Pre-Departure Packing List

Fitting your entire future into 1 or 2 suitcases is a challenge for most of us.  An immigrant’s packing list depends on several factors: landing alone or with dependents, accommodation upon arrival, destination, arrival date, and so on.  But here is a recommended basic packing list.

1. Medications

One of the best things about Canada is its public health insurance.  This means that most health-care services are available at no cost to Canadian citizens and permanent residents.  However, each province and territory has its own health insurance plan.  In some provinces, new residents are required to complete a waiting period of up to three months to be eligible for health care coverage.

Weather-related discomforts or seasonal allergies are quite common, so it is better to be prepared. 

Prescription and over-the-counter medication for a single course of treatment or a 90-day supply can be brought into Canada.  The Government of Canada’s Travel and Tourism site offers tips for travelling with medications without a hitch.

Include medications in your packing list. Pack these in your carry-on bag.

Clothing for Canadian immigration packing list
Autumn in Whistler, British Columbia

2. Documents

Immigration Documents

During the immigration interview, you will be requested to present:

  • Passport or travel document
  • Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR) for yourself and all accompanying dependents
  • CBSA Declaration Card

Make sure to prepare two copies of a list of all the goods you intend to bring into Canada required by the Canada Border Services Agency.

During my interview, I was asked about the funds I am bringing into Canada. Fortunately, I made a list of currency and monetary instruments (bank draft) I had with me. My diligence seemed to impress the officer.

Required documents should be on top of your list. These should be easily accessible for presentation to the Immigration Officer at the airport.  So, pack these in your carry-on bag.

Other Documents

I brought multiple copies of authenticated documents and reference letters with me but have not yet used any of them.  My past and current Canadian employers have not requested any document.  Also, if applying for foreign credentials accreditation, the certifying body may request that the documents be sent directly to them by the educational institution.

The Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials is a great starting point for research on this topic. 

My recommendation would be to bring one original copy of each document. Then, scan and save an electronic copy for easy sharing.

These documents can go into your carry on or checked bags.

Packing list should include summer clothes
Summer in Vancouver

3. Clothing

I love clothes and shoes.  I am petite so I anticipated the challenges of finding clothes that properly fit my size and preference in Canada.  As you may guess, I brought too much of everything.  Looking back, I would prioritize my packing list differently.

A quick Google search would tell you that the secret to staying warm during winter is wearing layers. So, you can still wear your warm-weather clothes with proper additional layers.

Every time I go home, I would eagerly go to malls to shop.  I find Philippine mall prices for clothing close to Canadian prices.  Also, endless options of reasonably priced clothing and shoes are now available online. 

In general, I would then recommend bringing what you have and purchasing weather-appropriate clothing and shoes in Canada.  An exception to this would be a nice suit set and formal shoes for interview.

The question remains, what should you pack?  This depends on your destination, arrival date, target industry, and activities. The photos above should give you an idea.

Pack at least one set into your carry on bag in case of flight delays or issues with your luggage.

4. Food

One of the things immigrants miss the most is their traditional food.  The good news is that there are many stores and groceries in Canada that offer ethnic food.  Ethnic food aisles are also expanding in big chain stores like Walmart and Real Canadian Superstore.  So, if luggage space is an issue, you may find comfort in the thought that a taste of home is not out of reach.

On the flip side, prices of imported food items are at least thrice its local price.  Besides, some special items may not be available.

When I was preparing to move, I frequently checked prices and availability of food on the Walmart and Real Canadian Superstore websites. This gave me an idea if the extra weight is worth the savings. You may also want to do your research on the T&T Supermarket website.

Food to include in packing list
Spices and seasonings at a supermarket

The decision to pack food may be influenced by several factors. If you are fortunate enough to stay with friends or relatives for a month or so, you won’t need to bring as much food to get you started. But if you have food restrictions or have kids, you may want to bring as much food as you can until you find food items that suit you.

Personally, I would pack food in my checked bags. But if you have kids, have food restrictions, or have long layovers, packing snacks in your carry on may make the long trip more bearable.

5. Personal Care Products

There is a massive amount of shopping options for personal care products in Canada.  But honestly, I still hoard products made in the Philippines or Asia whenever I go back home.  Maybe I am just used to these products or maybe it’s because these were formulated specifically for Filipino or Asian skin.  For example, remedies for blemishes and skin problems that we always see in TV commercials are not readily available here. The herbal soaps and shampoos are not as popular here

As you can guess, my checked bags would always contain personal care items. But, I bring lotion, moisturizer and lip balm in my carry on bag as my skin and lips get uncomfortably dry during flights. Make sure that you follow the guidelines for liquids, aerosols and gels for your point of departure.

6. Office Supplies

Pens and a notebook would come in handy especially during your job application process.  So, it is nice to have this handy.

A useful tip that I learned while attending employment workshops is to bring a portfolio or executive binder to the interview.  You may use this to carry extra copies of resume, pens, and paper.  In addition to giving you a more professional look, holding the portfolio will make you less fidgety during interviews.

Pack a couple of pens in your carry on as you would need to complete the CBSA Declaration Card.

Packing makes the departure process feel more real. It can be both exciting and stressful. But with a bit of research, you will know what to add to your packing list for your move to Canada.

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