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Travel Insurance File
Expert advice on travel insurance & cross-border trips

Update on How Long Canadians Can Stay Out of the Country

4/14/11 • By Milan Korcok

NEW! An updated version of this article, with additional details, can be found here.

Since publishing our February report on how long Canadians can stay out of the country according to U.S. and provincial rules, we have been besieged by questions relating to readers’ specific situations. So let’s take another run at it, with a little more detail and updates.

First, let’s understand that there are two separate and distinct sets of rules that govern how long you can stay out of your own country and province.

The first is the U.S. rule that allows Canadian visitors to spend up to six months in that country in any given year. (This allowance is far more generous than the 90 days it grants visitors from other nations).

The second set of rules is the one applied by provincial health ministries that require you to be physically present in your home province for a specified time in order to qualify as a permanent resident, and therefore be eligible for medicare. For most provinces, that requirement is six months plus a day (183 days) spent at home. The exceptions are Ontario—which requires you to be present for only five months (153 days) and Newfoundland and Labrador which requires only four months (122 days). The remainder of the time you can be out of the province or out of the country.

In all cases, if you lose your medicare eligibility, you must reinstate it by being physically present in your province for a minimum of three consecutive months. During that time you will be without provincial health insurance.

According to U.S. rules, you can use your six month allotment in one trip, as many snowbirds do, or split up your trips into several shorter segments. The U.S. also calculates its allotments on monthly bases: example, from October 15 to April 15 (which actually is 184 days).

The provinces also differ slightly in the way they do their counting: the following provinces/territories require you to be physically present for at least 183 days per calendar year (whether in one stretch or in shorter segments):  B.C. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia, PEI, NWT, Nunavut, Yukon.

Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador calculate their in-province residency requirements on “any 12-month period,” even if it overlaps from one year to the next. These differences may appear subtle, but the 12-month period criterion prevents residents of these provinces from fusing one full allowance at the end of one year, to another one at  the beginning of the next, so as to gain one big windfall. Obviously U.S. border agents would quickly catch on to this tactic.

Snowbirds who tend to settle in the sun for long periods, often six months at a stretch, sometimes complain that the provincial residency rules prevent them from travelling inter-provincially during the summer as they will have used up their out-of-province allotment. And though we don’t have border agents guarding provincial boundaries to check on who goes where within Canada, this does present a deterrent to inter-provincial travel later in the year.

Quebec has a more practical approach: it allows its residents to travel out of the province, or even out of the country, for short trips of up to 21 days without counting them against the 183-day per year residency requirement. The Regie, in  Quebec, however, warns its residents that it conducts checks to ensure compliance, and persons not following the rule will lose their health coverage for the entire year in which they contravened the 183-day rule, and will have to repay the costs of any medical services provided to them during that year.  Any questions?

All travel insurers advertising on this site meet TravelinsuranceFile’s acceptability criteria for out-of-country health benefits for Canadian residents. You can buy online or get more information on each plan by visiting our Insurance Products section or click on the logos of insurers down the side of the homepage.

 

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59 Comments

  1. We are Alberta residents and Canadian citizens. Our 6 month snowbird status expires April 5. Is an extension available for illness?

    • Mary:

      I don’t understand your question. Are you asking if the Alberta government may revoke your medicare status for being out of the province too long? Or are you asking if the U.S. will sanction you for overstaying the six month limit? These are two separate set of rules.

      Milan

  2. My wife and I are Americans with permanent landed immigrant status in Canada and live in Ontario. I see that Ontario allows us to be out of the province for 7 months.
    As Americans, can the US stop us from going into the country if we enter the US for more then 6 months?
    Secondly, we live in a border town. Are day trips to restaurants, visiting friends, sporting events counted as time out of province or by the US as a day in the country.

  3. You tell Canadians “The first is the U.S. rule that allows Canadian visitors to spend up to six months in that country in any given year. (This allowance is far more generous than the 90 days it grants visitors from other nations).” This is true but if additional days are logged in adjacent years some special laws come into play and may impact on one’s tax/income situations. Most snowbirds do not know of this law and many who do simply ignore it (perhaps to their detriment, should it be discovered that they have ignored the law).

    Check the link below regarding ‘Substantial Presence’ and ‘Closer Connection’ implications.

    http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/article/0,,id=129390,00.html

    • Frank:

      If you have been reading any of these blogs and threads you will seen innumerable references and explanations of the “substantial presence test” and the “closer connection” requirements. In fact, we have one such query discussed today.

      Keep watching. There will be more.

      Milan

  4. Milan,

    My question I hope is simple. I married a Canadian citizen 2001. I am US citizen (born here in US). For past 11 years my poor husband has been traveling back and forth staying here with me for 3 months then going back Canada for 3 months ect ect. This is really wearing him down,he lives with his mom and him and his brother take turns taking care of her. When she passes he wants to be able to become US citizen. He is not able to work and is on disability from Canada and I am also on disability ( I am 51 he is 41)..we have been looking into him becoming a us citizen and looks like from what we have read that because I am on disability I can not sponcor him and also that we been married for all these years and he had not filed to live here. What is the best way to go about getting him US citizen ship. Thank you.

  5. I concede that by creative book keeping the US requires I return to Canada in 6 months eg Oct 15 – Apr 15 even if I am actually out of the country on some trips shorter than 30 days so that I really was not actually in the US all that time. That would be an immigration issue. What about a taxation issue. ie. If I file a 8840 do I count the days I was REALLY there or do I include the days I was out of the country on the short trips? Mary

  6. We live in BC Canada I want to know my husband and I go to Mexico for 6 months every year I was wondering do they have a extended time for health care to be out of the country?

    • Debbie:

      B.C. allows six months out of the province per year. You can apply for longer stays once every five years, but you must apply first and get permission.

      Milan

  7. Who determines calendar versus 12 month period for determining the out of country calculation of number of days absent from Canada (specifically Ontario)?

    • Pat:

      OHIP rules that you are allowed a total of up to seven months out of the country in the past 12 months in Ontario.

      Milan

  8. My accountant mentioned that if you were out of the province for more than six months CRA could determine you are no longer a citizen for tax purposes thereby deeming your Canadian property to be sold (whether it is or isn’t) and you have 90 days to pay any and all taxes due from the deemed sale.
    Anybody know of this?

    • Bruce:

      The last thing I would do is argue with an accountant. I would rather wrestle with an octopus. But I will pass on your question to an international tax expert for his opinion and get back to you.

      Milan

    • Bruce:

      Here is the response to your question provided by international tax advisor Richard Brunton, of Boca Raton Florida. If you or any others have similar questions concerning cross-border tax issues or need professional advice, you can contact him directly at S. L. Richard Brunton, CPA, at The Brunton-McCarthy CPA Firm, rb@taxintl.com or http://www.taxintl.com.

      Question: My accountant mentioned that if you were out of the province for more than six months CRA could determine you are no longer a citizen for tax purposes thereby deeming your Canadian property to be sold (whether it is or isn’t) and you have 90 days to pay any and all taxes due from the deemed sale. Anybody know of this?

      Answer: There is an element of truth there, but as usual in tax matters the complete answer is a little more complex. First of all CRA cannot determine an individual has lost citizenship because of the circumstances you describe, but it can determine the individual has become a nonresident of Canada for Canadian income tax purposes. Further, if an individual becomes a nonresident of Canada, generally there is a deemed disposition of his/her assets at fair market value at the time the individual becomes a nonresident, and thus Canadian tax payable on any taxable gain. This is referred to as the “departure tax”. However there are exceptions to the deemed disposition rule. Generally, directly held Canadian real estate, Canadian pension type assets, and Canadian business assets owned directly, are excluded from the deemed disposition.
      For individuals who do have a Canadian tax liability under the deemed disposition rule, the tax is due with the individual’s tax return for the year following the year the individual became a nonresident. Thus the tax would generally be due April 30 of the year after the individual became a nonresident. Nonetheless, there is a provision in the law that permits the individual to negotiate security with the government, such that the departure tax is not payable until the secured asset is sold or the death of the individual.
      Normally Canada would not have reason to declare an individual a nonresident of Canada if he/she was temporarily outside Canada and retained the normal ties to Canada which are used to define Canadian residency for income tax. However the result you describe could arise if an individual became a resident of another country with which Canada had a tax treaty, for example the United States, and under the so-called “residency tie-breaker rules” of the treaty the individual was deemed, for treaty purposes, to be a resident of the United States. In those circumstances, if it proved to be of benefit to CRA, they could consider claiming the treaty provision to declare the individual a nonresident of Canada, thus triggering Canada’s “departure tax”.

      Richard L. Brunton, CPA.

  9. Hi,
    My Grandmother is a canadian citizen and is getting a monthly pension, her husband just passed away few months ago, and now decided to have vacation backhome for 6 months, my question is, what will happen if she over stay backhome –more than 6 months in ( philippines ) she is so depressed and lonely here, also what will happen to her pension? How many months usually they will allow here to stay outside canada.thanks

    • Sarah,

      She can stay out as long as she likes. As a Canadian citizen she retains that citizenship for life. She should also receive any pension that is due her no matter where she is. The only caution I raise is her health insurance–if she stays out of her home province for a certain length of time she may lose her health insurance–it depends which province she lives in. In most provinces she must be present at least six months, in Ontario five and in Newfoundland four.

      Milan

      • Thanks Milan for the response…well as of her health insurance we will buy her health insurance backhome ( its cheap anyways ) and once she decided to come back here then thats the time for her to go in OHIP ( ontario health office and asked what to do and explain to them why she over stay backhome etc.. ) how about for filing yearly income tax? what should we do then? if she still not here yet? for example next yr filling…. ie..she is leaving by september of this year then income tax filing for next yr 2014 is around march – april…and she still not here yet? also for her pension, so it doesn’t matter if she will over stay in the philippines ? her pension will still continue ( she’s getting it direct deposit anyways)..thanks for your help

        • Make sure you get good health insurance that covers everything. Travel insurance will only cover sudden emergencies and not pre-existing conditions. You will probably need international medical insurance for when she is away and for the time she returns to Ontario because she will have to live in Ontario for three months before she will qualify for OHIP again and you don’t want her uninsured. I will have an international insurance specialist contact with for some options. I can’t answer your tax filing questions: I leave that to tax experts. But she can receive her pension wherever she is is–especially as it is direct desposit.

          Milan

          • Thank you Milan you are a great help..will make sure she’ll get good insurance. and yes you are right..maybe when she comes back we will make sure we will get her insured here while she is waiting for her OHIP to be active again.

          • Hello Milan…First of all thanks for the great service you provide. I am a Canadian snowbird who spends my entire 6 months in my owned Florida home. I want to extend my stay another 2 months. What does the US Immigtartion accept as a valid excuse? My elderly mother is a resident alien in Tampa and has some health issues I can assist her with. I can also take a night school course if that would be acceptable. If by chance I have my 2 month stay extended (15 June 2013) Does my clock restart for another 6 months starting in Oct?

            Thanks so much

            Steve

          • Steve:

            Like any bureaucracy, the U.S. border control doesn’t deal in excuses and you have a hard case to prove. Anybody can have a parent or resident to needs a little help. Frankly, I don’t think they’ll buy it. You may have to be satisfied with six months. If you’re staying until April 15–which I surmise from your calculation, You’ll be able to go back October 15 as the border agent will likely look a the past 12 months. In the meantime, get some else to help with your mother for ;those couple of months.

            No matter what story you think up, they will have heard it before.

            Milan

  10. Thanks Milan…..Keep up the good work.

  11. Hello Milan. My question is a question you have probably answered many many times. I live very close to the BC / Washington border. I make many trips back and forth during the year, normally I cross the border once a week. I also travel to California in the winter for approx 90 days. I have recently been told that the “clock” keeps counting my days in the USA unless I’ve returned to Canada for at least 30 days. How can that be correct? If I cross the border for a couple of hours every week, the “clock “will never stop counting. I can not remember the last time that I was in Canada for 30 days without travelling to the states. I’m sure I’m not alone in this situation as cross border shopping is very big in the Vancouver area. It is so big, that we have a special car lane and Nexus card for us regular visitors to the USA. Thanks for your help.

    • Jeff:

      There is no such 30-fay rule, forget it. A rumour that won’t die. What counts is how many days in total you have been in the U.S, in the calendar year, or some agents call it the previous 12 months. It amountas to the same thing. Just be carefull about the shopping because even a short shopping trip for a few hours into the U.S. counts as a whole day.

      Milan

  12. Hi Milan:

    I’ve been reading all the great information you’re sharing with people and wondered if you can help me with my question.

    I understand that as a Canadian citizen living in Ontario, I am allowed to stay in the USA for 6 months in any calendar year. Last year (2012) I spent 20 days in the US Aug. 1 – Aug 20 and then spent the balance of my 6 months in Florida between end of October, returning April 8. When does my year start again, to start another 6 months. Would it be from the August 1 date, or from the October date when I went to Florida. I’ve asked so many people and received different answers from everyone. I am not asking this from an OHIP concern I just don’t understand when the Calendar year starts for my 6 month stay.

    Thank you in advance for your assistance.

    • Marlene:

      If you have used up your 182 days, play it safe and stay home in Ontario for five or six months before you return. Some border agents will allow you six months in the calendar year and some in the past 12 and they can do that because the rules as written by legislators are very ambiguous. The bottom line is that the border agent calls the shots and is most concerned about people going across who look as if they don’t intend to go back to Canada or are spending more time in the U.S. than in Canada. Thus I suggest stretching out your time in Canada before heading back to the U.S. and having all your documentation with you to show you are a real resident of Canada and will be heading back after you spend your winter in the U.S. I would not suggest spending 180 days in the U.S., going back to Canada for two months, and then heading back to the U.S. for another 180 days. That gives the border agent a clear reason to ask just where you do live.

      Milan

  13. I am an Indian citizen and I am in Canada on Work permit. I have lived for a month in canada. My work permit is valid until 2015. My company allows me to work from home. I am planning a trip to india and wanted to know if there are any restrictions on the number of days to stay outside of Canada. If I leave on June 1st can I come back to Canada in December ?

    • If your work permit from Canada allows you to stay until 2015, you should be able to travel in and out until then. But since I don’t know the specific details of your visa I urge you to get a definition from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).

      Milan

  14. Im 28 year old female living in BC canada and i am on PWD (persons with disibility) and i recieve a check of 906 a month. I have this for life.

    However since i am wanting to move to the US temporarily, for about 6 months. The people who deal with my disability (The Ministry of Social Development) said my benefits would only last 30 days, and if i stayed longer they would cut me off.

    But they said if i stayed less than a year, i could just re-activate it and said it was a simple process. But that would mean i wouldn’t have any money when i go to the US for 6 months, but only for the first 30 days.

    Does anyone know a way around this? Any forms or programs i could apply for? Anything? Also what if i didnt tell them i was leaving? how would they know? and what would the consequences be? Don’t worry im not planning fraud, i just like to know.

    Thanks :)

    • Syrina:

      Just make sure you got your information from a reliably high source in the ministry and it was not just an opinion of a clerk. Better yet, send a letter to your minister of health and get the response in writing. Sometimes things get changed when high ups get involved and the possibility of poor publicity enters the picture.

      Milan

  15. hi milan my mom is a canadian citizen but she has been outside of canada for 15 year in Peru she just went to visist some famly there. can she loose her citizen. at this time she havent pay any taxes..thanks soo much.

    • Rein:

      Did you say she went for a visit for 15 years? If she was a legal Canadian citizen–not just a permanent resident–she won’t lose her citizenship and she can return to Canada any time. It also sounds as if she hasn’t a Canadian passport, has she? They’re only good for five years. About the taxes, I don’t know as I don’t know if she earned any income, had some property etc. She also will have to re apply for provincial health insurance and that will take at least three months before she has it.

      Milan

  16. I’ve been in Australia for about 1.5 years (originally from Quebec, Canada). My 183 days are almost up so I’m getting insurance with TIC for 4 more months. This covers me ONLY while in Australia. BUT I wanted to visit south east asia for a month or 2 before going back home. Is there ANY way this is possible? I keep getting told that no insurance company will insure me without having a provincial plan from my home country. Is there really no way I can get short term coverage for a quick trip to asia? Please help!

    • Ash:

      What 183 days are you talking about? That is the U.S. rule for visitors to that country, but you have been in Australia. I don’t know how you would be getting travel insurance from Canada since that does require that you be a legal resident of Canada and qualify for a provincial health plan–that’s standard across the spectrum of travel insurers. However you might try to get international insurance the does not require Canadian residency. I will pass this email along to our international insurance specialists and they will contact you and possibly work out a plan for your circumstance.

      Milan

  17. I have a question. If I stay outside of Quebec for more than 183 days…besides losing my medical care eligibility for 3 months, will it affect any other benefits that I was receiving? Like parental insurance benefits?
    Thanks!

    • Mybuu:
      Quebec allows you to be out of the province for 182 days in a year, but also allows additional short trips of up to 21 days. But Quebec also monitors absences closely. If you stay within those limits it should have no effect on benefits.

  18. Hello

    My sister is a landed immigrant and came to BC , Canada in March 2013 . She went back to her country after two months . I want to know that how much time she can stay in her country ( india ) without affecting his landed immigrant status in Canada .

    Please reply

    Thanks

    • Neeru:

      As a permanent resident (landed immigrant) you sister must live in Canada for two years out of five. She should also be able to prove she has lived in Canada for that time.

      Milan

  19. Hi Milan, You are a wealth of knowledge!!
    I am a US citizen aand My partner is a Canadian citizen.
    We are both retired and he is on a Permanent Disabilty Pensions and Medical from the Military for life.
    I have a home in California and he has a home in BC.

    Am I to understand that within an CALENDAR year (Jan-Dec), I can spend 182 days in Canada(May-Oct) and he can spend 182 days in US(Nov – Apr)? He obtains Travel Insurance and mine covers me in Canada.

    If we were to get married but not change Citizenship would I be eligible for his military pension as I would be his wife but not a Canadian Citizen.

    Thanks so much!

    • K.J.

      You are right on the first question about living part time in the U.S. and in Canada. About the military pension.
      I would surmise that you would be eligible, but for a definitive answer you should check with the Canadian military pension provider.

      Milan

  20. Hello I am a Canadian citizen by birth and have been studying and living outside of Ontario for over a year now. I am almost 3 months pregnant and due in late January early February.I want to have my baby in Canada, when should I be returning to Canada in order for it to be covered under OHIP?

    • Esther:

      If you asked OHIP for extended leave as a student before you went to school, you would still be covered. I sense, from your question that you did not, which means you lost your permanent residency in Ontario and you would have to reinstate it. You can do that by going back, notifying OHIP that you have returned, and you would then have to live (actually be physically present in the province) for three months to be eligible for OHIP benefits.

      Milan

  21. I am a US citizen married to a Canadian. We live in Ontario Canada. I have permanent resident status. My mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I would like to go back to the U.S. to take care of her. My commitment would be for up to 2 years. My question is, how would this affect my PR status and my provincial healthcare?

    • Pamela:

      For permanent resident status you have live in Canada at least two years out of the past five. For provincial health benefits–on the schedule you propose, you will lose them. You may have to look at an international
      health insurance plan. I can have an international plan specialist contact you if you like.

      Milan

  22. I want to move and apply for residency status in Jamaica—Will I loose all medical coverage–and pensions–that I now receive in Canada and also if I rent out my property that is in Canada–to use for an income in Jamaica–is that legal???

    • Colleen:

      If you move permanently to Jamaica you will become ineligible for your provincial government health insurance benefits. As for your pension, if you are entitled and qualify for your Canada pension and/or old age security, you can receive that no matter where your live. As for renting out your house in Canada and living in Jamaica on the rentals, you should check first with an international tax professional because Canada does impose certain reporting requirements on those leaving the country for good.

      Milan

  23. in 2013 we spent the following times in the USA.
    Jan 2013 – 28 days
    April – June 2013 – 38 days
    June 2013 – 5 days (separate trip)

    We plan to spend from October 16 to December 16 2013 (62 days ) and again Jan – March 15 2014 (74 days)
    Are we Ok to do this?

    Stan

    • Stan:

      Do your own arithmetic. I hate math. But to answer your question: you are allowed to visit the U.S. up to, but not more than six months a calendar year or out of the past 12 months. That usually comes to 182 days, depending on the months you choose to be away. And you can do that in one long single visit, or the aggregation of several shorter ones–as you have listed. Your numbers look fine to me.

      Milan

  24. Work Permit,

    I am an Indian citizen and I live in Quebec ,Canada on Work permit.My work permit is valid until 2014. Due to business meeting I have to travel outside Canada many a times .
    I have few questions :-
    1) How many days i can stay outside Canada and What will happen to my Work Permit if I cross the limit if any.
    2) What will happen to my Health Insurance ,Will it be valid if i cross the limit.
    Thanks in Advance

    –Shekhar

    • Shekar:

      Because there are several types of work permits, each with their own conditions, I don’t have enough information to answer your question. Also, the fact you live in Quebec complicates matters because Quebec
      has rules that differ from the rest of Canada. I can only recommend that you contact the department that issued your work permit for a definitive answer.

      Milan

  25. I am a Permanent Resident Of Canada. I have to visit my son in U.S.A. like I visited him from September 1 to 9, 2012 ,from December 27,2012 to Jan. 06,2013 and again from July 06,2013 to September 06,2013.I accompanied by my another son who is a Canadian citizen thus visited our son in U.S.A. for a a total period of about two months and 21 days.Will this period of Two months and 21 days be counted towards my stay in Canada to fulfill the requirement of my stay as a permament resident.

    • PS:

      No. The days you spend in the U.S. have nothing to do with your residency requirement for health insurance in Canada. They are two sets of different rules. The U.S. immigration rules say you cannot stay in the U.S. as a visitor for more than 182 days per year. Your provincial rules require you to actually live in your home province for a specific time. For most provinces that is six months (at least 183 days). That’s just a coincidence. But since I don’t know in which province you live, I can’t tell you what that requirement is for you.

      Milan

  26. Dear Milan Korcok,

    I am permanent Resident Card holder, pensioner aged 75 years. I am now in India for a vacation. How many days can I stay in India without losing my pension at Canada. Is there any time restriction. that will affect my getting pension if I delay my going back to Canada, and how many days it will be.

    Please reply and thanks,

    Md.Zaheer Badsha

    • Janet:

      You are correct in your interpretation of the “US resident for tax purposes” rule. But that does not mean you have to pay taxes to Uncle Sam. If you file the IRS Form 8840, which establishes your closer connection to Canada, you won’t be required to pay taxes to the U.S., unless you earned money in the U.S. (working, doing business, investments, selling property etc). The 8840, which you can get from http://www.irs.gov, simply establishes your Substantial Presence in the U.S. There is no penalty for spending an average of 120 days over the previous three years.

      In fact, you are allowed to spend up to 182 days (six months) in the U.S. in any calendar year or 12- month period: over one long continuous period or a series of shorter visits throughout the year.

      Milan

  27. ӏ think the admin of this website is гeally աorking hard for his
    website, as here every stuff is quality based material.

  28. we are Canadians ccurrently in Belize holidaying. We got here on Feb. 16, 2014. Are we covered for any medical expenses incurred here? My c/l husband broke his arm and the cost was over 5000.000bzd can we recover any of this?

    • Connie:
      Did you have private travel heath insurance? If so, file a claim with the insurer immediately. If not, you’ll have to try to get reimbursement from your provincial insurance, but you will need to have all receipts, hospital and medical reports. You will have to act quickly because all provinces have rules about how long you are allowed to be out of the province and still retain your eligibility for coverage. I hope you have learned the lesson that travelling out of Canada without private insurance is a high risk and can be extremely expensive.

      Milan

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