Expats Relocating with Families and Pets in Canada

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: November 2014

Relocating to Canada with your family can be an exciting adventure for all family members. However, it is crucial to start planning well in advance, as sorting out the required paperwork and finding appropriate schooling and childcare can be a lengthy process.

The first thing to look into is entry requirements. Whether your relatives need a visa or not depends how closely related they are to you. Immediate family members will be able to move with you straight away, assuming their visa applications are successful. Grandparents and others outside the nuclear family will not be permitted to immigrate until you have permanent residence. For more information on family entry requirements, see Family Members and Marriage. To read more about Immigration matters in general, see Immigration.

In Canada, as anywhere, it is important to find a family-friendly area to live, one that has adequate facilities for children and access to good medical care and schooling. In this respect, it is advisable to have a look at your local municipality’s website and consult online blogs and forums for first-hand information. See for example the Expat Briefing Forum.

Many expats in Canada prefer to send their children to private or international schools and nurseries, though Canadian state schools are more than adequate. It is advisable to research these places online and check online forums for school and nursery reviews. Also, keep in mind that popular institutions have long waiting lists, so make sure to contact the schools or nurseries before you move. For further information on schooling options, see Education. To read more on childcare, see Family Life and Childcare.

Finally, make sure to prepare your children for the move. If approached the right way, the move will be an exciting new start for your children. Tell them about Canada and teach them about the local culture before you leave your home country. It is also important that they have adequate ability in English or French (or better, both) so you may need to enrol them into a language school if they cannot speak either language well. For further guidance on preparing children for relocation, see Kids’ Relocation Issues and the relevant article in Help I Am Moving.


Relocation of Pets

Expats relocating to Canada are not restricted on the number of pets they can bring into the country. Frequent imports by the same person, however, are likely to be queried. Unless you are relocating from the northern United States, it is highly probable that your journey to Canada will involve a long-haul flight. It is therefore extra important to ensure that your pets are comfortable.
The body responsible for regulating import requirements for animals including pets in Canada is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). This body is responsible for welfare of animals in addition to food inspection. The website gives information on the import requirements of all animals.

The Canada Border Service Agency will inspect all arriving pets for health, documents and vaccinations. All pets must be vaccinated against rabies and other infections before you travel. To prove this, you need to have a rabies vaccination certificate. If you do not have one, the authorities can vaccinate your pet at your expense. No quarantine is imposed on animals entering Canada, though the way they are handled may be affected by whether or not your country is deemed to be rabies-free. Rabies-free countries are listed here. All cats and dogs over 3 months old coming from one of these countries need to have been vaccinated against rabies.

All cats and dogs are examined before they are given clearance to enter Canada. If your pet does not appear to be in good health, further examinations may be taken at your expense. Other animals do not need rabies vaccination certificates but may be subject to health checks. Dog owners should note that the import of certain types of ‘attack dog’ is controlled. Regulations differ in different provinces and territories. For more information, see the Canada’s Guide to Dogs site.

It is a good idea to hire a specialist pet relocation company to help you move your pet to Canada. Not only do these providers have suitable travel containers for pets, they also assist with the complicated paperwork. Among the most prominent companies offering pet relocations to Canada are:




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