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How to Relocate Your Household & Pets to Canada

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  • Andrey Vasilyev

    When moving to a huge city such as Vancouver, InterNations made it easy for me to find fellow expats and the network that I needed.

If you have been wondering how to relocate to Canada, this relocation guide has got you covered with all the steps you need to take. So, what does it take to relocate to Canada correctly? To be frank: quite a lot. The relocation steps and process include things like moving and shipping your household goods, home good storage, moving with pets, vaccinations, and any health requirements for entering Canada.

From information on long- and short-term storage options to bringing cats and dogs into the country, and even information on what to bring (and not bring) into Canada, read on for all this and more.

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Moving and Shipping Household Goods

When thinking about how to move household items and belongings, keep in mind that there are a few things you will need to pay duty on. If you plan on importing your car, it must meet the country’s safety and pollution control standards. Canada also has a list of restricted and prohibited items that you must be aware of, including firearms, endangered species, animals, and plants.

Read on to learn more about this as well as different ways to ship your household items and belongings.


Unless your items are brand new, you will not have to pay duty on most personal belongings or household goods. Such items include (but are not limited to):

  • Linens
  • Books
  • Clothes
  • Jewelry (see below for more information on jewelry)
  • Antiques
  • Furniture
  • Silverware
  • Musical instruments
  • Gifts worth 60 CAD (45 USD) or less (see below for more rules on gifts)
  • Hobby items
  • Private coin, stamp, or art collections
  • Kitchen appliances

You will have to pay duty on:

  • Farm equipment
  • Contracting, construction, or manufacturing equipment
  • Vehicles you plan to use for business
  • Items bought on the way to Canada
  • Any leased or rented items

Duty on Gifts

All gifts must be declared to Canadian customs when entering the country. For anything over 60 CAD (45 USD), you may be required to pay taxes and duties. Wedding gifts are allowed without paying duty if you have gotten married within three months before coming to Canada or plan to do so three months after arriving in Canada.

Duty on Jewelry

It is perfectly reasonable for customs officers to ask about any jewelry or precious ornaments you may be carrying with you. To speed up the process, make sure you have receipts with you showing how much you paid for your items, or avoid traveling with jewelry altogether.

Duty on Alcohol and Tobacco

In Canada, so long as you are willing to pay duty on excess items, you are allowed to bring in things such as alcoholic beverages if it is within limits set by the provincial and territorial liquor control where you are entering Canada. If you prefer to enter duty-free, these are the limits for alcohol of which you can bring in only one of the following:

  • Wine – up to 1.5 liters or 53 fluid ounces
  • Alcoholic beverages – up to 1.14 liters or 40 fluid ounces
  • Beer or ale – up to 8.5 liters or 287 fluid ounces

Keep in mind that you must also meet the legal drinking age requirement of the province or territory you wish to enter from when bringing in alcohol. The drinking age is 18 in Québec, Alberta, and Manitoba; it is 19 everywhere else.

These are the limits for bringing in tobacco duty-free (for which you have to be 18 years of age):

  • Cigarettes – 200
  • Cigars – 50
  • Tobacco – 200 grams (seven ounces)
  • Tobacco sticks – 200 tobacco sticks

Duty on Vehicles

While cars for personal use can enter duty-free, they have to meet Canada’s standards for safety and pollution control. Visitors and temporary residents to Canada, including expats with a work permit or student visa, can temporarily import their vehicle without it meeting the standards of the Moto Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA). If there is a change in status, and the car is eligible for importation, it must then be declared to the Canada Border Services Agency. If the automobile does not comply with the MVSA, it must then be exported or destroyed.

Restrictions on Firearms

All weapons must be declared at customs and cannot be restricted nor prohibited. Some prohibited and restricted firearms include:

  • Handguns with a barrel length of 105 mm or less and handguns that discharge .25 or .32 caliber ammunition (except for a few particular ones used in International Shooting Union competitions).
  • Rifles and shotguns that have been altered by sawing or other means so that their barrel length is less than 457 mm or have an overall length that is less than 660 mm.
  • Full automatics
  • Converted automatics
  • Other firearms prohibited or restricted by the Criminal Code Regulations.

For everything else, you must also have a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) for your firearm.

When transporting firearms, they must be unloaded and comply with the transportation requirements set out by the Storage, Display, Transportation, and Handling of Firearms by Individual Regulations.

Restrictions on Explosives, Fireworks, and Ammunition

Other restrictions include explosives, fireworks, and ammunition. You need to have the right authorization and permits to bring these items into Canada. For more information contact:

Explosives Regulatory Division Natural Resources Canada 580 Booth Street, 10th Floor Ottawa ON  K1A 0E4 Telephone: 613-948-5200 (regular hours -08:00 to 15:00 ET) Telephone: 613-947-9111 (after hours) Fax: 613-948-5195 Email: Website:

Restrictions on Health Products

Keep in mind that there might be some requirements and restrictions on certain prescription drugs. For detailed information read Health Canada’s Guidance Document on the Import Requirements for Health under the Food and Drugs Act and its Regulations.

Restrictions on Food, Plants, and Animals

Because certain foods, plants, and animals can pose a risk to Canadians, any food, plant, or animal must be declared at Canadian customs.

If you are coming into Canada from the US, there are different allowances, but if you’re coming from anywhere else, here is a look at some of the things you can have with you:

  • Baked Goods, Candies, etc.
    • Up to 20 kg per person
    • No goods containing meat
  • Dairy products
    • Cheese: up to 20 kg per person
  • Fish and seafood
    • All species except pufferfish and Chinese mitten crab
    • Individual maximum to import with no permit:
      • ten dead fish that are not eviscerated
      • four crustaceans with head on shell on
      • three kg of mollusks
    • Fruits and vegetables (dried, frozen, or canned)
      • Up to 20 kg per person
    • Herbs, spices, tea, and coffee
    • Meat
      • Maximum of 20 kg of cooked, commercially prepared, commercially sterile, and shelf-stable meat in hermetically sealed packaging can be imported per person.

For full details on these and other products, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website.

Prohibited Goods and Consumer Products

No child pornography, obscene material, or hate propaganda can be imported into Canada. The Government of Canada provides a full list of illegal consumer goods.

How to Ship Household Items and Belongings

It is a good idea to create a list of all your goods and items that you plan on shipping to Canada. Not only is this needed for customs when you arrive, but it can also come in handy beforehand when you are deciding on what to pack when moving to Canada.

Any items that do not come along with you can either be shipped by air or sea. Sea is typically cheaper but takes longer to arrive than air. Sea is also the recommended option when it comes to sending bulkier items such as cars and large furniture items. Use air for any extra luggage.

Remember that any items that are not physically with you upon entry into Canada must still be declared at customs upon your arrival.

Home Goods Storage

Depending on your plans, when you are moving to Canada you will probably need to consider long- and short-term storage options. Say, for example, you are shipping items before you arrive, or perhaps your new place in Canada is not actually quite spacious enough for all of your stuff. Your belongings will need to find an excellent storing home until you can make other arrangements.

If you are moving and only need your things stored for a matter of months, short-term might be the best option. But if you need to keep things stored for a more extended period, then long-term might be the route to go. Figure out how many things you will need to store and how much space. Measuring out your boxes and containers will help you determine the size of storage space you will need to rent.

Once you have these critical details figured out, it is best to shop around with a few storage companies to see who can offer the best price and for what. If it’s possible, when deciding upon a facility, make sure you go in person to check the space first. You will want to determine how secure the facility is so you can have peace of mind that your items will be safe. Look for things like gates, cameras, on-site managers, and staff around the lot.

Vaccinations and Health Requirements for Canada

While there are no vaccinations required for Canada, there are some vaccinations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

What Vaccinations do I Need for Canada?

The recommended vaccines by CDC and WHO include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia, and influenza.

Health Requirements for Canadian Immigration

If you are planning to come to Canada and stay for less than six months, you don’t require a medical examination (unless your particular job requires one). While there are no Canadian vaccination immigration requirements, any visitor, student, or worker staying longer than six months will typically need to undergo a medical exam if you have lived at least six months in a row during the past year in one of the identified countries listed on the Government of Canada site.

If you require a medical exam, you will be expected to fill out a medical questionnaire and undergo a physical test, which includes measuring your weight, height, testing your hearing and vision, taking your blood pressure, feeling your pulse, listening to your heart and lungs, feeling your abdomen, checking how your limbs move, and looking at your skin. In some cases, medical examiners might need to examine your breasts, but a look at your genitals and the rectal area is not a part of the immigration medical exam. X-rays may also be required depending on your age.

Your medical exam can only be done by a panel physician approved by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada.

Connect with like-minded expatriates

Discover our welcoming community of expats! You’ll find many ways to network, socialize, and make new friends. Attend online and in-person events that bring global minds together.

Moving with Pets

Can you bring pets to Canada? Indeed, you can, as long as they meet all the requirements.

Moving to Canada with pets can be a hassle with all the required travel documents and vaccinations – but do not worry. The following section covers all you need to know about pet relocation to Canada – from health certificate requirements to immunizations and more.

Requirements to Bring Your Pet to Canada

Unlike some countries, microchipping for your pet is not required for entering Canada. They must, however, have a Rabies Certificate (EU Pet Passport accepted) written in English or French. It must be issued by a licensed veterinarian, identify the animal’s breed, color, and weight, indicate the trade name and the serial number of the vet, and specify how long the immunity is good for.

When taking your dog to Canada, it is recommended that they have their full vaccinations including Canine Distemper, Parvovirus, Hepatitis, and Leptospirosis. When taking your cat to Canada, they too should have their full vaccines including Feline Cat Flu-Feline Calicivirus, Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Chlamydia Psittacosis, and Cat Enteritis-Feline Panleukopenia/Feline Parvovirus.

All dogs and cats entering Canada, except from the US, are subject to inspection. The cost is 30 CAD (23 USD) plus tax and 5 CAD (4 USD) plus tax for any additional animal.

Banned Breeds

In Ontario, the following breeds are banned from entering: American Staffordshire Terrier, Pit Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and their crosses.

In the city of Winnipeg, the following breeds are banned from entering: American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, or their mixes.

Other Animals

Rabbits entering Canada from the US do not need documentation but may be subject to inspection. If they are coming from any other country, they will be subject to quarantine and require an import permit.

Rodents do not need a health certificate or permit to enter Canada.

Ferrets over three months of age entering Canada from the US need to have proof of rabies vaccination. If coming from any other country, they will require an import permit.

Birds coming from outside of the US will require an import permit.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency offers a full list of information regarding any other kind of animal you wish to import.

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