The Complete Guide for Canadians Living Abroad

Posted on February 19, 2021

Did you know that, as of 2016, the number of Canadians in the US was around 783,000, according to an article published by the Migration Policy Institute in 2018? Whether it’s because of job opportunities or weather, many Canadians choose to move to their southern neighbour.

If you’re a Canadian who’s thinking of living abroad—in the US or elsewhere—then you may have a few questions about the process. You might be asking yourself:

“What paperwork do I need to complete when I move abroad?”

“Can I use my Canadian citizenship if I live in another country?”

“How do I get healthcare in my new country? What about opening a bank account? How does that work?”

Change is exciting, no question!  But being prepared for that change is what makes the transition so much easier.

Do a Risk Assessment

When you’re moving from Canada to the US or elsewhere, you need to do a risk assessment of where you’re moving. That way, you can ensure you’re moving somewhere where it’s safe for you and your family. Safety issues can range from high crimes rates, to civil unrest, and in today's world, pandemics. 

First, look at the Travel Advice and Advisories for the country you’re thinking of moving to. You should also look at their Country Insights Page and look at the World Health Organization’s websites to know possible health risks associated with certain areas.

Complete the Right Paperwork

Once you’ve reviewed the risks of moving to the foreign country you’ve chosen, there’s some paperwork you should complete so that everything is in order before you go. If you need to apply for passports or visas for yourself or your family, do this before taking any additional steps.

For safety, keep copies of your travel documents with family members. That way, if any of these are stolen during your journey or at your destination, you’ll be able to quickly recover them and use the copies if needed.

It’s also smart to sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad so that you can contact your government in the event of an emergency. You can also get an emergency contact card that contains the location of the Canadian Government office in your new area.

Additionally, you should inform Canada Post that your address has changed.

Dual Citizenship and Residency

If you’re a Canadian studying, retiring, volunteering, or working in the USA or elsewhere, then you should be aware of what happens with dual citizenship and residency. As a Canadian, you’re allowed to have dual citizenship.  If you have both, you don’t have to give up your Canadian citizenship.

However, if you move to a foreign country and possess its' respective passport, you might have certain obligations, such as paying taxes or doing military service. 

Additionally, you need to think about whether you want temporary or permanent residency in a foreign country. This will impact your legal status and responsibilities at your new home and in Canada. This will have an impact on where you have to pay taxes and what kind of assistance you can get from the Canadian government.

When deciding whether to consider yourself Canadian or a citizen/resident of your new country, keep all this in mind so you can make the decision of maintaining Canadian residency or Canadian citizenship while living abroad.

Schedule a Full Physical

Before going to the foreign country you’ve chosen, we recommend you schedule a full physical before you go. This health check should be made at least 6 weeks before you go. This will help you know if you need to take any precautions, get any immunizations, or stock up on medications before going.   Should there be a need for on going care in a new country, you'll want to ensure that you have access to the clinics and services you require.

In terms of vaccinations, you need all your routine immunizations in addition to any required for the country you’re moving to. If you are taking medication with you, do ensure that they are legal where you land.  

If you’re pregnant, then you should speak with your doctor about any risks you might face if giving birth in your new country. It may be worth waiting until you’ve given birth to move. Research hospitals to ensure they have well known pre natal and birthing facilities. 

Additionally, if you have any disabilities, check to see what support is available in your new country.

Get the Insurance You Need

Speaking of health, you should also get the health insurance you need. If you live abroad, then your territorial or provincial Canadian healthcare won’t cover your healthcare costs. While part of these costs might be covered at the beginning of your time in a new country, it will no longer be applicable after six to eight months.

Access to your Canadian healthcare is also impacted by whether you enter your new country on a visa, as a resident, or as a citizen. Keep in mind that, when you’re moving abroad, you can choose between supplemental insurance and replacement insurance.

Supplemental insurance is the right choice if you’re in the new country temporarily. It works in addition to your Canadian healthcare. If you’re planning on being in the country for longer, then you should get replacement insurance.

In addition to health insurance, travel insurance can cover such things as cancellation fees, lost luggage, or health related emergencies.

The Costs of Living Abroad

Be sure to have all the money needed to be comfortable when you arrive.  Rent or mortgage payments, transportation, utilities and food costs should all be considered before you leave.

 Additionally,  put together an emergency fund in case you need to access it. You’ll also need to think about other potential costs such as taxes, fees, duties, and the cost of returning to Canada. Some countries will require you to have a return ticket.

The Move Itself

There are some preparations you should make for the move itself. These include many steps, such as finding the right accommodations, setting up a bank account, and more. 

Finding Accommodations

If you are renting or buying a first floor unit, we recommend avoiding the first floor to reduce the risk of burglary.  If you do wind up on the ground floor, ensure that you have security features such as additional locks and an alarm system.

With every dwelling, ensure that there are fire and Co2 detectors throughout as well.  


Banking abroad can be tricky. To make your life easier, inquire if your current bank has any connections with banks in the country you’re moving to. If it doesn’t, then we recommend you check out banks that have cross border solutions.  

There may be requirements at foreign banks for you to open up an account, such as proof of residency or income. Review these requirements and do all the necessary admin before contacting a foreign bank.

Getting Your Pension

If you’ve moved from Canada to retire in a foreign country, then you might be able to receive your payments through Old Age Security (OAS), Quebec Pension Plan (QPP), and Canada Pension Plan (CPP). As long as you lived in Canada for at least twenty years since you turned 18, and you have a low enough income, you should be able to receive your pension.  Simply continue to file your Canadian taxes to report your worldwide income.


If you plan on driving while living in a foreign country, you should find out if your new country requires you to have an International Driving Permit (IDP). This permit will allow you to use your Canadian driver’s license in conjunction with an IDP.

Keep in mind that this permit is only valid for one year. At some point, you will be required to obtain a new drivers license.  Some countries will simply issue a local one, while others require you to go through the full stages of testing, just as a new driver would.

Tax Obligations in Canada

You might have tax obligations in Canada when you’re living abroad. Generally speaking, this depends on if you’re a resident or not of the new country. It also might depend on other factors such as how long you’re staying and how often you return to Canada.

If you aren’t sure, speak with a tax professional or check in with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Buying Foreign Property

If you plan on buying foreign property, speak with a local real estate lawyer in your new home. Certain real estate laws may apply that can be vastly different then in Canada. 

Culture Shock

It's common to experience culture shock when you're transplanted into a foreign setting. This is a normal reaction to a new environment where you are no longer in control as you have been at home. You may experience a range of emotions when adapting to a foreign culture, from excitement and interest to frustration, depression and fear of the unknown.  

Being mindful of this possibility is the best way to prevent it.   Stay in touch with family, join local community groups, and take lots of photos to share all of the wonderful new sights and events you are experiencing.  There are plenty more to come.

Get The Right Insurance 

The most important travel accessory anyone can bring along is their insurance.  It's vital to be covered in the event of an emergency, even if you are living abroad.  More importantly, your new employer may have a probationary period in which you may not be eligible for benefits until after a certain amount of time.  We at Insurdinary are one of Canada's top brokers and will find you the best possible rate as we deal with all of the major providers across the nation. Contact us today.  One of our highly experienced advisors is looking forward to working with you.  

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