Tips on Moving to the USA from Canada


I’ve just updated this post with a few extra tidbits since moving to LA! Also, the comments are a great place to find answers for visa questions and importing your car. Enjoy!


Whether you’re being transferred for work or going to college in the USA – you might find this post helpful. Having just moved to the USA from Canada (here’s WHY we moved), I’m hoping others doing the same can benefit from my experience so far and avoid a lot of hassle when getting settled into the United States.

I did everything below out of order, but here is a rough idea of what order you could consider doing everything in and some of the bumps I experienced along the way!


1) Apply for your Social Security Number – I really should have done this the day I found out my US visa was approved at the US border. It can take 2-3 weeks for your SSN to be processed and this number really is the basis for EVERYTHING. Drop anything else and apply for this as soon as you arrive.


2) Apply for your Work Visa – If your work visa has not kicked in, or you need to apply for one after you arrive (like me) I would do this as soon as you have your SSN. My Employment Authorization Document (EAD) took an additional 60-90 days to process, so the sooner you apply, the sooner you can start working. I’m also hearing that EADs are now taking upwards of 120-160 days!!! So giddy up and get on it.

I’ve spent a lot of time tracking my work visa and immigration status online. The best websites for expats I have found are Trackitt, Immihelp and this USCIS page that shows current processing times. There are lots of helpful forums of other people going through the same things on these sites.




3) Open a Bank Account – Once you have a US mailing address and SSN, you should get to a bank and open an account so you have a place to deposit your US paycheques and an account to start paying bills from.


4) Get a US Credit Card – It’s really hard to build credit in the USA with NO American credit history. The best thing you can do is apply for a prepaid credit card where you would leave a $1000 deposit for a $1000 limit on a credit card. Use this to slowly build credit over the next 3-6 months and then you can eventually ask for your deposit back. I would advise doing this ASAP as most credit cards from Canada will charge you a 2.5% foreign transaction fee on EVERY purchase. This adds up big time!

I actually got approved for an American Express US credit card just by having one in Canada for over a year in good standing. I think it’s because they are their own bank and are more flexible with their clients moving around a lot.

The other biggest pain in the butt was finding an apartment where we would pass their credit check – again with no US credit history. Smaller landlords are more flexible, you could offer to pay 3-6 months of rent in advance if the situation does not seem sketchy. However larger property management firms just didn’t seem to get it. So FYI.


Get thee to the DMV

Get thee to the DMV

5) Go to the DMV – When I moved to the state of California, I had 10 days to change my driver’s license over. Make sure to get to the DMV right away to do the written driving test. Once you pass, you have a temporary license for about 60 days and then you need to book and pass a behind-the-wheel test. Laws and timing vary between states – so double check.


6) Import your Car – We made the mistake of NOT importing our car when we drove it from Canada to the US border. It’s much easier to do this when you cross, but not to worry. You have up to one year to officially ‘import’ your car at a PORT near you. Check out my post on how to import your car from Canada to the USA.


What happens when you ONLY move with four suitcases of stuff

What happens when you ONLY move with four suitcases of stuff

7) Moving Your Stuff – We opted to sell EVERYTHING and moved to the US with just four suitcases and two boxes. If your work is not subsidizing your moving expenses, this might be something to consider. You could even try selling your books using bookscouter like we did. We also GAVE our mattress away and needed to get a new one right away so we had a place to sleep.

I also recommend checking out Leesa Mattress, they ship directly to your home and you can save $100 by using my referral link here.

I looked into renting a shipping container with storage from Toronto to Los Angeles and it came in at around $3500. My stuff is not that nice or all that important.  So we opted to sell it all on Craigslist. The DIY Uhaul option priced out to about $2500 with gas. Moving companies can charge upwards of $3500 + for my situation from Toronto to Los Angeles. There is usually a fee for cross-border and brokerage.

I packed a few extra full suitcases and left them in Toronto with my family. That way when people come to visit, they can grab an already packed suitcase and pay $25-30 to bring down a second checked bag for me. This is a great way to slowly move down your seasonal clothing too.


8) Get a Prepaid Cell Phone – Unfortunately with only Canadian credit it was near impossible to sign a contract and get a post-paid cell phone. I opted for this prepaid plan with T-Mobile which offers unlimited long-distance and texts back to Canada (I think for $10/month). The main reason this sucked is the fact that I paid full price for my iPhone. There were no iPhone discounts for activating with them at the time I signed up.

However after about 2-3 months I was approved for this post-paid plan with a $300 security deposit. This is useful because T-Mobile just launched unlimited international data roaming in major countries around the world including Canada and so far you can only get it on a post-paid plan.

After 12 months I got my $300 deposit back in the form of a bill credit. Make sure you call in and ask for it back because I don’t think they automatically credit you. Also, I think I still would have had to pay full price for my iPhone if I did post-paid off the bat. Check out T-Mobile online for all your options.




9) Buy Health Insurace – Do not mess around with this. Make sure you have enough travel insurance to cover you for at least 45-60 days while you get settled. Once you arrive, if you are in charge of purchasing your own health insurance make sure you get on this right away. At the same time you may want to bundle it up with your car, life, contents and personal umbrella liability insurance.

If work pays for your medical, health and dental – ask LOTS of questions on how much coverage, co-pay and liability you have. We found that our liability on our car insurance was super low, so we topped up and bought an additional umbrella policy. If you have wedding rings or major jewellery – bring your appraisal forms or else you need to get everything re-appraised again for insurance purposes.


10) Your Prescriptions – I’m adding a little extra section on prescriptions here. Since moving to LA, I’ve learned that often times the medication you are used to getting in Canada may not be available here in the US or are branded under a different name. Before you move, talk to your doctor or pharmacist for alternatives they suggest or do the research and find out which American brand has the exact ingredients of what you’re using now.

I got stuck with a generic when my medication from Canada ran out and I suffered from some pretty terrible side effects when I had switched. It took me 6 months to figure out what was wrong with me and I wish someone had told me to pre-research what version of my prescription I could get in the USA. So just a heads up!



11) Book into an Airbnb – I’m always surprised to learn when people haven’t heard of Airbnb. If you’re looking for temporary furnished accomodation, you can search via Airbnb for a whole home if you’d like.

Paul and I did this for about 2 weeks when we arrived in LA while we were on an apartment search after moving. Do check out the site! We stayed friends with BOTH of our Airbnb hosts and they were great at giving us an inside scoop about how our new city works.

tips moving usa from Canada

Here are a few other posts I’ve written you might find helpful:

How I drove across Route 66 from Toronto to Los Angeles + where to stop.

I sold my three bedroom home in Toronto and sold everything I owned on Craigslist. You might also want to think about selling your books online with

Why I quit my job and how I switched careers.

If you do move to the US without employment, you’ll probably need these 10 Tips for Landing Your Dream Job.


So far, so good. This is as far as I got in my own journey. Do you have any tips to share about moving to the US from Canada or vice-versa? Have a question? Please leave it in the comments – it’s better then emailing me, as many people will probably benefit from hearing the answer or we can all help each other out.

If you found this post helpful, please consider clicking on my Amazon referral link here when you shop. I earn a small affiliate income off each sale, which helps me keep this site running. Thank you!


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Disclaimer: I’m not a professional immigration lawyer or expert. This post draws from my own experience moving and I advise you to double-check all facts and get pro advice on anything you are unsure about.


  • melsays

    Thanks for sharing Lisa!! Super duper helpful!

    • No prob! I’m sure you’ll be putting things into action soon.

      • melsays

        Always working on it!!

  • Mandy Sellers

    Yes, thank you Lisa! I have a few things in the works already that should help but I’ll definitely be coming back to this list.

    • Sweet! Can’t wait to have you back in this city. I’m hanging out with Ava soon too 🙂

    • rasul

      hi there mandy. what country you are ?

  • James Harrison

    Interesting & knowledgeable points!! Moving in new place is not an easy task so its better to find out the proper of that place.

  • ad

    seems like moving is quite a task from canada to US – just thought it’d be a little easier (little surprised canadian driving license is not approved in US)

    • You can definitely drive with a Canadian license in the US, but if you move here – you legally have 10 days to apply for a California license. Also our insurance company insisted on it.

    • Tom N

      FYI, there are some states in the US that have agreements with certain provinces in Canada that you can simply just trade in and exchange licenses without taking the driving/writing tests. For example, if you have an Ontario driver’s license, you can simply just exchange it in states such as Texas, Arizona, and a few others because Ontario & Texas/Arizona have set mutual agreements. So for those you can just go to the nearest DMV and trade in right away. In contrast, although Michigan is next to Ontario, they do not have mutual agreements, so for those moving to Michigan will be required to take the test(s) at the DMV. Again, different provinces/states have different agreements.

      • Oh I didn’t know this at all! This is a very helpful piece of info. Thanks for sharing Tom.

      • Laura Ellis

        Tom – do you know anything about South Carolina?

        • Kelsey Whaley

          Hey Laura, did you end up moving to SC? how was the process? I will be moving next month and am wondering about DMV, etc

  • Ric Pacheco

    thanks for the info. I am looking at moving to Florida that your experiences help shed some light.

  • Ric Pacheco

    did you move via…sponsorship work or family or did you get married?

    • My husband applied for the L1 visa to open a US branch of an existing Canadian office that he works for. Luckily, I was able to apply for an L2 visa because of this and work while we are living here.

  • Ric Pacheco

    Is there no way of just immigrating to the US? The weather here is killing me. I’m from Toronto if you don’t mine me asking what part of Canada where you from? Also what does the average health insurance cost?

    • I know. It’s been a brutal winter and I’m from Toronto.

      You could start applying for jobs in the US and if you get hired, you can apply for a TN visa pretty easily with a supporting letter from your employer. It’s good for 2 years and renewable beyond that as well. However it’s just good for you and if you move with family or a significant other – they will not be able to work.

      We went with a PPO (one provider) because it was cheaper and we are not exactly thrilled about it. It’s about $300 a month per person. But if you have an employer, they will usually cover this cost for you. On the flip side, my car isurance is only $40/month!

      • Ric Pacheco

        Thanks Lisa. Since the last time I wrote this message I found out that I am able to relocate to the US through my current union membership. I am currently looking at getting an immigration lawyer to help with the process. Please keep in touch. You’ve been very helpful.

        • Hi Ric – my immigration lawyer is amazing! He’s at St. Clair & Yonge and has helped us and two of our friends sucessfully with our L visas. I think his pricing was very fair. Do you want to send me an email at and I can e-intro you to my lawyer direct?

          Congrats Ric!

          • Ric Pacheco

            Hey Lisa. Just out of curiosity what is the name of the law firm as I am looking at a lawyer at Yonge and St. Clair as well

          • They used to be Bozma Law Group, but now under PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

        • RG

          @Ric can I ask what union memebership this is? I’m trying to find a way as well. The weather is fantasitics now…but winter always comes back 🙁

  • Frank Ong

    Hi Lisa,

    I’m actually moving to San Francisco from Toronto so I guess I have a similar experience.

    I was wondering about the bank you signed up since I maybe moving money back and forth from Canada to US.

    As for the SSN I heard you have to be in the country for at least 10 days before you can apply for it?

    • Hey Frank – congrats on the move!

      SSN – I’m not sure if there is a 10-day waiting period. I would ask your immigration lawyer about this just to be sure. It took me almost 8 weeks to finally be assigned a number in the mail.

      Banking – I try not to move money back and forth unless I really have to. The CDN $ is pretty low right now, so if I make any freelance money in Canada – I keep it there with an ING account and vice-versa with my US clients. However, if I really needed to move money – I just use Paypal. It sucks because of the fees, but it was fast. Do let me know if you come up with a better solution!

      • Ric Pacheco

        Hi Frank and Lisa
        I actually have and RBC account in the states. I set it up at a RBC branch up here and they looked after me. It came with a RBC Visa/Debit card and I can transfer money thru mu Canadian account to my US account thru online banking.

        • Mary-Ellen Voth

          That’s what I did too Ric. I actually live in Canada but work every winter in Southern California so this works really well for me.

          • curryb

            Hi Mary,

            Out of curiousity, what is your career?

          • Mary-Ellen Voth

            Registered Nurse. I do travel nursing as well as work in Canada in a casual position

          • Mary, I’m an RN looking to do travel nursing as well! Was it easy finding an agency you liked?

          • Jeanne Mendoza

            What travel nursing agency do you recommend? I want to do a move from Toronto to Arizona. What tips do you have for RNs wanting to do the move?

      • Reddy

        U can try Transfast /xoom /xe for moving money between US / Canada.

      • Go Mig TV

        TD Canada has banking in the US and you can set up your US acct. through the telephone and online. It’s free to transfer between accounts online and the fees get reversed. The set up takes only an hour then a couple of days to verify. It also helps you set up and build credit.

  • Scottie Smalls

    Nice. What are you doing in LA?

    • Hey Scottie – long story, but this is pretty much why:

      • Scottie Smalls

        Wow. I haven’t read the whole thing yet but this web site is fantastic. I have been wondering about the possibility of moving to the USA for about a year now (no state in particular but wanting one that has at least 2 good pro sports teams). I take it that yourself or your husband has interest in web design because your layout makes me want to read everything on it!
        PS thanks for replying:)

        • LA is a serious sports town – if the Kings can take the cup!

          Definitely look into the TN option, that’s your best avenue to explore and likely the fastest.

          Thanks for checking out the site 🙂

          • Scottie Smalls

            I don’t know how much you or your husband are into sports, but aren’t the Dodgers Angels and Clippers way bigger than the hockey team? I have wanted to get down there for the longest time to see a game at Dodger Stadium (and I am a hockey guy), but none of my friends seem to share the enthusiasm of checking out MLB in LA.

            PS you are quite welcome, I am also currently looking into gaining some web creation knowledge so my site may one day look as good as yours does.

          • Yes, this is a Dodgers town for sure! But we still love hockey more 😉

            Also, my advice for web design – hire an amazing designer! That’s what I did and it saved me a ton of time. I’m better at blogging than I am with graphic or web design. Good luck!

  • Lisa Munro

    We just moved from Calgary to Chicago!!! It’s amazing how many differences there are. I’m sharing our story at

  • Courtney

    Hi there Lisa!

    I’m actually wondering if things have changed since you moved to the States, or if they are relatively the same? I’m planning to move to North Carolina next November and I am trying to figure out what the best process would be to get there, where I am unable to transfer through my current employer (besides what my friends have suggested in which you get married, which seems a little kooky). Any advice would be amazing!

    • Hi Courtney! I think the immigration rules are still relatively the same – if that’s what you mean? If your current employer can transfer you by getting you an L1 visa, that would be great. However, you do have to have been working there for at least a year and secondly, you need to be in some sort of management position. There’s a list of positions that qualify for ‘acceptable’ transfers. Check with an immigration lawyer to see if you qualify!

      • Inting Butikol

        Hello Lisa and Courtney!


        • I think with your visa you can go get your SSN. After that bank + credit card. I think you need your SSN in order to open an account, but I could be wrong!

  • Oz

    Hi Lisa, Great post! Could you say more about importing your car. Is it a “temporary” import? Is there a time limit on how long you can keep the car (I saw a 1 year somewhere for “non-resident aliens”)? Thanks!

    • Hey Oz! It’s a permanent import and we had up to one year to officially import it into the USA. I would do sooner rather than later just to get it out of the way. You can also import it at the border when you cross in when you move to the states.

      • Larissa

        My husband, daughter and I are moving from the KW are of Ontario to upstate New York. First car, and didn’t have a clue what this move was going to mean now that we have one.
        What, if any paper work did you need to fill out, or bring with you?
        Anything from the manufacture?
        I thought the J-1 and J-2 applications and moving our dogs was going to be the biggest headaches in all of this…………. HOW WRONG WAS I!!!!
        Any help is wonderful.
        Go Warriors! (We lived in SF for a bit. before cars and kids!)

        • Hi Larissa! Start by contacting your car manufacturer first via their customer service hotline and get a US compliance letter for importing. You’re going to want to import it at the Buffalo border, if you’re missing anything, you can always go back and have up to a year to get all that paperwork in order. It’s different rules for every state and every car! Good luck!

  • Henry Lien

    Thank you so much, Lisa! These are super helpful info.
    Silly question, is it possible to apply for SSN at PoE (right after I get my L1)?
    Or, do I have to do it a local SS administration office when I arrive at my destination?

    What would you suggest me to do during this time without SSN? I will need SSN to get rest
    of things going for settling there (CA, as well).


    • I have heard that yes you can apply at POE, but I’ve also heard that you have to wait 10 days after entering the country. Call your lawyer to confirm or call the SS office so you can plan accordingly.

      I waited until I got settled in LA before I applied for my SSN, though I do believe I was able to get my driver’s license before that – so maybe you can do this while you wait?

    • Hey Henry! Just following up on this – were you able to apply for an SSN at the point-of-entry or did you have to go to the SS office to do so? How long did it take for you to get your SSN?

  • Gabriella

    So, I am only 21 years old… I’m very interested in moving from Canada to California.. I was just wondering what advice you’d give a 21 year old student with little to no money! I would like to move out there by January, if possible!

    • Lisa Ng

      I don’t think there is a visa for students under 30 for the USA without employment. You would likely have to be studying or on a work-study visa to live there and there will likely be restrictions on whether or not you can work while you’re here. You should talk to a lawyer to see if you qualify for any of the jobs approved for a TN visa, from there you’ll have to find an employer in the US who wants to hire you first and have them sponsor your visa.

      Good luck!

    • I’m not sure if you can even get a student visa into the US – but that’s probably the best option to research. There could be some sort or work study you can do, or apply for school out here. Good luck!

  • jocelyn72

    Immigration lawyer – a must? Roughly how much are they?

    • I wouldn’t do any of the paperwork myself. If we got even a few things wrong, I feel like they could turn us away on those grounds – so I felt like it was best to have a professional do everything for us.

      I would suggest booking a couple consults with a few different immigration lawyers you get through referrals to learn more about their rates. It really depends on the visa you apply for and how complicated your application is.

  • Lassie

    Hey I love the article! I need more info on the cellphone paragraph.
    I will be moving from MTL to NYC next spring and my 3 year cellphone plan is finishing this summer. I’m not sure if I should get a 2 year plan Iphone 6 and sell it when I leave or get a cheap phone and wait until I move out there to get an Iphone. Thanks in advance!!

    • Thanks Lassie! I think you could go month-to-month on your cellphone plan – but that means no new cell for you until you move to the US. That’s probably what I would end up doing.

      If you get the 2 year plan – make sure you check the contract cancellation fees (if you can’t sell your contract to someone) because they are steep! I know, because I used to work at a cellphone store.

      Other option – buy an iPhone 6 in Canada that you know you can bring and use in the USA + unlock. I’m on T-Mobile and they use a very specific version of the iPhone that works with their network, so make sure you buy the same one in Canada.

      • Sabrina

        Another option would be to buy a Google phone. Right now, because of the crappy Cdn$, it actually worked out slightly cheaper to buy it here in Canada. My husband just bought one, Bell credited him $50 to go towards the balance of his old phone, and he can bring that to the US. He did some research, and it looks like his Nexus is compatible with all of the major providers in the States.

        • That’s great! Please keep us posted and let us know if he was able to get it activated without any problems 🙂

  • Edward

    Hey Lisa, what visa did you get to work in the States?

  • Janice Hermer

    Hi: I have just landed a job in Arizona. My start date is July 9 and it’s already April 21. I don’t (yet) have my letter of offer. Based on your advice, I’m going to make a quick trip in May to set up a bank account and do as much as I can. I’ve been told I will get my work visa at the border – can I even start work without an American Social Security Number?

    • Hi Janice, I think you should call the bank first and make sure you can set up an account without a social security number and what other info they might need.

      Do double check with your lawyer that your visa is the type that does get approved at the border. I believe you will need to have your offer letter with you to get that visa. As that’s how it worked for us.

      I don’t think you can start work without your approved visa and social security number. But again, I recommend checking with an expert – your immigration lawyer or HR at your company to make sure. Good luck!

  • Sally Sarah

    Is there anapapplicationprocess before all this? I want to move to florida.. I wont be commuting for work or achool ect.

  • Jirann

    This has been very helpful, as I am looking to move the States and wanted to figure out the best way to make that move and the steps in doing so. I have been told how difficult it is to get work permit to work there etc… After reading about your experience and everyone’s comments, may dream of moving is starting look like a possibility. I am currently trying to find a job before I do anything else. I figure using a recruiter in the States would be the best option of achieving this goal, no success as yet. I am an insurance broker so I figured finding a job should not be so difficult. Still on searching…Thank you for sharing your experiences and being so helpful

    • Hi Jirann, Definitely google which jobs are acceptable under a TN Visa – that might help you decide what you might be able to pursue in order to move here. Good luck!

  • Fernando

    Great post! I’m in the process of moving to TX and these tips are very useful. Quick question for you regarding bringing your Canadian car to the US. I understand you were able to import it, did you pay any duties, taxes, etc? Before importing your car, were you able to get insurance with your Canadian plates? Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Fernanado!

      You will pay a percentage on the value of your car based on the Kelly Blue Book Price. I think our tax + duties were around $500, less then 10% on our 2007 Honda FIT.

      We also had no problem getting insurance with our Canadian plates. Our insurance was based on our VIN #, not our plates here in California. We also used our Canadian insurance for the first few months when we arrived here. So I would advise you call your Canadian company to see what kind of coverage they will provide you in the US. Then, be very clear with your US insurance person that you have Canadian plates – and see if there is an issue with that in your state.

      Hope that helps and good luck with your move! Do give us an update on what your insurance company says 🙂


      • Fernando

        Thanks a lot for your reply Lisa. It looks like my current insurance also covers me in the US, so, this will be a good start. My plan is to import my car at the border and register my car in Texas within 1-2 weeks. I’ll update this post with info about my experience. Thanks and have a great day!

        • When you import your car at the border, make sure you have a letter ready from your car’s manufacturer stating that it meets all US safety standards etc. We called Honda customer service to get ours. A friend of ours called VW and her car did not meet US standards because it was specially produced for Canada. There seemed to be some sort of issue with it. Good luck!

  • jocelyn72

    What was it like physically crossing the border on move day with all of your things…or the things you kept? Any special forms for that that you had to fill out?

    • I drove to the border first, got approval. Went back to Toronto to pack my things and crossed with an approved visa about 3-4 days later with no problems. I didn’t have to fill out any forms and brought mainly clothes and kitchen things.

      • jocelyn72

        That is our plan also, except we are going to have a full uhaul of things, so I know we are going to get pulled in at the border. Just wanted to know how smoothly it went. Thanks!

        • I’ve heard of people providing an itemized list of what’s in the Uhaul to customs in case it was asked for. Double-check with your lawyer because I’m not sure if people do get searched.

          • Kelsey Whaley

            Hey! When you say you got approval, where did you go and what did you need approval for?

          • We had to get our visa approved at the border. We didn’t mail anything in and did it all in-person. It was approved same day.

        • Hi Jocelyn! Did you have problems with the uHaul at the border? What sort of paperwork did you end up having to provide?

          • jocelyn72

            We had a spreadsheet with an itemized list of all the contents of the uhaul and boxes and bins were numbered. They did a quick scan of the list and let us go right on thru. Didn’t even pull us in. It was good to be over prepared tho!

          • Oh that’s so good to hear! I’ve had other people ask, but wasn’t sure of the answer. Thanks 🙂

  • Matt Del Biondi

    Thanks Lisa!

  • Gina Alward

    Hi Lisa ! I had a question: How do you go about moving to the USA prior to getting your visa ? I’m looking to move to Boston (cause I love it), and I’m wondering whether I should try to find a job first or test my luck, get a place, and then start looking. Also, is this okay (legal) to do !? I’m sooooo lost.

    • I’m thinking this is not-so-legal for you to move there without a visa.

      What you could probably do is start applying for jobs in Boston and see if they will sponsor you on a TN visa based on one of the acceptable jobs on the TN visa list. This is a really tough route. You will likely have to cover all of your own moving and visa expenses to make it worth your US employer’s time. And not every employer is willing to deal with the headache.

  • BrooklynneAppleby

    do you have to already have a job before you apply for work visa

    • For the TN visa you do. Your employer has to sponsor you and your job has to fall under the list of acceptable TN visa jobs by the US government.

  • Aaron

    Hi there. We just made the move as well from Manitoba to South Carolina. I was wondering if you have an email I could ask you a few questions in regard to importing your vehicle? We ran into the same snag of not importing our vehicle at the POE and now seem to be in a pickle.

    • How did the importing go? Were they able to approve your car at a port?

      • Aaron

        Hi Lisa,

        Thanks for touching base regarding this, however, this is a long story.

        Background – you cannot register a Canadian vehicle in the U.S. under federal law without first importing your vehicle.


        We own a 2013 Hyundai Elantra (Canadian) which we were unable to import at the port as it did not bear the FMVSS safety sticker (stating that it meets all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards), although it does have the EPA sticker under the hood (environmental standards). Therefore, we could bring our vehicle into the U.S. for personal use and not to be sold for up to one year’s time as per federal regulations at which point the vehicle must be (a) formally imported or (b) brought back to Canada. As my work visa (TN-1) is a 3 year visa we opted to venture down path A.

        After calling Hyundai Canada only to be told we have to speak to Hyundai American Motors as they know nothing of American standards and then speaking to Hyundai American Motors only to be told that they cannot look up any information on our vehicle as we have a Canadian VIN I was a little frustrated. A little more looking into this and I found that NHTSA recommends contacting your original manufacturer (in this case Hyundai Canada) to get a letter of compliance, or, a letter stating that it complies with all standards with the exception of X, Y and Z. This letter may then be taken to the port and you may import your vehicle – easy peasy.

        Roadblock – Hyundai Canada does not issue such letters, they will not!
        Recommended by Hyundai – contact NHTSA
        Recommended by NHTSA – contact a Registered Importer

        Contacted RI (not the easiest people to get a hold of as there are a handful in the U.S.) and it sounds as if our vehicle will need between $3,000-5,000 worth of modifications (this includes importer and broker fee for the vehicle). However, I am waiting until tomorrow for the final quote (fingers crossed it’s on the lower end of that spectrum). Oh… and the nearest RI is approximately a 10 hour drive!

        My advise to anyone looking to move to the U.S. – unless you know you have a conforming vehicle (i.e. FMVSS and EPA stickers). Arrange to have all paperwork complete prior to entering the U.S. If you cannot get this, it may be in your best interest to sell your Canadian vehicle in and purchase (or lease if your visit is short) an American vehicle when you arrive.

        Morale of the story for anyone moving to the U.S. is there will be many things that surprise you and that are hurdles. However, the move to the U.S. has been great so far and I would recommend it to anyone!

        Luckily, this vehicle importation business is something we have to deal with once!

        Best of luck to anyone else venturing down this path!

        • Hi Aaron – thanks for the update!

          That’s a total bummer that Hyundai made the whole thing so difficult for you. In our case, Honda Canada sent us a letter no problem, we imported our car at the port and registered it at the DMV.

          I’m sorry to hear you’re having such a hard time. Fingers-crossed that the import doesn’t end up costing too much!

          • Dee

            My husband and I were thinking about selling our suv and van here and buy car in states thinking it will be cheaper to buy car and pay instalment compared to Canada. we were under the impression that importing would take much more money.

          • Do keep in mind that if you buy a car in the USA with no American credit history, you will likely have to pay for it in cash in full. I have a few expat friends here who were not able to get financing right away to lease or buy a vehichle – even though they had good credit in their home country. So just a heads-up!

          • Aaron

            Several Canadian banks now have cross border banking where you can get an American based account through your home bank (with credit card, loan, LOC, etc.). This would help in both obtaining American credit in the here and now and also in building American credit for when you go to obtain a mortgage for example through a US bank.

            I know TD and RBC have such accounts, not sure of the others but I would look at the big 5. I’m sure BMO, CIBC and Scotia have similar plans.

        • Marla Cavendish

          Question when you moved did you have a clear title? My this I mean do you own your vehicle or was there a loan on it? I read somewhere that you can’t import your car if you have a Canadian loan on the car. Can’t get a US loan without a SS# .

          Do you know if I opted to postpone importing my car for one year will they allow me to bring my car into the states while I work on transferring my loan from a Canadian bank to a US bank?

          • Aaron

            Hi Marla,

            I have not heard of not being able to import a vehicle if it has a lien on it but this could be a small item which I may have missed during my research. The SSN to get a US loan shouldn’t be an issue however as if you are going to be working in the US you have to get a SSN from the social security office anyway…

            If you wish to postpone importing your vehicle you have, by federal law, 1 year to drive your vehicle in the US (under certain limitations, e.g. you continue to have your vehicle registered in Canada, you cannot sell your vehicle in the US, etc.). However, driving laws differ state to state and thus you could be fine by federal law (1 year) but not by state law (e.g. required to register your vehicle within 45 days of entering the state).

            Hope this helps!

          • Mylene

            We moved from Mtl to DC with our SUV which had a lien on it and DMV asked for a proof of lien release so we called Ford Credit and we were told we could not bring our vehicle into the states without playing the balance owed on it and that since we had done so, then could come and seize the vehicle. They would not help us in any way. It was basically you pay the balance or you give back the car (and pay any owed amount)… Thought this info could be useful. We read lots of similar stories since from other people running into the issue with lien from different banks as well.

        • Dianne

          Are you saying that everyone has to do this, even if you don’t intend to sell the vehicle in the states? I am just thinking right now in regards to moving to the states. I know that we had a lot of problems when we had a problem that we wanted Hyundai to fix re the warranty. It happened in the states and we had a lot of phone calls going back and forth with the US and Canada. We ended up getting it done. Your input re your car would be much appreciated.

          • Aaron

            Here is the “bringing a Canadian vehicle to the US” situation in a nutshell. Please note this is only based on my experience:

            1) First find out if your vehicle complies with all EPA (environmental) and FMVS (safety) standards. The EPA sticker is usually located under the hood and the FMVSS sticker is usually located on the driver’s side door panel. If you can find these, you’re good to go, proceed to the border and import your vehicle at your nearest land crossing. Formally importing via this avenue is the ONLY means of obtaining the required documentation to register your vehicle with the state. If you cannot find these, read on…

            2) If you cannot find an EPA sticker, or after speaking to the manufacturer you find out your vehicle does not comply with EPA regulations, you will have to modify your vehicle (see point 4 below). If you can find the EPA sticker but not the FMVSS sticker (or have a CMVSS safety sticker), read on…

            3) If you have the EPA sticker but not the FMVSS sticker you will need a letter from the original manufacturer (not dealership) that states that your vehicle complies with all FMVS standards. If you can get this, proceed to the border and import your vehicle. If you cannot you will have to modify your vehicle through the use of a registered importer (RI), read on…

            4) If it is the case that your vehicle either does not comply with EPA and/or FMVS standards, or both, you will need to use the services of a registered importer. The RI will tell you what needs to be modified on your vehicle and will give you a quote for the service, labour, parts, etc. Once you have fulfilled all such vehicle deficiencies you can import your vehicle at the nearest port… NOTE, I say port here and not nearest land crossing as I know of some people who are in this situation and/or do not get their compliance documentation from the manufacturer until they are already in the US and I know there are non land-crossing CBP offices that will file this paperwork for you.

            A general note:

            If you get to point 4, most of the time the amount of money you are going to pay to get your vehicle legally into the US is not worth it. I would suggest if you get this far, stop your search, sell your vehicle and buy an American one once you get down to the US.

            If you cannot purchase an American vehicle right away, CBP (the border) will allow you to bring your non-conforming vehicle into the US for up to 1 year’s time. During this time you must use your vehicle for personal use only and you cannot sell the vehicle in the US. Without formally importing the vehicle however you will not be able to register your vehicle which may or may not be a problem. If you can keep your Canadian registration, license, etc. you should be fine but keep in mind that all states have a 45 day (or similar) window in which you must (legally) switch over your registration, etc.

            In terms of warranty that is something you will have to discuss with your manufacturer. I know initially it was looking like Hyundai was not going to honour our warranty cross-border but they actually do (according to Hyundai Canada) and also from experience (taking the vehicle into the dealership for service and we have had no problems).

            If you have any questions let me know…

            Happy Friday!

    • Dee

      Wow! How are you liking the weather change? 🙂

      • Aaron

        The weather change has been beautiful! Back home getting below zero (or lower), here still hovering around 15-25 during the day! It’s nice!

  • mike

    hey lisa what type of work visa did you apply for

    • I am on an L2, my husband is on an L1 visa.

      • Dee

        I am looking for Nurss vacancies and employers to give job offer. But it seems like employers want me to register there first. So now I am going to write a license exam and think about moving. but I am so confused about the visa options. Do you know anyone in Alberta doing a visa consultancy?
        Thanks again

        • I don’t know any lawyers in Alberta. Perhaps ask around to friends and family for a good immigration lawyer referral. It is likely that your lawyer would have helped other nurses get to the USA and will have good advice for you on what order you should do things. Maybe reach out to a Canadian nurse living in the US and see if you can get some advice that way too.

          If your decision is getting serious, it’s great to finally go to a lawyer and get some solid answers before you decide. Good luck!

  • Fernando

    Hi again,

    This blog post was really helpful a few months ago, so I want to quickly share my experience, specifically: how to bring you canadian car to the US. First of all you need to get compliance letter from the car manufacturer, this is to certify that you car meets all the US safety and emisions rules. If you have an american-made car things could be easy. In my case I had a Jeep and a Ford. I visited a Ford dealership to get the letter (you have to pay a fee) and requested the Jeep letter via phone. Manufacturers like Jeep will ask you to fax a copy of your US visa and proof that you have owned the vehicle for at least 6 months. It can take up to two weeks to get these letters. I drove to border (2 weeks before moving to Texas) with my US visa and compliance letters, filled out some forms and in less than 30 minutes I was ready to go. I didn’t pay any duties since my cars were manufactured in the US.

    Every state has different rules for getting plates and driver’s license. In Texas the first thing you have to do is get car insurance. After comparing rates I found a car insurance company that took into consideration my Canadian driving history, at this point I still had canadian plates. After this I took my cars to the state inspection (safety inspection), then to the local police for Vehicle Identification Number inspection, and finally to the motor vehicle office where I was able to get Texas plates.

    I’m not an expert by it looks like if you have an american-made car your chances to be able to imported to the US are good. Hope this helps!

    • Hi Fernando – thanks for the update! So glad you got your compliance ahead of time. I’m holding onto my Honda FIT for as long as possible after going to all the trouble to import it. I’m also not sure if anyone is going to want a car that’s in KMs 🙂 Glad it worked out for you and thanks for sharing. There’s not a lot of info online.

  • cardinalpointwealth

    Lovely List. thanks author. Its really helpful list

  • Dee

    Hi Lisa…this is so helpful. I am in canada and is planning to move. I need some advice from you. How did you feel about the move? my husband and I are planing to move, and we have young children under 4years. So I am so nervous..but this site is a blessing..thank you. My concern is if we did not find a job, is there a way to move back here? do you think its safe to find a job sponser first? thank u again

    • Hi Dee, If you have a visa and can legally look for a job and work in the USA, I think you should be fine. Just give yourself at least a 3 month cushion because the process can take a long time. If you can start applying before you move and let employers know you are relocating at a certain date – that would help you get a head start. If you’re a Canadian citizen, you can move back anytime. However if you’re on a different status – that you will have to ask your lawyer about!

  • Our lawyer actually advised us to do it at a land crossing, so we chose Buffalo. We got approved same day – not sure if at the US Consulate if it takes longer. Secondly, they really know their stuff at the border crossing we went to and deal with these types of visas all the time, so we found the process there to be really smooth.

  • Aaron

    Hi Michael,

    I’m not sure what kind of visa you are referring to but I concur with Lisa. If you are looking to get a TN-1 for instance (working status not actual “visa”) applying through USCIS or at the US Consulate can take up to three months and cost approx. $1,300 as opposed to the 30 mins – 1 hr at a land crossing and $50.

    Hope all goes well!

  • Simon Lacroix

    Hi Lisa,

    I was wondering what was your motivation to move to the USA? I am contemplating a move to SF & I wanted to get more information on it from someone who did it!


    • Hi Simon! I felt like I needed a bit of change in my life and to shake things up a bit. Paul and I lived in Toronto our whole lives and really started to crave adventure and a new place, so we chose California. We did not regret our decision, though we do miss our friends and family. So I’ve made it my mission to convince each and every one of them to come visit – especially during the cold Canadian winters 🙂

      • Simon Lacroix

        That’s awesome! I do feel like California is a great state to live in. Did you move through a company sponsorship? I’ve looked into this route but I would love to know in greater details, if that was the case with you and Paul.

        • Yes, through Paul’s existing employer who opened a US branch. So he had a job in Canada first and then an inter-company transfer. Hope that helps!

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  • Ericka Wray

    great article! Thanks for sharing. Q: How can one get a SSN or TIN (in my case) without yet holding a work permit or visa? did you do that in Canada or in the US? thanks for any tips!

    • Hi Erika. I got my Social Security Number only after I arrived in the US, I don’t think you can do it beforehand. I was able to get this before I was approved for my EAD (work visa). Hope that helps! Anyone else have any thoughts on this one?

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  • Mimi Chm

    Hi^^ loving all the tips. So I’m planning to study in the US this coming fall and was wondering if all the tips mentioned includes being a student? I mean can I get a SSN, work, bank account, etc as a students.. from my understanding once accepted I won’t need a visa but is required an I-20 .. so I’m a bit confused with that? Meaning if I’ll be akle to work or open a bank a count or what not?

    • Hmmmmm…I’m not really sure if you can work while you are a student. I have a friend here from Canada going to UCLA and she can’t work while she is studying. All the other stuff like SSN and bank accounts should be ok.

      • Mimi Chm

        Thank you ♡

        • Aaron

          Hi there! As a Canadian not authorized to work in the US you will be issued an ITIN (individual taxpayer identification number) and not a SSN. To do so you will use form W-7 which you can find through Google. You will file this at your nearest IRS office and this will function as your “SSN” while down in the US. I would suggest doing this as soon as possible as EVERYTHING in the US is dependent upon your SSN – starting up utilities (internet, cable, power), setting up a bank account, etc.

          Hope this helps!

  • Dianne

    I might be in a different situation than most of you. I am retired and thinking of moving to SC to live with my sister in law and husband and my husband. Do i still to do these things like license, bank account. I see in Hilton Head they have TD which is my bank. Any info or suggestions would be helpful.

    • I think this is more of a snowbird situation. Perhaps you can chat with other retirees who can help? I think you can legally only stay in SC for 6 months as a visitor, then you would have to leave because that’s the US max. Also, so you can keep your Canadian healthcare benefits. Does anyone else out there have any advice on this?

      • Dianne

        Yes i know it is 6 months for the snowbirs stay. We feel we can’t keep 2 residences so thought we would sell and move in with my husband’s sister. They live in the states and is going to see their house and buy one in Sun City. Can you tell me about health insurance? Can you get it through Blue Cross? My husband is dual and is now covered by Veterans. So he is lucky. Any info you can share or if anybody else could would be appreciated.

        • Aaron

          Hi there, I do not know of health insurance however, the 6 month’s stay is really a firm rule. You will not be allowed to live longer than 6 months of the year in the US without something other than a visitor’s visa. Thus, you will most-likely need to keep two residences and/or rent a new one upon your return to Canada for the other 6 months (I don’t blame you, two residences would be expensive).

          Living for longer than 6 month’s time is not only not allowed but you might get into issues of taxation, loss of your health care through Canada and perhaps issues at the border for overstaying your welcome. Also, your Canadian health care will pay for certain medical expenses you incur abroad. If will not pay for everything, but you will have some level of coverage through your home province.

          Hope this helps.

  • Omar

    I came across this by googling the topic, and I found it very useful.
    I’ll take your advice into account. Thanks for taking the time and sharing the information, and good luck in your new life.

  • Nick Wandelt

    Hi, Lisa! I know it’s been quite a while, but I hope you’re enjoying the U.S. i envy you, haha. I eventually wish to make the move from St-Hubert. QC to Plattsburgh NY, my happy place, and I’ve been looking for stuff on how to do it right and legally in my spare time. Any more advice not in this article? I plan to eventually consult a legal/immigration lawyer when the time is right. I also want to know: I have kidney problems I see a doctor in QC for. is there a way to move south of the border and still see that doctor? Thanks!

    • Hi Nick, I think it all really depends on what kind of job you currently have and if that fits under any of the categories that the US government is accepting of for immigration purposes.

      In terms of your doctor in QC, I lost all of my Ontario Health Care benefits as soon as I was out of Canada for more then 6 months. If you want to continue seeing your doctor in QC, you’ll likely have to pay for it. I highly suggest getting an HMO style health insurance plan in the US and finding the best possible doctor in your network in your new city.

      To be honest, the health care in the US has been fantastic. We PAY for it, but I’ve been truly happy with the level of care I’ve received here and how fast everything is. We can get a surgery booked in a week, test results back same day etc.

      Wish you the best of luck!

      • Nick Wandelt

        Okay, so I guess I will have to do a snowbird-type thing. I was hoping for a way to enjoy the best of both worlds. I can’t stay here in QC for the rest of my life, I’ll go borderline insane. D:

        I’m so incredibly happy in the ‘Burgh. Just going there to shop and visit chains we don’t have and buying GOOD products Canadian manufacturers refuse to make available in Canada is like a dream come true.

        Since visiting Plattsburgh I have high retail standards and a very low threshold for shitty stores, which are rampant in Quebec. I know it sounds dumb, but since Target Canada kicked the bucket…. I
        can’t stay here no more. That place was my go-to retailer for
        everything, and I hate Walmart Canada. But guess what? It’s all we got.
        Plattsburgh has a great Target. <3.

        But it's not just the American retail. It's the lower taxes, higher standard, and quality (if you don't pig out on their amazing junk food) of living, nicer / more sociable people, and no dumb language laws. But there's also something in the air in the U.S, When I'm in Plattsburgh, my actual mood, energy and demeanour go way up. I feel like a different BETTER man. I wish I didn't have to leave. I'm in a depressive slump up here. Quebec is like a pit I try to escape but I keep getting knocked back down because the walls are too steep. I truly feel Plsttsburgh is the place where I belong and where my heart lies. Something's clicked in me: I need to go there ASAP. I have a saying: My body's up here, but my heart is down there.

        And job-wise, I will finish studying here in QC because I want to go into the video game industry. Hopefully a high-demand, high renumeration job I enjoy like hell. I hope NY state has great dev studios haha.

        I need to finish my training fast. Cause I can't stand Canada anymore…

        • Hi Nick,

          I’m sorry to hear that you’re bummed out in Canada. It definitely has to be winter and the snow – it gets to you when it’s snowing again in APRIL!!! Sometimes it is nice to getaway to somewhere different, only to return again and really have a chance to miss a place. I felt that way after a year away from Toronto. I was able to gain some distance, perspective and actually miss the city and appreciate my visits fully.

          You should check with a reputable immigration lawyer to see if video game designer would be a qualified job for the TN Visa. I think this would go under ‘graphic designer’. Take a look at this list and see if any of the jobs would fit:

          Another option, if you can get a student visa and study in the US or do a post-grad one year certificate, you can qualify possibly for a work visa for a year after you graduate and transition that way.

          If all else fails and you really want to get out of your town, you might want to look at other countries with the Under 35 Work Holiday Visa. Paul and I looked into this and almost moved to Europe! You also don’t need a job ahead of time either to qualify:

          • Nick Wandelt

            Well, it’s more than the winter… There’s just nothing here that sets me alight. I find it to be such a boring and mundane place that never changes, unlike the US. And don’t get me started on our government lol.

            Well, I’ll wait to raise a little cash and work a few years before consulting a lawyer. I want to become a game scripter/coder/programmer and perhaps a 3D modeller and animator (that could be graphic artist?)

            I for one would not miss Quebec at all if I were able to move to the States. Except perhaps my family and 3 friends.

            And if all else fails, I can meet my crush in Australia (long-distance internet thing)

  • Bortly

    My wife and I are interested in moving south what should we do first?

    • I suggest getting a referral for a good + reputable immigration lawyer from friends and family.

      Then booking a free 30-minute consultation with that lawyer to see what your chances and angles are for getting a visa into the country. It’s good to get as much solid info as possible, so you have something to go on for your research.

  • Sunny Mangs

    Thank you!!

  • Rudy

    Hi Lisa, my name is Rudy and have these questions. Any insights about taxes? Do you still have to file Canadian tax return? Is there any problem with your bank when you became non resident?

    • Hey Rudy.

      Oh taxes! This was the least fun part of my move.

      My first piece of advice is to get the BEST cross-border accountant you can find. Especially one that specializes in US-Canada stuff. If you have friends that may have moved to the US from Canada, ask for a referral. We used someone across the country and didn’t necessarily choose to go with someone local.

      Decide on a date with your US accountant on when you officially became a non-Canadian resident and work from there. I would recommend preparing your US taxes first and then looping in your Canadian accountant to see if you got everything right before submitting. You may not have to file anything in Canada if you are a non-resident. But the tax laws in the US are way more complex, so I recommend starting here first.

      Hope that helps! Do you need a referral to an accountant? If so, email me – we paid around $1000 because I have a small business.

      – Lisa

  • Ali

    Hi there,
    Has anybody any information about bringing your households with yourself to USA? In fact I will move from Montreal to North Carolina soon, and I was wondering if I can just pack our personal stuffs up in a small cargo trailer (one from U-Haul) and bring it with my own car to the border? I will enter to USA with J1/J2 visa.
    Any help or sharing experience is much appreciated,

    • Hi Ali – Someone in the earlier comments did it by UHaul and had a detailed itemized list of what was in her trailer. I suggest reaching out to her if you can and find out what her process was. I hauled my stuff in our hatchback and we had no itemized list, but no problem at since we didn’t have too much with us – 4 suitcases and 2-3 boxes total.

      • Ali

        Hi Lisa,
        Thank you so much. I try to find her comment.

  • Reddy

    Need info/cost of taxes to move the canada registration pre owned car to US

    • You will pay a percentage on the value of your car based on the Kelly Blue Book Price. I think our tax + duties were around $500, less then 10% on our 2007 Honda FIT. If it was manufactured in the US, it might be less.

  • Amanda Quach

    HI Lisa, my Bf is moving to SF from Toronto in July, we are a bit confused on where to hand in our IV package at custom. We do all the custom work at YYZ before we board, and when arrived at SFO it will be in the domestic terminal where we don’t need to go thur custom again. Do you have any idea?

    • I believe you will do customs at YYZ before you board for SFO. Give yourself LOTS of time – at least 4-6 hours so you don’t miss your flight. When you land at SFO, there will be no US customs again for you. Good luck!

  • Emma

    Ahhhh freaking out!! My husband has been seriously interviewing with a company from California and they are flying him out. We have a house and kids and it all sounds complicated. Plus this company has never hired someone from another country before so who knows if they know what we are going to need to do. My husband is planning on getting the TN visa but I do have some questions which I know it’s been a while since you moved but I’m hopeful you might be able to give me some advice. From what I’ve been reading it sounds like we would have trouble getting a mortgage straight off in the States. Do you know if this is still the case? If we could get a mortgage we would sell our house here so we could afford to buy there. But if we are not going to be able to buy a house right away (and we would need a considerable mortgage – the houses where we will be moving are a LOT more expensive then here especially once we convert our $) we are thinking we should try to rent out our house and not sell it until we could be approved to buy a house in California. Any idea how long that could take? Also, the company was talking about my husband being able to work remotely for the first couple months (they are setting up a new office so everyone is working remotely for now.) Will he be able to work for an American company from Canada? Any idea? Sorry, I know you moved a while ago but the location of your move is so similar and I am freaking out and desperate for some advice from someone whose done this!!! THANKS!!

    • Our credit score was pretty crap when we moved here, that I don’t think we could have qualified for a mortgage – UNLESS you did cross-border banking like some of the other commentors have mentioned above. TD has branches in both countries, so you may be able to qualify that way. I always suggest renting for a year to see if:

      A) You like your neighbourhood
      B) Plan on staying in the US

      For us, we did not buy. If we didn’t stay in a house we bought for at least 5 years – we would be losing money because of all the fees and closing costs involved. I’m glad we didn’t because we decided to move out of LA and into Portland, Oregon after about 3 years. As well, your husband is on a TN Visa which is tied to his job. If he were to lose that job, he would have to quickly find a new one in the USA that would sponsor that same visa or leave the country. It’s just something to keep in mind.

      If it were me – I would probably rent the house out in Canada and wait.

      As for working for an American company while living in Canada, you will likely declare that income as Canadian income – until you become a resident of the USA. I suggest finding a REALLY good cross-border accountant that specializes in US-Canada tax to help you sort that out before things get messy as you move.

  • curryb

    thanks so much for this insightful read! best article out there yet on the big move from toronto to LA. thank you!!

    • Ashesh Patel

      Thanks for great Insight..Do you know any reliable movers from Toronto to Dallas Texas if you /any one know..

      • I used United to move from LA to Portland and I was really happy with the service. The movers they sent were pros and I got my stuff within 3 days of my 10 day window. Nothing went missing and they got back to me with a quote right away. I would definitely use them again. I paid about $2600 for United and a Uhaul with a car hitch was $1800.

  • Nikunj Patel

    Hey lisa,If i need L1 visa, do i have to business in canada. Or any one can apply L1 visa.

    • Definitely anyone can not apply. There is a specific list of jobs online that the US governement will consider for an L1 Visa. In our case it was management transfer.

  • Maria Antonia Menezello

    Hi Lisa! Thank you for your post, super helpful! I have a few questions and I hope you don’t mind. I am brazilian sutdying Nursing at York University here in Toronto and it is my dream to live in the USA, however, I do not have canadian citizenship or permanent residency. Do you think that this same steps that you did would work for me? Or do I need my canadian citizenship first? I was thinking on getting my Masters as a Nurse Practitioner in the USA and then try and find a sponsor. Would you say this is achievable or not?

    Thank you very much in advance!!!
    Maria 🙂

    • I don’t the same rules apply. But you should look into being a traveling nurse. Because of your profession, it’s a lot easier to do becuase your skill is in demand. Reach out to your Nursing Students’ Association to see if they can give you more info about this. Also reach out to a lawyer that specializes in helping nurses.

  • AK

    Thank you Lisa. You are a godsend.

  • Virginia Blazek

    I love your post. What a great break down of things that need to get done. I’m moving from NB Canada to Florida and my approval to immigrate is done and must move By mid January. Hoping to get my house sold soon so we can get out of here before the snow flies. Can’t wait to read more of you blog.

  • Andy

    Hi Lisa,

    Very good article. Do you have similar story for people moving to Canada-Ottawa from California. I am moving just for 1 year and be back, so thinking not to convert my Cali license to ontario license. Can I live with California license and drive a car there? I heard that Canadian auto insurance wont give insurance if we do not have canadian license. is there any other option?


    • Ooooh I’ve never had anyone do the reverse. However I think if you call up Service Ontario, they might be more helpful. I would probably suggest you also call your US auto insurance provider and see if they will cover you for the one year you and your car in Canada. They might not – which in that case, you’ll want to convert it over. Good luck!

  • Clayford C

    I would like to follow these steps in about 4 years ahead of time. I am still thinking of which state to go, might go where some relatives lives like Seattle, DC. I am still finishing up my BScN by 2018. I am planning to work here in Toronto for at least 2 years then try to process everything after. CC

    • Seattle is beautiful! We ended up moving to the Pacific Northwest after LA (to Portland). It reminds me a lot of Canada but with the west coast vibe that I love.

  • grossjason

    Thanks for sharing your information!!!

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  • Nini7. xo

    Hey Lisa, I have a couple questions!

    First question : I’m a Canadian getting married to an American and planning to move in May 2017. However, I never really had the time to get my G2 drivers license because I been so focused on completing my College, which I graduate in April 2017. I will be living in Louisiana… Is there any way I can just get a drivers license out there instead of transferring my Canadian license? I don’t have a full Canadian license to transfer. Can’t I just do a written test and a driving test and get my license out there? By then I’ll have proof of being a US citizen or have a green card. Hope that makes sense!

    Second Question: Does my fiancee need to sponsor me while I’m in Canada? or can I just go straight to America and live with him and do all the paperwork there? or will the US kick me out because I was supposed to be sponsored first? Plus, when I get my plane ticket, I will only be doing one way flight, do I have to tell the workers at the airport that I will be living in America?

    Third Question: If I become an American citizen, will I have duel citizenship with America and Canada? Or will I lose my Canadian citizenship?

    ALSO!! Once I do become a resident in America.. My fiancee and I plan on having kids in a year or two. Will my Kids get free health care until 18? I’m not so sure how the health works over there. Also, when I am a resident there and plan on giving birth in a hospital, will they charge me?

    BTW I don’t work… and I don’t plan on going back to Canada for a while… Will America make me do back and forth trips to Canada until I am a citizen or have a green card?

    I’m not really educated in the whole moving abroad thing… None of my family members live outside Canada so they don’t know what to tell me besides do research. I see that you have knowledge in this field.. I’m hoping you can help!!

    Thank you!! Love the article btw.. Was very helpful!!!

    • Hey Nini!

      You should be able to just get your license in the USA by starting the process over from scratch if you only have a G1. In California we had to bring ALL of our immigration documents with us.

      You definitely need an immigration lawyer to consult on the fiancee sponsoring part. I’ve had friends that have done in both ways – applied from the USA and beforehand in Canada. Each choice has their advantages and disadvantages.

      Before you decide to become an American citizen, you need to talk to an accountant who specializes in cross-boarder taxes to see if there are any ramifications for you. Do you plan on retiring in Canada? That might make a difference.

      I don’t think you get free healthcare if you’re under 18 in the USA – unless you’re thinking of qualifying for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. But I think you have to prove that you don’t make enough money to pay for healthcare.

      My friend gave birth in the USA and even with health insurance, her co-pay was $20,000 – so do your research – it will probably cost you money!

      Depending on the visa you’re on, you may or may not be able to go back and forth. Honestly, you should get a really good immigration lawyer to guide you and give you fully factual answers to your questions. You’ll likely also need them to help you file your paperwork – so you can likely get your questions answered at the same time. Good luck!

      • Nini7. xo


        I also have another question…

        Once I have duel citizenship with Canada and the U.S, will I still receive free healthcare from Canada? Like for instance, I come back to Canada to visit my family and decide to get a health check up, will I still receive that free healthcare? or will that all change once I become an American citizen. ALSO, when traveling, which passport am I suppose to use? :/

        • Once you’ve left Canada for more than 6 months you no longer qualify for free healthcare. To get it again, I believe you need to go back and live in Canada for 6 months before you qualify again.

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  • Jakub


    I have a question regarding work visas. I am a Canadian from Vancouver and I would like to move to Los Angeles and work there, I have been having some bad luck finding out how to apply for the working visa so that I can work in the United States. Are there some websites where I can applyy for the work visa so that I can work in the States? How does this proccess work with the visas?

    Thank you very much,


    • I think your best bet is to consult an immigration lawyer to see if you qualify and what your realistic chances are for being approved. There’s A LOT of information online and it can be overwhelming or untrue. Not everyone qualifies. If you’re serious, it’s best to pay a small amount to speak with a professional for even 30 minutes just to get some hard facts and find out how other people in your similar situation, skills etc have been successful.

      • Jakub

        Thank you for your reply! I really appreciate it 😀

  • Rachel R

    Hi Lily, I know this post is very dated but I am looking to make the move from Vancouver Canada to Los Angeles , and would love to ask you a few questions regarding your experience.

  • Neilan Guba

    Hi Lisa, Thanks for all this information, this is really helpful. In getting a drivers licens in the U.S., did use your Canadian Vehicle for the road test?We have a Canadian plated vehicle that is still new and planning to use it for about a year in California.

    • I used my Canadian car for my road test. I believe we imported after we switched our licenses over. If for some reason they don’t let you use your Canadian car, see if you can borrow one from a friend.

  • Jon Moll

    Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for the great post! I’m going to L.A on vacation for a few months and I was wondering if you know anything about transferring my Ontario license to a California license. Is it possible? Without owning a vehicle already? Also, If i wanted to, will I be able to purchase a vehicle and also insurance while I’m staying in California?

    • I’m pretty sure you can’t get a Cali license unless you have proper immigration documentation to back you up as to why you are getting one. We had to bring all our docs to the DMV and they actually checked them pretty thoroughly. My license actually expires when my visa expires.

      If you’re just there on vacay, I think you could maybe apply for an International Drivers License if needed. But you should be able to drive with your Ontario license while you are down there.

      Lastly, you could buy a car I’m sure – but you’ll have to import it and pay taxes on it when you bring it back to Canada after your vacation. Also, I’m not sure how insurance works on that – definitely call someone local in LA and find out.

  • Jennifer Tsang

    Hello Lisa. I am looking to move to the US, but do not have a company to sponsor me or the means to go to school there. Is there another way I can move to the US on a different visa?

    • Probably not. It’s pretty competitive and the whole world wants to move to the USA in search of better opportunity. Double-check with an immigration lawyer, but you do need a reason to move there – like work or school.

  • Kaliaaaaa

    Hi there, I’m not sure if you will even reply to something that has been posted so long ago now, but I would love the opportunity to ask you a few questions. I currently live in Alberta but also plan to move to LA. I have been struggling to find any helpful information and unfortunately don’t know anyone who has been through anything like this. Thank you !!

  • Kaliaaaaa

    Hi there, I’m not sure if you will even reply to something that has been posted so long ago now, but I would love the opportunity to ask you a few questions. I currently live in Alberta but also plan to move to LA. I have been struggling to find any helpful information and unfortunately don’t know anyone who has been through anything like this. Thank you so much

    • Have you tried seeking out a local immigration lawyer for a consult? Ask around via friends and family and see if you can get a referral. It’s really important to speak to a professional and maybe interview 2-3 lawyers because there is so much misinformation out there.

  • Nicolás Ignacio Zayat

    Hi Lisa, I’m going to be relocated in the USA with a H1B Visa, I know it’s difficult to ask for a credit card or a loan (even do I have a very quialify credit history in my country). I’ve been searching for blogs, facebook pages or other places where people talk about this problem and I couldn’t find it. Can you recomend me somewhere to search about it?
    Thanks a lot!

    • I’m not sure where you can find info online. Did you look into getting an American Express card in your own country? They make it easier to get one in the USA when you do move. Good luck!

  • Paula Casey

    Thanks for the great advice! Did you use an immigration lawyer based in Canada or in the USA?

    • Lisa Ng

      I used one in Canada – which was great because of the exchange rate.

    • I used one based in Canada, but they are now billing me in USD.

  • Jessica Crate

    Great tips and very helpful!!! Gotta love our West Coast livin Canucks!! 😀
    <3 a fellow Cali loving Canadian 😉

  • Sara

    Lisa! thank you very much for sharing this, I remember your blog coming up in a google search i did a year ago when the States was a possibility- now its a reality and this entry has been very informative. thank you 🙂

  • Julian Hyam

    Thanks for this Lisa! I’m a little confused, what do you get 1st, Visa or SSN?

    • Lisa Ng

      SSN first, then you can get apply for credit with this number 🙂

    • SSN first, then you can apply for credit with this number 🙂

  • Imon Ahasan

    Hi Lisa, My sister moved to the USA 5 years ago with a spouse visa, but she has not got her citizenship yet. But she has a state ID card and SSN. Her husband wants to divorce her now and has already begun the proceeding. She lives in Hamtramck, MI and Toronto is only a 30 mins drive. I’m wondering what if she moves and tries to settle there.! Can you please give me some info like what a US immigrant should do to settle in Canada, how long it will take, what are the proceedings, etc?

    • Sorry to hear about your sister. I don’t know much about actually immigrating from the US to Canada, but perhaps you could consult a reputable lawyer in Canada and see how difficult it is for to immigrate? I’m not sure if it’s that easy and she would need to qualify with a good reason. Good luck to your sister!

  • Great Tips , Super

  • Fabio

    Would you lose the canadian driver’s license if you exchange to the US one?

    • Eventually it will expire and you may not be able to renew, but I don’t think you automatically lose it.

  • paul

    I haven’t seen a post about immunization/vaccination records. I am in the process of applying for PR in the US (Portland, Oregon) and am having trouble obtaining my immunization records from my family physician in Toronto. I am already married (to an American) and living in Portland and will be adjusting my status from visitor to Permanent resident; but I must “present documents showing that I have been vaccinated against a broad range of vaccine-preventable diseases.” I have called my former Toronto doctor a few times in the last month and the receptionists have told us that he doesn’t have this information. As, I have recently learned, doctors don’t generally keep this info on file for more than a few years/and most vaccinations we receive in early childhood. Apparently, parents are given a yellow card which they are supposed to use to keep track of immunization. Suffice to say, I cannot locate this card at present time. I am not sure what to do at this point besides getting revaccinated for up to 15 different diseases/ which will take time and money. Has anyone gone through something similar?

    • Hey Paul – we’re based in Portland, Oregon now as well!

      We could not get our immunization records, so we made an appointment with a US doctor and got all the shots we needed at once and had him create new records. They basically put all the shots into one and gave us a big booster. I think it was covered under our insurance or around $100 or so.

      Are you going for your green card? If so, I believe one of the requirements is to get a physical from a certified doctor and you can get all your shots done at the same time as that appointment. Our physicals were $350 each.

      • paul

        thanks for the tip…i will be applying for PR/green card soon…i think we want to take a trip back through Canada before I start the process. We live in Oregon City btw.

  • C. Schuurman

    Thank you so much for this post. It is a gift to everyone who is moving from Canada to the States. It has certainly been an invaluable go-to post for me for the last few weeks as I made the move.

  • Amy Karl

    Hello! I know this is an old post but I’m looking into moving to LA for 6 months to nurse (I currently live in Calgary)
    Is it worth all the headaches with the Visa’s etc. to just go down for 6 months?

    • Lisa Ng

      I’m pretty sure you do have to get a visa if you’re working for any time at all in the USA. Otherwise, the government may think you are working here illegally and USCIS is no joke. They will ban you for 10 years if you’re caught.

      I believe that you also have to an RN and apply for a TN visa to work as a nurse and have a job offer in hand.

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  • Dianna Holden

    Were you a Canadian? Or a different Citizen?