Author Topic: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)  (Read 1040 times)

MissMuffins

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I will be starting a new job that involves cross border commuting (live in Canada, work in US), and I'm trying to get an idea of all the things I will need to sort out before starting this new job. The company I will be working for is helping me with the TN visa application, and several employees (including my manager) are Canadian citizens working in the US, so I'm fortunate to have a support system there.

So far, my list of things to look into includes:
TN visa - I will have support from the company throughout the application.
Social security number - I will apply after receiving my TN visa.
Nexus - application sent
US bank account - I will likely use the US branch of my Canadian bank to make transferring money to myself easier.
EZ pass - My commute includes a toll road. I will apply once my US bank account is set up.
Cell phone - One Canadian network (not the one I currently use) gets service in half of the office. I'll have to decide whether I want to stick with a Canadian service provider and risk having spotty reception, or switch to a US plan, but I haven't made it far into my research and I'm open to suggestions!!
Taxes - I have a friend who is a tax accountant and can point me in the right direction for someone who specializes in US tax. Yay!
Travel health insurance - I'm not sure if this is something I need, but I know the healthcare system is entirely different and want to make sure I'm prepared in case of an accident or emergency. Open to suggestions!

So for those of you who also commute across the border: What things did you do to prepare for working in a new country? What things did you wish you had done? Do you have any other advice for me?
« Last Edit: January 07, 2019, 03:52:30 PM by MissMuffins »

reeshau

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Re: Preparing for Cross Border Commute
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2019, 07:34:02 AM »
Said tongue-in-cheek by an ex-Detroiter:  get a van or truck with dual gas tanks.  Fill it up and take some gas back over the border.  Seems to be a popular option.  Most definitely not Mustachian, and I've never calculated the benefit...

FLBiker

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Re: Preparing for Cross Border Commute
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2019, 08:50:04 AM »
We're US citizens planning to move to Canada in the next year or two, so here are a couple of things we've found out that might be helpful.

US Bank Account - we're likely moving our stuff to TD Bank which seems to have good cross border services (I think it'll be two accounts though -- a TD Bank US and a TD Bank Canada).

Cell Phone - one option we're considering is keeping our current provider (T-Mobile) and adding their $10 per month North America talk package which will enable us to use voice calls in both US and Canada.  Data and Texting is already included in both places (which was great on a recent trip to Toronto -- we just used We Chat for voice).

Taxes - I'm learning about this now, but it seems like if you file Canada first, you won't have to pay anything in the US (though you may still have to file) because you'll have already paid foreign taxes on the income.

nereo

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Re: Preparing for Cross Border Commute
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2019, 02:21:59 PM »

So far, my list of things to look into includes:
TN visa - I will have support from the company throughout the application.
Social security number - I will apply after receiving my TN visa.
Nexus - application sent
US bank account - I will likely use the US branch of my Canadian bank to make transferring money to myself easier.
EZ pass - My commute includes a toll road. I will apply once my US bank account is set up.
Cell phone - One Canadian network (not the one I currently use) gets service in half of the office. I'll have to decide whether I want to stick with a Canadian service provider and risk having spotty reception, or switch to a US plan, but I haven't made it far into my research and I'm open to suggestions!!
Taxes - I have a friend who is a tax accountant and can point me in the right direction for someone who specializes in US tax. Yay!
Travel health insurance - I'm not sure if this is something I need, but I know the healthcare system is entirely different and want to make sure I'm prepared in case of an accident or emergency. Open to suggestions!

So for those of you who also commute across the border: What things did you do to prepare for working in a new country? What things did you wish you had done? Do you have any other advice for me?
I'll address a few...
US bank account - as another suggested we found TD Bank to be good because of their 'cross-border banking' and ability to use a TD ATM in either country fee-free. 

EZ Pass - you do not need a bank account to have an EZ pass - there is an option to pre-pay with a credit card (though its less of a hassle to have it linked and automatically re-fill)

Cell-Phone.  Compared to Canadian plans, US cell phones can be had for cheap.  We had a US number with the US+Canada plan, unlimited texting and calling for $30/month.  now that I no longer live in Canada my plan is $20/mo

Taxes - by law you must file taxes both with the IRS and with REvenue Canada.  Since there's a tax treaty between the two countries most or all of the income earned in the US will not be taxed by Canada, and vice versa.  THe exact amount depends on your tax situation and whether you can meet either hte bona-fide resident or physical presence tests. 

Health Insurance - check both with your job in the US (do they offer employer sponsored health care) as well as your province.  in Quebec we were not covered if we spent more than two consecutive weeks outside of the province or more than 180 days per year. Any care we got in the US within these confines would be reimbursement only (potentially very large out-of-pocket expenses) and not all reimbursement rates would cover charges from US hospitals.
Because of the two-week limitation we carried additional insurance to ensure coiverage when we were in the US.  Since each province's health care system is different I would first determine what limitations it has.

It sounds like you are thinking things through here and taking appropriate steps.
not sure what your living situation will be like but I'd also look into getting a mailing address in the US (a PO box if nothing else).  Surprisingly your credit history doesn't automatically transfer across borders, so you might want to get a secured Visa to establish some credit history in the US, which will come in useful should you continue to live and work there (for example, it will make it easier to rent a car in the US if you have a US credit card)

MissMuffins

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Re: Preparing for Cross Border Commute
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2019, 03:48:20 PM »

I'll address a few...
US bank account - as another suggested we found TD Bank to be good because of their 'cross-border banking' and ability to use a TD ATM in either country fee-free. 

Cell-Phone.  Compared to Canadian plans, US cell phones can be had for cheap.  We had a US number with the US+Canada plan, unlimited texting and calling for $30/month.  now that I no longer live in Canada my plan is $20/mo

Taxes - by law you must file taxes both with the IRS and with Revenue Canada.  Since there's a tax treaty between the two countries most or all of the income earned in the US will not be taxed by Canada, and vice versa.  The exact amount depends on your tax situation and whether you can meet either hte bona-fide resident or physical presence tests. 

Health Insurance - check both with your job in the US (do they offer employer sponsored health care) as well as your province.  in Quebec we were not covered if we spent more than two consecutive weeks outside of the province or more than 180 days per year. Any care we got in the US within these confines would be reimbursement only (potentially very large out-of-pocket expenses) and not all reimbursement rates would cover charges from US hospitals.
Because of the two-week limitation we carried additional insurance to ensure coiverage when we were in the US.  Since each province's health care system is different I would first determine what limitations it has.

It sounds like you are thinking things through here and taking appropriate steps.
not sure what your living situation will be like but I'd also look into getting a mailing address in the US (a PO box if nothing else).  Surprisingly your credit history doesn't automatically transfer across borders, so you might want to get a secured Visa to establish some credit history in the US, which will come in useful should you continue to live and work there (for example, it will make it easier to rent a car in the US if you have a US credit card)

Thanks for the information!

I am planning to continue to live in Canada and commute to the office in the US on a daily basis. I live close enough to the border, and the office is only about 5 minutes from the crossing.

Phone - For the cell phone plan, which carrier did you use? The fine print for the T-Mobile ONE plan states that service may be terminated for excessive roaming, which would be a real concern for me since I would only be spending about 8-9 hours a day in the US.

Bank - I currently bank with TD, so I think I lucked out in terms of being able to sync up my regular accounts with a US based account. I'm also thinking that a US dollar credit card would be a good idea, but need to decide whether to go with a card based out of US or Canadian TD.

Health Insurance - I feel silly because minimal searching found the link below. It looks like in my situation, OHIP would cover the cost of a doctor based on the Ontario Schedule of Benefits for Physicians Services, which I'm guessing is less than a US doctor would charge. My travel credit card specifically does not cover trips for the purpose of travelling to/from my place of employment. I'll need to look into what is offered by my employer.
https://www.ontario.ca/page/ohip-coverage-while-outside-canada

MissMuffins

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Re: Preparing for Cross Border Commute
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2019, 03:51:49 PM »
I forgot to add taxes. I will be a Canadian citizen/resident earning income in the United States.

From my understanding, I will pay income tax in the US first. Then when I pay income tax in Canada, I will use the amount paid in the US as a foreign tax credit.

nereo

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Re: Preparing for Cross Border Commute
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2019, 03:59:28 PM »
Phones - we were with Republic Wireless and I recommend them.  Currently we are with ATT, but only because we are now part of a family plan which wouldn't make much sense in your circumstances.  Regarding T-Mobile - you can always turn your phone off when not in the US.  Just flip it on each time you cross the border.

Health Insurance - be aware that the entire US health-care system is based around the idea that most people get their health care through their employer.  If your employer offers a health care plan (or plans) it will most likely be the cheapest option available.  Unlike in Canada/Ontario, there's all sorts of different coverages available, so best to find out what's available and then provide that information.  Big differences between 'cadillac' plans and HDHP (high deductible Health plan).

Taxes - um... sorta.  You will declare what income and taxes you are paying to both countries.  Since US taxes are due earlier (April 15th rather than April 30th) most people will pay the US taxes first, then Canadian taxes.  BUt you could do the opposite and estimate what US taxes you will pay.  You don't send copies of the your US taxes to Revenue Canada (nor vice versa). 

reeshau

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Re: Preparing for Cross Border Commute
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2019, 11:19:10 PM »
Taxes - um... sorta.  You will declare what income and taxes you are paying to both countries.  Since US taxes are due earlier (April 15th rather than April 30th) most people will pay the US taxes first, then Canadian taxes.  BUt you could do the opposite and estimate what US taxes you will pay.  You don't send copies of the your US taxes to Revenue Canada (nor vice versa).

It isn't about tax deadlines at all.  You can get an automatic extension of US taxes until October, as an ex-pat.  Rather, the important part is that most tax treaties say income is taxed where it is earned.  And then, the tax treaty prevents double taxation.  I will say the tax treaty between Canada and the US is one of the most complicated / comprehensive, and I don't know it specifically--take these statements with a grain of salt.  But you don't actually pay US taxes on April 15, anyway--you pay as you get a paycheck, and just file on April 15.  So I think the standard is simply acknowledging that taxes are paid as you earn in many countries, and reversing that would be burdensome.

kimmarg

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Cell phone I would check US options and coverage. Currrently I pay $5 for 24 hrs in Canada with Verizon which is clearly not sustainable long term (totally worth it for google maps driving by myself!) there are other plans where you can get unlimited in both countries.

Taxes - talk to a professional, at least once. I went the other way working in Canada as a US citizen and I actually got all my Canadian taxes back and only paid US. I was a grad student and made a pittance in both countries though. I actually got great info by calling Revenu Canada and they talked me through it but with more income benefits etc professional would be worth it.

Big bank is the way to go. I love my hometown bank but it always was a headache to transfer funds because they didnít do it very often.

Buy gas in US.

nereo

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Re: Preparing for Cross Border Commute
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2019, 07:05:17 AM »
Taxes - um... sorta.  You will declare what income and taxes you are paying to both countries.  Since US taxes are due earlier (April 15th rather than April 30th) most people will pay the US taxes first, then Canadian taxes.  BUt you could do the opposite and estimate what US taxes you will pay.  You don't send copies of the your US taxes to Revenue Canada (nor vice versa).

It isn't about tax deadlines at all.  You can get an automatic extension of US taxes until October, as an ex-pat.  Rather, the important part is that most tax treaties say income is taxed where it is earned.  And then, the tax treaty prevents double taxation.  I will say the tax treaty between Canada and the US is one of the most complicated / comprehensive, and I don't know it specifically--take these statements with a grain of salt.  But you don't actually pay US taxes on April 15, anyway--you pay as you get a paycheck, and just file on April 15.  So I think the standard is simply acknowledging that taxes are paid as you earn in many countries, and reversing that would be burdensome.

Thanks for the correction.  Yes, I should have said 'tax filing dates', as in both countries your taxes are generally withheld from each paycheck.
Regardless of which taxes you file first, you will have to declare your income earned from both countries and the taxes you have paid on said income. The intent of the tax treaty is to prevent double-taxation, and in general it works very well.  However the rules and deductions are different in both countries, so it's worth looking at your individual situation.

On that note even a non-US citizen can open an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) and contribute money.  This will lower your taxable burden to the US (your AGI, or Adjusted Gross Income) and that money will grow tax free.  You can either open a Roth IRA (very similar to your TFSA) or a traditional IRA (similar to your RRSP).  The maximum you can contribute in 2019 is $6,000; it's double that if you have a spouse - though admittedly I'm unsure if a spouse that doesn't live or work in the US could qualify.

MissMuffins

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2019, 12:59:33 PM »
So I definitely oversimplified the taxes section, but I think that's because my friend is a tax accountant and her firm has both US and Canadian offices, so she will be able to help me out/point me in the direction of a good tax professional when it comes time to file (not pay, my bad for poor word choices!!) taxes in each country.

The phone situation is tricky for me. I expect that the majority of my phone usage will be while I am at home in Canada, so I feel like it would make sense to stick with a Canadian-based plan. I will be able to access wifi while I'm at the office in the US, but I wouldn't have cell service there unless I was in one half of the building and switched to be with either Fido or Rogers.
I looked at Republic Wireless, but it looks like there is no Canadian coverage unless you're on wifi, which is a huge deal breaker for me.

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2019, 01:16:16 PM »
Remember you can now ship things to your US address to avoid costly shipping charges.

nereo

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2019, 01:22:08 PM »
Now all I can think about is how much I want a nice muffin to eat.

MissMuffins

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2019, 04:59:11 PM »
Now all I can think about is how much I want a nice muffin to eat.

41 Most Delicious Muffin Recipes: https://www.foodnetwork.ca/baking/photos/sweet-muffin-recipes

:) :P

MissMuffins

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2019, 05:01:03 PM »
Setting up a US bank account with TD has proven to be a much bigger challenge than I expected, but I would rather have the headache now and easier transfers later.

nereo

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2019, 05:06:34 PM »
Setting up a US bank account with TD has proven to be a much bigger challenge than I expected, but I would rather have the headache now and easier transfers later.

Unfortunately, until you have a SS# you're going to find that it's going to be a hassle to do a lot of things.  Thankfully once you get your TN Visa you can get your SS# in a day.

Don't be surprised if you are turned down for rewards cards at first - you'll need to establish a bit o credit history in the US.  Easiest way of doing this is to get a secured credit card through TD.  After 6 months or so you should be able to get a 'regular' credit card with a small(ish) limit to start.

happyfeet

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #16 on: January 09, 2019, 07:09:57 PM »
Cricket wireless now works in Canada.

MissMuffins

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2019, 09:44:01 AM »
Cricket wireless now works in Canada.

This phone thing is going to drive me completely crazy.

I am not confident at all that over 50% of my calls/texts/data usage would take place during the work day while I am in the US, so I don't think that I can get away with a US based cell phone that includes Canadian roaming.

Why.... why why why do so many US based wireless companies include roaming in Canada/Mexico in their plans, but exactly ZERO Canadian wireless companies (that I've found at least) offer the same thing for roaming in the US? If this exists for a fee less than the $5-8/day travel pass, please let me know!

Where is a "head hitting a desk" emoji when I need one? :P

MissMuffins

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2019, 09:53:04 AM »
This just in... if I use Rogers or Bell, I can get a plan that covers my time in the US for $100/month. Sadly, this might be the most affordable option.

I guess the other option is "just use wifi during the work day", which keeps me at my current (still ridiculous) $67/month plan.

Why is wireless in Canada the way it is :/

nereo

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2019, 10:16:04 AM »

Why.... why why why do so many US based wireless companies include roaming in Canada/Mexico in their plans, but exactly ZERO Canadian wireless companies (that I've found at least) offer the same thing for roaming in the US? If this exists for a fee less than the $5-8/day travel pass, please let me know!

Why is wireless in Canada the way it is :/

Lack of real market competition coupled with general acceptance by the public.
Canadians pay more for wireless than almost anywhere else in the world.
Telecoms argue that it's due to geography and population dynamics, but that's largely bunk when you make comparisons to place like Australia with cheaper plans, smaller population and similar coverage areas.
https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/wireless-prices-cell-phone-plan-canada-1.4652550

While live in Canada I found it was much cheaper for me to have a US plan with a US+Canada service contract than it was to get a Canadian plan that only worked in Canada (and had far less data).
Frustrating, I know...

MissMuffins

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #20 on: January 10, 2019, 04:44:28 PM »
While live in Canada I found it was much cheaper for me to have a US plan with a US+Canada service contract than it was to get a Canadian plan that only worked in Canada (and had far less data).
Frustrating, I know...

I think the US carriers have caught on to this strategy and it seems like they all have a "50%+ usage must be in US" rule.

I am hoping that since Bell and Rogers are offering a plan that can be used in the US, other companies will follow suit for a lower price.

Rural

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #21 on: January 10, 2019, 07:36:43 PM »
This just in... if I use Rogers or Bell, I can get a plan that covers my time in the US for $100/month. Sadly, this might be the most affordable option.



You can get a separate US phone and either leave it in the office or turn it off at the border for less than that.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #22 on: January 10, 2019, 07:46:40 PM »
With an office so close to the border, you can't be the only employee in this situation. Ask others what they've done for health insurance.

elaine amj

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Re: Preparing for Daily Cross Border Commute (living in Canada, working in US)
« Reply #23 on: January 10, 2019, 08:08:18 PM »

US bank account - I will likely use the US branch of my Canadian bank to make transferring money to myself easier.
TD borderless works pretty well. You might end up also opening up a US bank account.

Cell phone - One Canadian network (not the one I currently use) gets service in half of the office. I'll have to decide whether I want to stick with a Canadian service provider and risk having spotty reception, or switch to a US plan, but I haven't made it far into my research and I'm open to suggestions!!
Hmm...DH's local calling radius covered his work location so he just used that. Another option is to get a cheap US cellphone & plan (I like Truphone for very minimal usage that still offers a data component) and keep it in your office/car for emergencies and US travel. Then get a phone app with a Cdn number for use in the office with wifi. You are right though - there aren't a lot of options for what you need if your local calling radius doesn't cover your whole office.

Travel health insurance - I'm not sure if this is something I need, but I know the healthcare system is entirely different and want to make sure I'm prepared in case of an accident or emergency. Open to suggestions!
Before worrying, check to see if your employed offers health insurance. Typically your benefits should include US health insurance so you shouldn't have to stress when you are in the US. Or do you have a spouse who has employer extended health insurance?

MissMuffins

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Well it has been 2 weeks since my initial post and I feel like everything is moving at both a snail's pace and extremely quickly.

I haven't applied for my TN yet because I'm still waiting to receive some supporting documents. That means I still don't have my SSN. I'm expecting it will be at least another week or two before I actually get to start this new job.

My US bank account is set up, but I haven't applied for a US credit card yet. I'm thinking it would be a good thing to have if I want to buy gas or when I'm traveling for work.

I'm going to leave my cell phone as is until I have a start date, then will probably switch to Telus, Bell, or Rogers. All 3 offer a very similar $100/month plan that fits my needs, and that works out to be cheaper and more convenient than having both Canadian and US plans, and switching my sim card when crossing the border. I am interested to hear if you folks have any recommendations of one of the 3 companies over the other. From what I've read, Telus has the least abysmal customer service and good network coverage.

My employer offers health insurance, so I need to unserstand what is covered and how much it costs. I would also like to look into travel health insurance to compare, but I'm not sure if any plans include travel for work purposes.