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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Steps for Relocating from Canada to U.S.

In all honesty, the move between Canada and the U.S. was relatively straightforward; even during a pandemic. The fact that the kids and I are U.S. citizens makes it a little more streamlined as well. The most work for the international move was the packing and preparation. That said, it’s been a busy month preparing.

Packing & Storing Our Items

Instead of renting a moving truck, we purchased a cargo trailer that would transport our goods from Alberta to Nebraska. We made this decision based on the fact that we wouldn’t have to pay monthly storage fees while we were away traveling. Instead, my family has some land we’d be able to store our goods during our year of travel. Plus the rental of a storage unit was easily going to be $250-400/month, so it definitely seemed to be the more economical option. This way, we would forego any storage fees and just have the upfront cost of the trailer, which would still retain its value after we were finished using it for storage. Plus, if we would determine that Nebraska won’t work for commuting for Alex’s work, it would be easy to hook up and take our things with us to a new spot.

We mostly used plastic totes and bins to pack items, especially those things like books etc. However, once we get to my family's house we will likely remove some of the more keepsake or special items and store them in their basement, just so humidity or temperature changes won't ruin those type of items. We also utilized several vacuum sealed bags. Anything soft like bedding, clothing and stuffed animals went in these bags, as they were helpful in compacting and saving space. I'm also hopeful that they will help with the long term storage of those items as well. However, some of them already re-inflated so hopefully at least a majority will stay inflated. Fingers crossed!

Downsizing and Selling Our Goods

A lot of the furniture we had acquired over the years was second hand and we didn’t have enough room to store big items in the trailer, so we made the decision to sell all our large goods and downsize a lot of the smaller things. The only furniture we kept was one bedroom set (no mattress though!), and a couple of shelves. Otherwise, we only packed small and personal items into the trailer; it was definitely packed FULL! We used Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji and had a garage sale the last weekend we were in our house. As snow was predicted for the last day of the garage sale on Sunday, we just had the last couple of hours on Saturday be 'Everything for Free'. LOL. Anything left over just got donated.

Paperwork Required for the Cross Border Move

We came as prepared as possible for the border crossing and the paperwork we would need:

  • U.S. Passports for the three of us – the kids and myself (See below for details about what Alex did)

  • Parent/Guardian permission forms to allow the other parent to bring children across the border without both parents present

  • Itemized List of Goods

  • Vehicle & Trailer Importation Documents

I’ll go into a bit more detail about some of these specific documents below. However, the agents didn’t even ask for the parental permission forms or the itemized list of goods, although they would be required if they did ask for them.

Itemized List of Goods

One of the main requirements for immigration into the country is to provide an itemized list of goods. This was definitely the most time-consuming part. I had to label all the totes and boxes and have a list of everything that was inside of them. I decided to keep the list in an Excel worksheet, so my laptop would often come with me from room to room as I packed and I would record what was inside each box. My itemized list wasn’t super detailed – I definitely didn’t count the number of items (i.e. 12 forks), but rather provided general descriptions of the items. But it still ended up being 7 pages long!

Also, I’m almost 100% certain that once we arrive in Nebraska one of the kids is going to ask for something specific that is packed away in the trailer. As a result of this, I took my list a step further and numbered each tote and put a note in my spreadsheet about which location in the trailer that particular tote or box ended up in the trailer. It all sounds very logical now…..the true test will be once I actually have to implement it! Ha ha! Although hopefully it will at least be helpful in assessing whether or not there is any hope at all in retrieving it from the trailer.

Also, for ease at the border, we didn’t pack any type of food items other than some packaged snacks we kept in the truck for the drive. All other food items we got rid of or passed along to friends. There is a pretty comprehensive list of fruits and vegetables you can’t take across the border, so for simplicity we left it all behind. However, we wouldn’t have had room to bring anything with us even if we had decided to bring some items (and it would have been difficult to keep them cool on our multi-day drive.)

Although the border agent didn't ask for the itemized list, they did ask for any declared goods (so we claimed our two tequila bottles) and whether we had any motorized vehicles in the trailer. However, you are still required to have it in case they ask; but I’m hopeful the list will come in handy personally more than anything.

Importing a Vehicle & Trailer into the U.S.

The main thing we had to take care of at the border crossing was the importation of the truck and trailer. We had to go inside the building to complete this paperwork, which took about 50 minutes for us to complete. (However, it would have likely be faster if we didn’t run into a snag on our end. Also, important to note that this time frame was during the border closure when it was pretty much just the kids and I and one other individual in the building at that time.)

The paperwork required for the importation for the vehicle were:

For the vehicle importation we started by providing the Bill of Sale, letter from the manufacturer stating it meets all U.S. vehicle requirements and the EPA paperwork. However, we had missed the part on the letter from GM stating that the truck was missing an indicator for the airbags and we’d have to provide an invoice from the dealership saying it was fixed to comply for it to be imported to the U.S. The agent was super nice about it and he worked with his supervisor to see if that was something they really needed proof of, but they couldn’t find anything. Therefore, he said we’d be unable to import the truck that day. However, at least we weren’t completely screwed; as we have up until 1 year from the arrival date to have the vehicle imported (because we weren't planning to sell it, etc.). Therefore, we’ll just have to take the truck through a land border crossing again or use a registered vehicle importer service to complete the importation once we have the invoice from the dealership saying we have fixed it.

However, we were able to completely import the cargo trailer. Because it is non motorized, the EPA paperwork wasn’t required, but the customs agent provided some forms that I had to fill out. These forms consisted mostly of the VIN number, ownership information and make/model/year of manufacturing. Once we did that, he just needed to see the letter of compliance from the dealership and bill of sale. A few quick copies and a stamp of approval later and we were back on the road.

Bringing the Husband Along

Because Alex doesn’t have any status with the United States yet (his green card application is still pending), he was unable to drive with us as we crossed the land border crossing. The U.S./Canada land border has been closed since the pandemic started in 2020. Only essential workers and citizens of the arrival country are allowed to cross. As a result, when we arrived at the border there were only 2 cars in front of us in the line-up. (The fastest border crossing line I have ever experienced!) Alex on the other hand had to fly to the U.S. and meet us in Helena, Montana. We met up with him once we arrived in Helena and then drove together the rest of the way.

As far as Covid tests, the U.S. doesn’t require proof of a negative Covid test at the land border, so the kids and I didn’t have to get a test. However, because Alex flew he had to provide proof of a negative PCR Covid test taken within 72 hours of his flight.

The agent did me ask about my husband’s plans, but once I mentioned that he had a pending green card application in progress he didn’t need much more details.

Last Medical Appointments & Goodbyes!

Although not related to packing, one other thing we did at the end was try to work in some last medical appointments before our departure. While we’ll be getting travel insurance for emergency medical needs while traveling, normal dental and optometry appointments won’t be covered. Plus, because we will be outside of Canada, which is where Alex’s work benefits are effective, we won't be able to access those type of medical services. So in preparation, we scheduled in some of those appointments before departing as well.

Then of course, there was the hardest part of the move....saying our goodbyes to all the wonderful people who were such an important part of our lives for the past 10.5 years.

However, other than the additional paperwork, the international move wasn’t a lot more work than what a normal move would have been. But again, the ease of it had a lot to do with us already been U.S. citizens.


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