Have you reached a point where you’re tired of winter in Canada? Are you ready to spend the blistering cold months somewhere more tropical? Are you ready to become a snowbird? We get it! Winter is not for everyone, and the allure of spending it elsewhere is ever-present. Fortunately, you’re not alone. Every year, thousands of Canadians leave their province and find themselves in hot, American states. But you should be aware that it’s not always so easy as just declaring you’re a snowbird to your family and then jumping on a plane. So today, we’re going through everything you need to know about becoming a snowbird.
How long can you be a snowbird?
If you plan to head to the United States for the winter, you can stay for about 8 months or 243 days in a 12-month year. If you stay any longer than that, you may get labeled with a resident alien status with taxes and Form 8840, better known as the Closer Connection Exception Statement for Aliens. The IRS does have some flexibility for snowbirds, but it can be tough to navigate. It’s also important to note that the 243 days could be all in one shot or an accumulation of days so, if you spend any other time in the country (even if it’s just a single day,) that counts towards the 243 counts.
What about keeping my provincial health insurance?
To keep your provincial health insurance, you’ll need to spend a significant amount of time in your home province. This is because there are different duration requirements for each province. As of November 15th, 2018:
Prince Edward Island – Must spend 6 months plus a day in Prince Edward Island every year.
Quebec – Must be present in Quebec for at least 183 days per calendar year. Absences of 21 consecutive days or less are not included in the calculation.
Alberta – 183 days in any 12 month period. (You may remain eligible for AHCIP coverage if, regularly, you are absent from Alberta for up to 212 days in a 12-month period for vacation.)
British Columbia – 6 months in each calendar year. Canadian citizens or people lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence outside of B.C. for vacation purposes only are allowed a total absence of 7 months each calendar year.
Manitoba – No more than 212 days outside Manitoba in any 12 month period. It is recommended that you contact Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living for departures longer than 90 days.
New Brunswick – No more than 212 days outside New Brunswick in any 12 month period.
Northwest Territories – Must be physically present for at least 153 days during each calendar year.
Nova Scotia – Must be present at least 183 days per calendar year.
Ontario – No more than 212 days outside Ontario in any 12 month period if you have lived in Ontario for more than 6 months & no more than 30 days outside Ontario if you have lived in Ontario for less than 6 months.
Saskatchewan – Must normally live in the province for at least 5 months per year.
Newfoundland – A certificate must be obtained from MCP if leaving the province for more than 30 days. Certificates are valid for 8 – 12 months.
Nunavut – Must be your primary place of residence.
Yukon Territory – Must be physically present in Yukon for more than 6 months. If away for 3 months or more, you must fill out a Temporary Absence form.
It is important to remember that these rules are subject to change. Contact your provincial health care provider for current requirements.
Should snowbirds buy travel insurance?
Yes, 100%! As a Canadian, you may not fully realize the sticker shock that comes with American healthcare. So don’t take a risk on your health, and instead invest in a high-quality travel insurance plan. Travel insurance is an absolute necessity, especially for such a long duration out of the country. To compare the rates of the top travel insurance companies, request a quote through isure! Our simple system will show you many different examples and rates to help you find the best coverage for your trip.
What about my home insurance coverage?
If you’re away from home for a long time, some home insurers will have more measures you need to take. Failing them could result in lost home insurance coverage. Speak with your isure broker to know for sure, but a common rule is to have a family member do regular stop-ins and inspections while you are away.
Where should I go?
If your goal is to escape winter, as is the case for most snowbirds, then the southern states in the USA should be your destination. Florida is the most common area, while California is a close second. Other states include Arizona, Texas, and South Carolina. If you have the budget, then you could also consider Hawaii!