before you move, schedule them as necessary. (Restaurants, favourite theme parks, etc)

* Look into festivals, trade shows, etc that you’d be interested in, in the new city – add them to the calendar for after the move. If you are a vendor at conventions, or sell through trade shows (for instance, I sell my books at gluten-free shows), start researching the options in the new city, make contact.

* Look into importing your vehicle into Canada, and decide whether you’ll be doing that, or selling it / buying a new one. This is a very individual decision, and will depend on things like how attached you are to your vehicle, the value/ how much it will cost you to bring it over, how much life it has left, how necessary a car is where you’re moving, etc (For instance, if we were moving to downtown Toronto, we would not bring our car over)

* Start packing items that you won’t be using in the next few months. Sort out the things you’ll want to sell/donate, list items for sale.

5 Months Before:

* Start compiling a list of every company and service you’ll need to do changes of address with. Once you have a good list going, keep it updated anytime you get a reminder of something else to add. I did it via a table in WordPerfect, but a spreadsheet will work. I have columns for “How Far In Advance”, “Company”, “Where/How” (Online, phone, etc), “Which Address” (Canadian or American PO Box), “Status”, and “Notes”. I have sections for “2 months in advance”, “1 month in advance”, etc. Some hints on who to include:

– Credit card companies
– Banks
– Social groups / member organizations you belong to
– Doctor and vet offices
– Government offices: City/county taxes, DMV,
– Anyone you do business with

* Start compiling a list of the things you will need to cancel. For each one, find out when you should cancel the service/etc, and add it to your timeline for the appropriate date. Some hints:

– Online streaming services – Netflix, Hulu, etc
– Amazon Prime
– Home security company
– Utilities
– Insurance companies
– Gym membership (if it’s a chain that’s also in Canada, call and ask about transferring – you may get grandfathered in on a cheaper plan!)

3 Months Before:

* Start researching the various insurance coverage needs you’ll need in place once you leave you job in the USA. Depending on your needs, you may want to consider insurance for your pets, disability insurance, eye/prescription insurance, life insurance, etc.

* Research what your pets need in order to cross into Canada, and make those arrangements. (Link for info). In our case, our cats just need rabies vaccinations and vet certification for those vaccinations.

* Decide on the route you’ll be taking home, and what border you’ll be crossing at.

* Make plans for where you’ll be staying in between selling your house in the USA (if applicable), and settling into a new place in Canada. Make reservations as needed.

* Start asking friends in the area you’re moving to for recommendations on a real estate agent there. Decide on one, make first contact.

* Plan a going away party.

2 Months Before:

* Start working on paperwork to import your vehicle, if applicable. (Knowing what border you’re crossing at helps!)

* Submit changes of address to any organizations that you are members of, and anything else on your “2 months before” category for address changes.

* If you are an Etsy seller, set up a Canadian Etsy account, link it to your Canadian bank account, and start setting it up. Screen cap all of your reviews, etc – none of this will transfer over, and Etsy cannot/will not transfer your established account to be able to pay into your Canadian bank account – you need to start completely from scratch. I used screen caps of my past reviews on my old account as photos on new account listings.

* Start working on a folder to give the new owners of your house, if you’re selling. We included paint information for every room (where we bought it, the paint brand/type, the colour name and number), any quirks of appliances, a bit of history, paperwork for appliance warranties, user manuals, etc.

* If you are selling any of your American vehicles, discuss when you’ll list them, and schedule that. We are selling one of our 2, and listing it 2 months before.

* Talk to your doctor about any current prescriptions you’re on, and what your plan is for once you arrive. You likely won’t have time to decide on a new doctor right away when you arrive, and your current doctor’s prescriptions won’t be valid in Canada. You may be able to get a prescription for several month’s worth of your prescription. Alternatively, if you’re moving to somewhere close to a border, you may want to find an American pharmacy close to where you’re living, and have your prescriptions sent there until you’re settled.

* Look into the area you’re moving to, for fun things to do. Consider booking tickets, etc for an event or two, for something to look forward to. In our case, I signed up for a local discount thing similar to Groupon, and bought vouchers for a museum event, a tall ship cruise, etc that expire several months after we move. It gives my husband – who is terrified of moving – something to look forward to.

* Decide when you’ll be resigning from work, schedule it.

1 Month Before:

* File change of address with: Employers, the IRS, the Social Security administration, voter registration, USCIS (if applicable), city/county tax assessor, DMV, insurance companies, store/discount memberships (IKEA, CVS, etc), website hosting company, and anything else you scheduled under “1 month before”.

* Contact credit reporting agencies (Equifax, etc). Place a credit hold on your accounts, file change of address.

* Arrange for mail forwarding with the post office.

* If any of your American credit or bank cards are expiring in the next year or so, arrange to have them all replaced now.

* Arrange for any permits you may need for your moving day (parking permits, etc)

* Get reference letters / claims history statements from your home and auto insurance companies. Get reference letters from utility companies, etc. While you may not need the utility company reference letters, it’s better to be over prepared, than under.

3 Weeks Before:

* Send an email to the Canadian border office you’ll be crossing at, if applicable. In our case, the border wants an email with a scan of our vehicle title, with the VIN and ITN numbers as the email subject. They will send an auto response email, which we are to print and bring as proof of submission when we cross the border. This MAY vary between different border crossings.

* Contact auto manufacturers for fresh recall clearance letters. In our case, I contacted Ford through their website and had an email version within a couple days, and the printed copy a couple days later. File this in your binder for the border.

2 Weeks Before:

* Renew all prescriptions. (2 weeks gives leeway in case of any issues)

* Get proof of driving experience from your state. File this in your documents binder.

* Wire transfer money to your Canadian bank account, if applicable.

* Get reference letters from banks and credit reporting agencies.

* Fill out your customs forms.

* Back up all of your computer files onto disks that you will keep separate from the move. IE: if you are shipping your computers, keep the backups with you.

Just Before Moving:

* File change of address with: all bank accounts, all credit cards, any online payment processors/income sources you may have (for instance: Shopify, Etsy, Paypal, vet, your doctor/eye doctor/dentist/etc.

* Print out current credit report, file in your documents binder.

Immediately After Arriving in Canada:

* Apply for provincial health insurance.

* Register for a Canadian driver’s license. Do this AFTER you do anything that needs your ID (bank account, health insurance, etc), as at least some provinces take your existing license when you apply for a Canadian one.

Very Soon After Arriving in Canada:

* Check in with an immigrants organization in your area. ( has details for Ontario, for instance.).

* Arrange for your RIV vehicle inspection, if you haven’t already. In our case, we scheduled it for the morning we crossed, at the location closest to that border crossing.

* Buy a vehicle, if applicable

* Register & insure your vehicle(s)

Once You’ve Purchased a House / Rented an Apartment:

* Set up with utilities: water, sewer, garbage/recycling, electric/gas, cable/satellite TV, internet, phone

Once You Have Settled into a House or Apartment:

* File changes of address with everything that you don’t want going to your PO box. Add in your new accounts: Canadian Driver’s license/vehicle registration, provincial health insurance, bank account, Canadian credit cards, mobile phone, etc. If keeping your PO Box, give them your new address as well.

* Find a doctor, eye doctor, dentist, vet, pharmacy etc as needed. Contact your former providers to have records transferred to.

Hope this helps you prepare for your Voyage Home!

In the meantime, if you need some comfort foods from back home, check out “More Than Poutine: Favourite Foods From My Home and Native Land”. It was written by an expat, specifically for expats!

With 2017 being Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s about time I wrote the Canadian cookbook I’ve been planning for YEARS.

“More than Poutine” will be a Canadian cookbook like no other – written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional homecooking recipes, as well as homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!

High quality gluten-free versions of most recipes are included.

“More Than Poutine” is available for purchase, here.

Ravings of a Canadian Expat: Christmas Oranges

I was going to start this entry out with something like “This time of year, the topics of discussion in groups of Canadians living away tends to turn to food…”… but let’s be real, at least 80% of what we talk about in Canadian groups is food.

Foods we miss, foods we’re now cooking because we miss the source material, how COMPLETELY inferior American chocolate is, griping about how corn syrup is in everything here and makes stuff – soda, certain candies, etc – taste weird, etc. I don’t remember us being particularly food obsessed when I still lived at home, but man… take a Canadian out of Canada, and food is the great bonding experience.

Recently, I noticed that “Christmas Oranges” don’t really seem to be a THING in Minneapolis. Like, you can buy Cuties or Halos, but there doesn’t seem to be a culture of … well, them being particularly “holiday”.

When I was a kid, we’d get one in the toe of our Christmas stocking, and it usually ended up being my favourite part. I LOVED them!

As I grew a bit older, holiday season meant buying crates of Mandarin oranges. They were the same oranges I’d have as a kid – sold in boxes, imported from either China or Japan, and individually wrapped in green paper. There was always at least one completely moldy one in the bottom, but the rest were *gold*.

I would buy several 5lb cases at a time. At least one would end up consumed within a day or two – I’d crash on the couch with a book, and snarf ungodly amounts of oranges. I’d buy more than one case, as it was usually insanely cold (I’m from Winnipeg), and I liked to have enough to last me a week or so.

… December is the month where I am least likely to come down with scurvy… By a longshot! In addition to snarfing oranges by the case, I also enjoy to make things from them, such as:

Candied Orange Peels

Cuties Mead

Cranberry-Cuties “Christmas” Wine

Cuties Marmalade

I even juiced and zested a bunch of them to make a Cuties mousse last New Years.. Oh, it was amazing.

Anyway, I digress.

This past week, I decided that I NEED THOSE ORANGES. Cuties and Halos just don’t cut it, I wanted a bit of *home*.

My first stop was a group for local food bloggers. I explained what I was looking for, and a few people weighed in with suggestions.

I should mention that part of the problem with looking for oranges like I knew back home, is that when it comes to this sort of thing, oranges suffer from the same sort of thing that Sweet potatoes / yams do. Different products are sold as the same thing, the terms are used interchangeably, and people have wildly different ideas of what is meant when you say “yam” – and, in this case, “Mandarin orange”.

One blogger commented to say that it sounded like I was describing Satsuma oranges, and that she knew they sell them at a local coop. She then mentioned that they’re more abundant in January (not the case, back home!) – so I had to make sure that she wasn’t thinking SUMO oranges (another addiction of mine). She wasn’t, so I called The Wedge coop, and grilled their produce guy.

HE agreed that I was talking about Satsumas, but then referred to them as being “more tart”. What a let down – I never would have described Christmas oranges as being tart!

I posted a quick note about my mission to a couple expat groups, and asked for info on what they remember of the oranges back home.

I got in my truck and headed over there anyway, because when you need a mess of oranges, you NEED a mess of oranges. I was surprised to see that they had several types of oranges that looked good… so I bought a few of each. I bought a whole bag of Satsumas – I know myself, and if they were even close… a bag wouldn’t be enough!

As all of this was going down, the threads were blowing up – Us Canadians are VERY passionate about our Christmas oranges, as it turns out!

As it also turns out, the whole “oranges going by multiple names” thing got further complicated by regional differences in what constitutes a “Christmas Orange”.

People from everywhere except Atlantic Canada agreed – sold in boxes, with almost everyone specifically referencing the green tissue paper. MOST people agreed that they were imported from China and Japan, though a few pockets of Canadians apparently got theirs from Morocco! I’m 90% sure I’ve never seen an orange from Morocco, so I found this fascinating. We all knew them as “mandarins”.

On the East Coast, “Christmas Oranges” are sold in smaller, wooden crates, usually with a red plastic mesh holding them in. There is no green tissue paper, and they are known as “Clementines” – not Mandarins. From my time in Newfoundland, I was familiar with them. They were definitely different from what I knew back home: A bit harder to peel, not as juicy, smaller, and rounder. Still tasty, though!

Anyway, back to the mission.

I noticed that all of the oranges at The Wedge were from either California or Florida, and I remembered that basically all of the oranges I’d seen anywhere in Minneapolis tended to be the same. I guess there isn’t a big market for imported oranges here?

I decided to follow up on another suggestion, and headed to United Noodle – a large Asian grocery store. They would for SURE have Japanese or Chinese oranges, right?

Nope. Neither did Sun Foods, another large Asian grocery.

What they did both carry, however, were Halos. Halos are fine – and they’re actually pretty close to the Atlantic Canadian idea of Christmas oranges, packaging aside – but I really wanted my Mandarins!

So, I ended up with 6 different types of oranges (as well as “Limequats”, which had absolutely nothing to do with anything, but fascinated me nonetheless!), and wanted to do a comparison. Aside from the Halos and the last “Mandarins”, all of the oranges – and Limequats – were purchased at Wedge Coop.

Of course – if it hasn’t been obvious from this blog post so far – take my findings with a grain of salt. Due to the nature of naming conventions, there’s a good chance you could buy something that is called the same as one of these, and have it be something completely different. For that reason, I am including as much identifying information as possible!

Table below is pictured in order, left to right

Photo Sold As Details
Kishu Mandarin Tiny – about 1.5-2″ in diameter! Very easy to peel, loose skin, very little pith – which rubs off easily. Good balance of sweet and tart, leaning slightly towards the tart. Fairly juicy, seedless. Expensive, but fun. (They were obviously not Christmas oranges, but I couldn’t resist!)
Halos Halo is a brand name, not an actual variety. They’re very similar to Cuties, which we tend to prefer but haven’t seen in a while. Like Cuties, the variety of orange depends on the time of year. According to the Halo’s site (here), these were Clementines. Makes sense, given how similar they are to the Atlantic Canadian “Christmas Orange” – also sold as Clementines. These were not as easy to peel as I was looking for – skin comes off in small chunks. Also slightly more tart, and had no seeds. Readily available – it was all they carried in the Asian markets! Clementines also tend to be more spherical than what I was looking for.
Sunburst Tangerine This Florida orange was very smooth and shiny – a stark contrast to the rough, dimply skin of most of the other varieties. It was VERY difficult to peel by hand – probably better to slice. Thin, hard skin, with pith that is very attached to the segments. Has seeds, tastes like a pretty basic orange (not “Christmas” orange).
Algerian Mandarin These are called “Algerian”, but were grown in California! They were purchased at The Wedge, and is one of two oranges that were labelled as being Mandarins (not including Halos, which refer to their oranges as Mandarins on their site). This had a medium-thick skin that was very easy to peel, while not actually being loose/separated from the orange inside. It had a fair amount of sticky pith – harder to remove than some varieties. Tastes right, but the sticky pith is annoying. No seeds.
California Satsuma This was the “ugly” one of the lot – irregular, kind of squat shape, with very dimply, loose skin… AND IT WAS PERFECT. Very easy to peel, medium thick skin, only a small amount of pith that detaches from the segments very easily. Absolutely my favourite, and the closest to what I remember “Christmas”oranges being. Very plump and juicy segments, and among the sweetest of those tested. No seeds.
Mandarin After paying about $4/lb for the Satsumas, I saw 3lb bags of these “Mandarins” at Hy-Vee… and they looked very much like the Satsumas, just slightly larger. These were also very easy to peel – but had much more pith. Also has the thickest skin of all. The flesh isn’t has juicy as any of the other varieties, and has a gigantic grain to it. Has seeds.

So, as you can see… not only can the names be confusing (“Mandarin” was used for three wildly different oranges, none of which was what was referred to as “Mandarin” back home… which is “Satsuma” here!), but appearances can be deceiving, also: The Satsuma and second type of “Mandarin” looked VERY similar!

I’d asked this on my Facebook page, may as well as here too – the replies were FASCINATING (here):

1. Were “Christmas oranges” a thing where you grew up, and/or where you are now?

2. If so, what exactly does that mean to you? What was the actual orange called, what did it look like, was it easy to peel or not, how was it sold, where were they grown, etc. As much detail as possible, please!

3. Where was/is this (state/province, etc)

With 2017 being Canada’s 150th birthday, it’s about time I wrote the Canadian cookbook I’ve been planning for YEARS.

“More than Poutine” will be a Canadian cookbook like no other – written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional homecooking recipes, as well as homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada!

High quality gluten-free versions of most recipes will be included.

The Kickstarter for “More Than Poutine is live, here. Please consider backing, and sharing the campaign with your friends!

Coming out of the closet. Eek!

So, I have a secret I’ve been keeping for many years. My close friends know, and I’ve been getting better about admitting to it in casual convo with “safe” people.. but here goes..

I’m an immigrant!

Whew! Never thought I’d see the day I’d admit to that publicly. Not sure if I’m feeling relieved, or horrified at myself at the moment. Holy crap. It’s been a long time coming, though.