What to know before your move from Canada to California

7 Things to know and do before moving from Canada to California

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In California, we can’t even count all the amazing things and places the state is famous for. As one of America’s most famous and internationally recognized states, it is home to the Hollywood sign, the famous Golden Gate Bridge, Yosemite National Park, and Disneyland. Each city in the state has its own unique history, culture, and identity. It is also the USA’s most culturally diverse state. 

If you are looking to move from Canada to California, this article will provide you with an essential checklist of everything you need to know about moving to California!

Moving from Canada to California: Everything to know and do

What to know before your move from Canada to California

1. First steps before moving to California

Visa Requirements

One of the first steps to do before even moving to Hawaii should be processing your Visa. Through the US Department of State, you must apply for your visa via a 12 step process. This process includes submitting a petition, NVC processing, paying fees, affidavit of support, financial documents, online application, civil documents, scan documents, submit documents, interview preparation, application interview and after the interview. 

Canadians can acquire a permanent resident green card through marriage or being an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. The steps you need to take to apply for a Green Card will be situation-specific.

Each of the immigration options highlighted above has different application requirements. Also, if you are moving, you would also need to provide a proof of identity as well. For that, if you are traveling by air, you need your valid passport or NEXUS card to enter the USA. But if a person or family is entering USA via road or sea, they required to present Canadian passport along with at least one of the following documents:

  • NEXUS Card.
  • Enhanced Driving/Identification card.
  • FAST Card.
  • SENTRI enrollment cards.

Business and Investment 

If you’re moving to the US to start a business or invest in the country, you will need to acquire a Business Visa or an Investor Green Card. There are many different types of business and investor Visas—temporary and permanent.

  • Business Visa: This is the most common immigration document for someone who wishes to start their own business in the US or invest in one. E-2 and EB-5 are the most popular programs for Canadian entrepreneurs.
  • Investor Green Card: While not all of these will turn into resident green cards, the one that provides you with the best chance is the EB-5 Investor Visa.

Finding a job

In June 2023, California’s unemployment rate was 4.6%, which is higher than the average unemployment rate of the United States at 3.8%. 

California has a high demand in many sectors including food service worker, personal care assistant, teacher, personal trainer, housekeeper, administrative assistant, wind turbine technician, massage therapist, paralegal, to name a few.

When finding a job in California, you can use employment vacancies and internet job postings like Indeed and LinkedIn

Indeed (Oct 2023) & Employment Development Department – State of California (July 2023)

Employment Sponsorship

If you’re moving for the purpose of working in the USA, you’ll have three main categories to choose from. In most cases, your employer will sponsor you for a visa which would allow you to live and work in the country. Acquiring the appropriate immigration employment authorization means you need to be approved for one of the three following items: Employment Authorization Card/ Work Permit, Employment Visa and Permanent Resident Card/ Green Card.

Depending on which conditions you meet, and how long you will work in the US, you will be issued either of these documents.

Getting there 

You may make an informed decision on how to move to California from Canada by looking into these options for transportation. 

Flying is the most convenient way to move to California. You can book your flight to get there, for example through its major airport, Los Angeles International International Airport.

If you prefer an alternative mode of transportation, numerous cities in California offer bus services by companies like Greyhound or by train with Amtrak

International Moving Company

You can easily ship your things from Canada to California by road or by plane, but make sure the moving company you decide on is reliable.

So when opting for an international moving company, keep the following things in mind:

  • Conduct thorough research so you can compare the rates between the best international movers.
  • Make sure that the mover you have selected is licensed and permitted to get the job done.
  • They provide insurance for your goods, including accidental insurance and damage insurance.
  • Their claim of giving quality service is backed by customer reviews.

Must dos before your arrival 

You may find it exciting and challenging to move to California. You will be more prepared for your new life if you are aware of these things beforehand.

  • Be sure to acquire a valid passport or Nexus card beforehand. Primarily, contact the Canada Revenue Agency and clear your taxes and dues.
  • Find an international moving company. You can find a number of long distance moving companies that can move your belongings from Canada to California. 
  • Research safety measures and mentally prepare yourself for earthquakes as California is prone to them because of its location near the Pacific Ring of Fire. 
  • If you have a car you would like to bring to California, make sure to do what is necessary for car shipping as well as auto insurance. 

Car Shipping to California

There are two kinds of imports for a car from Canada to the USA: Informal import (12 months or less) and Formal (for over 12 months, the vehicle may be registered as a USA vehicle).

If you are using a car shipping company, the car needs to be compliant with the standards of US departments of transportation and Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the process can take up to a month for the relevant authorities to process the import form. It is after that you can actually register your vehicle with the Department of the Motor Vehicles.

Due to the stern requirements, most people choose not to import their vehicles from Canada to California. It is rather a smart decision to purchase a vehicle in California than to have it imported. Unless the vehicle is a very expensive luxury vehicle or it has sentimental value attached to it, it is not recommended to ship your vehicle to California.

2. Upon your arrival in California

Must dos right upon your arrival

  • Have your valid documents ready to be displayed any time you need to. Registering with the Canadian Embassy and local council is also a good idea. Be sure to contact your employer and let them know you have arrived as they may be able to answer some of your questions.
  • Get familiar with your neighborhood, and make sure to take note of the important emergency numbers.
  • Locate the essential facilities like the nearest hospital, police station, and fire department for your safety and in case of emergency.


Moving into the USA, getting health coverage should be one of your first orders of business. To enroll in a coverage program, you must live in the United States and you must be a citizen/ national (or be lawfully present). Furthermore, you cannot be incarcerated.

In the USA, healthcare services are provided through private companies. The government has little to no part to play in this unless an exceptional case (disability, unemployment, living close to or below poverty level) is at hand. The citizens are themselves responsible to look after their wellbeing.

There are several healthcare programs that are available for residents of the USA to choose/facilitate from. This includes: Private medical insurance, Medicaid and Medicare. 

As a Canadian immigrant, we urge you to get insured as soon as possible. As a new immigrant, you can consider New Immigrants Health Insurance. These will include companies such as Sirius International, Seven Corners, and Lloyd’s Of London. Additionally, you can opt for a Short Term Health Insurance plan that will provide temporary coverage while you travel to and settle down in the USA.

Setting up your cell phone

If you are moving to California, or any part of the United States, it is best to transfer your phone number to an American cell phone provider to avoid high fees. The major cell phone providers in California are AT&T, T-Mobile, UScellula and Verizon Wireless, to name a few.

Keep in mind, you will not have the same Canadian phone number as the area code in California is either 213, 415 or 916.

Getting a driver’s license

The California DMV requires that you update your address within 10 days of moving. If you are moving to California, within California or even from California, you must update your address with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). DMV is a state-level government agency that handles everything related to vehicles and licenses. 

You will require proof of identity, legal presence, Social Security Number, date of birth and two forms of proof of your residence in California. Please note, it might be required to pass a vision test and fees may apply for any of the driver license services. 

Setting up a bank account 

Immigrant financial access is important as you move to a new country. As an immigrant, you may rely on these financial services to send remittances cash checks and pay your bills. The first thing you must do is open a bank account with both a USD account as well as a CAD account.The most popular banks in California are Wells Fargo and Chase Bank.

While the required documentation depends heavily on each bank, you generally need two things: An I.D. number, and proof of your identity and address—a government-issued photo ID will suffice. 

3. Best places to live in California

Best places to live in California

Moving to California means deciding where you want to live and considering your priorities. We’ve listed the best places to live in California!




Best for raising a family


Top rated schools


Best for quality healthcare and schools

San Diego

Best for young professionals looking for career growth

San Juan Capistrano 

Best for safety 

Setting up home services 

Essential utilities such as electricity, gas, and water can be set up three weeks prior to moving by contacting the relevant authorities, provided that you have found a place to live. Most of the utilities are deregulated, so this means you can select your service provider yourself.

Electricity is deregulated, so you can look for a service provider online and apply. Have it set up in your name and as per your address. As for fas, like electricity it is also deregulated and the process for setting it up is similar to electricity. As for water and sewage, the Water Division is generally responsible for the water and sewer regulation. For questions about the provider and your new area, it is best to contact Water Division customer service. 

Internet, cable, and telephone are provided in a single package/bundle. Additional equipment may be needed for the internet and cable to be set up. Also, you can purchase a Wi-Fi router directly from your service provider along with a Cable box for TV. Find out the best internet providers in California.

In most states (including California), security systems are also included in utilities which can include cameras, alarm systems, and fire alarms or air quality sensors (to detect levels of carbon monoxide). You will need to provide them with service providers with your bank account details, social security numbers, and residential address.

Should you rent or buy?

As of October 2023, the median cost of buying a property in California is $747,352; as of October 2023, the median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment is $2,916.97.

Trusted websites such as Redfin, Apartments.com and Zumper are often used to find available apartment listings and property or engage with real estate agents for assistance.

Zillow (Oct 2023)

4. Cost of living in California

To show the cost of living in California, we are using the three most populated cities in California. 


Monthly cost

1 bed apt rent outside city center



Numbeo’s grocery list ($71.47 multiplied by 4)



Electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage


Internet with 60 Mbps


Transit pass



Meal, taxi, movie


Gym membership 




Numbeo (Oct 2023)

5. The weather in California

According to City-Data, California is known for mild and moderate climates. Summer begins at the end of June and ends in September however it is rather warmer year round compared to Canada. The month of August has the highest average temperature whereas, February is the coldest month of the year. 

You can expect average temperatures of 10.8 °C | 51.4 °F and the average annual rainfall is 774 mm | 30.5 inches.

6. What to do as a local in California

Residents of California take pleasure in spending their weekends either watching or playing football. In professional football, California has three popular teams known as the San Francisco 49ers, the Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams. 

California is also known for their beautiful beaches. As a local, you can spend time in the sun or at a local coffee shop. The most popular beach in California is Malibu Beach. 

If you are looking to have fun on your weekends off work, the Santa Monica Pier is your best bet. Locals love spending time with their family and friends at the pier, filled with restaurants, games, a ferris wheel and more!

7. Fun facts about California

  • Fun Fact #1:California is the third-largest state in the United States.
  • Fun Fact #2: The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is one of the most recognizable attractions in California.
  • Fun Fact #3: California has 20 national forests perfect for hiking and camping. 


Moving from Canada to California is an exciting experience that promises a unique experience! It offers an appealing lifestyle, making it attractive to individuals, young professionals, and families alike. California has several family-friendly neighborhoods and communities to offer to its new residents.

Are you planning to move soon? Check the best Los Angeles movers to assist you.


Widgets Magazine


Widgets Magazine

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Ann Nacario

The author

Meet Ann – our head writer with a knack for making moving and city living a breeze. From the many details of moving to picking the perfect moving company, she’s your guide. Ann has a friendly yet detailed approach to ensure your move goes off without a hitch. When she’s not writing about relocation, it will always be on her mind, but you’ll catch her spending time with her three furry friends.

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