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June 9th 2023

A guide for Canadians moving to New York City

Moving from Canada to New York City? We've got you covered. Check out tips on everything from finding an apartment to managing your taxes and transferring your Canadian credit history in this guide for moving to NYC.

Nova Credit is a cross-border credit bureau that allows newcomers to apply for U.S. credit cards, phone plans, and loans using their foreign credit history.

Nova Credit receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but this content is not provided by them. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

Alison Rogers
Journalist and real estate broker

Canada and the U.S. have rubbed shoulders for a very long time — the U.S.-Canadian border, more properly called the International Boundary, is more than 5,000 miles long, making it the longest border between any two countries in the world.  Perhaps because of that physical contact, Canadians and Americans tend to get along. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the two countries “closer than friends…more like siblings really.” Toronto and Montreal are each only about an hour-and-a-half flight away from New York City, according to SkyScanner.  There are currently about 45,000 Canadians in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Feeling homesick? Here’s a guide to moving to NYC

‍What to know when moving to New York City from Canada

The Canadian Association of New York hosts the black-tie Maple Leaf Ball as well as other events for Canadian expats in NYC. Tribeca bar Warren 77 is a good place to watch hockey, though it’s full of Rangers fans (New York Ranger alum Sean Avery was a founder.) If they’re not playing the Rangers, you can see the Maple Leafs at Dewey’s Pub in Midtown. If you just want to drink without watching sports, Brooklyn’s Ontario bar serves Molson and Labatt’s.

For eats, M. Wells in Long Island City makes a mean poutine, as does Mile End Deli in Brooklyn and Pommes Frites in the West Village. Although relatively new owner Burger King shuttered a lot of New York stores, there’s still a Tim Horton’s in Penn Station if you have a craving for Timmy Ho’s coffee. Butter tarts pop up from time to time at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg. And the newly opened Bar Bête serves French-Canadian food in Carroll Gardens.  

To call Canada from the U.S., check out these cell phone providers: T-Mobile offers plans that include unlimited calls to Canada, as does Verizon (who also lets you use your foreign credit history to quality for phone financing plans!). AT&T includes calls to Canada in certain plans. Learn more here while Sprint doesn’t charge for calls to Canada.

How to find an apartment as a Canadian in NYC

Publications such as the New York Times, craigslist.org and brokerage websites are all good sources of real estate listings. If you are connected to a college or university, their local housing office can help too. To find an apartment, consider your budget, your commute, and your social needs. Then consider your budget again. A 2019 report by Miller Samuel for Douglas Elliman noted that Manhattan median rent was $3,600 per month, while in Brooklyn it was $2,950.

When moving from Canada to New York City, be sure to ask the landlord if he or she uses Yardi, Intellirent, or First Advantage -- these are all companies that accept foreign credit history from selected Nova Credit-enabled countries like Australia, Canada, India, Mexico and the UK to reduce the upfront costs of your move. If they still require a U.S. guarantor, you can opt for a service like The Guarantors, a Nova Credit partner that will guarantee lease payments for a fee.  

As a Canadian expat in NYC, use your foreign credit history as part of your rental application

In New York City, new rent regulations state that you can hire your own rental broker, but as a tenant, you no longer have to pay the broker who represents the landlord. Remember to ask the landlord’s broker what is included in the price. In Toronto, for example, there has been a development boom of new condos—but in New York a condo could be from the 1980s or even older, with a different set of amenities than a modern building. Some questions you’ll want to ask are (“Who pays for heat?” “Who pays for Internet?” “Can I use the building’s gym, and if so, what’s the charge?”) 

When moving to NYC from Toronto, or anywhere in Canada, be aware that in addition to any brokerage fee, buildings often have “move-in” and “move-out” charges. Sometimes these are straight-up fees like charges for the use of the building’s freight elevator. Sometimes they are deposits which you will have refunded if your movers don’t damage the building’s walls or floors. Luxury condos, which offer some of the nicest apartments, also have some of the highest fees, so check before you sign a lease what you’ll be getting into. Also, you’ll probably put down a security deposit, which in New York is legally restricted to a maximum of one month’s rent.

Also read: The Ultimate Guide to a Canadian Buying a House in the U.S.

How to get around as a Canadian expat in NYC

The New York City subway opened in 1904, and riders of the transit system, known as the MTA, make 1.68 billion trips. If you’re coming from Toronto, say, you’ll be used to a large transit system that operates on both buses and rails. New York, however, runs the subways 24 hours a day. Trains are identified by a number (“the 6 train”) or letter (“the Q”) and run every 2 to 10 minutes during rush hour. Toronto Transit Commission alum Andy Byford, who ran the MTA for two years, brought on-time rates up to 84%. However, many trains are still plagued by delays due to an antiquated signaling system. Make sure that your planned train is running as scheduled by consulting a transit app like CityMapper. On nights and weekends, when many subway updates and repairs are done, you can also check the MTA’s “The Weekender.” Also, be aware of the distinction between “local” and “express” -- listen to train announcements to make sure that your train doesn’t suddenly run express and skip your stop. 

The NYC subway is unzoned, so it costs the same fare, currently $2.75, to ride the subway from any station to any other station. That’s fractionally cheaper than the $3.10 you would pay if you were in Toronto and using a Presto card.

In keeping with New York’s special relationship with Canada, when moving to New York from Canada, you can exchange your valid Canadian driver’s license for a New York State license without having to take a driver’s test. (The New York Department of Motor Vehicles will still require you to take a vision test.) Bring proof of your identity and your Canadian license to a New York DMV office within 30 days after you become a New York resident. The fee for the exchange is currently $75, and your New York license will be valid for five years. 

Managing your finances

Taxes:  As a Canadian expat in NYC, check in with the Canada Revenue Agency to see if you are deemed a non-resident or if you are deemed a factual resident of Canada, as that will affect your tax payments accordingly. 

Banking: You’ll want to set up a U.S. Bank account. Banks with a strong presence in the U.S. and Canada include a couple that are household names in the U.S., for example, Chase Bank and TD Bank and BMO Harris (the TD stands for Toronto-Dominion, and the BMO for Bank of Montreal, but you probably already knew that).  ‍

Moving money: International money transfer options can be quite complicated between some countries—but thankfully that’s not the case for the U.S. and Canada. RBC Bank has strong cross-border options for Canadians in the U.S., as does CIBC. Another good option is Wise, which pairs one client’s currency movement from Point A to Point B with another client’s currency movement from Point B to Point A to reduce friction (and fees) on both the transactions.

Credit cards: Nova Credit has partnered with American Express to streamline the process of obtaining a charge card. Here’s a list of possible cards that you can get using your Canadian credit history. 

The takeaway

Learn more about products available for Canadian newcomers to the U.S. here. For more resources on how to navigate your new life in the U.S., you can visit Nova Credit’s resource library where you can learn about everything from renting an apartment to finding the best credit cards for non-citizens.

Moved to the U.S. from Australia, Kenya, or the Philippines?

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A strong credit score helps you access a lot in the U.S., and a credit card is an easy way to start building your U.S. credit score. Access your free international credit score, and see which U.S. credit cards could be right for you.

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