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Dear Bird Talk,
I am a lifetime member of the CSA and, as such,
have a question to ask today. I am involved
with a company that owns several vehicles in
the U.S. and I would like to inquire about being
able to drive one of these U.S. vehicles back to
Ottawa, Canada. This incorporated company
has holdings in both Florida and Canada and
is registered in Florida. I have no intention
of selling the car in Canada; it would simply
be for travel convenience. With free trade
between Canada and the U.S., I am hoping to
be permitted to drive one of the corporation’s
U.S. cars back to Canada, when required from
Florida, as flights are not always convenient and
I enjoy motoring.
I have inquired to Customs and Immigration on
this question, but I can’t seem to get an answer
pertaining to my particular situation. As such, I
have no idea whether I am permitted to do this
or not.
Your help with this matter would be greatly
appreciated.
Ann from Ontario
Ed: Somany rules and regulations! The short
answer is “No!” A Canadian driving a car licensed
in the U.S. into Canada raises every red flag
known to a border guard. If you do want to bring
a car back, youmust “import” it and pay taxes
and fees. As a car nut, I have done this and it is
relatively easy, but it becomes a little expensive
with the HST. And then, you have to export it back
to the U.S. – again, with taxes and fees. This is
all nonsense, of course, but I would not take any
chances with your future right to visit the U.S. by
trying to avoid it. Years ago, I had a very similar
issue with a boat that I had purchased inMiami.
Customs agents found it at amarina in Toronto
(apparently they check marinas regularly) and
issuedme a “pay tax” or “get it out” summons.
They also advisedme that they could seize the
boat and sell it. I now only drive a Canadian car
both ways when I drive.
Dear Bird Talk,
I recently read a newspaper article supposedly
written by a U.S. immigration lawyer that states
that, when snowbirds like ourselves spend time
in the U.S., if we take a trip to another country
from the U.S. and are gone for fewer than 30
days, when we calculate our six months’time
period, we must include the time outside of the
U.S. It did not sound correct to us and we are
wondering if you can clarify?
Jeannette Ramsden
West Kelowna, BC
Ed: The article was correct. This is quite unfair
in our opinion and is one reason that we really
need this Snowbird Visa. If you come home for
Christmas in the middle of your trip, the U.S.
counts the time in Canada as time in the U.S.,
because you just left the U.S. temporarily and are
planning to return.
Dear BirdTalk,
In a previous answer, you stated that provinces
should be happy to extend the number of days
of out-of-country health-care coverage as this
will reduce their health-care costs?Would you
explain?
Nancy McRae
Charlottetown, PE
Ed: Every emergency operation and every
doctor’s visit that happens outside of Canada is
amedical expense that would normally be paid
by the provincial medicare plan. Provinces pay,
basically, nothing for services provided outside of
Canada, usually in the range of 5% of the actual
bill. You still fund your “free” PEI health care with
your taxes, payroll taxes and other levies but, by
travelling, you end up using fewer services than
the person who does not travel. I must commend
PEI, however, for being one of the few provinces
that complies with the Canada Health Act. They
pay for medical services outside of the province at
the same rate as if the services had been provided
in the province. This represents 12-15% of most
bills from the U.S. In reality, the people who do
not travel benefit fromour absences as we take
pressure off the medical facilities and better care
can then be provided to them.
Dear BirdTalk,
Having recently purchased condos in both
Ontario and Florida, we are just about to join
the ranks of the snowbirds. Is it necessary
to set up a bank account in the U.S., or have
you found it possible to get along with just a
Canadian bank and a VISA card?
Arthur Wenk, ON
Ed: Congratulations! You CAN get along with
just your Canadian bank account and a VISA
card, but I would not recommend it due to all
of the charges and possible inconveniences. We
opened an account withWells Fargo and carry
their debit card, which we use for everything. The
money which we need is transferred every month,
through the CSA Currency Exchange Program,
directly into our U.S. account. Your condo
fees and other normal living expenses can be
automatically deducted from your U.S. account as
well, which will prove to be very convenient.
Dear BirdTalk,
I recently heard that the six-month rule was
changed to seven months. Is this true? I also
heard that nine months is in the works. Is this
true?
Also, for how long can I winter in the U.S. and
not lose my Canadian pension?
Winston Sharkey
Cambridge, ON
Ed: Just to recap, most Canadian provinces now
allow you to be outside of the province for seven
months without losing your health-care benefits;
Ontario is one of them. Newfoundland currently
allows you to travel for nine months…the only
province to do so. Unfortunately, the United
States will only allow you to stay for six months,
so you just can’t go to Florida or Arizona for the
full sevenmonths. CSA is very close to having
the U.S. extend our stays to EIGHT months with a
Snowbird Visa, but that is not yet fully resolved.
As to losing your pension because you travel – I
have never heard of that in Canada and highly
doubt that it is correct. This assumes that it is a
Canadian pension. You should be able to live in
the U.S. forever and still maintain your Canadian
pension. There would be some withholding taxes
applied, usually 15%. Other countries can have
very different rules for what we call “ex-pats.”
Dear BirdTalk,
Like many snowbirds, we do our banking online
while in Florida. While away from home, we
use Kathy’s debit card information to access
our company and personal bank accounts but,
last winter, we discovered that her card was
about to expire while we were away. It had a
November expiry date.
According to the bank, a new replacement card
had been mailed to our home. To authorize it,
we had a choice of either phoning the bank’s
1-800 authorization number from our home
telephone number of record, or authorizing it
online using details only available on the new
card and in the transmittal letter. It was a Catch
22 situation, since we could not do either. I
called our local bank branch, but there was
nothing that they could do to help until we
returned home.
Luckily, I found that my debit card had a June
expiry date, so was able to use this to reset
our online banking access. If not for this, we
would have lost complete control of our online
banking while away, including all monthly
utility payments and several major annual
expenditures planned through the winter
months.
Bird
talk
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