Milan Korcok

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Milan Korcok has been covering international health care activities and trends in Canada, the U.S., and abroad since the introduction of Canada’s medicare system in the late’60s. He has long served as contributing editor to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and currently serves as contributor to the International Travel Insurance Journal, published in the UK and distributed globally.

Taking the Family Abroad this Summer? Here’s Your Checklist

Now that summer is in full flight, family travel is priority number one, and so it should be. But if your plans involve trips to foreign countries, and especially if you’re taking along young children (your own or those of friends or relatives), you need to be sure your documentation covers them just as it covers you. Passports All Canadian children, from newborns on up, need their own passports to travel to a foreign country. So plan well ahead. At this time of year passport offices are overloaded and travelling on parents’ documents is no longer acceptable. Passports remain the most valuable and acceptable form of identification in nations the world over. And it’s your assurance that no matter where you go, you will be allowed back into Canada. In the globalized world, no one, including a child, should be without one. Travel medical insurance You may have your travel…

Recent News in the Dominican Republic Calls For Extra Precaution When Travelling At All Times

It was the shooting of baseball legend David “Big Papi” Ortiz outside a bar in Santo Domingo that brought the issue of mysterious deaths in the Dominican Republic to worldwide attention, but it remains the recent spate of mostly-unsolved and unexplained deaths of American tourists at popular resort hotels that has tourism officials worried about what comes next. (Big Papi is recovering well in a Boston hospital) Though the issue has not captured much attention of Canadian media—which is mystifying as Canadians provide the second largest pool of tourism to the DR next to Americans—print and broadcast media in the US have been asking tough questions about what local tourism officials have characterized as a series of unfortunate coincidences. In one published report, however, the DR’s attorney general Jean Alain Rodriguez told local journalists that the nation is “secure but definitely has many challenges.” Indeed it has. So far this…

Travellers’ Alerts Raised for Measles Outbreaks in Europe and the USA

If you’re heading for Europe this summer, and especially if you’re travelling with children who have not been vaccinated for measles, see your doctor or a travel health clinic immediately and have yourselves and your children properly immunized against this dangerous and potentially deadly disease. Most of us thought measles had been eliminated many years ago. But the epidemic raging across Europe shows just how resilient this highly contagious disease can really be. According to Canada’s Travel Health website, as of the end of May 2019, large measles outbreaks (exceeding 1,000 cases) are currently ongoing in Albania, France, Georgia, Italy, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine; and since the beginning of 2019, serious outbreaks have also been reported in virtually all other European nations, including such highly developed countries as Germany, the UK, Spain, and Switzerland. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDPC), 35,000 cases of measles…

Ontario Travel Health Cutback Confirmed. Now What?

Now that the Ontario government has confirmed its decision to terminate all emergency medical costs for its residents travelling out of the country—effective October 1, 2019—we must ask what’s next for the millions of Ontarians who are accustomed to cross-border day trips for shopping, sporting events, regular family reunions, or in some cases even work. (Ontario’s action does not affect health coverage while visiting other provinces.) Recent surveys confirm that over 76 per cent of Canadians surveyed in 2018 said they had some form of travel insurance on their last trip out of the country—with older groups (boomers and snowbirds) having the highest rates of coverage. They know, they have the experience. They have heard the horror stories about what can happen without it. Younger groups, not so much: there’s still a reasonable amount of “invincibility” thinking out there. Multi-trip policies come into their own But there’s also some good…

As Governments Withdraw, Private Travel Insurers Tune Up

Ontario’s proposal to stop paying travellers’ out-of-country medical emergency costs is expected to raise private travel insurance premiums by between 7 and 13 per cent, according to industry sources, even though the provincial share of fees paid to foreign health care providers are minimal at best—perhaps 5 per cent. And though such increases will be felt most acutely by snowbirds who spend several months out of Canada each year—primarily in the US—the effects should also awaken cross-border shoppers and weekenders to the reality that accidents and medical emergencies can happen anywhere, at any time, making them just as vulnerable as snowbirds. According to figures just released by the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC), 71.9 per cent of Ontarians surveyed claim they had some form of travel insurance on their last outbound trip. For Canadians as a whole, that was 76 per cent. And of those who were uninsured, 49.6…

As Drinking Laws Relax, You Need to Stay Alert when Travelling

To many foreign visitors, Ontario’s drinking laws have long been a source of bemusement, and some frustration. I have often heard from friends and colleagues that, as much as they enjoyed what Canada has to offer, they were somewhat confused—or even embarrassed—when a waiter or hotel worker told them it was too early in the day for a Bloody Mary with their brunch. Or that if they wanted a beer or wine, they could only be served in some dark and enclosed location, not here on a sunlit patio. But with the impending relaxation of alcohol consumption laws, just announced, visitors to Ontario should find it somewhat friendlier and less intimidating to order their favourite beverage in a pleasant outdoor location, open to the sky. Times have certainly changed, and there will still be many people who decry the easing availability of alcohol in daily life. But for travellers leaving…

The Changing Tourism Strategies in Cuba and Mexico

Recently, Mexico has undergone a major shift in its official tourism strategy to upgrade (and up-price) mass tourism to that country—Canada’s most favoured vacation destination after the United States. Now we learn that the US administration has reinstated many of the trade and travel restrictions against Cuba that were relaxed during the Obama years and will also allow Americans (including former Cubans) to sue foreign firms (among them Canadian and European) operating on properties seized by the Castro government on or after the 1959 revolution. Cuba attracts some one million Canadian visits annually—Mexico just over two million. Between them, they account for almost half of the robust Caribbean, Mexican, and Central American vacation travel market. In both the Cuban and Mexican markets, residents of Britain rank just behind Canada as the most frequent visitors. The action taken by the Trump administration—intended to punish Cuba for its ongoing support of the…

Ontario Terminate All Out-of-Country Medical Payments

The Ontario government’s announced intention to terminate all coverage of unexpected medical emergencies for residents travelling out of the country as of October 1, 2019 appears to be a clear violation of the Canada Health Act. But that has not prevented the Ontario government, and all other provinces and territories, from short changing their own travellers for years by paying foreign hospitals absurdly low reimbursements for taking care of them when they travel out of the country. Ontario has been paying up to $200 CAD per day per patient in a standard room, $400 in intensive care, and $50 CAD for an outpatient visit—leaving it to private travel insurers to pay the great bulk of remaining costs (usually well north of 90 percent). And though the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MHLTC) contends that the termination of the OOC program will have no impact on 99.5 percent of…

Who Pays When Airlines Ground Your Flight?

Disruptions caused by the grounding of 737 Max fleets worldwide have caused many thousands of travellers to dig into their travel insurance policies to see who pays for their delays, re-routings, unanticipated airport meals, extra nights in vacation locations, taxis back and forth between airports and hotels, rebooking airline fees, and on and on. These unexpected costs can add up, especially if you’re travelling in family groups. Already, one large US travel insurance aggregator has noted that simply “fear” of flying on a 737 isn’t enough for an insurer to pay for any rebooking fees, and most airlines are not obligated to do so. National regulations on such payments vary a lot from country to country. What is clear, though, is that if an airline does agree to pay for rebooking, or other out-of-pocket personal charges caused by the disruption, or if the airline offers vouchers for future flights, your…

Canadian Students Urged to Go Abroad and Experience the World

With Canada as multicultural as it is, one might think that Canadian post-secondary students would be among the world’s leaders in expanding their educational horizons and doing all or part of their undergraduate studies abroad. But, in fact, only 2.3 per cent of Canadian undergraduates studied abroad in the school year from 2014 to 2015—far less than the 10 per cent of American or 13 per cent of Australian undergraduates who pursue some or all of their studies in foreign countries. And even when they go abroad, Canadian students confine their studies to American, UK or Australian schools (according to data from the Canadian Bureau for International Education, or CBIE). And that—according to a report from the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and the Centre for International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa—is a lost opportunity for the students as well as for Canada.…

International Students Give High Marks to Canadian Schools

Though Canadian post-secondary students remain reticent to do any or all of their studies abroad (only two per cent do so during their undergraduate years), the inbound flow of international students far exceeds any of the most optimistic projections for this intellectual migration. According to data from the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE), there were 494,525 international students in Canada at all grade levels (elementary to post-graduate) in 2017—75 per cent of them in universities, colleges, and CEGEPs. Why has Canada become such a magnet for international students? Certainly the prospect of high-quality education in a safe, secure, and welcoming country has a lot to do with it. But it is also enhanced by federal and provincial government incentives to allow easier routes to permanent residency after graduation, work permits during undergraduate years, broad availability of affordable health insurance options (provincial government-sponsored or private programs), and a welcoming…

Got your Passport, but Confused about Brexit?

If you’ve never heard the word “Brexit”—be grateful. But if you are a traveller with a Canadian or US passport, and you’re heading to the UK or anywhere in Europe, you may want to review a few ground rules. Regardless what happens in the cage-fight between Britain and the EU, in the short run it will have no effect on you as a traveller. What happens in the long run is anybody’s guess, but for the next few months at least you need make no alterations to your plans. As the holder of a valid passport (preferably with at least six months left before it expires) you will still be able to travel freely to any part of Britain (or Ireland) and most countries of Europe. If you go to Britain and continue on to Europe, you will need your passport for each entry. What is Schengen? Even the…

Snowbird Guide to Medical Marijuana

Since 2015, when Prime Minister Trudeau committed Canada to full legalization of marijuana, the number of registered users of medical cannabis products soared from an estimated 24,000 to more than 330,000. And, for a nation of committed cannabis users (according to Statista—an international marketing research firm—41 per cent of Canadian adults confirm having used marijuana at some point in their lives), that appears to be just the beginning. In the United States, the approach to legalization is more ambivalent. Though the federal government prohibits the use of cannabis in any form (recreational or medical), 30 states and D.C. have so far legalized its use to some extent (26 allowing limited use medicinally, nine allowing both recreational and medicinal use). But those numbers change from month to month as the trend toward outright legalization creeps along. What does this mean for Canadians, particularly snowbirds, who rely on marijuana products and derivatives…

Canadians Continue to Embrace Cruise Vacations, But Need to Consider Travel Insurance Pitfalls

In 2018, close to 960,000 Canadians will have embarked on a cruise—almost 39 per cent more than in 2010, according to estimates reported by the Conference Board of Canada (CBOC). Citing data provided by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the CBOC projected that it was cruisers from Canada’s Atlantic region who posted the largest average annual rate of growth in embarkations since 2010—11.6 per cent from then to the end of 2017. The report also indicates that while the average age of Canadian ocean and river cruisers in 2017 was 51, there was a discernable distinction in age cohorts between those taking longer itineraries such as trans-Atlantic or exploration cruises (which tend to attract older travellers), and shorter Caribbean cruises which are more popular among younger travellers. For example, the average age of Canadian passengers on cruises to the Panama Canal/South America, Antarctica, Galapagos, or the Arctic is 66;…

The Real Value of Travel Insurance: Staying in Touch

It’s just a little over three years since Paris was stunned by a terrorist attack in the heart of the city, with 130 people shot dead—mostly young people having fun at a concert. It made those of us who have come to know Paris stop in our tracks. And now we have again witnessed scenes of protesters in yellow vests disrupting this city of lights with anti-government demonstrations: cars being burned, fires set, graffiti marring the Arc de Triomphe, tourists and visitors running from those sites they have come so far to see. And this is Paris, one of the world’s most visited cities. Is any place safe anymore? Is London safe, or Barcelona, or Brussels, or Nice, or Las Vegas? For travel insurers, whose predominant mission is to safeguard their customers when they leave home, there is increasing need, and opportunity, to bring value to their clients beyond helping…

Navigating Expat Insurance? Know the Rules, Know the Territory

Whether some form of Brexit occurs or not, Canadian business travellers and expatriates heading abroad will need to monitor changes to visa rules and health insurance requirements when planning trips to the UK or the remaining countries of the European Union. Unlike Canada’s single-payer healthcare system, by which provincial governments mandate the services to be provided, set the fees for those services, pay the providers, and forbid private entities from competing, most European systems allow—even encourage—a variable blending of public and privately funded health insurance. The UK, for example, offers access to its highly respected National Health Service to expatriates who meet certain residency requirements, but many prefer to “upgrade” to private plans that fill in coverage gaps, shorten wait times for referrals and certain services, and allow access to private hospitals and specialist networks. (As members of the EU, UK residents have access to the European Health Insurance Card…

Canadian Snowbirds in Texas: Persistent, But Still at Risk

Canadians make more than two million leisure trips to Mexico annually, more than to any other country after the United States, even though the governments of Canada, the US, Britain, and other nations continue to issue travel warnings regarding certain sectors of the country. For Canada’s travel industry, especially insurers, this presents something of a quandary because travellers who encounter unexpected health problems or other disruptions to their travel plans while in certain areas of Mexico under travel warnings may find severe limitations on their coverage benefits. And sometimes it doesn’t take much to wander into such areas—as happens often to Canadians who winter in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and walk over a footbridge into the state of Tamaulipas—an “Avoid Non-essential Travel” zone. Fortunately, the small, circumscribed tourist zone that Canada’s “Winter Texans” frequent daily is well fortified, and relatively free of crime or other disturbances. But wander beyond, and…

Health Insurance Is a Key Factor in International Students’ Choice of Canadian College

When the Government of Manitoba de-listed provincial health care as a “right” for foreign students at its universities this September, reaction to the move revealed just how significant health care insurance was to students’ choice of school. As one student from Nigeria enrolled at the University of Manitoba told local media, “free” health care was an important factor when he was deciding where to attend university. He added, “It was a big issue when I was considering Manitoba.” The student, who as a foreign national was paying at least two to three times the tuition and fees charged domestic students, was reacting to the provincial government’s repeal of a 2012 clause to the Health Insurance Act that offered foreign students access to its provincial health care scheme—access which covered not only them, but their spouses and dependents. The repeal was expected to save Manitoba taxpayers $3.1 million while costing foreign…

Put the “Serious” Back in Travel Insurance

Where is the logic? Some people will take two or three trips to an appliance store before deciding on a new flat-screen TV costing them over $1,000; they will grill the salesperson about the pros and cons of this set or that; and they’ll scour the fine print details to make sure their purchase meets their specific needs. Yet when purchasing a long-term travel insurance policy, without which they might lose their life savings, they’re OK to do the purchase over the phone or online in three minutes, and don’t think twice about throwing the policy in a drawer unread after receiving it from their agent. According to a recent survey of Canadian travellers done by a trade group representing travel insurers, less than half (48 per cent) of respondents said they normally check their travel insurance coverage before taking their trips; 35 per cent admitted being unsure what their…

US Lifts Ban on Pot Workers, But Travel Rules Remain—For Now

The announcement by the US Customs and Border Protection agency that it will not impede Canadians who work in the rapidly growing cannabis industry from entering the United States for routine leisure or non-business travel suggests an easing of the federal government’s long-standing prohibition of marijuana use and commerce. The CBP statement, published on its website, reads: “A Canadian citizen working or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the U.S., however if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for a reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.” The CBP clarification followed several weeks of speculation about how stringently CBP officers would enforce border restrictions on not only Canadian cannabis workers, but all other Canadian travellers whose own government has permitted them to…

Goodbye NAFTA. Hello USMCA. Hold on to Your Health Insurance

Canada’s new trade agreement with the United States and Mexico (replacing NAFTA) has gone through a tortuous negotiation, but finally has been completed. And according to the new rules built into USMCA (US, Mexico, Canada Agreement) there are no changes to visa requirements for workers and professionals affected by the new accord. The old NAFTA rules remain for business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, and traders and investors. (For details or updates on those rules, you can visit the Government of Canada’s website.) In short, the agreement doesn’t change a member country’s general immigration regulations governing public health, safety, and national security; and, significantly for workers and professionals posted abroad for long periods, it still doesn’t make provisions for any kind of reciprocity for health care coverage as has been a staple for individuals and companies operating within European Union countries. USMCA (like its forerunner NAFTA) is tied to trade, and…

Travelling Abroad? You Can’t Take Canada’s Cannabis with You

Canada’s marijuana legalization has attracted international media headlines the way few other Canadian actions have in recent memory—much more newsworthy than its freeing up of marijuana for medical purposes several years ago. And, as might be expected, the October 17 enactment of the new pot laws has spawned hugely speculative and grossly sensational alarms about what Canadians (including snowbirds) might expect when crossing over into the US this coming winter season. Let’s first establish one point above all: Canada’s legalization of cannabis is a domestic issue. It is applicable in Canada only. It has no impact on any other country’s laws or rules. In time it may certainly influence what other countries do—but not yet. The Canadian government is quite clear when it warns that “carrying any cannabis or cannabis product (legal or illegal) across Canada’s border will remain a serious criminal offence, with individuals convicted of engaging in such…

Visiting the US This Winter? Let’s Review the Rules—Part 1

It’s that time of year again: time to review the rules that govern how long you can stay out of the country without risking loss of your provincial health insurance benefits, how long you may stay in the US as a visitor, and if there are any changes in the rules you need to pay particular attention to. And this year, we’re going to do our review in two parts—the second dealing with new and vital information you need to know about Canada’s cannabis laws (for recreational or prescribed medical use) before leaving the country or approaching any other international border. You don’t need to be a marijuana user to be affected by these laws—so stay tuned. But first: the rules for visiting the US—Canada’s favourite vacation location There are no major changes in the B2 (non-immigrant tourist) visa rules for Canadian citizens wishing to visit the United States.…

Is Relief in Sight for Medical Student Debt?

For many of Canada’s best and brightest, the prospect of a career in medicine is dampened by the reality of mounting student debt, into the six figures in many cases. And it’s not just obtaining the MD that’s challenging: it’s the years beyond, working toward the specialty accreditation that generates the fees needed to pay off that debt—a need that often diverts graduates away from lesser-paying fields like family medicine. It’s a vicious cycle. But a recent announcement from New York University School of Medicine that it will begin offering free tuition to all current and future students—regardless of need—sparks some hope that new ways of funding medical education may be taking root. NYU, one of America’s top 10 medical schools (where the average annual cost is $55,018 USD), is taking the step thanks to an endowment from private sources that is currently valued at $450 million and is aiming…

New Surveys Show Canadian Travel to the US Is Up—and So Is Insurance Coverage

Despite a plethora of news stories asserting deteriorating relationships between Canada and the US over trade and political differences, it appears Canadians have not pared back their leisure travel plans south of the border to their most favoured vacation destinations. In fact, according to new data reported by the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC) and Statistics Canada, Canadian leisure trips to the US lasting at least one night increased in 2017 by almost 4.5 per cent from 2016’s number, rising to 15.5 million—the first annual increase since 2013. Overall, Canadians made over 25.5 million leisure trips out of the country (to both the US and abroad) in 2017, more than in the previous two years.   More than three-quarters maintain travel coverage The CBoC survey also commissioned a poll of Canadians to determine their travel insurance buying habits. It found that 78 per cent of those who had travelled out…

Foreign College Studies for Canadians—Right Next Door

Given that their parents are such zealous travellers, the reticence of Canadian post-secondary school students to study abroad even for short periods or exchanges is somewhat mystifying. As we see in the story linked above, concerns about transferability of credits and the prospect of “a lot of hard work” tend to keep most Canadian students homebound—unexposed to foreign cultures, mores, climates, and temptations. And then there are the costs. But one of the lesser-known channels to foreign studies—perhaps even for short-term trial periods—may lie in the discounted tuition programs offered by US colleges and universities (some established by state legislation) specifically for Canadian students. How about the Sunshine State? For example, in 1987, the Florida legislature set up a Florida-Canada linkage program offering Canadian students admissions to some 40 state-funded colleges and universities at the same subsidized tuition levels offered to state residents—all in the interests of developing stronger…

Canadians Show Growing Satisfaction with Travel Insurance

Travel insurers have long been criticized for the complexity of their policies, heavy-handed use of medical and legal language in their applications, and their alleged tendency to deny, deny, deny claims. But according to a new public opinion research poll, commissioned by the Canadian Association of Financial Institutions in Insurance (CAFII), a non-governmental, non-profit watchdog association advocating a more transparent insurance marketplace, more than 8 out of 10 Canadians who have purchased travel insurance are satisfied with the value they receive from the products they buy. Furthermore, according to a press release issued by CAFII, 98 per cent of people who made travel medical insurance claims in the past year said they were fully or partially paid, with only 2 per cent of claims being rejected. In addition, 91 per cent of claimants said they were satisfied with their claim experience from initial contact to final outcome. According to the…

New Canadian Biometric Requirements in Place for International Students and Other Visa Holders

As of July 31, 2018, international students applying for Canadian student visas from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa are required to provide biometric facial photos and fingerprint data to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) officers when entering the country. The requirements will also apply to applicants for visitor, work, permanent residency, or refugee asylum visas. Applicants already in Canada are temporarily exempt from the requirements pending the establishment of biometric application processing centres in Canada starting in 2019. Canada’s Biometric Initiative program, which is designed to ease legitimate travel to Canada while protecting national security and preventing identify fraud, will be extended to applicants from Asia, Asia- Pacific, and the Americas starting December 31, 2018. Canada already collects biometric data from refugee applicants from 30 countries. Tourists from visa-exempt countries with valid Electronic Travel Authorizations (eTA) are exempt from the requirement, as are: Canadian citizens US nationals Citizenship…

Canadian Universities Get High Marks for Education, But a Bum Rap for the Weather

No generation is more susceptible to being influenced by the blogosphere and social media rants than applicants to colleges and universities—especially those anticipating studies in distant foreign countries. It’s challenging enough sorting through the academic choices, admission standards, visa requirements, and financial commitments that are critical to making choices about where to apply without also factoring in language barriers, social customs, and basic living issues like weather. Weather? To judge by the narratives floated in various forms of media directed at aspiring international students, discussions about weather appear to be a priority. Universities in Florida, Arizona, and Southern California use weather as a big recruiting plus—for obvious reasons. It seems to work. Bundle up? But when describing college choices in Canada, once the narrators get past the great cost advantages and international esteem given Canadian universities—the second or third paragraph of the blog or article tends to focus on…

When Hurricanes Threaten, Here’s What Travel Insurance Can and Cannot Do for Your Clients

With the peak of hurricane season in the Atlantic basin approaching, travel insurance vendors need to reinforce not only the value of cancellation/interruption policies to clients planning trips to storm-prone areas, but make sure clients understand these plans’ limitations and exclusions as well. Travellers need to understand that trip cancellation insurance is designed to cover only prepaid monetary losses that are not refundable by the travel supplier—reservation deposits, payments for tour packages, cruise ship tickets. It’s not meant to compensate for the disappointment of a lost “dream trip.” If your client’s Caribbean cruise is shortened by two or three days due to a mechanical failure or an unscheduled rerouting to a safer port and the cruise line offers a make-up voucher for future travel, that’s considered a refund and disqualifies the need for a claim. Same story if an airline leaves the client stranded and then offers a voucher for…

Tips for Travel Insurance Agents: Assist Your Customer, But Protect Your Trust

When travel insurance claims are denied based on non-disclosure or failure to provide accurate medical information, it can easily generate tension or mistrust between the customer and the agent who sold and “processed” the policy. This is especially so if the medical questionnaire is done verbally over the phone (or online) and the customer is unfamiliar with the medical terms used, or is unfamiliar with his or her own medical records, or simply unaware of the consequences of non-disclosure. A claim denial comes as a shock to any insured person and the first reaction will often be to deflect the blame—to the doctor for not sharing pertinent medical information, to the wife for not properly completing her husband’s medical questionnaire, or to the agent who didn’t “take the time” to explain the medical terms or didn’t emphasize that any change in health status prior to the effective date of coverage…

Tips for Canadian Students Taking their Medical Marijuana on Vacation

With Canada on the verge of legalizing marijuana for recreational use (it has been approved for medical purposes since 2001), Canadians studying in the US or abroad, and the half million international students enrolled in Canadian colleges and universities, need to understand the rules about what is or is not legal usage, and how a little carelessness in their travel habits can ruin or seriously disrupt their academic careers. Because the bulk of Canada’s population is clustered close to the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific, weekend or short vacation trips across the border (such as student spring breaks) are an integral part of college life—for international as well as domestic students. We must caution that international students who are not natives of visa waiver countries may need special documentation to visit the US—but all students, Canadian citizens or foreign passport holders, are urged by the Canadian government…

Canada’s Travel Insurers, Be Warned: Privacy Breaches Will Cost You Big Time

For travel insurance producers, vendors, brokers, and in fact any professional gathering or storing personal information about a client, the rules for maintaining strict privacy are intensifying, as are the penalties attached to them. And we’re not talking about slaps on the wrist. On May 25, 2018, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, termed by the experts as the strictest data-protection law in the world) came into effect to harmonize data protection laws of all EU member states. The law is intended to ensure that all personal data from individuals in the EU are protected; that gatherers of that data deal in a fully transparent fashion; and that customers have new and greater privacy rights and control over how their information is used by those who collect it and pass it on to others. How serious is the EU about its GDPR? Maximum penalty for non-compliance is four…

International Students Love Montreal

Once again, Montreal has been ranked as the top North American city for international students in the highly prestigious QS University Rankings for 2018, the only Canadian city to make it to the top 10 most favoured slots. Noted by QS as Canada’s “cultural capital,” Montreal is applauded for its “multicultural makeup and inclusive ethos” as well as its laidback yet lively lifestyle, attractive boulevards, thriving creative industries, café culture, eclectic range of arts venues and nightlife—not to forget its internationally ranked universities. (McGill is currently ranked as 32nd in the world, and both the University of Montreal and Concordia University have also achieved respectable rankings.) To put matters in a tighter perspective, Montreal has slipped out of last year’s first-place ranking to be replaced in the #1 spot by London, then Tokyo, then Melbourne, in that order—but it remains ahead of all other Canadian cities and any or all…

The Eight-Month US Visa for Canadian Retirees: A Myth That Keeps on Coming

It happens every couple of years: broadcast and print media announce in bold headlines that Canadian retirees 55 years or older who can afford a second home in the US (owned or leased) will soon be allowed to live there for up to eight full months per year instead of the 182 days they are currently allowed under the B2 visitor visa. Sounds like great news for snowbirds who prefer slathering on sunscreen to shovelling snow. Just this month, an opinion piece in Canada’s Financial Post warned that tax increases on Canada’s middle classes were fuelling a brain drain of doctors, nurses, tech workers, and entrepreneurs to the US and elsewhere, adding, “Just watch the enormous economic damage done when Congress extends its permission for snowbirds by two months—to eight months a year—to stay in the U.S. without becoming taxable.” Well, let’s just hang on here As I said,…

Why Are Canadians Hesitant About Studying Abroad?

Canadians are among the most inveterate travellers in the world: over 23 million leisure trips abroad every year—not bad for a total population of 36 million. That covers all age groups—including the very old and the very young. And the world is reciprocating, with international tourist numbers hitting new peaks year after year and with foreign students flocking to Canadian colleges and universities to take advantage of world-class educational opportunities at tuition rates far below those in the United States. At top colleges across the nation, foreign students comprise 20 to 30 per cent of undergraduate enrollees—ditto for graduate programs. But there is one area of internationalization that is clearly lagging, to the concern of Canadian educators and business leaders: that is the reluctance of well-qualified Canadian students taking up the challenge (and denying themselves the rewards) of studying abroad—full-term or short-term. According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education…