How long can we stay in the USA?

Summer 2010 CSANews Issue 75  |   Posted date : Jul 20, 2010.Back to list

Bird talk - Le Jaseur
I would like some clarification on how long we can stay in the United States. I live in Ontario. Some people tell me six months, while others say seven months. I also heard that our Ontario health coverage expires if we are out of the province for more than six month. Is this true?

Your help would be appreciated.


Response :
Ed: This is a very common misunderstanding. Your maximum time allowed in the U.S. is six months, period! However, any U.S. border-crossing guard can arbitrarily reduce that period if they "feel" it is warranted. We know of people being restricted to two months and three months and even two weeks, but six months is the normal maximum stay. Extensions beyond six months are sometimes granted in special circumstances, but you must apply for these.

Ontario allows residents to stay away for up to seven months, thanks to the CSA. Most other provinces allow only six months, but short trips are usually not counted in this total. Once you exceed the outside-the-province travel limit (again, seven months for Ontario), the provincial government has the right to strip you of your health-care benefits (OHIP in Ontario), as you are no longer considered a resident. We know several instances of this being done and B.C. seems to be the most aggressive in cancelling benefits. It is very time-consuming and sometimes expensive to get reinstatement, especially when you have received health care in the province during your cancellation period. They also want you to go through the three-month waiting period before reinstatement.
Governments are generally not very bright and, theoretically, if they do not consider you a resident and they strip you of your health benefits, you do not have to pay taxes. I would not try that, however, as the government does not have a sense of humour either. Or perhaps you could return to Canada as a refugee claimant; they get instant health-care coverage.

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