Before you start your new life in Canada, it’s important to wrap up essential things in your home country so you don’t have to worry about them later. Whether it’s disposing of personal belongings or consolidating your finances, some tasks can take weeks or months to complete while others can only be done in person, so make sure you plan accordingly.
In this article, we provide a checklist of essential tasks to complete in your home country before moving to Canada, along with indicative timelines for when you should begin working on them.
Six months before moving to Canada
Check the validity of your passport
You’ll need a valid passport to travel to Canada, so check its expiry well before your planned travel date. If you’re moving to Canada permanently, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) advises renewing your passport if it’s valid for six months or less from the day you apply for permanent residence. You can then update your new passport information in your PR application.
If you’re coming to Canada as a temporary foreign worker or international student, the length of your work or study permit cannot exceed the remaining validity of your passport.
Regardless of the immigration program you’ve qualified for, if your passport will expire soon, it’s best to get it reissued while you’re still in your home country. This way, you can avoid the hassle of renewing it through your country’s embassy in Canada a few months after arriving. Each country has different timelines for passport renewal, so be sure to apply several months before your expected travel date.
|| Information:If you have a valid CoPR and a visa stamp in your expired passport, you’ll need both your old and new passports to travel to Canada.
Get an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA)
Most newcomers moving to Canada as permanent residents or work permit holders get their educational credentials assessed for their immigration application. If you filed your immigration application as a couple or family and were not the primary applicant, you might not have submitted an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) for immigration purposes.
However, if you plan to work in Canada, you should still consider getting an ECA before your move. Canadian employers may ask for an ECA before offering you a job, to validate that your foreign degree, diploma, or certificate is valid and equivalent to a Canadian credential.
It can take several months to get an ECA from a designated organization or professional body, such as the World Education Services (WES) or the International Credential Assessment Service of Canada (ICAS). You’ll have to contact (or maybe even visit) your school, college, or university and request them to send your credentials and transcripts to the designated organization.
|| Tip: If you’re in a regulated occupation, contact your provincial or territorial professional body to learn about the licensing requirements and process, including the credential assessment process. Many professional bodies allow you to start the certification or licensing process before you arrive in Canada. You can also read our articles on how to move to Canada as a teacher, nurse, lawyer, accountant, or engineer for more information.
Budget for your life in Canada
The cost of living in Canada can be quite high, especially if you plan to live in a major city like Toronto or Vancouver. To make your transition to Canada as smooth as possible, you should try to bring enough money to cover your living expenses in Canada for six months. Often, it takes newcomers a few months to find a suitable job in Canada, and you may need to rely on savings from back home until then.
If you’re moving to Canada as a permanent resident, you likely already have enough saved to show the required proof of settlement funds (unless you have a Canadian job offer or are immigrating through the Canadian Experience Class program). However, that may not always be enough to cover your living expenses for six months. Use Arrive’s cost of living in Canada calculator to estimate the cost of living in your future city and set savings goals to make up for the difference.
There’s no set timeframe for when you should start saving. That will depend on how much you earn and can comfortably set aside for the future, as well as the average monthly living expenses in your future city in Canada. If you’ll be supporting your family back home when you move to Canada, be sure to budget for those payments as well, so you have some time to find a suitable job after you arrive. If you plan to sell your assets, such as your car or home, before your move, you can account for that money in your budget as well.
Three months before moving to Canada
Give notice of resignation to your employer back home
Depending on the terms of your employment contract, you may need to give notice of resignation to your employer and serve out the notice period. Usually, notice periods range between three months and two weeks, so revisit your contract or speak to your company’s HR department before giving your notice.
Even though you’re moving to a different country soon, you should try to leave your current job on a positive note. This might mean fulfilling the terms of your contract, completing any projects you are working on, and helping make the transition easier for your replacement.
Avoid burning bridges with your employer, as most Canadian employers will contact your former managers or co-workers as part of their employment background or reference checks. You should also get your employment history letter, a letter of recommendation, or references from your manager before leaving, as these will be helpful when you start your job search in Canada. You can also ask your employer to give you an endorsement on LinkedIn.
|| Tip: If you have a good relationship with your employer, ask if you can continue working remotely for them during your initial months in Canada. Some employers may let you contribute as a freelancer or contractor while you search for full-time roles in Canada.
Get your driver’s license extract
A driver’s license extract is essentially a letter from your regional transportation authority confirming that you had a valid driver’s license and proves the length of your driving history in your home country. If you have two or more years of driving experience in your home country, getting an extract can make the process of getting a full driver’s license in Canada much faster.
For instance, in Ontario, a driving extract with over two years of experience allows you to appear for a G road test immediately after passing the G1 knowledge test (by skipping the G2 road test and waiting period). So you can potentially get a full license in a few weeks or months instead of the typical two-year process. Depending on the country you come from, some auto insurance providers can take into account your foreign driving experience, thus giving you access to much more affordable rates.
Depending on your local regulator, it can take a few weeks or months to get your driver’s license extract, so the sooner you get this process started, the better.
Gather other official documents
In addition to the paperwork you included in your immigration application, you may need other official documents for various aspects of your life in Canada. If you don’t have all your essential documents, including your educational transcripts, marriage certificate, employment letters, health records, or your children’s birth certificates, vaccination records and school records, now is the time to apply for these and start collecting all your paperwork.
It’s also a good idea to make copies of your paperwork, including your passport and proof of identity, just in case the originals get misplaced or damaged after your move.
One month before moving to Canada
Consolidate your finances
With roughly four weeks left before your move, it’s time to consolidate your finances and get your financial paperwork in order. Start by taking inventory of your financial position and making a list of all the bank accounts and financial products you currently have. Before you move to Canada, you may want to close some bank accounts you won’t need, cancel your credit cards and insurance products, and repay your loans in full.
It might be a good idea to keep one or more bank accounts active, especially if you don’t want to transfer all your money to Canada at once, or want to keep some money invested or saved in your home country. Check the banking regulations in your country, as you may be required to convert your accounts to non-resident accounts. If you plan to visit home frequently, consider keeping a debit or credit card active so you can make purchases easily.
If you have a systematic investment plan (SIP), you may want to close the investment and withdraw your funds before your move. Alternatively, set up automatic transfers and leave some funds in your bank account to keep your investments running. Be sure to check the financial regulations in your home country beforehand to see if you’re allowed to continue investing as a non-resident.
You may also want to leave some savings for your family at home. Instead of making weekly or monthly transfers once you’re in Canada, set up recurring transfers or add them as joint holders to your bank account.
Be sure to get up-to-date bank statements and letters closer to your departure date to show proof of funds at the border. If you haven’t already opened a Canadian bank account, you can book an appointment to speak to an RBC Newcomer Advisor and get that process started.
Decide which items you want to take
Although it might be too early to pack, you should decide which items you want to take and start preparing accordingly. Newcomers can bring many personal items into Canada without paying additional taxes, but some items may be prohibited. So check the government’s regulations on what you’re allowed to bring into the country and any rules that apply to what you’ll be importing.
For instance, if you plan to bring your pet to Canada, your pet may need to be tested, treated, quarantined, or vaccinated before you arrive. Certain categories of pets require an import permit, which can take time to get.
Dispose of items you can’t bring with you
It’s unlikely that you’ll bring everything you’ve accumulated during your life in your home country to Canada. Once you’ve identified items you don’t want to take with you, the next step is to decide whether you want to give them away to friends or family, sell, donate, or scrap them.
Selling or disposing of some items, such as large pieces of furniture, your vehicle, and electronics can take time. If you’re selling your car, you’ll also need to get the ownership transferred and cancel your car insurance. Remember to dispose of items you’ll need while you’re still living in the home, such as your fridge or bed, closer to your moving-out date.
Arrange for any to-follow goods to be shipped
If you intend to bring furniture or other large items to Canada, you’ll likely need to make shipping arrangements in advance so your items can arrive soon after you land. You should compare quotes from various shipping companies to get the best deal, both in terms of cost and estimated delivery date.
Also, you’ll have to fill out the BSF186A (or B4A) “goods to follow” form and provide details of the items that you’re getting shipped to Canada separately. When you land in Canada, you’ll need to get this form stamped by a customs officer in order to claim your goods later without paying any duties or taxes.
Get up-to-date on your health checkups
Don’t forget to schedule visits to your doctor, dentist, or ophthalmologist before leaving your home country. In addition to your regular check-up, make sure you’re up-to-date on your vaccinations, get prescriptions and refills for any ongoing medication, and collect a copy of your medical and dental records. If you’re moving to Canada with children, you’ll need their vaccination records for school admissions.
Although essential healthcare services are free for new permanent residents (and even for temporary residents in some provinces), some provinces have a waiting period before you’re eligible for provincial health plans. Be sure to check the situation in your province or territory and find out how and when you can register for healthcare coverage.
Regular dental and vision care is usually not covered by provincial insurance, so you may want to get checkups and last-minute treatments done in your home country (such as dental fillings or new prescription glasses). These treatments can be quite expensive in Canada unless you’re insured. Most Canadians purchase add-on insurance for vision and dental care or are covered by employer’s insurance, but these insurance types have coverage limits and you may still be responsible for a portion of the cost.
Get ready to vacate your home
Although you’ll need someplace to stay right until your move, preparations for vacating your home can take time. If you’ve been living in a rental property, you’ll need to give notice to your landlord before moving out. (Depending on your rental contract or lease agreement, you may need to give more than one month’s notice.) You’ll also have to clear any pending rent or other payments, and at the time of leaving, you’ll need to hand over the keys and get your security deposit (if any) back.
If you still have a few more months left on your lease/rental term, speak to your landlord and see if they’ll agree to let you end your lease early. If not, you may have to pay the remaining months’ rent or, depending on the norms in your country, find someone to take over your lease. It’s also a good idea to check if the leaving date can be flexible in case of any last-minute changes to your travel plans.
If you own your home, vacating it can take more time, especially if you want to lease the property or sell it before your move. Make sure you account for sufficient time and start looking for suitable tenants or buyers a few months before your departure date.
There may be situations where you need to vacate your rented or owned home before your departure to Canada. In such a scenario, you’ll have to arrange temporary accommodation, such as living with family or friends, or booking a hotel, for your last few days or weeks. You’ll likely have your luggage for Canada with you at that time, so make sure you have enough space to store it.
Cancel recurring payments
Make a list of all the subscriptions or recurring payments you currently have and the ones you’ll need to cancel before you leave. These may include subscriptions to grocery or food delivery services, streaming services, and physical or digital newspapers, as well as your cable, internet, and phone plans (if you don’t want to keep your SIM active).
Some subscriptions may continue running to the end of your monthly term after you cancel, while for others, you may be able to stop the service immediately and get a refund for the remaining term. Try to phase out your cancellations so you have access to necessary subscriptions until your departure date. You may even be able to cancel some plans after you arrive in Canada.
|| Tip: Check if you’ll need your phone number to receive one-time passwords or authorization codes for your banks or other ongoing services. If you do, consider switching to a prepaid or pay-as-you-go plan instead of a postpaid one to save money.
One to two weeks before moving to Canada
Gather or purchase items you’ll need during your initial weeks
With only a few days to go, it’s time to start packing in earnest. In addition to the belongings you already have, you may want to purchase items you’ll need during your first few weeks in Canada.
If you’re moving to Canada during the winter months, weather-appropriate clothing should be high on your list of purchases. Most newcomers prefer to buy their winter wardrobe after arriving in Canada, but you may still need jackets, sweaters, gloves, wool socks, and shoes that’ll keep you warm for at least your first few days.
If you’ll be living in an Airbnb or temporary accommodation during your initial weeks, it’s a good idea to check if they have a fully-equipped kitchen and if toiletries are provided. If you need specialized utensils to cook your native food, such as a wok or pressure cooker, you may want to purchase them in your home country. These items aren’t always easy to find in Canada or may be significantly more expensive.
Try to think of other things you use regularly and carry enough for at least a week’s use, so there’s no urgency to find stores nearby as soon as you arrive.
Purchase travel insurance
Travel insurance protects you against unforeseen incidents that may happen during your trip. Typically, it insures you for trip disruption, delays or cancellations, lost baggage, or emergency medical expenses incurred during your travel.
If your province has a waiting period for provincial healthcare, you should consider getting extended medical coverage so you’re covered during your initial months in Canada.
Spend time with family and friends
Once all your essential tasks are complete and organized, be sure to spend some quality time with your family and friends. You may not get a chance to see them face-to-face for several months or even years. However, you can always stay in touch via phone, video calls, or email, so don’t despair.
Your last few weeks and months at home will be extremely busy. However, with proper planning, you can avoid last-minute challenges and complete all the essentials before your move. If you cannot accomplish some of these tasks while you’re still at home, don’t worry, you might be able to complete them remotely later or during your trips back home.