How Long Can Canadians Stay in the U.S.?

This question remains the most frequently repeated of any we get, and the answer, the most misunderstood. But it’s really not complicated if you keep in mind that the rules about how long you can stay in the U.S. are defined by the U.S. Government, not by Ottawa or the provinces. And the laws about how long you must live in your province each year to keep your health coverage are set by your province, not the U.S. Two sets of laws—quite separate.

So when you hear someone from Ontario or B.C. telling their neighbour that they can now stay in Arizona or Florida for seven months a year instead of six, be sure to set the record straight.

American immigration rules allow Canadians (citizens or legal permanent residents) to stay in the U.S. as visitors for up to six months in any consecutive 12-month period. These six months are sometimes interpreted as 180 days, 182 days, or simply as “six months”—which gives you some leeway depending on which months you pick. The reason for the difference is that immigration laws are hybrids, blended together over decades, and not always with great consistency. Consequently, we come to rely on written or declared “opinions” by Immigration, Customs, or Homeland Security officials who actually apply the rules. But these too are only opinions, although enforceable ones.

 

The bottom line

You may stay in the U.S. for as long as the Customs and Border Protection agent says you may, and he or she will determine if, or for how long. They must be satisfied you will abide by the rules. My suggestion: budget a total of 180 days per any consecutive 12-month period, and always leave yourself a little leeway.

Count your days as you go. Be precise. Count the day you set foot on U.S. soil as one day, and the day you leave as another—even if they’re only partial days. Most U.S. border officials now apply the six-month or 182-day quota over any consecutive 12-month period—say the last three months of 2015 and the first three of 2016. That’s OK.

Forget the calendar-year paradigm, and don’t try to attach the last six months of 2015 to the first six of 2016. It won’t work.

Count your days. Play by the rules. They are twice as generous as the 90-day maximum allowed citizens of any other country except Mexico, which is also allowed six months.

And beware of rumours. Last year, Canadian media reported that the U.S. would tax Canadians whose visits exceeded 120 days a year. Not true. Canadians who stay in the U.S. an average of 120 days over three years are generally considered aliens for tax purposes, but the IRS also provides a simple way to legally avoid such taxes. So stay calm. You’ve still got 180 days. We’ll discuss that in forthcoming articles.

 

For more travel tips and insurance information, visit Ingle International.

17 Comments

    • Ingle International Reply

      Hello Jim,

      we recommend getting in touch with a tax specialist for that question.

  1. MY NAME IS HELMUT SEITZ
    WE HAVE BEEN SPENDING OUR WINTER MONTH IN MESA AZ. JUST UNDER THE 180 DAYS ALLOWED.THIS YEAR WE ARE PLANIG ON GOING ON A CRUISE THOUGH THE PANAMA CANAL FOR 14 DAYS . WE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF THIS TIME IS COMING OFF THE 180 DAYS WE ARE ALLOWED TO STAY IN THE US.
    THANKS
    H . SEITZ

    • Ingle International Reply

      Helmut.

      If you are going to Panama directly from the US, and returning to Arizona, yes it is. But the trip is worth it.

      Milan

      • We are in the US as well for 180 days if we do Carribean cruise out of Florida for 8 days and return to the same port in Florida dies that take our stay in the US down to 178 days ?

        • Sorry 180 down to 172 days , this is in reference to my question of leaving Florida on an 8 day cruise

          • Ingle International

            Jane:
            If you take an eight day cruise out of Florida and return to Florida, those days will count as part of your 180-day allowance. You cannot deduct them from your 180. Only if you went on a cruise of 30 or more days, could you deduct them.

            Milan

  2. johncitizen Reply

    I always thought it was only 120 unless you file the form 8840? (using the 1/3 and 1/6) How can this
    182 be true.

  3. johncitizen Reply

    I always thought it was only 120 days for tax purposes (+ counting out the 1/3 and 1/6 from previous years?
    e.g. 77d 22d, 11d = 108 would be fine. How can this 182 be true? thought you had to file the 8840 form in order to get the 182 days

  4. During the winter i go to Florida for 6 months …..during the Summer i go for a short trip of 3 weeks….am i in the 30 days roule…

    • Ingle International Reply

      Lyne:
      The 30-day rule does not apply to your situation. You are bound by the general rule: no more than 180 days in total over any 12-continuous months–regardless of the calendar year.

      Milan

  5. Where do I find the actual US law written to confirm that the 182 days rule apply for permanent residents too.

    • Ingle International Reply

      Joachim:
      There is no singular place you will easily find such a rule. American immigration laws are massive and complicated and are applied from various pieces of legislation that are interpreted by the embassies and consulates. Your most easily accessible resource is the US consulate in your community or country. However, the answer to your question is that if you are a permanent resident of Canada (with your PR card) and you are also a citizen of a visa-waiver country (a country to which the US has granted no-visa-required status) you can visit the US under terms of the B2 visa. There are 30 to 40 visa-waiver countries, mostly in Europe, that qualify. I obviously can’t name them all, but if you go to https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html you can see if you qualify. If not, you must apply for a B2 visa from your closest US consulate.

      Milan

  6. brenda murray Reply

    We’ve always go to Florida in oct 10,and fly home for xmas and don’t return to U.s, until 30 days which dec 7 fly back Jan 7 and stay til April 21.we apply the 30 day rule at xmas,and don’t stay in the u.s. Over 180 days are we doing this correctly!

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