As North American neighbors, the U.S. and Canada share several similarities, which means a relatively easy transition if you’re moving across the border.
That said, because Canada is a separate country, there are certain regulations you’ll need to follow when moving your possessions (and your pets!) to Canada. Below, we’ll give you the full run-down on the requirements so you can make a smooth relocation between the U.S. and Canada.
First, let’s take a quick look at how these two countries stack up.
The U.S. and Canada by the Numbers
Land Area: U.S. vs. Canada
United States – 3.797 million mi²
Canada – 3.855 million mi²
You might be surprised to know that the U.S. and Canada are pretty similar in size.
However, unlike the U.S., about 80% of Canada is uninhabited. In fact, 70% of Canadians live below 49°N latitude—the line that forms the border between Canada and the U.S. from the Lake of the Woods to the Strait of Georgia. Below that line, you’ll find Canada’s two most populous cities, Toronto and Montréal.
In other words, although the countries have similar land areas, unlike the U.S., the majority of Canadian population is highly concentrated in a smaller area.
Population: U.S. vs Canada
United States – 329.5 million
Canada – 38.01 million
Given the above, you might not be surprised to learn that the population of Canada is much smaller than that of the U.S. In fact, the U.S. population is more than eight times larger than that of Canada.
As such, the difference in population density should come as no surprise:
Population Density: U.S. vs. Canada
United States – 86.8 people/mi²
Canada – 9.9 people/mi²
As you can see, the U.S. has a much higher population density overall. However, if you move from a U.S. city to a Canadian one, like Vancouver, you might not notice much of a difference in population density. After all, it’s Canada’s uninhabited areas that reduce its density so significantly.
Now that you’ve got a broad sense of the size and population of these two countries, let’s talk about the requirements for moving to Canada. Since a U.S.–Canada relocation is an international one, there are specific requirements that cover your household goods, and there’s also paperwork to complete.
After completing tens of thousands of relocations, we know it’s the small details that really matter. In the next section, we’ll show you exactly what you need to know so you can avoid some of the common challenges with Canada moves.
Requirements for Moving to Canada from the U.S.
There are definitely a few things you’ll want to know before moving to Canada—especially if you’re emigrating from the U.S. Possibly most importantly, though, when you send your household goods to the Great White North, they’ll cross an international border. That means more paperwork and procedures in comparison to a state-to-state move within the U.S.
Here’s what you need to know:
Customs: All your household goods will clear through the procedures established by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
Some Items Are Duty Free, Others Are Not
With the correct documentation in place, your personal items and household goods are permitted to clear customs duty-free.
However, any single item of household goods or personal effects acquired after March 31, 1977 and valued at more than $10,000—including automobiles—is subject to regular duty and taxes on the excess amount.
This is where an experienced international moving company will come in handy. They’ll help you prepare the proper documentation to ensure you only pay the customs duties and fees that appropriate to your situation.
Special Requirements for Antiques, Artifacts, Artwork, and Carpets
The CBSA doesn’t require specific documentation for antiques, art, or artifacts, as long as they’re personal items that are shipped as part of your household goods shipment. However, if you own any items that are more than 100 years old, you may need to provide proof of age.
Additionally, if you’re importing antiques or artwork for sale, different regulations will apply.
If You’re Bringing Your Pet…
If you plan to bring your pet with you to Canada, there’s a little preparation involved:
- Research Your Breed: Some animals aren’t permitted for import to Canada. For example, hybrid dogs or cats—such as wolf-dog crosses or Bengal cats—are not permitted for import as pets.
- Assemble Your Paperwork: Depending on the type of animal you’re importing and its age, you’ll need to present paperwork along with your pet. If your documents aren’t in order, the worst case scenarios involve border delays or refusal of entry for your pet.
Start at the Government of Canada’s website. There, you’ll find a handy tool. Enter your pet’s information, and the website will display the documentation you need, as well as any restrictions or requirements that might apply.
To give you an example, if you’re bringing a pet dog into Canada from the U.S. that’s older than 8 months:
- You’ll need a valid rabies vaccination certificate.
- Depending on where you’re entering Canada, you may need to give advance notice, since animals will be inspected on arrival.
- You’ll also need to pay a fee.
If you’re bringing an animal in for the purpose of selling the dog, adopting it out, breeding it, etc., the regulations are different.
In summary, if you’re moving with a pet, make sure to do your research well ahead of time so there are no hiccups at the border.
Documents Needed for Your Move to Canada:
- Copy of the photo page of your passport
- If you’re emigrating to Canada, you’ll need your immigration papers; otherwise, be prepared to show your work permit, student visa, or other paperwork, as applicable
- If you’re a returning citizen, you’ll need to provide a proof of residency abroad for at least 12 months
- Detailed inventory / packing list in English or French
- You may need to provide a valued inventory, if requested
- Receipts may also be required for new items
- Original bill of lading (OBL) / air waybill (AWB) and Form BSF186 – Your moving company will assist you with these
Canada Customs Fees:
Canada allows you to bring your used personal and household goods with you duty-free. For example, you won’t have to pay duties on items such as:
- Musical instruments
- Gifts worth CDN $60 or less each
- Hobby tools and other hobby items
- Private collections of coins, stamps, or art
- Appliances, such as a stove or refrigerator
However, if you import the following items, you may have to pay duty on them:
- Equipment for use in contracting, construction, manufacturing, or farming
- Business vehicles
- Items bought on your way to Canada
- New items; keep your receipts for these, in case you’re asked for them
Canada also has a list of prohibited and restricted items. Be careful to leave these items out of your shipment in order to avoid customs delays and problems:
+ Prohibited Items
- Live plants
- Narcotics and drugs
- Fruits and vegetables
- Live ammunition and explosives
+ Restricted Items
- Importing alcohol will require a detailed list and an import permit. Check with your moving company in terms of any alcohol you wish to import
- Tobacco products are subject to duties and taxes
- Food items have been known to cause delays and may be subject to additional charges. Additionally, authorization is required for meat, so you’re better off leaving it out of your shipment.
- Pornographic materials
- Hunting trophies may require specific permits, so check with your moving company
- Firearms are subject to strict regulations
- Any one item valued at $10,000 or more will be subject to duties and taxes
For more information about customs rules and procedures, talk to your moving company or refer to the Canada Customs website.
You’re also welcome to ask one of our experts! We would be happy to get you the info you need.
What Else Should You Know Before You Move to Canada?
Check out our nine must-knows for life in the Great White North. We’ll help you set your expectations and make a smooth transition to your new country.
What If You’re Moving to the U.S. from Canada?
When you move to Canada from the U.S., you’ll also be subject to customs regulations and requirements. If you have a long-term visa (e.g., not a B-1 or B-2 visitor visa), you’ll be able to import your household goods duty-free, as long as they’ve been used for 12 months or more.
We’ve assisted thousands of individuals and families relocating to the U.S. from international destinations. Just reach out to us, and we’ll walk you through the U.S. customs regulations and requirements that pertain to your move.
Your Canada Move, Made Easy
Moving to Canada from the U.S. is an international relocation, one that comes with the paperwork and procedures common to all international moves. However, now that you have a good grasp of the requirements for moving to Canada from the U.S., you’ll eliminate most of the surprises and speedbumps, clearing the way for an easy emigration—or even just a lengthy stay.
Moving to Canada? We’d love to put our international experience to work for you. Just reach out to one of our relocation experts for a complimentary quote
Tell us about your move!