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There’s been a lot of talk about a ‘border shakeup’ warning Canadian snowbirds to be careful about how much time they spend in the U.S. each calendar year.

There’s been a lot of talk about a ‘border shakeup’ warning Canadian snowbirds to be careful about how much time they spend in the U.S. each calendar year.

Cochrane has its share of snowbirds, spending the winter months down in Arizona, Florida, or whichever American state they either own a home or rent to get away from the Canadian winter.

There has also been a lot of confusion when it comes to how long a Canadian can stay in the U.S. without getting themselves into trouble – for example losing their Canadian health care, citizenship, or being taxed by both the Canadian and American governments.

Much of the confusion has stemmed from a statement made to the media by an MP’s office from B.C., in which it says, “A common misconception is that Canadians can spend up to 182 days, or six months, in the U.S. It’s actually 120 days, or four months, and that includes all trips to the U.S. in a single year.”

The MP’s statement goes on to say that Canadians looking to extend their stay to 182 days would have to fill out a special form, the Closer Connection Exception Statement for Aliens.

Compounding the confusion is an article written by Andy J. Semotiuk, a U.S. and Canadian immigration lawyer, for Forbes, where he says that the statement made by the B.C. MP blended tax and immigration policy. He goes on to say that the statement that Canadians can’t stay in the U.S. for more than 120 days, or four months, in one year without being taxed or being barred from the country is ‘news to him.’

Semotiuk also says in the article that it is a Canadian misconception that the maximum period of stay in the U.S. in any calendar year is six months, and that the ‘rumor’ has taken on ‘quasi-official status.’

Semotiuk, however, continues to confuse the issue by then saying that the fact is that on any particular visit, a Canadian can stay in the U.S. for no longer than six months, but could be able to stay longer (cumulative time) in any given calendar year as long as they are not trying to live south of the border permanently.

Finally, Semotiuk concludes with a valid point – that it is frustrating that so many people seem not to hesitate to share their opinions on immigration matters with little caution, even though those ‘rumors’ could have a negative effect.

One would think that contacting the Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) would make things a bit more clear, as it is reasonable to assume that they would know how long a Canadian can stay in the U.S. without facing consequences.

The CBSA, however, did not answer the question, but rather pointed the Eagle in the direction of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for a reply.

The CBSA did highlight an initiative between Canada and U.S., which has made a lot of news lately, called the Entry-Exit Initiative and the Perimeter Security and Competitiveness Action Plan, which falls under the Border Protection Plan between the two countries.

In a nutshell, the facet of the plan that has had some snowbirds as well as the media opening their eyes is that fact that the plan enables officials to be able to track how many days Canadians have spent in the U.S. Prior to the Entry-Exit Initiative, only entry dates could be tracked, not exit dates, meaning a Canadian could enter the U.S., exit however long later, and then return whenever they wanted because border officials had no idea exactly how many days they had been in the U.S. on their prior visits.

The MP’s office that released the statement of a 120-day (four month) limit per year visit to the U.S. did say that this number was based on a three-year average using a special formula.

The confusion therein lies with what the maximum length stay is (four or six months) before a Canadian has to fill out the Closer Connection Exception Statement for Aliens form for an extension. On one hand you have an MP’s office saying four months, and an immigration lawyer saying six months.

The Eagle did reach out to U.S. Customs for an answer to this question, but as of press time has not received a reply. With conflicting information online, bureaucratic red-tape and seemingly no one wanting to answer a simple question, is it any wonder this issue is so confusing?