Six months less a day: that’s the rule of thumb Canadian snowbirds can use in determining how long they are allowed to stay in the U.S. sunbelt during their winter vacations.
The ruling, which is not new but which is a clarification of existing border procedure, was issued to the Canadian Snowbird Association this summer by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. The CSA had long sought official clarification of the so-called six months or 182-day rule which governed how long Canadians could be admitted to the U.S. under the B2 (visitors) visa. That rule has often been misinterpreted, by border agents as well as visitors, because 182 days does not always constitute six months: that depends on which months are being counted. And when purchasing out-of-country insurance, snowbirds have not always been clear exactly how many days they were allowed.
The letter to CSA President Gerald Brissenden, sent by Paul Morris, executive director of admissibility requirements for CBP, said it has been established practice to count ahead six months from the month of admission and subtract one day from the admission date. “For example, a person seeking a six month admission on June 15, 2007, would be granted an admission until December 14, 2007, which equates to 182 days.” If, using this formula, they travel during other months, they may be admitted for 183 days, or 181 days—depending on their months of travel.
“We believe that the current practice is the most efficient and practical means of calculation and is consistent with the intent of the statute,” wrote Morris. He added that clarification of the ruling would be “reinforced” with officers at ports of entry.
In expanding on the ruling, the CSA advised its members that its intent is to allow visitors to stay a maximum of six months per calendar year, and that they could not merely return to Canada for a short stay and return to the U.S. for another six months.
Canadians who stay in the U.S. longer than six months per year might find themselves subject to U.S. tax laws and consequences. They might also be disqualified from coverage by their provincial health insurance plan which requires them to be actual residents in their province for at a minimum of six months (five months in Ontario). If they are found out and disqualified by their province, they must wait at least three months for their coverage to be re-instated.
Still, despite all the furor about border security, the great majority of snowbirds entering the U.S. for their winter vacations are usually passed on through with little formality. Even the B2 visa is for Canadians mostly an artifact: usually just a verbal OK by the border agent and not an actual document.