How long Canadians can stay out of country or out of province is one of the most frequent questions asked of us. And though you might think it would require a simple answer, I must admit it could get a little complicated. Consequently, it’s time for an update.
First is the issue of US immigration rules that apply equally to all Canadians, regardless of the province that you live in.
Canadians are allowed to visit the US for up to six months (182 days) per calendar year. Nationals of other countries are allowed only 90 days. You can accumulate those days by one long trip, or an aggregation of several short ones. (There is some pending legislation in the US Congress that would extend that period for Canadian snowbirds to 240 days, but predicting what might happen in Congress is a hazardous game and we will explore the ramifications of such a change when and IF it happens.)
The other set of rules is applied by your province; these rules require you to be physically present in your home province for a specified number of days throughout the year in order to qualify for provincial health benefits. These rules have nothing to do with the American border control regulations or the way US border agents apply them. They are not linked except by the coincidence that they both have focused on the six-month threshold.
Recently, BC and Manitoba have extended their out-of-province allowance to seven months from six (as
Ontario did several years ago). But that does not mean that you are allowed to stay in the US for that additional month. It only means that you have an extra month to travel throughout Canada or abroad. All other provinces and territories (with the exception of Newfoundland & Labrador) require you to be present for six months. Newfoundland & Labrador require only a four-month domestic residency.
Quebec takes a more liberal approach to out-of-province travel by not counting trips of less than 21 days against the 183-day residency requirement. But it also warns that it checks compliance with this rule and any person exceeding the 183 days will have to repay the Regie for any insured service provided to them during that particular year.
If you lose your health benefits, you would have to reapply for them. This can only be done by living in your province or territory for three months, and during this time, you would be without provincial health benefits. There are, however, private insurance plans that will cover you for that period.
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