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How Long Can A Canadian Snowbird Stay Out of the Country?

8/30/10 • By Milan Korcok, TIF Contributor

Since publishing this report, we have received so many questions from readers, that we decided to publish an updated version with more details and updates.

That is the most frequent question I hear from Canada’s snowbirds, who will be making close to one million out-of-country trips this coming season. The rules are not the same for all provinces. Read on to find out more.

How long you can stay out of the country depends on two things: your own provincial rules on medicare eligibility, and how long your host country (for most snowbirds that’s the United States) allows you to stay as a visitor.  These are two separate sets or rules, and they don’t necessarily coincide.

Let’s deal with the provincial rules first. All provinces, except Ontario and Newfoundland, require you to actually live in your home province for at least six months plus a day (183 days in most years) in order to be considered a permanent resident of that province, and therefore qualified for provincial health insurance (medicare) benefits. That means actually residing in your home province and being able to prove it, if necessary, not simply owning a residence there and living in Portugal, Mexico or California for eight or nine months. That means you are allowed to be out-of-the province for half a year less a day—182 days. (Caution: once you are out of your province, that 183-day clock starts ticking.  So if you ordinarily live in Manitoba and want to stay with family in Ontario for a month before leaving for Florida, you will only have five months left to spend in the Sunshine State.)

Ontario allows you to be out of the country for 212 days (seven months) and Newfoundland for eight months without risking loss of your medicare benefits.

If you stay out of your province longer than that, you risk losing your “residency” and with it your medicare benefits, and you will then have to re-instate your eligibility by living in your province for three straight months (without leaving) before you get those benefits back. And you will have to be able to prove that you have complied.

Since there are no provincial border police, you can expect a certain flexibility in how these rules are applied and I know of quite a few people who bend the rules to get a few extra days here or there. If it becomes an issue with your provincial authorities (that is, if your neighbor snitches on you and you are caught) the provincial authorities might well average out your out-of-province stays for the past two or three years to see how you measure up against that six-month threshold. They will not likely prosecute you if you are over by a few of days in one year. But as a general rule, it’s best to simply add up how many days you have been out of the country in a given year in total, and stay within the limits.

The other set of rules are set by your host country and have nothing to do with the medicare eligibility rules in your home province.  The U.S. rules are also somewhat flexible, but you best understand them.  Generally, you are allowed to stay in the U.S. for up to six months without a visa (more about this later) so long as the border agent allowing you in feels you have the wherewithal to support yourself, that you intend to return to Canada within that six month limitation, that you do not intend to stay in the U.S. permanently (illegally), and that you have a “greater connection” to Canada than to the U.S. If he feels you are manipulating the rules and actually living more in the U.S. than in Canada he can deny you entry and there’s not much you can do about it.

If you overstay that six-month allowance and are seen to be doing so by border agents you will likely be put on a restricted list and denied entry to the U.S. for a number of years. It’s too complicated to list the restrictions and penalties here—just, don’t do it.

If you do overstay and you are seen to be more of a U.S. resident than a Canadian one, you may well be required to pay taxes in the U.S. as well as in Canada and you don’t want that.

Travelling back and forth across the border has become a little more complicated over the past few years, but it is still relatively easy for Canadians due to certain dispensations the U.S. offers its northern neighbor.  In effect visitors from Canada are “deemed” to be travelling into the U.S. on a visitor’s visa even if you don’t have the paperwork to prove it. But if you want to stay longer than six months, you will have to apply for the real thing and that is a more complicated process—not for discussion here.

How do you prove your legitimacy and your domicile and your residency to a curious border agent?

Get a passport. And if you don’t already have one, shame on you. This is the 21st century and if you want the privilege of being able to travel to foreign countries (and remember, it is a privilege and not a right) then accept the obligation of being able to prove who you are.

And remember most of all, that once you leave your province and enter another country, your medicare benefits stay behind and you become responsible for paying for your own medical costs. You will be lucky if your provincial medicare pays 10 cents on the dollar of any foreign hospital bills you generate.

That’s what out-of-country travel health insurance is for.

All travel insurers advertising on this site meet TravelInsuranceFile’s acceptability criteria for out-of-country health benefits for Canadian residents and they represent most of the major insurers and underwriters in Canada. Some specialize in student plans. Speak with them, explore their products online, ask questions, and once you get the right answers, buy right online.

784 Comments

  1. We live in BC and are 2 minutes from the Washington border. We have entered the US many times for gas, shopping, weekend getaways etc. How do we find out how many days we have spent in the US to date, as we are planning to go to Arizona around Dec.10 for 3.5 months, and do not want to exceed our 183 days.

    • Tim:

      This is a very common question among Canadians close to the U.S. border. Alas, you will have to do your own counting as you go. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is not going to give you a readout of your border crossings, because they are not set up to do that. It’s a question of manpower and priorities. The CBP agent at the border makes his decision on the basis of the stamps in your passport and the answers you provide to his questions. As a frequent border crosser, you know what that’s like–usually, no big deal. However, If you’re going for a longer period his questioning may be focused on determining that you have a permanent home in B.C. and you clearly expect to return.

      I suggest that from now on, you get a calendar and tick off each time you cross the border–for gas, lunch or golf or whatever. And each time you cross, it’s a day you deduct from your 182-day allotment. Incidentally, you are allowed 182, not 183 days–although even that is elastic as the legislation underpinning this rule speaks not of days, but of months–six months.

      It seems you are paying attention to the rules, so you’ll be fine.

      Milan

      • Hi Milan
        1st Question – I see the extra two month extension will be helpful – when do think that will get passed?
        2nd – is there also a movement a foot to allow Canadians to actually retire full time in the states or even work in Canada and commute each day to their Canadians jobs and it be based upon a renewable visa – every 3-5 years is what I understand.
        Do you know anything about this?
        Thxs
        Sheldon
        Tsawwassen / Point Roberts WA.

        • Sheldon;

          I think you are referring to the 240 day visa legislation, That has been rolled up into the immigration reform bill which is extremely controversial and is nowhere close to being passed. Don’t hold your breath, The Administration and Congress are completely tied up with other issues and 2014 is an election year. That’s not a good scenario for passing anything as huge as immigration reform.

          Question 2: There is no measure that would allow Canadians to retire in the U.S. full time, although the 240 day visa would be renewable every three years, but it has some very onerous conditions, and the tax implications would require you to pay taxes to Uncle Sam. Chance of passage is very slim.

          Milan

      • Hi Milan
        So what happens when people go to the USA for a day or two days when living close by the border – re: 30 day rule for separate visits?

        Where do I find the 30 day rule ?

        • geri:

          Forget the 30-day rule for one or two–day trips. This was built in for people who spend the whole winter in the U.S. and want to go home, say at Christmas, to see the grandchildren. All the 30-day rule does is allow them to go home for 30 days or more without having those days count against their six month allowance. It has no applicability
          to one or to-day trippers like yourself. Don’t worry about that until you get to be a snowbird.

          Milan

          • Thanks.
            Was wondering if it applies if I go down for two weeks and then come home and go down 26 days later for two weeks – then don’t go down again for a few months and then only for 2 weeks (I go down to see my dad)?
            Looking forward to hearing from you.

            Geri

          • Geri:

            You should be OK. That’s not what the 30-day interruption rule is about. Just don’t exceed the six-month limit.

            Milan

  2. We are going on a week long cruise, so will be leaving US for this time, can we deduct this time from our 182 days?

    • Dianne:

      Since you will be sailing from a U.S. port, the week you are sailing will count as part of your 182-day allotment in the U.S.

      Milan

  3. Hi,

    I am going to Florida on November 16/13 and am staying there for two weeks. I am planning to go to Panama in Latin America to rent a place for six months, Would the 183 days affect my timei in USA even though I am spending most of my time in Panama? Thanks, Joanne

    • Joanne:

      Since you are moving on to Panama for six months, that period will not count against your 182 days (it’s not 183) days. The rule is that any trip out of the U.S. for 30 or more days is considered separately. Thus, your record should show two weeks in the U.S. in November, plus any other days you spend in the U.S. on the way back home.

      Milan

      • Milan, hi … I am confused. So you are saying that if I stay in the US for 182 days and then leave for Panama for 6 months I can still be covered by BC MSP.

        Does this mean if I global hop I never have to return to Canada or does the USA factor in here somehow …doesn’t sound right + I get easily confused …could you please clarify …thks …rory

        • Rory:

          You sure are confused. Who said you can stay in the U.S. for 182 days then go to Panama for a year and still be covered by BC MSP? Wasn’t me. The U.S. allows you to visit for up to 182 days Period. As of the beginning of this year, BC MSP allows you to be out of the province for seven months. But that doesn’t mean you are allowed to stay in the U.S. for seven months. The U.S. rule is still 182 days.These are separate laws. They have nothing to do with each other.

          Milan

  4. Milan, just one question for clarification. The rule that any trip out of the U.S. for 30 or more days is considered separately. Does this only apply if you are leaving the US to go to another destination besides return back to Canada? Example. I am leaving Canada to go to Florida on November 29th for 5 days. I then return to the US for three months on December 22, so I am not back in Canada for 30 consequtive days. How does this work?

    • Karen:

      The rule you refer to is mostly applied to snowbird or long-term visitors to the U.S. who want to break up their four, five, or six-month winter vacation by, perhaps, taking a cruise out of a U.S. port, or visiting Mexico, or even returning home for Christmas for a short time. According to that rule, if their trip out of the U.S. is less than 30 days, it will be counted as part of their four, five, or six- month vacation. If it is for 30 days or more, their return to the U.S. will be counted as a separate trip and those 30 days will not be counted as part of your allotted vacation 182 days you are allowed by the B2 visitors visa.

      In your case, however, you will not be leaving in November for a five or six-month vacation. You will just be going for a short five-day trip Nov. 29 to Dec. 4. You will then be going to the U.S. on December 22 for three months uninterrupted. I suspect, though I cannot guarantee, that the U.S. border agent will consider that a separate trip, although ultimately that will be at his or her discretion.

      I will be most interested in what the border agent tells you and how he interprets the rule. Let me know if you can.

      Milan

  5. Thanks for this information. I’m from Nova Scotia I hear rumors that governments in Nova Scotia and or USA have set a limit of six months plus a day per calender year for travel outside your home province. ALSO there should be no travel into the USA greater than 360 days over a 3 year span. I will need you to qualify and date your answer.
    Also regarding travel insurance, several years ago TD Insurance would give you worldwide protection. The question that comes to my mind is currently which company will come to you, stabilize your medical situation and bring you back to your home province?

    • Richie:

      The Nova Scotia health ministry requires you to be physically present in the province for at least six months (183 days) in order to qualify for medicare (provincial health insurance). The U.S. allows you to be present as a visitor up to but no longer than 182 days over the course of a calendar year. That can be in one long stretch or in shorter, more frequent visits.

      The two laws have nothing to do with each other. They are separate issues.

      As for the 360 day “rumour,” perhaps what you may be referring to is the substantial presence test which determines if you are considered to be a resident or non-resident for tax purposes. Following is the IRS rule on that point.

      Substantial Presence Test
      You will be considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes if you meet the substantial presence test for the calendar year. To meet this test, you must be physically present in the United States on at least:
      1. 31 days during the current year, and
      2. 183 days during the 3-year period that includes the current year and the 2 years immediately before that, counting:
      o All the days you were present in the current year, and
      o 1/3 of the days you were present in the first year before the current year, and
      o 1/6 of the days you were present in the second year before the current year.

      That test has nothing to do with how long you are allowed to remain, as a visitor, in the U.S. It only determines if you are potentially taxable. However, if you file an IRS 8840 form, you can establish that you have a Closer Connection to Canada than to the U.S, in which case you will not have to pay taxes to the IRS. (unless you are working or earning money while in the U.S.)

      I recommend that anyone spending any significant time in the U.S. on a regular basis file the 8840 each year. You can find it by going to http://www.irs.gov.

      Milan

  6. Hello

    Does the 6 month rule still apply for a Canadian citizen who has married an American citizen?

    If yes does the married Canadian citizen still face the same penalties?

    Thank you,

    Rob

    • Rob:

      It depends where you live. I assume you live together. Give me more information.

      Milan

      • Hello Milan,

        We live in Florida currently and reside together.
        She is the Canadian citizen and I am the American citizen.

        Does marriage change the rule or does she have to apply for a permanent visa first after marriage, then if approved the rule is no longer applied?

        thank you,

        Rob

        • Hello,

          The rule that I am referring to is the 6 month rule that a Canadian citizen who does not have a permanent visa is required to spend at least 6 months in Canada every year if they are also residing in the USA as well?

          Thank you,

          Rob

          • Rob:

            Yes, you first need to revise her status if she is going to reside permanently in the U.S. You should first see if you are eligible for the K1 fiancé visa. Check out: http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_2994.html. Once you obtain the visa, she can stay in the U.S. permanently. But you must do that quickly as there are time limits on how soon you must be married after you get the visa. Also, you should understand that once she leaves her home province to take up permanent residency, she will lose her eligibility for provincial health insurance. And you being a U.S. citizen probably know how difficult it is to get private insurance for a Medicare-age individual. That’s something I would encourage you to research thoroughly.

            If she does not have permanent status in the U.S. (usually in the form of a green card) she would be required to live outside the U.S. for at least six months as that is all that is allowed of a Canadian visitor on the B2 visa. But if you get married, you should be able to get permanent status for her in the U.S. That’s what the fiancé visa can lead to.

            Milan

  7. My retired Mom who lives in Ontario Canada would like to visit me in Tennessee probably every winter for the remaining of life. If she visits every year, what is the magic number she can visit me every winter without paying USA taxes? No formula, just a number that averages out. Thanks!

    • Christine:

      Your mom can visit you for up to six months (182 days) per year. If she earns no money in the U.S. she won’t need to pay taxes to Uncle Sam. I suggest though that she file an 8840 IRS form each year. That is documentary evidence that she has a closer connection to Canada than to the U.S. That is standard procedure for snowbirds. You can get the 8840 at http://www.irs.gov. She will be considered a non-resident for tax purposes but by filing the 8840 she will be cleared of any tax liability. It’s a piece of cake.

      Milan

  8. How does one go about getting an extension (say one week) past the 182-days.. Thank you

    • Mike:

      You can apply for an extension from within the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration and asking for Form I 539 before your legal period of stay is over.

      Go to http://www.uscis.gov and click on Form I 539.: Application to Extend B2 visa. But make sure you read all of the conditions. And don’t contact them too early or they will think you had this planned all the time. They may ask for documentation proving that you intend to return to Canada. And do not overstay that extension;.

      Milan

  9. Here is a first hand account of an experience form this fall this seems to contradict what I have read on this site. Now I am really confused appreciate your comments !!!!!!!

    Yes,we had an unsettling experience with the US CBP at Detroit on Oct. 5t on the way to Tex. Encountered two agents who stopped us and asked where we were going etc. I was completely honest, told them we we going to Tex. Returning on Mar 18th, 5 1/2 months. He then says, “What are all these border crossings on your passport!” I explained I live in a border town, go back and forth for shopping,gas, entertainment, travel through the US enroute to S.Ont, Wpg etc. Agent number one says well you can’t do that because you can’t be in the US for longer than 6 months. Agent #2 approached Donna’s window and gives her the line”Every time you go in the US even if only for one hour, that counts as a day! So I said I have never encountered this before, are you saying that the statute says that you cannot be in fo r more than 6 months total or does it mean 6 months consecutive days? I never got a specific answer to that question. They then searched our boat and came back and I had the distinct impression they were not going to let us enter. I asked again about the 6 months total or consecutive with no answer. In the meantime a 3rd individual approached and had been listening in but did not participate in the conversation. I did not see it, but Donna said that he motioned to these two guys to let us go in. At that, the first individual said; we will let you in but when you go home in March you will not be permitted to re-enter the USA until the end of Oct 2014!

    I did not know if they had “flagged” our passport to this effect or what and we were so confused and concerned because we did not want to loose the ability to enter the US when we came back in October. I tried to get some information from people I knew on the Canadian side but for obvious reasons they were unsure. We were so upset we decided we would go home and leave the trailer here, get this whole mess resolved, tally our actual crossings etc and find out what was going on. I had asked about this very issue with one of the US Border guys in Int. Falls in Sept on our way down because we talked about it at Fr. Francis’ place. His answer was: Oh don’t worry about it. That doesn’t concern you.
    We told our children what had happened and Matt suggested that rather than go home to resolve it why not go to the USBP station at Brownsville Texas as they have all the border traffic from Mexico so we did that as it`s only 175 miles away.

    The first agent I spoke to about it first determined that that I was a permanent Can. resident, Showed him our travel insurance for the time in question etc. He was positively incredulous and said that what we had been told was absolutely wrong. They have thousands of people who go back and forth 2-3 times a day all year long. You can`t be in the USA for longer than 6 consecutive months. He could tell I was confused and concerned and I explained that this had a significant consequence for us and I had to be sure so he said: Go and talk to the Supervisor inside, explain everything, then come back and talk to me again. Maybe there has been some change I`m not aware of but there`s nothing so far as I am concerned.
    So we did, went through the same scenario and were told the same thing. I asked about the not re-entering the USA till the end of Oct. 14, and If this was on our Passports. He ran our pass ports and said there was nothing there. I explained again our concerns, he was most helpful and said to wait an he would go call their head office. Came back a short time later and confirmed that everything he and the fist agent told us was in fact the current law and we had nothing to be concerned about. He could not say why the Detroit agents held this view and that was something I would have to address with them but if I ever encountered a similar situation, ask to speak with a supervisor immediately.

    Based on this is I was satisfied it was not necessary to go home and I sent an email off to Washington asking them to confirm which situation was in fact the law and detailing our experience on Oct 5th.

    I received a reply about about a month later asking for more information on the gate I went through etc. Then 2 weeks ago I got a phone call from a Supervisor at Detroit advising me that the law is: Every time you enter the US you may stay 6 consecutive months FROM THAT DATE. If you leave the US and go back into the US, it starts over again. He made no comment on the officers who spoke to me except that my concerns were addressed.

    Two days ago I received a written reply from the Port Manager at Detroit confirming the foregoing so that is where things now stand. He also said if I encountered a similar situation again in the future ask to speak to a supervisor. Hope this helps clarify things for you as it did for me. So many times you get the old line that it is a question of interpretation by the individual officer and my position was: No, this was a question of law so what is correct!
    Be happy to share my letter when I get home. I know when I checked on the net I couldn`t find a definite answer and other people had encountered the same situation but this is pretty clear now so far as I am concerned.

    • John:

      I see nothing here that is inconsistent with anything I have written. I have said many times that even if you cross over into the U.S for an hour, that will count as a full day against your 182-day allotment. I also have written that the six-month limit refers to the sum total of all days you have spent in the U.S. (short trips and long), either in the previous 12 months or calendar year. Some agents go by the calendar year criterion, others by the previous 12 months. That is up to the agent.

      Clearly, the frequency of your visits as recorded in your passport raised a red flag with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Detroit because, as you said, you were planning on staying 5 and a half months until March and it appears you had already accumulated more than two weeks worth of individual daily visits to the U.S. in the previous 12 months. Add up all those days and see what you come up with. If it’s more than 182 days in total, you will have overstayed your limit–and the agent who said you would not be permitted back into the U.S. until next October was perfectly correct. Perhaps another agent might not make an issue of it, but that was not one of your luckier days.

      Over many years, Canadians have become used to a very relaxed border crossing process when visiting the U.S. but those days are ending. I urge you to read my TIF column (November 12, 2013.) on how Canadian and U.S. border protection agencies are now sharing data on cross border travelers.

      Given that you make frequent border crossings, I urge you to do the following. It really is not complicated, but it does require discipline.

      From now on, keep track of every crossing into the U.S. whether it is for an hour, or three or four days, or five months. If you cross over just to gas up your car, that will count as one day of your 182-day allowance. That covers all trips–short and long term. Keep track of every day, add them all up, and see where you stand–if it’s more than 182 days in either the last calendar year or the last 12 months, you could have a problem.

      I am puzzled by what the supervisor in Detroit meant when he said that “every time you enter the US you may stay 6 consecutive months FROM THAT DATE. If you leave the US and go back into the US, it starts over again.” If that were true you would be able to stay in the U.S. from July through December (six months), return to Canada for a week, then return to the U.S. and stay for another six months. I think you may have misinterpreted him.

      Milan

      • Millan
        This was not directed at me but at a friend and what is the confusing part is exactly what you point out at the end of your response Not only did the border guard tell them this, my friend received a written document from them state the same. If I understand this correctly they have told Pat that each time you cross the border you are allowed to stay for up to six months. So each time you go over you are starting the clock from zero.
        Hope you now see why I am questioning this and Pat has a letter stating this. I know it goes against what you have been saying but a written document is either going to get someone fired or open up the doors for Canadians to restart the clock each and every time they enter the States
        Thanks for your response

    • A very interesting story. Are you able to share a copy of the email you received from the US customs? I live in Creston, BC on the border with Idaho. I shop many days throughout the summer then head to Arizona for the winter. A USA border agent told me the same thing. That is, they are looking for people who stay for more than 182 consecutive days. This issue is very confusing….so many different versions of what’s right?

  10. I have googled and googled about our ’6 month’ rule allowed into the USA, and found:
    1 – you can stay the 6 months in 1 calendar year
    2 – you can stay 6 months within 1 year
    Still didn’t feel satisfied with these answers, even on the USA border website it doesn’t spell it out for me enough to really understand; thus, I called the Point Roberts border crossing and spoke with an agent to clarify for me, the ‘rule’. This is what HE said:

    “As long as you maintain your residency in B.C., there is NO rule.” huh?
    After chit chat to clarify THAT, this is what he agreed along with me:

    If I own a house here in B.C. and be a snowbird to, say,, Arizona…as long as I don’t have to rent out my BC house to support my absence and do not work in USA, I can stay even for… 10 months!
    AS LONG AS I MAINTAIN MY RESIDENCY is what he repeated couple of times :-)

    • Anna:

      Do not count on that response. I think this particular agent was out to lunch. The rules remain: You can stay in the U.S as a visitor on a B2 visa for up to 182 days per calendar year or within any 12- month period. That can be in one long stretch, or an accumulation of shorter trips. You would not want to take a chance and stay in Arizona for 10 months only to find that you had been fed erroneous information. If you do Google, start by looking up the B1 or B2 visa rules.

      Milan

  11. Hi

    My wife and I are planning on retireing in Mexico this year, for 6 months.
    How long can we stay down there, we live in Manitoba now and would like to spend the cold months some where warm.

    • Collin:

      There would be no problem with your staying in Mexico for six months each year. Manitoba also allows you to be out of the province for up to seven months in the previous 12 without risking loss of your provincial health benefits.

      Milan

  12. Hello Milan.

    I have spoken with you here in the past and your answers have helped me.
    I just want to comment on the 182 day rule after reading the past posts of this year 2014
    I have spoken with 2 different American agents in the past 3 months. One when I was obtaining my Nexus card and the 2nd when I was trying to enter the US 2 days after I was refused entry in the US! Both agents said get the 182 days per year out of your head…we just want proof you have closer ties with Canada.
    I realize my situation different as I own no property in Canada nor do I rent. I live in a trailer in a trailer court and work 6 months in Canada and then ” Visit ” the US where my partner( An american citizen ) lives, for 6 months. She is with me 6 months in Canada and has exactly the same 6 month issue with Canadian agents.
    I assume there responses were due to my particular situation but it is confusing for many people.
    In my case I carry proof every time I cross the border that I do have closer ties. Family, work. Utility bills etc.
    I want to add a notice for readers here that the Agents at the border have the final say. Meaning if an Agent is having a bad hair day you can be hassled and even turned away and there is nothing you can do about it.
    Thanks for your time

    Michael

    • Michael:

      I am aware that some U.S. customs agents are very flexible in applying the 182 -day rule. But it would be very irresponsible of me or anyone else who offers cross border advice, to make believe there are no rules. When the rules change, I will alert you. I also believe that much of the confusion that exists is generated by border agents working from different pages. Thanks for your input.

      Milan

      • Milan,

        I am wondering if I use the 6 month response when I am questioned at the border at how long I plan to stay in the US is a good answer, as I have been told by agents and seen on line that it is 6 months which technically is 183 days. That way my partner and I are covered with spending ” 6 months ” in each others country.
        Again I know we have been tagged and its a moot point and that Agents have different views.
        Did you ever receive the email photo of the papers from John Trevisanutto.
        If you are unable to answer that because of confidentiality issues, no worries.
        Thank you
        Michael

        • Michael:

          Actually, the original rules are written as six months. That has just been transposed into 182 days. I advise everybody to say six months, if they are questioned by border guys. Travellers who refer to 182 days sometimes appear as if they are bean counting smart asses.

          Also, depending on which six months you count, you may get more than 182 days or less. Try it.

          Milan

  13. This is directly from the BC Health Care website:
    To qualify for MSP coverage, an individual must be a resident of British Columbia. A resident is a person who:

    is a citizen of Canada or is lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence,
    makes his or her home in B.C., and
    is physically present in B.C. for
    at least six months in a calendar year, or
    a shorter prescribed period*,
    and includes a person who is deemed under the regulations to be a resident but does not include a tourist or visitor to British Columbia.

    *Note: Effective January 1, 2013, eligible B.C. residents (citizens of Canada or persons who are lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence) who are outside B.C. for vacation purposes only, are allowed a total absence of up to seven months in a calendar year.

    • Linda:

      What’s your question? Residents of B.C. are allowed to be out of the province for up to seven months. That change was made last spring. It your website still says six months, it is out of date. That’s not unusual. I’m sure, if you search the website you’ll see the correct information somewhere.

      We reported the seven month allowance immediately it was passed by the legislature.

      Milan

  14. Hi Milan,
    We are so happy to have found your site as we are also very confused about how long we can safely and legally stay in the U.S.
    We own a home in Phoenix and vacation there approximately 160-170 days per year and usually no longer than 3 consecutive months at a time in a calendar year or a rolling year. We spend from mid-May to mid-November at home in B.C.
    Our last consecutive time in the U.S. was from October 22 to December, 17, 2013 and then we went home to B.C. for 28 days. When we crossed the border on January 14, 2014 the agent asked us about our previous time in the U.S. and how long we were planning to stay. We told her til the end of February. She told us we were close to our maximum time in a rolling year. According to our records we are within our correct amount of time, but we are now wondering if she counted the 28 days we were home for Christmas as part of our time in the U.S. Is this possible and is it in the rules that if you are in Canada less than 30 days that it can be counted as time in the U.S. even though we weren’t there ?
    Thank You,
    Marilyn

    • Marilyn:

      The border agent was correct. So was your assumption that the 28 days you were home at Christmas was counted into your 182-day allotment. Had you stayed in Canada 30 days or more: your return to Arizona would have been considered a separate trip.

      Milan

  15. Hi Milan
    I have landed in BC on Dec.2013 I was going to complete MSP form but I faced with a question as” will you or any family member be away from BC for more than 30 days in the next six month?”
    Actually I should leave Canada before completing 6 months but I will be out of country only for 3 weeks which is less than 30 days. Now my questions from you:
    1. Should I fill the option of ” NO” in MSP form for the above question ?
    2. In case of staying more than 30 days out of Canada, should I inform the health insuranceBC?

    Thanks
    Armita

    • Armita:

      I can’t counsel you on how to fill out your Medical Services Plan except that you do it truthfully. Since you do not plan on being out of the province for more than 30 days in the next six months, what other answer could you provide but No?

      Milan

  16. Hi Milan: we, like some of the people that have written you, are still confused. In your responses to one or more, you clearly state ” a total of 182 days in a Calender year – that would be January 1 to December 31 – right ? And then you refer to ” a rolling year ” that could mean February 1 to January 31 – right ? On a radio talk show last fall a US Border official told the radio audience that ” the 182 days is ANY 12 month period . Like you have said in several of your responses that ” it is up to individual Agent’s interpretation as to Calender or Rolling 12 months to determine 182 days.

    Can you once again confirm if it is Calendar or can it be (ANY ) 12 month periods.

    Thank you

    Laurie

    • Laurie:

      Yes, it can be any 12-month (rolling) period, or 182 days in a calendar year. That leaves the border agent the flexibility to use his own judgment. For example, if you spent the last six months (July through to December 31) in the U.S., went back to Canada for four days, and reappeared at the border intending to visit for another six months, the border agent would have to suspect that you were spending more time in the U.S than Canada. And that’s a no, no.

      Milan

  17. Hello Milan.

    I need some more advice. I left Canada on the 24th of September last. I came back in November for the birth of my Grand daughter for a week and at the time assumed those days spent back home would count as days not spent in the USA. From what I have read here it has to be more than 30 days for that to be the case. I am returning on the 25th of March and at the same time picking up my Nexus card. It will have been a total of 183 days on that day that I have been in the US. I did say when I crossed the border on September 24th that I was going for 6 months. Do you think I will have a problem when I cross over to the US next September.
    To compound my situation my partner is an American and comes back with me and spends ” 6 months” in Canada which will be 183 days when we leave next September. How strict is each side on the 6 month stay or will it be again up to the agent we encounter when we leave that day. What do you think. We are in the process of becoming dual citizens of each country, but that is not yet done.
    Thank you
    Michael

    • Michael:

      Yes you have to be out of the U.S. at least 30 days for those days not to count against your 182. You will have been in the U.S. for 183 days. Will that be problematic? That depends on the temperament of the border agent. That I cannot guess. I should think he would be a reasonable person as most of them are. But why put yourself in harm’s way. Why not go back to Canada a day or two earlier? What concerns me about your narrative is that you are both in the process of becoming dual citizens.

      This is not a simple process, especially as you are not a green holder (if you were you wouldn’t be concerned about your 182 day allotment). I strongly suggest that you know exactly what is required of you to become citizens. There are strict residency requirements in both countries that you must meet prior becoming citizens–or even permanent residents. You don’t want to jeopardize your citizenship potential for a few extra days going back and forth.

      Milan

  18. Hi Milan: I am an American citizen engaged to a Canadian citizen from Ontario Province. We are delaying our marriage while trying to research all options for staying in the states longer than 183 days. If we apply for a fiance visa and get married within the allotted 90 days is travel restricted until permanent residency is approved? We are both retired and are property owners in our respective countries. Also can you recommend insurance companies that will cover a Canadian citizen of 70 years old living in the US? Thanks for your help.

    • Linda:
      You already know about the K1 visa and that you must marry within 90 days of your fiancé entering the U.S. But what you have not made clear is if you both plan on living in the U.S, or splitting your time between U.S. and Canada. The K1 visa petition (filed by you) is normally followed by your spouse petitioning for permanent status or Green Card. Once you have that status you can travel back and forth as long as you want. But once you file for permanent residency it is not wise to leave the country until you have it. Here is a government link that could help you: http://www.uscis.gov/family/family-us-citizens/fiancee-visa/fiancee-visas.

      As for your fiancé’s health insurance: once your fiancé obtains his permanent resident status in the US, he won’t qualify for OHIP, or for travel insurance, which requires the applicant to have a provincial government insurance in place. There are expatriate or international health insurance plans available but they are relatively expensive and not as inclusive as OHIP. If you like, I can have TIF’s specialist on international plans contact you.

      Milan

  19. Hi Milan. I really appreciate the help you have provided to all who have questions dealing with 182day/6month issue. I was very surprised to hear you say that if you take a cruise from an US port, that the time spent on the cruise must be included in the 182day/6month rule. Please reconfirm this understanding. Also, if you can, can you address the issue of someone in “transit” going from Canada to say, Mexico but having to make a connection in a US airport? If a layover is necessary, does the time involved also eat into the 182day/6month rule? Trying to be optimistic, I along with many interested parties hope that the revision of the 182day/6month rule to add 2 more months, will take place during the current Obama administration as I believe he is much more willing to facilitate cross-border commerce. Thanks again for you insight and help.

    • Richard.

      Yes I can re-confirm that. The US. has recently toughened up its intransit rules but so far it doesn’t look as if will necessarily apply to Canadians but I would strongly suggest that next time you fly from Toronto to Miami to catch a cruise you make a point of telling the U.S. customs agent at Pearson airport that you are going straight through and see what his reaction is. If he looks friendly, ask him outright. Since he’s going to have your passport in his hands, you want to know what he does with it.

      As for the two-month extension plan–I wish the Canadian media would not be so naïve as to think that because some plan has passed the Senate, it’s passage is a sure thing. Far from it. The 240-day visa plan has been attached to the major immigration reform initiative and because that issue is so politically incendiary, there is going to be a lot of bartering before some version of it passes, if fact it does. There are some 800 to 900 pages in this bill, and the Canadian visa item is just one little section that most legislators don’t even know exists. This year? I’d bet on an asteroid hitting the White House first

      But even if it does pass the House and is signed by the president, this will not be a simple gift of two extra months. You will have to file taxes to the IRS, perhaps be required to own or lease long-term property, and you might also lose your eligibility for your provincial health insurance. Canadian tax lawyers who have looked at this bill have labelled it a tax time-bomb. So be careful what you wish for. 240 Days in The US – Is It Worth Additional Expenses?

      Milan

  20. Hi Milan,

    Thank-you for the excellent information you provide.

    We are considering spending up to one school year in Hawaii. We are financially able to do this without working, have a Canadian residence, have three children that have to go to school and have a business in Canada which we can manage from the US. We pay ourselves dividends rather than collect a pay check but would not need to make any dividend withdrawals while we are on our tropical sabbatical as we have sufficient cash to live off for the year.

    Our hope is that we can go to Hawaii late in August and stay until the Christmas school break at which point we would go back to Canada. We would then return to Hawaii early in January to finish the school year, staying until mid June.

    In 2014, we would be in the US for about 5 months. In 2015, we would be in the US for about 5.5 months. Our return to Canada would be for 2 – 4 weeks over Christmas.

    Our hope is that the six month stay duration will be counted per calendar year, which we would comply with. However, if considered on a rolling basis, we would be in the US for about 10 out of 12 months.

    We would rent a residence in Hawaii rather than own. We may ship one of our cars to Hawaii for the duration of the stay.

    What are your thoughts on whether the US will allow this? Will we be ok for BC Healthcare? Will we be required to file a US tax return?

    Thanks in advance,

    Cindy

    • Cindy

      What you propose is exactly what the U.S border agents look to prevent. They can and do apply the calendar year count, as you have. But they also can apply the past 12 months formula, which would not be to your favour. I think they would not accept a 10 out of 12 months stay. Also they would be doubly suspicious of you taking your car over there. It would look as if you were planning on staying.

      You could probably get an extended stay allowance from B.C. as they allow them for special reasons only once every few years. You also need to check with the school authorities as many states will non allow permanent residents or aliens to go to publicly financed schools. You would very likely have to file with the IRS–certainly an 8840 at least.

      Milan

  21. hi we are planning on going to mexico for 2 months next winter,here is our schedule.letme know what is does to our 182 days in the usa,we are Ontario residents,

    entering the usa oct,15th 2014,staying in the rio grand valley until jan.2th 2015 then driving to Puerto Vallarta
    until march 1st then driving back to the rio grande valley for the rest of the winter,can I deduct the amount of day’s I am in mexico from the 182 days allowed.

    • Fern:

      Since you will be out of the US (in Mexico,) more than 30 days, you can deduct all of that time from your US B2 allowance, but make sure you tell the US border agent at the US/Canada crossing point, October 15, what your plans are.

      My very serious concern is the car trip from the Rio Grande Valley to Puerto Vallarta which is some of the most dangerous territory in Mexico–especially for individual auto travel. If you will be crossing over at Matamoros or Reynoso, you will be entering states (Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Durango,) about which Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development has warned its citizens to avoid non-essential travel. The same level warning has been raised about states on the west coast. Those warnings must be taken seriously, as many Canadian travel insurers may not pay benefits for travel into such areas. Before you go, check the DFATD website.

      Milan

      • hi Milan

        we are going by motorhome and will not go unless we are 3 units.
        also we will be crossing in donna tx or all the way to nogales if we have to .do you have any suggestions where we should cross.

        • Fern:

          Going by convoy is the best–the only–way to go in Mexico. Since you will already be in the Rio Grande, the closest locations will be Reynosa or Matamoros. Don’t travel at night, and try stopping only in larger cities.
          Since you’re not going until next year, do some homework on your lines of travel, keep up to date on your DFATD government advisories.

          Milan

          • Hi, just wondering if a Saskatchewan resident can get permission to retain Sask. health benefits for a trip of 8 months , assuming they have done whatever is required by U.S.A. to stay past the 6 month period / or 182 days.

          • Garry:
            The Saskatchewan health ministry may allow you to stay out of the province for more than six months if you apply for it. They can do this once every few years, so don’t count on trying it each year. And if you expect the US to grant you some additional days past 182, you better check it out–that is not easy, and you will have to file with the US state department. Don’t take for granted that you will get that extra time.

            Milan

  22. Hi Milan
    Thanks for all your input.
    It would appear that, in the preceding experiences, the difficulty arises in the latitude allowed for border officials to interpret the law (either rolling, or calendar). To be reliant on a border agent’s interpretation of law leaves Canadians at a distinct disadvantage. This is too “loosey goosey” and leaves a very insecure feeling.
    Where would one look for a specific, definitive U.S. legal ruling that would take the guesswork out of this process?
    If this were to be copied and presented at the border, in the event of concern expressed by the agent, it would alleviate tension on both sides of the problem – the agent’s feeling of insecurity and then finding it necessary to present his firm interpretation; and our apprehension of the effects of a “bad hair day”.

    Again, thanks for the information passed on earlier.
    If you know of anywhere we could get a ruling, it would be very helpful.

    David

    • David:

      It’s not really that loosey-goosey in that 182 days or “six months” is the limit. Whether you clock it over a calendar year or a running 12 months, it’s pretty well the same in the end. I agree it would be clearer if there was one specific law that spelled it out, but there isn’t. So I can’t point you to one reference as the only reference. Ultimately, it is the US Customs and Border Protection agent that has the authority to allow you to come in and for how long. He is not obligated to allow you the full six months if he senses that you don’t have the means to support yourself for the duration of your vacation, or if he feels you don’t really have a home to return to in Canada. It’s not so much the border agent’s “interpretation” of the law that rules his decision, it’s his assessment of you when you approach the border. You can have all the documentation in the world to present to him. But it’s his assessment of you that is the ruling authority. Therefore I say have your documentation at hand should he ask for any, know how many days you have been in the US during the previous 12 months or calendar year, and show confidence that you know the rules and are abiding by them. But don’t pick a fight or make smart-ass remarks to the agent. And carry a copy of your 8840 Closer Connection form, which is pretty good proof that you are a Canadian resident and have every intention of returning.

      My rule of thumb for Canadian visitors to the US is “balance it out.” If you have spent six months in the US, stay home for six before heading back. If you do many shorter trips, add up how many you have taken throughout the year and don’t exceed the 182 day limit.

      Milan

  23. Hi,

    I’m an American-born dual citizen of the US and Canada. My husband is a Canadian citizen. Our residence is in Ontario, but we spend about 5 months of the year in Florida (purchasing out-of-the-country insurance for this period). We carefully count my husband’s days in the US. I also recognize that we both need to be mindful of Ontario’s residency requirements for OHIP.

    But are there any US restrictions on me as a US citizen in terms of staying in the US past the 182 days?

    Thanks.

    • Mary:
      No. You can stay in the U.S. as long as you like. You’re only at risk of losing your OHIP if you stay out of Ontario for longer than 7 months out of the previous 12. But it seems you keep track of your counting well, so you shouldn’t have any problems. My only hint of a problem is your husband staying in the U.S. for longer than six months, but you seem to have that under control.

      Milan

  24. if I stay in mexico for more than 6 months you say I lose my sask health benefits. does this mean I no longer have to file income tax in sask? if I am not entitled to my health benefits I should not have to file income tax.

    • Tim:
      Yes. You might lose your Saskatchewan health benefits if you’re out of province too long. But will you lose your obligation to file taxes? You’re kidding, aren’t you? Health benefits account for only about a third of government spending, but if you try not filing taxes while you live the good life in Mexico, you may find some guys from Ottawa coming to pay you a visit.

      Milan

  25. I was wondering if you know about the Bahamas. I have a house down there. I m allowed to stay down there 8 months. I stay in bc when I return. I have not applied for bc healthcare as Im out of the country to long.was hassled by the customs people when I returned. is there any reason for them to do this??

    • Andy:
      Are you a Canadian citizen? Was it the Canadian customs agents who hassled you?
      If you have no health insurance from BC I hope you’ve got good health insurance from some place. I have been to the Bahamas many times, and I have seen several vacationers shuttled over to Miami hospitals if they got really sick. Miami hospitals are among the most expensive in the country.

      Milan

  26. I am so confused! My husband and I will be renting a place in Florida from Nov 1/14 to April 30/15. We drive down which takes us 2 1/2 days each way. As an Ontario citizen I understand I can maintain my OHIP for 214 days, so that works out, if I don’t go any where else. During this time period we will be flying home once for 3 – 4 days. We will be giving up our rental in Toronto and are waiting for our purchased condo to be built. 6 months? Calendar year? Start the year from time of entry into the States? Which year do we use? When crossing the border do we say we are gone for 6 months knowing we will be coming home during that period? Do we need to fill out the tax form even if we are not away for a full 6 month consecutive period? I keep reading everyone’s questions and the answers but I am still not clear on any of the rules. HELP!!!!

    • Barbara:
      You need not be confused, unless you make it so. It appears you have. Yes, you are allowed to be out of Ontario for up to seven months in any 12-month period to keep your health insurance in place. OHIP specifies the 12-month period. Some other provinces specify calendar year.

      But the US does not allow you to stay seven months–only six, and that includes your two and half days driving each way and your three or four days back in Ontario. Yup…that’s correct. If you interrupt your six-month vacation in Florida for three or four days back in Canada, those days will count as part of your six month (182 day) allotment in the US.

      When you say you will be giving up your rental in Toronto and waiting for your purchased condo to be completed: what if that condo isn’t ready on time–which is not unusual. You then will be without a permanent home in Canada for an unknown period, and the only residence you have will be your rental in Florida. You might have some explaining to do to US Customs and Border Protection people about that. Certainly take documents verifying your condo purchase with you to help prove you have every intention of returning to Ontario. But you still can’t exceed the 182 days–unless you apply for an extension–from within the US. That’s something you cannot do ahead of time. At the border you tell the truth: that you are going to Florida for six months and you might have to return to Canada for a couple of days to take care of personal business. But make it clear that you will not exceed 182 days. And say nothing about the possibility that you might have to seek an extension to your 182 days if your condo is not ready. It’s better to have a backup residence lined up back in Toronto where you can stay until the condo is ready. Maybe with family.

      If by tax form you mean the 8840 closer connection to Canada, you should already have been filing it each year as you do appear to spend enough time in the US to be considered residents for tax purposes.

      Milan

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