Snowbirds

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It’s Your Policy. Take Responsibility. Take Your Time

More than ever, travel insurance products are giving customers in less-than-perfect health opportunities to leave home, visit friends and relatives in distant countries, and even indulge themselves in leisure activities that would have been unthinkable a decade or two ago. Even for the elderly, given their normal range of chronic conditions (e.g., high blood pressure, heart flutters, diabetes, artery or vein disorders), coverage may be available so long as their health has remained stable for specified periods (three months, perhaps six) and they have completed their medical questionnaires accurately and haven’t “shaded” the truth to gain a slight reduction in premiums. Such attempts at “savings” can turn into financial catastrophes if the insurer is forced to deny a claim for emergency medical services because you failed to fully or accurately disclose that you had been “checked out” for a respiratory condition within the past three months, or that your medication…

Simple Tools for Avoiding US Taxes for Canadian Snowbirds

Canadians spending long periods in the US on B2 visitor’s visas (see our previous article) often ask at what point their presence becomes taxable to Uncle Sam. It’s a good question because paying taxes at home is irritating enough. You don’t want to get tangled up with tax demands from two governments. And the good news is that the great majority of snowbirds won’t have to pay US taxes. But they need to follow some not-too-complicated rules. Let’s take it from the top The demands of the IRS, which governs tax collection, and the requirements of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency, which controls who enters the country and for how long, are separate. CBP agents are not tax collectors. The IRS, however, is. And it wants to know if you spend enough time in the US to be considered a resident for tax purposes. Don’t read that as…

Winter is Coming: How to Best Protect Ourselves from COVID-19

We are still learning about transmission of the virus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19. We have come to learn that the way this virus spreads is a bit more complicated than what we initially understood. Thankfully, the main mode of transmission is still felt to be through direct exposure to respiratory droplets that carry the infectious virus. These types of respiratory droplets are larger and heavier in size and rarely travel farther than six feet. They fall quickly to the ground or land on surfaces. If you are around someone who is infectious, your highest likelihood of catching the virus is if you inhale respiratory droplets that they have exhaled while you are in close contact with them. Hence the importance of masks, particularly in situations when you cannot adequately physically distance. The comfort in knowing that this is the main mode of transmission is that it offers us a mode of control.…

How Long Canadians Can Visit the US: A Review

Every now and then, the question of how long or how often Canadians can visit or tour the United States each year comes up from someone who has heard a horror story about a border-crossing mishap. And though I have written many thousands of words on this subject over more than 25 years, there always seems to be room for an update—especially as travel regulations constantly seem to be changing and new requirements for international travel keep being announced. Since hundreds of thousands of Canadians spend entire winters in the US, it’s worth setting the record straight. And that’s easy. It’s not complicated. Thanks to the special relationship that exists between Canada and the US, there is a preferential arrangement between our countries that allows Canadians to visit the US for up to six months per each rolling 12-month period. That is an allowance deemed under the B2 visa which covers…

Still Hope for the 240-Day Visa? Patience is a Virtue

For more than a decade, Canadian snowbirds hoping for permission to spend more time in warm-weather states south of the border have pegged their hopes on passage of US federal legislation amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to authorize their admission for up to 240 days—eight months per year. That’s two months more than is currently available through the standard B2 tourist visa, which is what Canadians use when hopping the border for a one-day sports event—or for a 183-day winter vacation in Florida or Arizona. Known generically as the “Snowbird Visa,” the amended visa would allow Canadian citizens aged 50 or older to reside in the US for up to eight months per year contingent on their retaining homes in Canada, owning or leasing long-term residences in the US, waiving all rights to welfare or public assistance funding, and refraining from any employment or other work for hire. In effect: tourism…

Can’t Wait to Get Back to Cruising? Expect Changes

In 2019, Canadians took almost one million cruises, sailing oceans, lakes, and rivers around the world. And a large majority of them say they would do it again. Cruisers are a committed lot—all surveys confirm it. Then came COVID, and though it took some time, cruisers returned home, wondering when or if they would get another chance to sail. Now, almost nine months later, the question remains. When will cruising resume? And how will the experience be changed? Since the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) first issued its “no sail” order for ships in US waters (March 14, 2020), there have been a few isolated attempts at cruise resumptions—primarily in the Mediterranean and other parts of Europe. But outbreaks of COVID on some of these voyages have cut them short as well. Since then, extensions of the “no sail” order have been continued through to the end of October.…

You’ve Covered “Medical” Insurance—Now What About “Cancellation”?

If there is anything positive to be said about how travellers have been impacted by COVID, it’s that trip cancellation insurance has become a “top of the mind” issue. For Canadians that’s critical, because though more than 70 per cent of travellers normally buy emergency out-of-country medical coverage, fewer than a third have, up to now, considered trip cancellation/interruption insurance a necessity. No longer. With millions of the world’s travellers now lining up for refunds or rebates for cancelled air travel, cruises, or tour packages due to COVID, the focus has shifted to gaining some assurance that family finances are also protected in case of unexpected disruption. Fortunately, there is no shortage of trip cancellation/interruption products in the travel insurance marketplace, but understanding the conditions of coverage, the limitations and exclusions, and how and when one goes about getting a “refund” when travel plans go awry is part of the…

Travel Demands Determination—Don’t Give Up

Though the Canadian government continues to warn against all international travel because of ongoing COVID-19 prevalence, the US State Department has begun easing its warnings for most countries down to Level 3 (Reconsider travel) from the highest Level 4 (Do not travel). Canada is now listed in the Level 3 range even though the border with the US remains shut to non-essential travel. Still on the US “Do Not Travel” list are such major destinations as Mexico, Russia, China, Brazil, India, Egypt, and several countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. However, despite the warning level easing for outbound travel, there are still some European countries that do not allow Americans entry for leisure purposes, or that at least demand certain health checks or other clearance conditions. Canadians, however, are welcome in more countries—even though your government would prefer you to stay home. How do you plan ahead? So…

Is Florida In Your Sights This Winter? A Ground Level Report.

As the Canadian/US border shutdown moves towards autumn, snowbirds and short- term winter vacationers are being left with little time to plan their next moves or commit to travel plans that many have considered their God-given right during inconsiderate winter weather. Though many Caribbean countries and Mexico have sent a hearty welcome to their northern neighbours, (see our previous article on this issue) there are some caveats that go with the invitation—masks, distancing, virus test verifications, stripped-down luxuries, even beach and surf patrols to ensure proper behaviour. Not great, but perhaps tolerable considering the alternative. Florida at ground level. Despite these offerings by other warm weather destinations, Florida remains Canada’s pre-eminent winter vacation destination, and given the recent reports of COVID surges throughout the state, many of them somewhat overblown, let’s take a ground level look everyday life in the Sunshine State today and what Canadians might expect to see…

Travelling within Canada: Your Out-of-Province Health Coverage

If you get sick while travelling within Canada, it’s generally pretty easy to receive immediate medical attention without having to foot the bill. The reason is that all of the provinces and territories, except Quebec, signed an Interprovincial Billing Agreement under which the host province agrees to cover the cost of any medically necessary service provided and subsequently bill the home province for reimbursement. That being said, there are certain differences to your coverage when you travel outside of your home province. Understanding these differences can help you avoid having to pay unnecessary expenses. What is and isn’t covered out of province? In accordance with the Canada Health Act, medically necessary health care services are typically covered when travelling within Canada. In other words, if you become ill or have an accident in another province, your hospital and physician services will likely be covered. However, additional services, such as an…

Is Coming Back to Normal, Good Enough?

It may be too early to think about getting back to “normal” once the threat, and the carnage, of COVID recedes. It could be that what was once normal just isn’t realistic anymore. In Europe, border-free travel between neighbouring states is no longer a given. We have seen how quickly self-preservation can overrule an ideological imperative. In North America, the unthinkable action of shutting down the “world’s longest undefended border” has actually happened—even though commerce continued and most “trapped” travellers eventually found their way home. But just the fact that it could be shut down came as a stunning shock of millions on either side of the so called 49th parallel who had come think that “crossing over” for a few days or half a year was a basic human “right.” It isn’t. It never has been. It’s a privilege. And it can be withdrawn if push comes to shove…quickly. Reality can be stark. How are these new “realities” going to colour our perspectives as…

[Battling COVID-19 Episode 3] Face Masks in a COVID-19 World: To Wear or Not to Wear? By Dr. Michael Szabo

Should we wear a face mask when out in public right now? It’s a question many people have since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its new recommendation that people wear face masks when leaving their homes. Canada’s chief public health officer has echoed the recommendation. There is confusion because the CDC and the Public Health Agency of Canada had initially suggested that face masks not be worn in public. The flip-flop in recommendations has triggered many questions. It’s important to understand that, in a complex and evolving situation as this, it can be quite difficult to set a firm policy. As the situation changes, the risks and benefits of recommendations are constantly re-evaluated. In a way, it’s reassuring that agencies aren’t being rigid and are revising their guidelines based on the best available information, with the goal of keeping us all safe. However, the reason behind…

Battling COVID-19 Episode 2: From the Front Lines with Dr. Michael Szabo

With the increasing number of COVID patients presenting themselves to hospital emergency departments across Toronto, it’s a regular occurrence for me to come across several suspected cases while I’m working. Most are well enough to go home, but some are so sick that they need to be admitted. I find myself checking in on the test results of patients I have sent home, breathing a sigh of relief with each negative and feeling a knot in my stomach with each positive. The challenge with being an emergency doctor is that we see a lot of the bad outcomes. They are our reality. During a pandemic, it begins to feel to us like “everyone is dying” – but not everyone is. In fact, the majority of people recover from the virus. The increase in positive results will not only usher in a new reality but hopefully will reduce my own anxiety…

Battling COVID-19 Episode 1: From the Front Lines with Dr. Michael Szabo

Recently, I’ve been working quite a bit in the emergency room of the hospital where I’ve served as a staff physician for the past 20 years in downtown Toronto. There are many positive things happening at the hospital: Everyone is working together to prepare for all the challenges that lie ahead. We’re all connecting with co-workers in ways that are meaningful and inspirational. The strength of the human spirit is alive and well. And we know that we will get through this difficult time and be better for it.We’re starting to see a number of cases of very sick patients with COVID-19 at the hospital. Yes, most of them are older folks over 70, often with chronic health problems. But I’m going to be real with you. We’re seeing some young and otherwise healthy people becoming very sick – sometimes, critically. It’s important to realize that these cases are rare…

COVID-19: STAY SAFE WITH THE FACTS

from the MSH Americas Medical Team WHAT IS COVID-19? COVID-19 is a strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. CORONAVIRUSES are a family of viruses causing illness ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Synrdome (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), and COVID-19 (2019-nCoV). Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and humans. SARS was first transmitted to humans from civet cats; MERS was transmitted to humans by dromedary camels. WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS? Common symptoms are: Fever over 38°CCoughShortness of breath / difficulty breathing In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, kidney failure, and even death. HOW IS IT SPREAD? COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person by respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing. These droplets can be inhaled if you are in close contact with an infected person. Touching objects or surfaces with respiratory droplets on them and…

Top US Spring Break Destinations for 2020

Whatever the reason for your getaway– tired of the cold, need some family time, or just plain burnt out– here are some tips to help you get the most out of your travels during this upcoming spring break. First up, some places to consider for both relaxation and excitement in the continental USA. 3 places to spend a week off in America: MIAMI, FLORIDA It’s called the Sunshine State for a reason, so be sure to wear lots of sunscreen and drink plenty of water. The Metromover train is a convenient (and free!) way to get around downtown Miami. If you can’t do without your dose of yoga while on vacay, free classes are offered across the city. View local graffiti and street art at Wynwood Walls or take in one of the live music shows at Bayside Marketplace. A trip to Miami isn’t complete without a visit to Miami…

Coronavirus Impacts Travel Insurance Coverage: Stay Protected

With commercial airline traffic to and from China virtually shut down, and with little prospect that control of the coronavirus is imminent, travellers need to do a quick study of what travel insurance can or cannot do in protecting them from unexpected costs of emergency medical care, trip cancellations, disruptions, re-routings or possibly even temporary isolation far from home. To help with that study, we have asked Matt Davies, Senior Product Specialist with MSH International to help us navigate through the finer points of travel insurance benefits and limitations as they are provided to Canadian travellers planning visits to countries impacted by the coronavirus epidemic. One important point to emphasize is that these guidelines or limitations are largely dependent on government assessments of health or other risks in foreign countries and are not just arbitrary rulings set out by insurers. The before or after rule Generally, if you purchase insurance for…

Canadians Are Accustomed to “Free Trade” in Travel

With the US/Mexico/Canada (USMCA) free trade agreement settled, now might be a good time to reassess the non-political dynamics that keep our countries emotionally as well as economically linked through travel. In 2018, Canadians made more than 33 million trips of a least one overnight stay to the US: more than 2 per cent higher than the previous year. That’s getting very close to averaging one trip for every person living in Canada, and almost 25 million of those trips were for leisure purposes—tourism, visits with family, shopping, sunning, beaching, golf, watching sports events, you name it. That’s as close to being “free trade” in travel as you can get. And according to the Conference Board of Canada, there seems to be only one variable influencing that trend: the relative value of the Canadian dollar. But as Canada’s tough, resilient snowbirds have proven over the years, even a droopy loonie…

As of Jan. 1, changes to OHIP’s out-of-country health insurance are now in effect

We’ve been warning you since mid-summer that Ontario would be cutting its share of health costs for out-of-country travel to zero. At first, the cutoff date was set for October 1, 2019, then it was moved to January 1, 2020. And that’s where it stands. As of New Year’s Day, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan will no longer cover any part of your out-of-country emergency medical costs. This is the first province in Canada to arbitrarily carve that particular benefit out of the Canada Heath Act, purportedly saving $2.9 million to administer some $9 million in emergency health fees paid to foreign hospitals and doctors. Will other provinces follow Ontario’s lead? Who knows? We’ll tell you if it happens. Though OHIP traditionally paid only about 5 per cent of actual charges billed by foreign hospitals and doctors (the rest being paid by Canada’s private travel insurers, or by the patients…

Travel Remains Robust, But Stay on Your Guard

OK. So you don’t need a calendar to tell you it’s time to head south. Well, if that’s what you’re planning—be assured that you’re going have plenty of company if 2019 travel patterns to date are any guide. Though some of Canada’s TV networks were questioning the dearth of snowbird migrations just a few months ago, the truth is that southbound leisure travel—by all age groups, including snowbirds—is healthy and growing. According to the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC), which tracks inbound and outbound migrations using data from Statistics Canada and its own predictive models, during the first eight months of 2019 Canadians made 14.2 million overnight trips to the US (that means at least one overnight stay—but doesn’t count day trips), 2 per cent more than the comparable period of 2018. And though auto trips during that period declined by an estimated 1 per cent, travel by other modes…

Hurricane Season is Here. Stay Alert

It’s the peak of hurricane season in Atlantic and Caribbean waters and the first major storm of the season, Dorian, has switched on the alert for residents on the southeast coast of the US, the Maritimes, and Newfoundland, as well as the highly susceptible island countries in the Caribbean and the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. If you have travels planned to any of these areas, you need to carefully read your travel documents, airline travel rules, hotel/resort contracts, and especially your travel insurance trip cancellation and interruption benefits and limitations, and you must monitor the official government travel advisories. Travel Canada has already issued advisories for many of the islands in the Caribbean, warning of the need to either practice extreme caution if you’re already in the path of the storm, or avoid travelling altogether. These warnings will change from day to day, but you need to be…

Stay Alert: Flesh-Eating Disease Expands through Warming Beach Waters

With the summer vacation season in full swing, news reports of bacterial disease in the warming waters of Florida’s Gulf of Mexico up to the east coast of Chesapeake Bay are becoming too frequent to ignore. We’ll note right off the top: this has nothing to do with the infamous red or green tides that have blemished Florida’s western shores the past couple of years. The disease—necrotizing fasciitis, also known as “flesh-eating disease”—has been claiming increasing  numbers in these areas, and Florida’s Department of Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued advisories warning of risks primarily to the elderly with compromised immune conditions, chronic kidney disease, or cancer; people of any age with cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites, skin punctures or surgical wounds; and—most sadly—perfectly healthy kids with scraped or bruised toes or knees just playing in the ocean. Vicious and virulent In Florida,…

New Season for Travel Insurance Products Coming Up—Stay Alert

With travel insurance premiums expected to rise significantly this fall—partly due to the Ontario government’s decision to eliminate all payments for out-of-country medical fees—it’s understandable that travellers, particularly longer-term snowbirds, will be looking for ways to economize. Comparing prices between several insurance providers has always been the first option for making sure you get the best price available—but that only works if you’re comparing similar products. And that’s hard, given the differences in benefits, exclusion requirements, medical underwriting, age limitations, and a score of other factors offered in the travel insurance marketplace. One stratagem that seems to have caught on is using a free credit card or employer/retiree group plan to cover the first 15, 30, or 60 days of a trip, then “topping up” with an individual single-trip plan for the bulk of it. Sometimes that can work to save you a lot of money. But there are also…

MSH International Boosts Its Global Expansion With New Health and Travel Insurance Products and Services

MSH International (Americas) is accelerating its international expansion and services to meet the growing demand for its comprehensive, global health insurance products. Adding to the company’s great products and services a new suite of offerings addresses up-to-the-minute needs of leisure and business travelers alike and includes: LivExpat, a new generation of flexible and cost-efficient international health insurance plans MSH Navigator, a mobile application, with geo-tracking capabilities, security warnings, travel and city guides, two-way communication and single-touch access to emergency and provider networks MSH ASSISTANCE, a comprehensive product offering with round-the-clock multilingual medical assistance, emergency evacuation, repatriation and risk management to travellers, worldwide. Born of a 2017 merger between MSH International and Ingle International, a supplier of international insurance solutions for travellers, students and expatriates since 1946, MSH International continues to experience rapid international growth. Together with its continuous product innovation, tailored facilities, global capabilities, customized web and mobile sales/information portals…

How to Prepare for Emergency Situations at Home or Abroad

In April 2018, Toronto was shaken after an attack with a rented van in the North York area has left 10 dead and 15 others wounded. In a city that is generally known to be safe, this tragic event feels particularly jarring. It’s difficult to predict senseless attacks such as this. And while Toronto is in mourning today, one horrific act of violence will not alter the character of the city: at large, Toronto is still a safe place. For travellers heading to Toronto or anywhere else around the globe, it’s important not to let events like this deter you from getting out there and exploring the world. Rather than avoid making plans, the best thing that you can do is be prepared in the event you encounter an emergency at home or abroad. Measures for keeping safe Be prepared: If you are heading abroad, make sure to remain…

Ontario Travel Health Cutback Confirmed. Now What?

Now that the Ontario government has confirmed its decision to terminate all emergency medical costs for its residents travelling out of the country—effective October 1, 2019—we must ask what’s next for the millions of Ontarians who are accustomed to cross-border day trips for shopping, sporting events, regular family reunions, or in some cases even work. (Ontario’s action does not affect health coverage while visiting other provinces.) Recent surveys confirm that over 76 per cent of Canadians surveyed in 2018 said they had some form of travel insurance on their last trip out of the country—with older groups (boomers and snowbirds) having the highest rates of coverage. They know, they have the experience. They have heard the horror stories about what can happen without it. Younger groups, not so much: there’s still a reasonable amount of “invincibility” thinking out there. Multi-trip policies come into their own But there’s also some good…

As Governments Withdraw, Private Travel Insurers Tune Up

Ontario’s proposal to stop paying travellers’ out-of-country medical emergency costs is expected to raise private travel insurance premiums by between 7 and 13 per cent, according to industry sources, even though the provincial share of fees paid to foreign health care providers are minimal at best—perhaps 5 per cent. And though such increases will be felt most acutely by snowbirds who spend several months out of Canada each year—primarily in the US—the effects should also awaken cross-border shoppers and weekenders to the reality that accidents and medical emergencies can happen anywhere, at any time, making them just as vulnerable as snowbirds. According to figures just released by the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC), 71.9 per cent of Ontarians surveyed claim they had some form of travel insurance on their last outbound trip. For Canadians as a whole, that was 76 per cent. And of those who were uninsured, 49.6…

Important Updates To Our Policies & Extended Hours

IMPORTANT: UPDATES TO OUR POLICIES We have made changes to our policies in order to continue providing clients with comprehensive, responsible coverage.  Download a copy of our coverage summary or policy wording to get the full details of the updated changes. We at MSH Americas ensure that your clients can travel with confidence, whether they are global travellers, expatriates, or international students. With a wide range of products and an unrivaled customer service experience, you can trust that we will find the perfect solution for you and your clients’ travel needs. We offer personalized one-on-one service to fulfill your insurance needs at every point of contact. Don’t forget: We’re only a phone call away, whenever you need our assistance. MSH/Ingle Agents Login to your agent portal to view and download the latest policy details under MSH/Ingle-specific products. https://www.ingleinternational.com/login/en Canadian Travellers Travel freely, travel blissfully. We cover Canadian Travellers with travel…

Snowbird Guide to Medical Marijuana

Since 2015, when Prime Minister Trudeau committed Canada to full legalization of marijuana, the number of registered users of medical cannabis products soared from an estimated 24,000 to more than 330,000. And, for a nation of committed cannabis users (according to Statista—an international marketing research firm—41 per cent of Canadian adults confirm having used marijuana at some point in their lives), that appears to be just the beginning. In the United States, the approach to legalization is more ambivalent. Though the federal government prohibits the use of cannabis in any form (recreational or medical), 30 states and D.C. have so far legalized its use to some extent (26 allowing limited use medicinally, nine allowing both recreational and medicinal use). But those numbers change from month to month as the trend toward outright legalization creeps along. What does this mean for Canadians, particularly snowbirds, who rely on marijuana products and derivatives…

Canadians Continue to Embrace Cruise Vacations, But Need to Consider Travel Insurance Pitfalls

In 2018, close to 960,000 Canadians will have embarked on a cruise—almost 39 per cent more than in 2010, according to estimates reported by the Conference Board of Canada (CBOC). Citing data provided by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the CBOC projected that it was cruisers from Canada’s Atlantic region who posted the largest average annual rate of growth in embarkations since 2010—11.6 per cent from then to the end of 2017. The report also indicates that while the average age of Canadian ocean and river cruisers in 2017 was 51, there was a discernable distinction in age cohorts between those taking longer itineraries such as trans-Atlantic or exploration cruises (which tend to attract older travellers), and shorter Caribbean cruises which are more popular among younger travellers. For example, the average age of Canadian passengers on cruises to the Panama Canal/South America, Antarctica, Galapagos, or the Arctic is 66;…

Canadian Snowbirds in Texas: Persistent, But Still at Risk

Canadians make more than two million leisure trips to Mexico annually, more than to any other country after the United States, even though the governments of Canada, the US, Britain, and other nations continue to issue travel warnings regarding certain sectors of the country. For Canada’s travel industry, especially insurers, this presents something of a quandary because travellers who encounter unexpected health problems or other disruptions to their travel plans while in certain areas of Mexico under travel warnings may find severe limitations on their coverage benefits. And sometimes it doesn’t take much to wander into such areas—as happens often to Canadians who winter in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and walk over a footbridge into the state of Tamaulipas—an “Avoid Non-essential Travel” zone. Fortunately, the small, circumscribed tourist zone that Canada’s “Winter Texans” frequent daily is well fortified, and relatively free of crime or other disturbances. But wander beyond, and…

US Lifts Ban on Pot Workers, But Travel Rules Remain—For Now

The announcement by the US Customs and Border Protection agency that it will not impede Canadians who work in the rapidly growing cannabis industry from entering the United States for routine leisure or non-business travel suggests an easing of the federal government’s long-standing prohibition of marijuana use and commerce. The CBP statement, published on its website, reads: “A Canadian citizen working or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in Canada, coming to the U.S. for reasons unrelated to the marijuana industry will generally be admissible to the U.S., however if a traveler is found to be coming to the U.S. for a reason related to the marijuana industry, they may be deemed inadmissible.” The CBP clarification followed several weeks of speculation about how stringently CBP officers would enforce border restrictions on not only Canadian cannabis workers, but all other Canadian travellers whose own government has permitted them to…

Goodbye NAFTA. Hello USMCA. Hold on to Your Health Insurance

Canada’s new trade agreement with the United States and Mexico (replacing NAFTA) has gone through a tortuous negotiation, but finally has been completed. And according to the new rules built into USMCA (US, Mexico, Canada Agreement) there are no changes to visa requirements for workers and professionals affected by the new accord. The old NAFTA rules remain for business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, and traders and investors. (For details or updates on those rules, you can visit the Government of Canada’s website.) In short, the agreement doesn’t change a member country’s general immigration regulations governing public health, safety, and national security; and, significantly for workers and professionals posted abroad for long periods, it still doesn’t make provisions for any kind of reciprocity for health care coverage as has been a staple for individuals and companies operating within European Union countries. USMCA (like its forerunner NAFTA) is tied to trade, and…

Travelling Abroad? You Can’t Take Canada’s Cannabis with You

Canada’s marijuana legalization has attracted international media headlines the way few other Canadian actions have in recent memory—much more newsworthy than its freeing up of marijuana for medical purposes several years ago. And, as might be expected, the October 17 enactment of the new pot laws has spawned hugely speculative and grossly sensational alarms about what Canadians (including snowbirds) might expect when crossing over into the US this coming winter season. Let’s first establish one point above all: Canada’s legalization of cannabis is a domestic issue. It is applicable in Canada only. It has no impact on any other country’s laws or rules. In time it may certainly influence what other countries do—but not yet. The Canadian government is quite clear when it warns that “carrying any cannabis or cannabis product (legal or illegal) across Canada’s border will remain a serious criminal offence, with individuals convicted of engaging in such…

Visiting the US This Winter? Let’s Review the Rules—Part 1

It’s that time of year again: time to review the rules that govern how long you can stay out of the country without risking loss of your provincial health insurance benefits, how long you may stay in the US as a visitor, and if there are any changes in the rules you need to pay particular attention to. And this year, we’re going to do our review in two parts—the second dealing with new and vital information you need to know about Canada’s cannabis laws (for recreational or prescribed medical use) before leaving the country or approaching any other international border. You don’t need to be a marijuana user to be affected by these laws—so stay tuned. But first: the rules for visiting the US—Canada’s favourite vacation location There are no major changes in the B2 (non-immigrant tourist) visa rules for Canadian citizens wishing to visit the United States.…

Canadians Show Growing Satisfaction with Travel Insurance

Travel insurers have long been criticized for the complexity of their policies, heavy-handed use of medical and legal language in their applications, and their alleged tendency to deny, deny, deny claims. But according to a new public opinion research poll, commissioned by the Canadian Association of Financial Institutions in Insurance (CAFII), a non-governmental, non-profit watchdog association advocating a more transparent insurance marketplace, more than 8 out of 10 Canadians who have purchased travel insurance are satisfied with the value they receive from the products they buy. Furthermore, according to a press release issued by CAFII, 98 per cent of people who made travel medical insurance claims in the past year said they were fully or partially paid, with only 2 per cent of claims being rejected. In addition, 91 per cent of claimants said they were satisfied with their claim experience from initial contact to final outcome. According to the…