Can I go back and retire in Canada?
May 31, 2022 1:42 PM   Subscribe

I'm a Canadian citizen who's been living in the US for decades, as a resident alien. I'm increasingly feeling that I don't want to stay in the US much longer. My wife and I are in our late 50's. If we wanted to try to move to Canada and semi or full retire there in another decade, can it be done? What would be the process?

I case it matters, I'm a naturalized Canadian citizen, not born there (nor in the US either). She is a US citizen. At this point, we're exploring options. Any move would not happen for another decade or so.
posted by Another Sock Puppet to Law & Government (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I forgot to add: due to climate and other considerations, practically speaking, we probably would focus on the Vancouver area.
posted by Another Sock Puppet at 1:46 PM on May 31, 2022

I think it could be done but I don't think you'd get much if anything in the way of a public pension/social security. Also, if you are planning on moving to the greater Vancouver area then I hope you already own a property there or will be bringing a lot of money with you.

There is nothing stopping you from moving back to Canada as you're a citizen and that doesn't go away just because you've been living in the US. For your wife you'd need to apply for immigration for her. When I applied for immigration for my spouse 15 years ago there was no income requirement, ie I didn't have to earn a certain amount in order to apply for her immigration, but that may have changed or it may change in the future.

The process itself was fairly straightforward, we just had to provide evidence that we actually were married to each other, both official documents as well as stuff like photos and cell phone records, she needed a medical examination, and a couple of months later that was that. I didn't use a lawyer for her application, just followed the instructions on the government website. I don't know what would have happened if she had some severe medical condition but that is something to perhaps keep in mind if you wait to immigrate until you are in your 60s.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:56 PM on May 31, 2022 [4 favorites]

You would sponsor your wife for permanent residency in Canada, with the potential for her to become a citizen in the future. Simple as that.

Are you concerned about pension and old age security payments? The rules for these do allow for you to count time working or living in the US towards the requirements to get CPP and OAS in Canada, but you'll have to look into the details for CPP, OAS and the GIS (if applicable).

Otherwise, it might help to say what it is exactly you're wondering about.
posted by ssg at 2:09 PM on May 31, 2022 [3 favorites]

The US and Canada have what's known as a "totalization agreement" that integrates the two countries' Social Security programs, so you shouldn't lose all your benefits when you move, though the benefit amount might be affected. It's explained in detail here, but the rules are complex and depend on factors such as how many years you worked and paid Social Security taxes in each country and how long you have lived in each country. And of course, there are special rules for Quebec.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:23 PM on May 31, 2022 [8 favorites]

This pamphlet spells out the conditions for collecting Social Security outside the United States either as a citizen or non-citizen. It may help you puzzle out the implications of a move to Canada on that benefit for you and your wife.
posted by reren at 4:55 PM on May 31, 2022 [3 favorites]

we probably would focus on the Vancouver area.

This was mentioned above, but it’s kind of hard to overstate how expensive housing is in Vancouver, even Interior BC is getting really up there. If you have property in a high CoL area of the US you might be ok, or are otherwise very wealthy.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:49 PM on May 31, 2022 [2 favorites]

You'll probably have to reactivate your Social Insurance Number either before or immediately after moving. SIN are made dormant after 5 years of inactivity. In order to re-activate it, try your local consulate or contact Service Canada.

You'll be asked to show provide identification such as a Canadian Birth Certificate, Canadian Citizenship Card/Certificate, etc. If you don't have any of these you can contact the same offices.
posted by Zedcaster at 9:10 PM on May 31, 2022

Something else to consider on the health front is that you will have a wait period before being eligible for MSP in B.C. (Most, if not all, other provinces will have similar policies).
posted by birdsquared at 12:13 AM on June 1, 2022

I don't know about BC, but in Ontario the waiting period for provincial health insurance was waived during the pandemic. I moved back to Ontario from the US in August 2021 and all we had to do before getting health insurance was establish proof of residency (by getting driver's license, having bills mailed to us, etc).
posted by number9dream at 5:51 AM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

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