I'm moving from Canada to the U.S. What do I need to know?
How to move to the U.S. from Canada
Any long-distance move involves a lot of planning and coordination. But an international move (even if it’s just across the border) can seem even more complicated. There are requirements to meet, laws to follow and steps for getting your belongings and family from one country to another. Learn about the necessary paperwork, and how to move belongings, cars and pets from Canada to the United States.
The required paperwork
Before planning a move to the U.S., you’ll need the proper documentation.
- U.S. citizens can easily return to the U.S. after living abroad. In most cases, a passport is the only thing you’ll need, but there are some exceptions and special circumstances.
- Non U.S. citizens will need either a visa or a green card.
Obtaining a visa
There are many types of visas, and the type you need depends on how long you’re coming to the United States — temporarily or permanently — and why you’re moving there. A temporary visa is a nonimmigrant visa (also known as a student or work visa), while a permanent visa is an immigrant visa. Once you know which category is needed, you can narrow down which type to apply for.
U.S. work visa from Canada
Your occupation or reason for traveling to the U.S. will determine your visa category. You may need a foreign labor certificate, approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or participation in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System for some types. View the types and requirements here. A visa gives you the right to live and work in the U.S. temporarily. Those with a work visa could quality for healthcare and retirement. Each visa has certain restrictions, which could include travel outside of the country.
After completing the necessary prerequisites, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate. Each office has different protocols for obtaining a visa, and they can walk you through the steps (most will include paperwork and an interview). There are limits to the number of visas awarded in each category, so there may be a waiting period.
U.S. immigrant visa from Canada
An immigrant visa allows you to move to the U.S. permanently. You have the ability to get healthcare, obtain a Social Security number and earn retirement. Obtaining an immigrant visa requires sponsorship by your family or employer, and the number is limited each year. The process involves someone submitting a petition, it getting approved, using an agent, submitting an application, and passing an interview.
Obtaining a green card
While a green card offers permanent status (like an immigrant visa) there are many differences. A visa holder has to work in a certain industry, where a green card holder can work in any occupation. Green card holders can travel freely in and out of the U.S., and they can seek citizenship. Green card holders also get many legal rights including insurance, Social Security, retirement and the ability to own property.
While the steps to apply can vary, it typically involves someone sponsoring you, filling out the application, a biometric screening and an interview.
Applying for U.S. citizenship
The path to citizenship starts by being a green card holder for five years (or if you’ve married a U.S. citizen, the wait is only three years), and then completing the 10 step naturalization process including an application, interview, an exam and taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
Shipping household goods from Canada
One of the easiest and most affordable ways to move items from Canada to the U.S. is with U-Pack®. We’re a “you pack, we drive” company, which means you don’t have to worry about driving a rental truck across the border. And since you do the packing, the price is almost always cheaper than traditional full-service movers.
How a U-Pack Canadian/U.S. move works
- U-Pack brings the empty moving equipment, and you load your belongings inside. In most cases we can bring the equipment directly to your home, but if you’re in an area not serviced direct, you can also can load at a local service center.
- Once your belongings are loaded, they’re transported to the United States. As long as you provide accurate paperwork, you won’t have to clear shipment with Customs and Border Patrol, allowing you to travel however you want.
- When the shipment arrives, we deliver it to your home to unload (or unload at a service center).
- Transit times for moves from Canada to the U.S. average just 5-7 business days.
- Once you finish unloading, we pick up the empty equipment.
- We can also store belongings at origin or destination until you’re ready for delivery.
Wondering how much it will cost? Get a free no-obligation moving quote — just tell us a few details about the move to get a price.
Documentation needed for the move
When from Canada to the U.S., it’s important to take inventory while you’re packing. You’ll be required to provide an itemized list of all of your belongings with their approximate value.
- U-Pack cannot transport certain items across the Canadian-United States border, so make sure to leave these things behind:
- Anything not your personal household goods (no commercial goods)
- Anything illegal, poisonous, flammable, corrosive or perishable
- Anything with a VIN number (cars, trucks, motorcycles, ATVs, etc.)
- Items listed on the Do Not Ship list
U-Pack will need a copy of these documents:
- Your proof of status if a citizen (a black and white copy of the passport photo page)
- Your visa if not a U.S. Citizen (email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance if you won’t get a visa before arriving in the U.S.)
- Customs Form 3299 – Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection Form I-94 (if not a U.S. citizen)
Shipping a car
U-Pack doesn’t ship vehicles, so make sure to have a plan for getting your automobiles from Canada to the United States—whether that’s by driving it yourself of shipping it. Note that vehicles imported to the United States must comply with safety and environmental standards. Read all about importing a vehicle from the Customs and Border Patrol.
If you’re moving from Vancouver or Toronto, we recommend contacting Mr. Car Shipper® for a quote. Call 877-528-9627.
Moving pets from Canada to the U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has regulations in place to make sure diseases aren’t brought in when bringing an animal into the United States from another country. Note that any animal that appears sick or has a disease will not be allowed to enter.
- Dogs. Dogs must be healthy, and you must provide a rabies vaccination certificate from a licensed veterinarian that includes: the dog’s description (breed, sex, age, color, markings), date of vaccine, expiration date of vaccine and the vet’s signature. Because dogs must be three months old to receive the vaccine and it takes one month to be effective, dogs under four months old cannot enter the United States from another country.
- Cats. There are no requirements for importing a cat; however, some airlines may require a general certificate of health. Also, some states require rabies vaccines for cats after your arrival, so check with state authorities about any necessary vaccinations after moving.
- Birds, turtles and other pets. If importing other pets, check out this information from the CDC.
Note: If moving from Canada to Hawaii with pets, there are additional guidelines and quarantines.
Have questions about moving from Canada to the United States?
Contact a moving specialist at 800-413-4799 to learn more about how U-Pack works or to get a quote. If you have other questions about moving to the U.S. from Canada, leave us a comment below.