Changes to Length of Stay

Winter 2010 CSANews Issue 77  |  Posted date : Dec 06, 2010.Back to list

Dear Bird Talk:

Re: Changes to length of stay

We keep hearing from friends that the U.S. is trying to change the length-of-stay time from 182 days to a maximum stay of 120 days for Canadian citizens. Is there any truth to this? I have been unable to find anything regarding this on the website. 

Thank you! 

Karyn Farthing,
Speargrass, AB



Response:
Ed: There are so many false rumours circulating that it is hard to refute them all. The real facts are that the maximum stay you are allowed in the USA is SIX months in any 12-month period. You, as a Canadian citizen, are entering the U.S. on a B-2 visa, which can be issued verbally by a U.S. immigration official as you cross the border.

Further, if you leave the U.S. for a few days, or take a cruise, or make a trip to Mexico, these days are not deducted from your six-month maximum. You may only deduct days on which you stay outside of the USA for more than 30 consecutive days; otherwise, U.S. Customs considers your brief exit to be part of your trip to the U.S.

Now for the hard part! Border crossing guards have enormous powers "to protect the United States." They can restrict your trip length, they can deny you access to the U.S., or they can even bar you from entering the U.S. for five or 10 years. Heck, they can even arrest you! We have seen many, many cases of all of the above situations. Our first CSA President, Jack Parry, was restricted to 90 days on one of his trips and had to report to immigration to prove that he was leaving prior to the deadline he was given.

There are many cases in which trips have been restricted to (your) 120 days and to as few as 30 days. One gentleman was given a restricted trip duration at border point A and decided to leave and cross at border point B. He was instantly barred from the U.S. for five years – they knew that he had already tried to enter at point A.

At the risk of boring you, the most common "error" which snowbirds make is shifting their trip times. If you travelled from December 1 to May 31 last year (i.e. six months) but decided to leave on October 1 this year for six months, you would be breaking U.S. laws (maximum six months' stay in any 12-month period). If we look at the period from February 1 to January 31, you stayed for four months on your first trip and four months on your second trip. That’s eight months.

Our snowbird example raises two serious problems: first, you are in the U.S. illegally after November 30 of your second trip and are subject to arrest as an illegal alien; and second, you are now responsible for paying taxes in the United States as you have been a resident there for more than six months. Believe me, these are both very uncomfortable situations, so please avoid being ensnared in these laws and regulations.