Know Your Provincial Travel Rules. Ignorance Can Cost You Big Time.

Although Canada is known to have a comprehensive health care system, health care is administered at the provincial level, not the federal. This information is important to know, because if you live in Calgary and you’re planning a seventh-month snowbird trip to Florida with family living in Fredericton, you’d better be flexible.

Why? We’ll explain. Read on.

How does your health ministry know how long you have been out of your province? Probably it doesn’t, unless it investigates—maybe an envious neighbour or a relative blew the whistle on you, perhaps you triggered a medical claim out of the country or in another province, or possibly some other piece of information came to the attention of a compliance clerk or supervisor. And if you are detected to have been such an outlier, the penalties can be severe.

If your provincial health benefits are suspended (and it does happen), you will have to re-apply, and you will be required to remain in your province for three consecutive months—and be able to prove it—before your coverage is reinstated. During that period you’ll be uninsured under your provincial plan. There are private plans built to cover you for that period, and our experts at Travel Insurance File can help you find coverage. Refer to our homepage for more information. That’s when you will find that health care in Canada is neither “free” nor “cheap.” In fact, Canada is among the six most expensive countries for health care in the world.

How long does your provincial health ministry require you to physically reside in your province to remain eligible for government health insurance plan benefits?

British Columbia:

5 months per calendar year.


5 months in a consecutive 12-month period.                                


5 months in a consecutive 12-month period.


5 months in a consecutive 12-month period


5 months in a consecutive 12-month period.


6 months a year, but it also allows residents to be out of the province for any number of short trips (up to 21 days) in any given year.

New Brunswick:

5 months in a consecutive 12-month period.

Prince Edward Island:

6 months in a consecutive 12-month period.

Nova Scotia:

5 months in a calendar year

Newfoundland and Labrador:

4 months in a consecutive 12-month period.

These residency requirements refer to total time periods—be it one extended stretch or a series of shorter stays. Also note that some provinces tally their total over a calendar year (January 1 through December 31), while others count days over a consecutive 12-month period. Pay particular attention to this distinction.

A few additional points of caution…

All provinces specifically note that these are out-of-province residential absences, not out-of-country absences. In other words, if you travel from your home province to visit with friends or family in another province for a couple of weeks or a month before leaving the country, that time must be deducted from your planned seven months in the south (or six if you live in Quebec or P.E.I.). Otherwise, you could be out of province for too long and, consequently, risk losing your provincial health coverage.

And the bottom line remains that if you plan all or most of your travel to the U.S., as many snowbirds do, you are still allowed to stay as a visitor up to a maximum of six months. No matter what your province allows. See the previous column for what we mean by “months.”

As we say repeatedly, count your days! From the time you leave home, until you return and switch on your living room lights (or the heat).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.