Moving from CA, US to BC, CAN w/very limited resources.
April 14, 2013 3:40 PM   Subscribe

By my searching, it seems that there hasn’t been a “moving to Vancouver” question yet this year, so I’m here to fill the gap. I am considering a move from Sacramento, CA to Vancouver, BC and would very much appreciate advice and ideas on getting immediate needs met in Vancouver for the first 1-3 months. (I have read the site’s “Moving Back to Canada” pages, previous Ask MeFi answers, and other sources.)

Cross-country and cross-border moves are not entirely new to me. I know how to get settled in a city. But the one thing that I usually have prearranged is a contact person and a temporary place to stay until I can get setup with work and my own apartment. This time around, I would be moving to a city with no place to stay, no friends, and no job.

Some additional weaknesses are the fact that I’ll have only a few thousand dollars and a car that will have little life left in it by the time it reaches BC. (I plan on disposing of the car rather than importing it, and hopefully switching to my bike as primary transposrtation.) The main strengths I have are Canadian citizenship, a college degree (from a US institution), and a willingness to rough it. Though I would prefer to avoid homelessness.

I am especially interested in knowing about any sort of official channels of aid and specific tips on initial living arrangements and job searches. I am cognizant of the fact that this is not the best constructed plan, but circumstances are such that it’s one of my less unrealistic options, so I’d like to see if it might be possible to pull off... Plus Vancouver is awesome and I’m really keen on getting back to Canada after two decades away (I'm old)!... Thank you in advance for any and all tips and recommendations!
posted by booksarelame to Travel & Transportation around Vancouver, BC (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I made my cross country move from Vancouver, but the same should apply. Assuming you have savings currently to pay for rent while job hunting.

- You don't have a job yet but perhaps you can start your long term dwelling search now. Then as soon as you're there you can check out the units in person. This minimizes the amount of time you spend in short term rentals.
- Look on Kijiji or inquire Airbnb listing owners for short term rentals. They would probably charge much higher than you would pay for a yearly lease. They may charge standard price on a 4mth lease (from my experience doing 4mths co-op terms). Hostels may also be an option but I have no personal experience nor do I know the rates they charge.
- Job Bank is employment listing hosted by Service Canada.
posted by lucia_engel at 4:30 PM on April 14, 2013

You should start looking for and documenting your search for work right now. If you end up needing to apply for BCEA there is a significant work search waiting period so the sooner you start the better.

Even though you don't plan on keeping your car you'll have to go through the import process unless you plan to drive it back to the states to dispose of it.

You won't qualify for MSP until your fourth month of residency so depending on your situation you may want to maintain your American health insurance.
posted by Mitheral at 5:02 PM on April 14, 2013

Thank you lucia_engel and Mitheral! These are exactly the sorts of tips I am looking for. (Even the acronyms for the various agencies I will be dealing with is very helpful! Everything other than my passport will have expired. I am searching for my old SIN card now.)

Please keep 'em coming! If my request is in anyway unclear or if more information about my situation would be useful, I do not mind answering followup questions to the best of my ability.
posted by booksarelame at 5:18 PM on April 14, 2013

Your US credit history will not be accepted by Canadian landlords, banks, etc, so you might want to line up really stellar rental references or think of some other way to cover for that gap when you apply for apartments.

The SIN card is very easy to replace at a Service Canada office, and you do not need your old one to get a new one.
posted by snorkmaiden at 5:28 PM on April 14, 2013

Not from the left coast, but familiar enough with similar situations elsewhere in Canada to prime search engines effectively. The following resources are for the lower end of the "income and resources" scale.

Supportive Housing in Vancouver

additional resources from the same source, including access to free or inexpensive food and financial aid

A hand up from the government: Ministry of Social Development for BC

some of the Ministry's programs to help those in need

You may also be interested in for short term accommodation.
posted by thatdawnperson at 5:47 PM on April 14, 2013

Vancity will check your US credit so you can get an unsecured credit card.

Biking in Vancouver is great but the problem will be securing it if you are in hostels or the like. Don't buy a bike until you have a long term housing arrangement.

Mobile phone- the cheap phones (mobilicity et Al) use same wireless spectrum as T-Mobile prepaid, so if your phone is on that spectrum you can use those vendors. Otherwise you are buying a new phone.

You cannot fill prescriptions in Canada written by US doctors, bring 4 months supply north if you need it.

probably not an issue since you don't have much money, but do not open registered savings account (TFSA or RRSP) until you have talked with a tax advisor about forms you have to file with the IRS.Also make sure you open all US accounts you need before leaving US-such as a rollover IRA. you can't do that as a Canadian resident.

You will need cash for all kinds of BS forms- the worst is, the notarized income statement for two years for fair pharmacare. I am not aware of any kind of centralized clearing house to help navigate all this for Canadian citizens. The only integrated program I saw was SWIS, which is offered to immigrants when registering their kids for public school. Of course, to register for school you need an address, so that doesn't help.

Vancouver does have 311 so you can always start with that. Public libraries are also excellent resources. it is confusing and difficult to settle in Vancouver, I have had a lot of friends move home (and some like me who luck out and stay).

Best of luck
posted by crazycanuck at 8:44 PM on April 14, 2013

Oh yes and sell your car in the us- the import process will leave you out of pocket a minimum $500.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:46 PM on April 14, 2013

The place I work at uses a lot of temp labour from these guys. The reason I mention this is that a lot of the temps are from Europe and there are issues around language that have proved problematic in my work place. So, English is an asset at this company. If you're okay with physical labour it can be a quick way of finding work until you get something more congruent to your needs.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 9:20 PM on April 14, 2013

Thank you snorkmaiden, I've been finding inconsistent information about credit scores/reports transferring between the two countries. This is definitely something that will have interesting consequences for at least the first couple years after the move.

Thank you thatdawnperson, your links are just what I had in mind when asking for "official" sources of aid.

Crazycanuck, Phlegmco(tm), great leads! I don't think SWIS applies to me, but each new acronym gives me more to search. Manual labor may well be in my near-term future. Thanks for pointing me towards a specific agency.
posted by booksarelame at 9:46 PM on April 14, 2013

Made it to Vancouver. It is a lovely city. Thanks for the tips.

Airbnb worked well for a temporary residence. I'm in the process of getting all the necessary paperwork settled and searching for a job.

Pro tips for anyone following (no guarantees on applicability or accuracy):
- Importing a car can be free due to a $10K exemption on personal property for returning citizens for items brought at the time of crossing in to Canada. (License, registration, insurance, inspection, etc. still cost money.) Bring everything you plan to get north with you.
- SIN is free if new, or $10 for a replacement card. (Need citizenship card/certificate or the like. Passport is inadequate.)
- It is necessary to visit about five different government offices for establishing residency: Service Canada, BC Health, BC DL,, and possibly Vancouver city hall (depending on needs).
- Some sort of reliable mailing address is very handy.
- Sprint CDMA network phones can be made to work in Canada either at great expense (without any planning) or at a more reasonable expense with additional calling and data plans.
- All of the routine aspects of normal life are just different enough between the US and CAN to cause endless amusement.

I still haven't even had a chance to make use of all the advice given above. A lot of really helpful ideas and suggestions!
posted by booksarelame at 11:29 PM on June 4, 2013

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