Snowbird FAQs is a forum where we provide answers to some of the most common and interesting questions we receive from Snowbird Advisor members that we feel will be of interest to other members.
I've heard that some Canadians are driving their cars down to their winter homes and getting around the current U.S. border closure by giving fake reasons to border officers about why their travel is essential.
Is this actually happening? If so, what are the consequences if you get caught lying at the border?
We have heard anecdotal stories about individuals trying to cross the border (some successfully, some unsuccessfully) by lying about the nature of their travel so it would qualify as "essential". However, we have not been able to verify any of these stories yet.
Be aware that even if you don't get caught lying at the border, both the U.S. and Canada are sending officials to follow up on people after they cross the border to confirm that the reason and circumstances they provided for crossing the border are in fact true.
If you are caught giving false information to U.S. border officials, you could be banned from the U.S. for a period of 5 years or more.
The bottom line - lying to any customs or border official is always a very bad idea - and especially now while the Canada-U.S. border is closed to all non-essential travel.
I’ve read in the news that a new law may allow Canadians to spend up to 8 months in the U.S. instead of 6. What is the status of this legislation?
As of early January 2020, the Canadian Snowbirds Act, which would effectively amend U.S. tax law to allow Canadians who meet certain criteria to spend 8 months in the U.S. per calendar year (instead of the current 6 month limit) has only been proposed as a bill and has not been passed into law.
We are following the status of this bill closely and will advise Snowbird Advisor members of any important developments.
In the meantime, you can learn more about the proposed Canadian Snowbirds Act here.
My husband and I are planning for our winter in Florida and my passport expires in June, 2020. I always thought my passport had to be valid for 6 months after my return date to Canada, but a friend recently told me that it only has to be valid until my return date. Can you please confirm if this is true?
Your friend is correct that your Canadian passport only has to be valid for the duration of your stay in the U.S.
However, we have heard reports that some U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents are unfamiliar with this exemption and are requiring passports to be valid for 6 months after your expected return date.
Accordingly, whenever possible we suggest travelling to the U.S. with a passport that is valid for 6 months after your expected return date to Canada.
If you do decide to travel with a passport that has an earlier expiry date and you run into trouble at the border, you may want to try politely directing the CBP agent to the directive on the CBP website that states Canadian passports only need to be valid for the duration of your stay in the U.S. Learn more here.
We have been spending the past few winters in the U.S. and everyone keeps telling us we should get NEXUS cards. Is it really worth it?
While everyone's situation is different, the short answer is generally YES!
The NEXUS program allows members to travel between Canada and the U.S. much more quickly by using automated self-serve kiosks and dedicated lines for security and customs at airports, and dedicated lanes for cars at border crossings.
Depending on how busy an airport or border crossing is, having a NEXUS card can sometimes save you hours when travelling
However, it's important to keep a few things in mind:
- Everyone travelling with you must have their own NEXUS card, including minors under the age of 18.
- There are very strict compliance rules for NEXIS cardholders, including updating the personal information associated with your NEXUS card and complying with all customs declaration rules. Even a minor or unintentional infraction can result in you being kicked out of the NEXUS program for life, so be very careful to know and follow all the rules.
Canadians can apply for the NEXUS program online through the Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) website operated by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). You can also find information about applying for the NEXUS program on the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) website.
Paper applications for the NEXUS program are no longer available.
I’ve heard there are different rules for how long Canadians can stay in the U.S. for immigration purposes and for tax purposes. Can you explain the difference please?
You are correct, there are two different sets of rules – one for tax purposes and one for immigration purposes.
A common misconception among Canadian snowbirds is that there is only one set of rules to comply with. This misconception can lead to the misapplication of the rules, resulting in a variety of negative consequences.
Tax rules deal with how long you can stay in the U.S. before you are considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes. Violating these rules by spending too much time in the U.S. or failing to file the required forms with the IRS can lead to serious adverse tax and financial consequences. You can learn more about U.S. tax rules for Canadian snowbirds here.
Immigration rules, on the other hand, dictate how much time you can spend in the U.S. in general. Spending too much time in the United States can lead to a number of adverse consequences when trying to enter the U.S., including increased scrutiny when crossing the border, being denied entry to the U.S. on a one-time basis or even being banned from entering the U.S. You can learn more about U.S. immigration rules for Canadian snowbirds here.
It’s essential for Canadians who spend time in the U.S. to comply with both sets of rules to avoid running into issues south of the border.