Almost three million Canadians currently live or work overseas. There are various reasons why they want to do so – new job opportunities, moving closer to family or simply seeking a change of scenery – but no matter the reason, you need to get your finances sorted out before you arrive.
If you’re moving overseas, you’ll need to move some or all of your Canadian money into your new overseas bank account. Rather than send the money through your bank, take a look at the options below to see if you can find cheaper ways.
There are certain matters that require your attention before you move overseas permanently. Let’s look at some of the most important things that you need to do in order to ensure a safe entrance into your new country.
Travel insurance for relocating overseas
When you plan to move overseas, you should always purchase travel insurance to cover your financial risk as well as your health and well being. If you are moving overseas because of a job offer, confirm whether you have insurance coverage in your employment contract. It’s important for you to make sure that you are covered for all possible risks that you may face, such as damage to your luggage, interruptions to your scheduled flight plans due to bad weather conditions or other technical reasons, medical expenses in case of injury, theft of your personal possessions and many other possible risks.
However, if you get injured or become severely ill, it will be very hard for you to pay expensive medical bills. Medical bills vary across the world and can run as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the emergency. Don’t forget to compare insurance policies and make sure the plan you choose is suitable for your needs for as long as you plan on staying overseas. You have to be fully prepared to live overseas in order to make the relocating process less stressful.
Travel advice when moving overseas
These guidelines also give you precautions you can take while relocating overseas. Travelling overseas does not come without surprises, especially if you are travelling for the first time. Whatever your plan is when relocating overseas or travelling for business or pleasure, make sure you go through the travel advice for your specific destination. The Canadian Government provides travel advice for destinations around the world. Furthermore, if you search on the Internet, you will find that there are guidelines available for a variety of regions that give you advice or tips on how to manage the risks you may face, including the legal and health issues you may face in the country you are visiting or relocating to.
Why you should register your travel
If there is civil unrest in a country, a natural disaster or some type of serious problem, the Canadian Government will contact you. However, they can only contact you if you have registered with them that you are going to be travelling to a certain country in the world.
Sarah and her family travelled to Kenya when there was civil unrest but failed to notify the Canadian Government. While all other Canadians were evacuated from the capital, Sarah and her family were not since the government did not know they were there or how to contact them. You must provide the Canadian Government with your full name, email address and length of stay. The Government keep you up to date on any possible solutions to conflict or natural disasters, including any plans to evacuate or safely exit the country. Had Sarah and her family notified the Government before leaving Canada, they would have been included in the evacuation plan.
Passport and Visas when relocating abroad
As a Canadian citizen, it’s your duty to carry a valid passport with you at all times when you are travelling overseas. Even newborn infants should have their own passports.
Your passport is one of your most important documents and every country has different passport validity requirements. Make sure your passport is valid for a period of at least six months from your planned date of return. Furthermore, keep extra passport photos with you in case you lose your passport or you need to replace it. The Canadian embassy or consulate in the country you are visiting will be able to help you replace your passport or get you an emergency one.
If you are a citizen of more than one country, you are said to hold dual nationality. According to the rules and regulations of certain countries, you are generally offered citizenship if you marry a citizen of that country or if your grandparents or parents were born in that country. These rules are only guidelines and may differ between countries.
When you plan to work in a country where you may be considered a national, it’s important for you to be aware of the local laws of that country related to issues such as child custody, military service and divorce. However, it’s wise to seek advice in writing with the consulate or embassy of that country in Canada to receive up to date advice and tips.
Moving overseas and voting
When you relocate overseas, you should meet certain requirements in order to keep yourself on the electoral roll here in Canada. You may apply to be added to the International Register of Electors, where you mail in a special ballot ahead of elections. You must fulfill the following criteria (as specified on the Government website):
- be qualified to vote (i.e. a Canadian citizen at least 18 years old on election day)
- have resided in Canada at any time before applying
- confirm that you intend to return to Canada to reside by providing the date on which you intend to resume residence in Canada, and
- confirm that you have resided abroad for less than five consecutive years, or provide proof that you fall within one of these exceptions to the five-year rule:
- You are employed outside Canada in the federal public administration or the public service of a province – or live with someone who is;
- You are employed outside Canada by an international organization of which Canada is a member and to which Canada contributes – or live with someone who is; or
- You live with a member of the Canadian Forces or with a person who is employed outside Canada by the Canadian Forces as a teacher in, or as a member of the administrative support staff for a Canadian Forces school.
If you don’t want to be on the electoral roll in Canada, you can simply choose not to vote.
Moving overseas and pension
When you plan to relocate overseas for employment purposes, you can find yourself trapped in a situation where you are required to make pension or equivalent contributions twice under the legislation of both countries for the same work. To avoid this, the Canadian Government has agreements with a number of other countries that remove the issue of double pension for those employees who work temporarily in another country. If you do end up paying twice the pension, you may be able to bring the rest of the pension over to the country you decide to retire in.
Medical facilities when you relocate overseas
Before moving to another country, talk to people who have been to the country you are planning to live in about the existing health and medical conditions. It will help you familiarize yourself with the current local health issues and standards of medical care and will enable you to make a reasonable decision in case any health issue arises.
Life insurance when you move overseas
If you plan to move overseas for an extended period of time, it’s critical that you ensure you have adequate life and disability insurance in place. You may find that your current insurer is not willing to provide coverage while you’re in your new country of residence. You may need to look for coverage from another insurer in Canada or find an insurer in the country that you are moving to. Each insurer will have different terms and conditions for how policyholders moving overseas are covered. Coverage may be impacted by the:
- Country the policyholder is moving to
- Period of time they intend to stay overseas
- Nature of their occupation
- Legal requirements of the country
Taxation when you move overseas
Taxation is one of the most important factors that requires your attention wherever you are. Being a taxpayer, you’re responsible to make a regular contribution to the well-being of your nation by paying taxes regularly. You’re required to settle your tax affairs when you’re leaving Canada permanently.
- If your resident status does not change and you remain a Canadian resident, you must file a Canadian tax return and state your worldwide income, even if tax was deducted in the country where you earned your income. You will experience a lot of changes in your tax situation if your residency status changes. This may not apply if Canada has some type of taxation agreement with the country you are working and living in.
- You may be able to file your tax return early if you plan on leaving Canada.
- Depending on the province you are living in, Canada has different rules for how long you can leave the country for and still have free health coverage once you return. In Ontario, for example, you can leave the country for up to six months without notifying the government and will still have accessible and free health care once you return. If you do not notify the government of your departure, you may not have free health coverage for six months after you return. Again, this will depend on the province you reside in. Different rules will also apply if you are not a Canadian citizen.
- Make yourself a “moving overseas checklist” of all the things you need to do that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. It could be an app on your smartphone or a file in an online dropbox.
- Complete all of the necessary paperwork at least two weeks in advance if you can. You’ll need to contact the banks, pension funds, the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) and any companies for bills you pay monthly or annually.
- Travel insurance is necessary for any travel. Always protect yourself with the right policy and always read the fine print.
- Get a health checkup from your local doctor. Travel insurance usually doesn’t cover non-emergency related events, so it’s best to be prepared.
Working when you’ve relocated
Employment conditions are critical in deciding whether to accept a job offer overseas. Confirm the currency you will be paid in, check if there are any restrictions on repatriating funds and make sure you have made any necessary arrangements that are required to contribute to your pension plan. It’s possible that you may face certain issues in your job when you are offered employment overseas. You should do some research on staying overseas before accepting the offer. Once you move abroad, there is a limited assistance that can be offered by Canadian consular officers if the working conditions are not what you expected.
Moreover, obtain information about the local labour laws, ask people or the Human Resources team who have worked for the organization, speak to current employees and take note of any information about the insurance and Visas you are required to take. Make sure your employer pays for your accommodation or that it’s organized prior to arrival, as well as any transportation and other basic utilities, such as telephone calls.
You should review the terms of your contract carefully and, if required, have it reviewed by your legal representative before proceeding with the job offer so that you fully understand its financial conditions and other important factors.
Money and assets when you’ve moved overseas
Make sure you have enough funds to settle in a new country before you leave Canada. If you’re relocating overseas for employment purposes, your employer may give you a settling-in allowance but it may not be paid to you for a few weeks so you’ll need to rely on other funds.
When you’re setting up a new home overseas, there are many expenses that you need to take into account. Try to find out what your obligations are so that you can settle down without any unforeseen complications. You should also check with your new employer to see if they will pay for the relocation of your personal possessions or if they will provide you with the necessary items once you move there. Also, review the import and customs regulations to make sure you are allowed to bring certain items to the new country you’re settling in.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll need to exchange your money into the right currency. You can do this and save on fees by using a specialist money transfer company.
If you’re planning to stay overseas for a longer period of time, you may want to open a bank account in the country you are moving to. Banks in Canada may be able to recommend specific banks overseas. You should check with your bank about the ease of international money transfer between your bank accounts in Canada and the country you will be living in. It’s possible that your host country may have certain restrictions that will limit the amount of fund transfers between there and your Canadian bank accounts. It’s a good idea to consult a qualified accountant or the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) if you want to open a bank account overseas.
Research whether you are required to have any health checks or vaccinations before you leave for your destination from Canada. Make an appointment with the travel clinic or your physician for a routine check up at least six weeks before your departure.
Maintaining your health when abroad
If you’re travelling with any medication, make sure those medicines are legally allowed in the country you will visit by contacting their foreign mission or embassy in Canada. Carry your doctor’s letter detailing what the medication is, the dosage you are required to take and the reason you must take it. Have your doctor note that it’s for personal use. Keep your medicines in their original packaging with the dosage instruction and your name clearly labelled on them.
Taxation when living overseas
If you pay foreign tax in another country, you may be eligible for a foreign income tax offset in Canada, which avoids double taxation. Some allowances may not be exempt from tax, such as living away from home allowance paid by your employer. The Government specify on their website that Canadians travelling extensively, living or working abroad may still have to pay Canadian and provincial or territorial income taxes. It is important that you know your residency status and the income tax rules that apply to you while you are outside Canada. Therefore, you should consider how long you will be away from Canada for, whether your move is permanent, what type of job you have and where you are moving to. These factors will determine your tax paying situation back here in Canada.
Remember that when you live abroad, you leave behind Canada’s support systems such as social security services, emergency services and medical facilities. To make your overseas move less stressful, try to be as prepared as possible.
What should I do with my private health insurance?
Since a private health fund in Canada will likely not cover you when you’re overseas, there will be no need for you to continue paying your premiums. Rather than cancelling your coverage altogether and then having to sign up (and possibly losing out on discounts) when you return, ask your health fund provider about temporarily suspending coverage and then resuming it when you return.
Case Study: Dave’s Driver’s Licence
When relocating overseas, it’s important that you’re aware of the driver’s licence requirements in your destination country – as Dave found out. After securing a job posting in Barcelona, Spain for two years, Dave packed up his life and relocated to his sunny new home city. With a valid Ontario driver’s licence in his possession, Dave assumed he would have no problems from a legal point of view when driving on Spanish roads. Dave also applied for an International Driver’s license that was only valid for one year with his Canadian driver’s licence.
What Dave failed to realize, however, was that he had six months from the date of his entry into Spain until his Canadian driver’s licence was no longer valid. By law, Dave needed to get a Spanish licence by this date – but he failed to do so. So when Dave was involved in a three-car accident one weekend, not only did his lack of a valid licence void his car insurance policy, but it also meant he was charged with a criminal offence for driving without a licence.
What can I do to make myself seem like a good prospective tenant to landlords in my new home country?
Before you leave Canada, it’s a great idea to contact your landlord and ask for a reference. This reference can explain how you always paid your rent on time, kept the property in excellent condition and were generally an excellent tenant. A solid recommendation, even from a landlord on the other side of the world, can positively impact your tenancy chances.
Case Study: The Importance of Organizing a Bank Account
Jim and John are Canadian brothers who are relocating overseas, Jim to Australia and John to the UK. As the more sensible of the two, Jim has planned ahead for the move and already set up a bank account in Australia. So when he arrives in Sydney, Jim can easily access the funds he needs to secure accommodation, buy a SIM card for his phone, catch a cab and even buy meals.
John, on the other hand, hasn’t even considered what lies ahead. He arrives in London with £150 in his pocket, a big chunk of which he spends on a few beers and his first night’s accommodation. He has failed to set up a bank account in advance. With insufficient funds to get a new SIM card for his phone, let alone take care of a larger transaction such as paying first month’s rent, John must scrape by on a shoestring budget for days while he battles to get a new bank account set up. After a few nights sleeping on sofas and eating nothing more than noodles, John is finally able to access the finances he needs – but he’s learned a valuable lesson.
What is culture shock and how might it affect me?
When you leave Canada to live in a different country, it’s natural to feel disoriented, overwhelmed, lonely and confused when you try to adapt to a new culture. If you stay overseas long enough, you could experience similar feelings of homesickness when you return to Canada.
What sort of upfront costs should I budget for when arriving overseas?
Some of the initial costs you should plan ahead for when moving overseas include rental bonds, a new computer, work clothes, maybe buying a car, and a whole range of other potential expenses depending on your needs. Working out a rough idea of these costs ahead of time can help you ensure that you have enough funds available.
How can I sort out which possessions to take with me and which ones to leave behind?
The cost involved in shipping items overseas can be a great motivator to help you decide what you really need to take with you and what can be left behind. Be ruthless with your decisions and leave as many bulky items behind as possible – it will save you a sizable amount of money and time.
I’ve just relocated overseas and one of my accounts is missing. What do I do?
You’ll need to get in touch with your provider to diagnose the problem. In most cases, your account may have been closed due to level of activity. If calling your provider is not an option, it will likely have an online contact form.
Should I relocate overseas for tax advantages?
This decision is entirely up to you. If you would like to relocate overseas to take advantage of lower tax thresholds and a lower cost of living, then this could be an option for you.
Does relocating overseas affect my pension?
Depending on how many years you have lived and worked in Canada, the answer to this question will vary. You can still receive your pension if you leave Canada, however it will be subject to the exchange rate once that has been applied. You may also require the help of an accountant or specialist to move your pension.
Do I have enough to retire and live overseas?
The response to this will depend on your current financial and personal situation. Speak to a financial advisor or planner to see if you have enough for a “comfortable” retirement overseas.
Would I be able to get a credit card when I move overseas?
Generally you can still get a credit card if you’re on a temporary or working Visa in that country. Speak to your local bank to discuss your eligibility or options.
How do I open an overseas bank account?
Most banks will let you open a bank account before you arrive in the country. You can approach an international bank, like HSBC, to open an account issued by the country that you’re travelling to. This can be done over the phone or by visiting your local branch. If you do not want to open an HSBC account, you can seek the help of your current Canadian bank and find out if they have any suggestions on banks overseas in the country you are heading to.
Can I take my pension with me?
If you can prove that you’re permanently departing from Canada, you should be able to access and move your pension plan over. To do this, speak to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to get any necessary information and documents ready and seek the help of an accountant or your bank.