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.

In a High-Risk World, Do Travel Insurers and Agents Have a Duty to Advise?

Increasingly, media have been reporting on travel trouble spots around the globe, emphasizing that bad things can happen in even the nicest places. What, then, can vacationers or business travellers expect their agents or insurers to tell them about the destinations they’ve chosen? What if they just discovered that there have been unexplained deaths at a resort where they booked a stay (as occurred this past summer in the Dominican Republic), and when they tried to cancel, the resort refused to return their deposits? Or what if they suddenly found themselves in the middle of an anti-government demonstration in Chile and were injured and needed hospital care, but their insurer denied their claims because they had been warned against involvement in demonstrations by their government? Who do they go to? Why didn’t their travel agent, or travel insurance brokers, tell them these were potential trouble spots? After all, didn’t they…

Travelling to South America? Heed the Warnings

Though much of the world’s media is focused on riots in Hong Kong and the Middle East, business, leisure, and adventure travellers need to stay on high alert in the face of rampaging civil disturbances, government upheavals, and outbreaks of crime throughout South America. Just in recent months, riot police throughout Ecuador were struggling to hold back protestors furious about fuel price increases many just couldn’t afford, and the protests grew so violent that government officials deserted the capital city, Quito. In Chile, violence and looting repeatedly broke out in protest against severe public transportation price hikes, forcing the government to declare states of emergency in and around the capital city of Santiago. In Peru, the president was forced to dissolve Congress amid repeated charges of flagrant corruption as angry crowds took to the streets. The past four presidents have all been charged with corruption and all have denied the…

Travel Remains Robust, But Stay on Your Guard

OK. So you don’t need a calendar to tell you it’s time to head south. Well, if that’s what you’re planning—be assured that you’re going have plenty of company if 2019 travel patterns to date are any guide. Though some of Canada’s TV networks were questioning the dearth of snowbird migrations just a few months ago, the truth is that southbound leisure travel—by all age groups, including snowbirds—is healthy and growing. According to the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC), which tracks inbound and outbound migrations using data from Statistics Canada and its own predictive models, during the first eight months of 2019 Canadians made 14.2 million overnight trips to the US (that means at least one overnight stay—but doesn’t count day trips), 2 per cent more than the comparable period of 2018. And though auto trips during that period declined by an estimated 1 per cent, travel by other modes…

The World Gets More Dangerous. But You Don’t Have to Stop Travelling

Just in the month of October, we have witnessed public demonstrations in Spain, Ecuador, Chile, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Mexico, even Britain—some of which have turned ugly. And that’s not even counting the areas in which innocent people have been killed in regional wars. Whether you’re a tourist, a student, or are travelling on business—it has never been more important to have quick and reliable information about new or impending dangers, how to avoid them, and what to do in case they erupt in the city or country you’re visiting or through which you’re planning transit. Let’s face it: life-threatening disruptions can occur in even the most benign travel itinerary. Who would have thought that the UK and France, so highly favoured by Canadian and American travellers, would have been designated by the Canadian Government Travel advisory site as places in which to “Exercise a High Degree of Caution,” the same…

A Health Insurance Primer for International Students Applying to Canadian Schools

In 2018, more than 572,000 students from 168 countries were enrolled in Canadian schools ranging from secondary to postgraduate levels—16 per cent more than the previous year and 154 per cent more than in 2010. And there are more to come. The reason for such phenomenal increases: Canada’s highly regarded, quality educational system; its reputation as a tolerant and non-discriminatory society; and the lure of Canada as a permanent home after graduation. In fact, 60 per cent of international students surveyed by the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE) plan to pursue permanent residency in Canada upon graduation. And there is every reason to welcome them, as in 2018 Canada’s GDP benefited by an estimated $21.6 billion from international student tuitions and fees, living costs, family visits, entertainment, and so on. (Aside from survey data collected by CBIE, all other figures cited are from official Canadian government sources). But if…

Canadians More Savvy about Travel Insurance than Their American Peers

Recently, the US Travel Insurance Association (USTIA), representing American travel insurance companies, announced that in 2018, Americans spent nearly US$3.8 billion on all types of travel insurance products—up 41 per cent since 2016. Pretty impressive figures—until you look at comparable data from Canada, which shows that Canadians (who represent but one-tenth the population of the US) are now approaching CA$1 billion in premiums spent for travel protection products in 2018 (CA$990 million, to be more precise), according to the Conference Board of Canada. Moreover, the USTIA survey has shown that the $3.8 billion covered only 66 million travellers (one-fifth of the US population), while Canadian data show that among 18- to 34-year-olds, 64 per cent were covered by travel insurance on their last trip out of the country, and 89 per cent of Canadians 55 and older buy insurance when travelling beyond Canada’s borders.  What we can glean from this…

More Brits Stranded, Victims of Airline Cancellations

The stunning collapse of UK’s giant tour operator Thomas Cook, which left more than 600,000 holidayers stranded in some 18 countries (150,000 from Britain alone) shows just how vulnerable travellers have become to circumstances beyond their control. That’s almost twice the number of travellers stranded when Monarch airlines went under in 2017, and an additional million more that lost their future bookings. The liquidation of the 178-year old tour company whose logo has become a familiar sight worldwide propelled the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to mobilize its “biggest peacetime repatriation” since the second world war to get its holidayers home—within the next two weeks and free of charge. The repatriation is being funded largely by the government-run Air Travel Organizer’s Licence (ATOL) system which requires travel companies who sell air holiday packages to meet certain licensing requirements and contribute to a trust fund protecting travellers in case one of…

Canadians to Require European Travel Authorizations in 2021

Due to heightening concerns about illegal immigration and terrorist attacks, Canadians, Americans, and citizens of 60 other countries will need electronic travel authorizations linked to their passports to enter any of the 26 European countries in the Schengen* zone starting January 2021. Under the European Travel Immigration and Authorization System (ETIAS) established by the European Travel Commission, citizens of countries who are normally allowed to travel to Schengen zone nations visa-free for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days will have to pass background checks ensuring that they are not security risks to the host countries. In effect, the ETIAS have a purpose similar to Canada’s eTA (electronic Travel Authorization) or the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) in the US. When announcing the introduction of the system in 2016, Jean Claude Juncker, European Commission president, said, “We need to know who is crossing our borders. This way…

Hurricane Season is Here. Stay Alert

It’s the peak of hurricane season in Atlantic and Caribbean waters and the first major storm of the season, Dorian, has switched on the alert for residents on the southeast coast of the US, the Maritimes, and Newfoundland, as well as the highly susceptible island countries in the Caribbean and the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. If you have travels planned to any of these areas, you need to carefully read your travel documents, airline travel rules, hotel/resort contracts, and especially your travel insurance trip cancellation and interruption benefits and limitations, and you must monitor the official government travel advisories. Travel Canada has already issued advisories for many of the islands in the Caribbean, warning of the need to either practice extreme caution if you’re already in the path of the storm, or avoid travelling altogether. These warnings will change from day to day, but you need to be…

Stay Alert: Flesh-Eating Disease Expands through Warming Beach Waters

With the summer vacation season in full swing, news reports of bacterial disease in the warming waters of Florida’s Gulf of Mexico up to the east coast of Chesapeake Bay are becoming too frequent to ignore. We’ll note right off the top: this has nothing to do with the infamous red or green tides that have blemished Florida’s western shores the past couple of years. The disease—necrotizing fasciitis, also known as “flesh-eating disease”—has been claiming increasing  numbers in these areas, and Florida’s Department of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued advisories warning of risks primarily to the elderly with compromised immune conditions, chronic kidney disease, or cancer; people of any age with cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites, skin punctures or surgical wounds; and—most sadly—perfectly healthy kids with scraped or bruised toes or knees just playing in the ocean. Vicious and virulent In Florida,…

New Season for Travel Insurance Products Coming Up—Stay Alert

With travel insurance premiums expected to rise significantly this fall—partly due to the Ontario government’s decision to eliminate all payments for out-of-country medical fees—it’s understandable that travellers, particularly longer-term snowbirds, will be looking for ways to economize. Comparing prices between several insurance providers has always been the first option for making sure you get the best price available—but that only works if you’re comparing similar products. And that’s hard, given the differences in benefits, exclusion requirements, medical underwriting, age limitations, and a score of other factors offered in the travel insurance marketplace. One stratagem that seems to have caught on is using a free credit card or employer/retiree group plan to cover the first 15, 30, or 60 days of a trip, then “topping up” with an individual single-trip plan for the bulk of it. Sometimes that can work to save you a lot of money. But there are also…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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.…

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…