No Expansion of U.S. Visiting Privileges Anytime Soon.


Rumours that he U.S. government will soon allow you to visit for longer than six months are only rumours, and though they are increasing in frequency, there is little substance to them. And even if it were true, your own provincial rules will still keep you at home.

We are hardly ever out of earshot of some U.S. Congressman or Senator announcing a plan to have Canadians spend more time in his state, or buy properties that otherwise aren’t selling, or just patronize businesses to help the local economy.  But the path to introducing a bill in Congress and seeing it signed into law by the president is strewn with potholes and usually ends up nowhere. So when you hear Senator Blowhard pontificate on his latest plan, take a deep breath and let it pass.

For example: out of over 10,250 bills introduced during the recent 111th Congress (ending in 2010), only 336 were enacted: that is three percent—one out 30. The rest died—most of them as soon as they were introduced. And given the urgent priorities facing the U.S. government these days—using up debating time on whether or not to allow Canadians to spend more than six months a year in the country doesn’t rate highly. In fact, it sounds rather self-indulgent, considering that no other country in the world is given such generous access to the U.S. as Canada.

Furthermore, even if you were allowed more time in the U.S., your  provincial governments will still require you to spend at least as much time at home, in your own province, as you do outside of it:  not an unreasonable request—lousy weather notwithstanding. As they argue it, if you are not living as a permanent resident of your own province, you are not entitled to the benefits of the provincial health plan.

Consequently all provinces and territories except Ontario and Newfoundland require you to physically live in your province (actually have your feet on the ground) for at least 183 days per year (six months plus a day).  Ontario requires you to live in the province for five months within the past 12, and Newfoundland and Labrador four months. There is no indication that is about to change, consequently it doesn’t matter how much time the U.S. allows you to live within its borders. How many will risk losing their health insurance? There’s the rub. That’s what it’s all about.

There are two sets of laws. They are not meant to be coordinative.  They have nothing to do with each other. And you are subject to both.

So next time you hear a rumour about more open borders—take it with a grain of salt, and consider how long it takes governments to change anything.  But stick around: we’ll let you know when something happens.

In the meantime enjoy your six months, and make sure you don’t overlook your need to have health insurance while away from home.

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