Snowbird season is almost here. But before you pack your shorts and gold clubs, brush up on the rules about border crossings, out-of-province time allowances, and travel insurance basics. Over the next few weeks we’ll be reminding you of the updates you need to make to keep your winter vacation hassle free. Stay with us.
First of all: the U.S. allows you to be a visitor in the country for up to six months per calendar year; that means between January 1 and December 31 of the same year. That can be in one continuous stretch or an aggregation of shorter visits. But you’re only a visitor, no work, no business. And don’t try to run your six month allotments end to end to stretch out your stay beyond six months: border agents will assume you’re spending more time in the U.S. than in Canada and, that’s a no no.
Each province has its own rules about how long you can stay out of your home province and still retain your right to government-funded medicare. Stay out too long, and you can lose that right, in which case you will need to re-establish your residency by staying in your province for at least three months. During that time, you will be without medicare. Here are the rules in a nutshell, although there are some additional allowances in some provinces. We’ll update you on those in coming weeks.
- In B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia, PEI, NWT, Nunavut and Yukon, you are allowed to be out of the province/territory for 182 days per calendar year. That can be in one stretch or several shorter trips.
- In New Brunswick, you are allowed to be out for a total of 182 days in any consecutive 12-month period. That’s different than a calendar year and it means you can overlap from one year to the next.
- In Ontario you are allowed to be out of the province for a total of 212 days (seven months) in any consecutive 12-month period. You can also overlap from one year to the next.
- In Newfoundland, you can be out of the province for up to eight months in any consecutive 12-month period.
And about travel insurance: you need a minimum of $1 million of medical expense coverage (many plans offer more than that), a repatriation benefit that will pay for your return to a hospital in your province by air ambulance if medically necessary, direct payment by the insurer to the hospitals and doctors that took care of you outside of Canada, coverage of expenses to bring a family member or relative to your bedside if medically necessary, and coverage of all medical and hospitals bills needed to treat your emergency.
But remember, out-of-country travel insurance will only pay for unforeseen, unexpected medical emergencies, not for medical services you planned before leaving Canada, not for elective or non-emergency care, and not for continuing care of your emergency once you are stabilized and medically able to return home.
Remember these basic rules, and your winter vacation will be a lot more enjoyable and stress free.