A recent survey by the BMO Retirement Institute noted that only about 5 percent of Canadians over 45 plan on relocating to warm weather locations like Florida or Arizona for their retirement. What it doesn’t say is how many of those who remain in Canada will still spend their winters in the South.
What we know, from Statistics Canada and other similar sources, is that Canadians over 55 make almost one million trips of at least 31 consecutive days each year to warm weather destinations—primarily Florida, Arizona, Texas and California. These are snowbirds: their permanent homes remain in Canada, they’re not expatriates, and they haven’t “relocated”, and that’s an important distinction.
That’s what surveys, like the one issued recently by BMO don’t make clear.
Relocating permanently to another country, particularly the United States, is difficult, even for Canadians, and especially for retirees who are past the point of being hired for jobs or starting up new businesses.
And even those who have family in the U.S. willing and prepared to “sponsor” them, the waits for clearance and approval are excruciatingly long, often longer than the lifetimes of their applicants.
Snowbirds, on the other hand, have a different way to do it, and it often amounts to the best of both worlds: summer in Canada and winter in the sun. But it’s not as easy as just packing up your SUV or RV and heading south on a whim. It takes planning, knowledge of the rules (U.S. immigration and tax rules, as well as provincial rules about how long you can stay out of your province without losing your permanent residency and your medicare benefits), economic stability, an ability to negotiate such essentials as private health insurance, cross border banking, getting along in a new environment (not always as easy as you might think), and still staying in touch with your family, friends and relationships at home.
If you think of snowbirding as some kind of romantic gypsy existence, wandering from place to place, free of all responsibilities and rules, you won’t make it. It’s a lifestyle—not an escape from life.
In forthcoming issues of Travelinsurancefile, we’ll be giving you the information, the rules, the information and the guidance you need to be true snowbirds. Stay with us, and to make sure you don’t miss any of our blogs and advisories, sign up for our free Newsletter and get every new posting sent directly to your smart phone or email.