Starting this fall more than one million Canadian snowbirds and boomers will head South, looking for the weather and relaxation that has come to characterize their lifestyles. If you’re going to be among them, we invite you to join Snowbird Plus, a multi-layered program designed to help you make the most of your annual trip.
Picking up and leaving your home in Canada takes preparation. You can’t do it by the seat of your pants.
You need to know what you’re doing.
For example, each province has rules about how long you can stay out of that province in order to retain your residency. Lose that residency and you lose your provincial health benefits—medicare. Some allow you to stay out six months in the calendar year, some count your absences over the most recent 12 months, some allow more than six months. Snowbird Plus will keep that clear for you.
There are also rules you need to know about U.S. border crossings: how long can you stay in the U.S.—in one continuous stretch or over a number of shorter trips.
You need to know what the border agents look for in allowing you into the country. It’s not automatic: they can turn you back if they are not satisfied with your reasons for entry, or they may ask you to document your Canadian status, or seek some concrete assurance that you plan to return to Canada within a given period.
The days of sitting in your car, or RV, or motor home and being waved through with smile are over. Borders are tightening, throughout the world and the U.S./Canadian line is no exception.
You need a passport, perhaps tax or residency documents, proof you have enough money to sustain yourself for six months; perhaps proof of where you are going and that you indeed have a place to go to.
You also need information about your tax liabilities, if any, to the U.S. IRS. Most of you will not need to pay taxes to Uncle Sam, but you still have to know the rules. And you can’t ignore your annual filing of the 8840 “Closer Connection to Canada” form that should be a routine matter.
For those of you heading to condos or RV destinations, you need to the rules for bringing foodstuffs into the U.S. (as well as what you can take back to Canada). These rules change often and we hear of many snowbirds who have been chastised because they failed to report food items they were carrying with them—even items such as apples or onions. There are substantial fines for non-reporting, so you need to know the rules.
Most of the answers to these questions will be found in our Snowbird Rule book, which subscribers to Snowbird Plus will have continuous access to via the internet. In addition we will have timely articles, advisories, warnings, and most important—up to date news and guidance for the purchase of travel insurance, an essential item for any Canadian leaving the country for even a day.