How Long Can You Stay Outside Of Canada Without Losing Benefits
When thinking about leaving the country, it is very important to know about the implications of your trip duration. If you plan on staying out of the country for an extended duration, you may eventually be restricted from certain national benefits at home. While this mainly applies to snowbirds, Canadians in general have a tendency to travel outside the country every now and again. The most crucial things to keep in mind when adventuring on foreign land is how long you’re able to legally stay there, and how long you can rely on your provincial support. Also, don't forget to look for a currency exchange before your trip.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN TRAVELLING OUTSIDE OF CANADA
Can I stay out of Canada for more than 6 months?
Depending on the governing provincial body that you’re subject to, there are certain rules you would need to follow to retain provincial medical insurance privileges while outside the country. Generally, each province/territory has a maximum time period for how long they can ensure your medical coverage.
Currently only residents of Nunavut are allowed to leave the country for 12 months (a full year) and retain territorial health care coverage. Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador can enjoy the second longest maximum duration at 8 months. Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick all fall under the 7 month category, in other words most of the Canadian population is only granted 7 months of provincial healthcare coverage upon departure. The shortest maximum coverage duration – 6 months – is applicable to residents of Quebec, Yukon, PEI, and Northwest Territories.
What happens if I stay abroad after my government healthcare coverage expires?
If you happen to be staying abroad for longer than your provincial/territorial healthcare plan allows, your medical travel insurance will most likely stop fulfilling your insurance claims. Most travel insurance packages are signed with the underlying condition that you’re financially shielded by a provincial body. Keep this in mind when planning your trip duration as well.
Will I get my healthcare back?
Assuming you’re out of Canada for longer than your maximum duration for medical coverage, the moment you get back home you’ll need to re-apply for the benefit. The application process for provincial healthcare requires living in the area for a minimum of three months before you are eligible to be covered again. Note that during this three month waiting period you are not covered under your provincial plan – any medical expenses would come out of your pocket, assuming you lack private insurance. And to be insured by the province in the first place, you will have to had lived in under your provincial jurisdiction for at least 6 months.
How long can a Canadian citizen stay out of Canada?
This is a really important question to consider for passport-wielding Canadian snowbirds. The truth is that the answer varies widely depending on which country you plan on visiting, since every country has their own unique visitor policy. If you’re just planning to travel south of the border, you’re in luck – the US allows Canadian citizens to stay in the country for up to 182 days, exempt from American income tax. Other native English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom allow Canadians to stay for a maximum of 6 months on a 12 month cycle since the point of entry. In other words, if you plan on travelling to the U.K. from January to May, you’d only need to wait until January to seek residence there again – not the following May.
Traveling With Visas
In terms of travel visas, you can snowbird in Mexico on a renewable visa that lasts for 6 months. Israel allows Canadian travelers to stay for a maximum of 3 months with a visa. Countries like India, China, and Philippines allow Canadians to stay in within their borders for a maximum duration of 30 days (except the Philippines does not require a visa). Hong Kong has a slightly friendlier visiting policy; in this city Canadians can enjoy a maximum stay of 90 days. Of course, the best advice we can give to individuals departing Canada is to double check everything with a travel advisory service, since they’ll most likely be up to date with any changes in legislation.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON LEAVING CANADA TO STAY ABROAD
Can I lose my Canadian citizenship if I live abroad?
In the vast majority of snowbird and general travel cases the answer is no. While it’s extremely unlikely to lose your citizenship during these brief excursions, it is still possible to lose permanent residency status if you’re not abiding by the rules associated with it. In a very general sense, to achieve citizenship at the national level in Canada you’d need to provide proof of permanent residency for a minimum of 2 out of 5 years in the country. However, once you’ve already acquired full Canadian citizenship, you will always be considered a Canadian citizen under Canada’s dual-citizenship policy unless you do something highly illegal that revokes your citizenship status.
Note: provincial legislation varies widely from federal legislation. While you get to maintain your Canadian rights and privileges permanently, certain provincial or municipal benefits (such as healthcare) can easily be revoked.
The Bottom Line
While you don’t have to worry about losing your Canadian citizenship, even if you opt for permanent residency in another country, you definitely need to consider these two factors:
- Your medical travel insurance needs
- Individual nations visitor policies
If you’re planning on spending your winter south of the border, check out our guide to the best snowbird destinations in the USA
And if you need insurance, we’ve also got your back. Click here for our brief review of Canada’s best snowbird insurance policies