Saturday, September 13, 2008

Advice - General #1

OK, in no particular order, here is some general advice for anyone considering U.S. to Canada immigration.
  • Research - It can't be stated too many times that immigration regulations and policies change constantly. Any information may be out-of-date. Or maybe not. Folks planning to move across the border should comprehensively answer all their own questions and confirm all second-hand information on official websites such as Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
  • In my opinion, Canadian immigration procedures, rules and regulations are, for the most part, presented in a straight forward manner by the CIC, HRSDC, and other agencies. Unless your particular situation is unusual or complicated you will not need an immigration lawyer. You will, however, need to be serious and thorough. Read everything - every article, document, application, instruction packet - every word. Then Read it all again. Become an expert. This takes time but is not difficult. If possible, do this before you meet the employer, get the job offer or the positive LMO. Your remaining time-line may become incredibly short once you find your dream position with an interested Canadian employer willing to apply for an LMO. The more knowledgeable you are about the immigration process prior to this moment the better.
  • Relax - If it isn't taking "too long" then it is happening too quickly. Don't rush it. This is a huge endeavor. Not having enough time to properly prepare is not the way to go. 
  • Plan - For me, it all really boils down to these three categories; pre-landing; landing/border crossing; and post-landing. Make "To-do" lists for each including tasks and required documents. 
  • Organize - We bought an inexpensive expandable multiple pocket accordion-style files folder. Each pocket was dedicated to a different aspect of the immigration process and contained the required paperwork. "Where is the (name of critical document)...?" "Well, it's in the file folder in the appropriate pocket." For example, all of our vehicle import docs and info were in one pocket and easily retrievable for the customs agent at the border during our landing. Nice. In the file folder your critical paperwork will be together, organized and will travel well. Just don't lose it. Remember, Canadian agencies almost always require original documents but make and bring copies of everything.
  • Money - Best advice given; determine how much you'll need and then double it. You simply can not have too much available cash. Expect to need more than you think and bring more than you expect to need. "Extra" money translates into reduced frustration at best and actual sanity at worst.
  • Leave your current U.S. bank checking account open indefinitely with available funds to pay any remaining U.S. bills. We know U.S. immigrants living in Canada several years who are just now closing their U.S. bank accounts. Acclimate yourself to the Canadian banking system until you are familiar with how both country's systems interact (and don't). Overdraft and return check fees add up. So does the cost of international phone calls to banks, credit card companies, and other creditors. With money in your U.S. checking account there will be no need to worry about the timely payment of bills, or the bruising or ruining of a great U.S. credit history (see below). When the time comes to close the U.S. account, any remaining funds can be transferred to Canada by simply depositing a U.S. check written to oneself into one's Canadian U.S. Dollars Account. How easy is that? More on banking in both countries, here.
  • U.S. Credit History - Your U.S. credit history will not follow you across the border. While largely irrelevant in Canada one should endeavor to remain in good standing with their U.S. creditors. A U.S. credit history can be used to obtain a Canadian mortgage. Again, more on banking, here.
  • U.S. Elections and Living "Over Seas" - Unless you are immigrating to Canada with PR status, your move is considered a temporary one. A U.S. citizen who moves "over seas" temporarily can vote in both local and Federal elections. Local elections would be in the last district in which one lived. Those who retain their citizenship and move permanently are eligible to vote only in a Federal election. To obtain an absentee ballot in either case, one simply completes and returns the U.S. Federal Post Card Application to their former voting district election board. It's easy.
  • Expat/Travel "abroad" Registration - Every expat or persons traveling abroad should register with the U.S. Dept. of State and the U.S. consulate located at their destination. There are a dozen reasons to do so. Visit the website and register. Passport information will be required

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