Moving to Canada: Steps for an organized and confident move to Canada

By Paul KuruczMoving to Canada can be both exciting...and overwhelming. 

Exciting because Canada is a great place to live, work, and retire in. But it can be overwhelming, too, because the move itself, with all the steps needing to be taken, can feel like a mountain to climb. 

Uncertainty can creep in: "What if we make a mistake and forget to do something? Or make a wrong choice, such as with our finances or tax planning?"  

Real concerns, felt by many of the thousands of people moving to Canada for the first time from all over the world. 

Here are some tips to help your move to Canada feel more organized and confident:

1. Build a team you trust

Most of the clients I work with have a team of people they can trust to help them with their move. This team might include:
·      A real estate agent who can understand their needs and can help them find the perfect place to live. Most real estate agents in Canada only understand Canadians who have lived here for a long time. So be careful to find a real estate agent who really understands your cultural context and what you will be looking for in Canada as you move here for the first time. 

If you are moving to British Columbia from Germany, Austria, or Switzerland, for example, consider an agent like 
Anton Nikl, who speaks German and English and understands new immigrants because he moved here himself from Europe some years ago. You will quickly learn that Anton is a professional you can trust. 
·      A relocations expert (also called an international mobility consultant) can answer the dozens of questions you will have and help you get things done. Practical questions will include the best ways to move your belongings from your home country to Canada, moving money and investments, and how to set up health care here. And this person can help you understand the differences in systems and cultures, ensuring you make the best decisions and feel confident while getting used to the ways things are done in Canada. 

This is the work that I do (Paul Kurucz, the author of this article). For 15 years I have helped some 1000 clients move to Canada from all over the world. As a former business professor and international expatriate who moved back to Canada twice, I understand the complexity of moving to Canada.

·      A lawyer here in Canada will be someone you may need more than you might have in some parts of the world. Why? Because you will have to re-do your Last Will and Testament when you move to Canada. And when you buy real estate, you will generally need the services of a lawyer. I recently worked with a client moving to Canada from Germany and she was surprised to learn how different the real estate transaction process was here. “I just send the money to the seller here in Germany! I didn’t know that in Canada the lawyer holds the funds in trust and handles the transaction!” 

·      Sometimes a tax accountant here in Canada can help you transition your tax context if you have a complicated business or trust situation in your home country. Most clients do not need one, but sometimes I do refer my clients to a professional tax accountant here in Canada to be sure their more complex situation has had a range of professionals considering it.
2.  Be proactive with the most important parts of your move

Because a move to Canada can feel overwhelming, the human mind focuses on the easiest tasks first: Packing belongings, saying goodbye to friends, buying things to take to Canada with you. All important tasks, to be clear, but perhaps not the things that need to be done early in the process.

The harder tasks, which need to get done earlier, sometimes gets delayed until it becomes an urgent crisis, which adds to the stress of the move back. 

Suggestion: Tackle these pieces early on and you will find your move happens more smoothly.
·      Have your investments and tax situation planned early. Contact your pension manager, investment firm, bank, and insurance company find out the implications of your move to Canada and new status as "non-resident" in the country you are leaving. The implications can be significant and a mistake in your choices costly.

·      Start your real estate research in Canada early so that you really get a sense of what will be the best location and type of property for you. The client I mentioned earlier who was moving from Germany to Canada chose to move to Salt Spring Island in British Columbia because she felt that there would be a lot of international people living there, making it easier to settle into the community socially. A very thoughtful decision. 

·      Decide early in the move planning process whether you will take a lot of your furniture and belongings or only personal effects, and buy new furniture when you get to Canada. This decision will have a bit impact on both your workload, on the amount of money you will need to ship your belongings, and on the timeline of your move. 

For example, one person found that selling all her furniture and buying new furniture here (mostly at Ikea!) saved her a lot of money, was a real treat as she had never been able to buy a lot of new furniture in her life, and was part of her starting a “fresh life” in her new home.

3.  Prepare for a healthy move

Health care is one of the top concerns I work with clients on. Whether they have chronic health challenges or are simply learning how to bridge the waiting period for public health care in Canada, health care is an important one to put your mind to rest about. 

Another, and equally important health concern: Your peace of mind. Moving to Canada is a big transition and one that can be tiring and stressful. Make time to take care of yourself during the move: Time-outs, dinners out, and walks on the beach. All very important in the run-up to your move back to Canada. Even as little as a 2 hour break from thinking about the move will give you renewed energy and enthusiasm for taking the next steps that need action on.  One of my clients moving from the Netherlands to Canada shared this with me when she arrived in Canada:

“Your tip on doing something fun or for yourself every day has been an anchor throughout the last few weeks. It is all too easy to get buried in moving logistics and then the stress and terror become all consuming. Getting outdoors everyday and trying to explore my surroundings has helped keep my stress and disorientation a little more in check.”

In summary, moving to Canada can be, and should be, exciting! Build a professional team to help you, be proactive in your preparations, take care of yourself during the transition and you can experience the organized, exciting, and confident move to Canada you wish to have!
By Paul KuruczInternational Relocation and Mobility ConsultantContact