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Considerations for Canadian Snowbirds

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerDecember 7, 2016
Considerations for Canadian Snowbirds

Canadian seniors are flocking to the south to avoid the cold weather and unforgiving winter. If you’re a snowbird, you may have already taken off to the United States for the winter, or you may be making your final preparations.

Either way, don’t forget to cross these important considerations for Canadian snowbirds off your to-do list before you depart.

Financial and Tax Considerations

Most snowbirds stay in the U.S. for a maximum of 6 months to avoid paying taxes in both countries. However, the tax implications of your stay are complicated and unique to your situation, so it’s best to talk to your accountant before you go.

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Ask your accountant about:

  1. Form 8840: This is a voluntary form that Canadian citizens can fill out to avoid potential U.S. taxation. This form shows the IRS that you are a Canadian citizen.
  2. Getting a U.S. credit card and opening a U.S. bank account. You could potentially save a lot of money by making purchases in U.S. dollars rather than converting to Canadian. Use your U.S. bank account to pay for the purchases made on your U.S. credit card, without being gouged on the exchange.
  3. Phone charges can be costly if you don’t have a U.S. plan that allows you to roam and use data in the states. Depending on where you live in Canada, check out the options you have with your cellular provider. Wind Mobile has some affordable packages for Canadian snowbirds.

Medical Considerations

One of the perks of being a Canadian is our access to affordable health care. Even if you have medical insurance for your stay down south, try to do as much as you can before your trip to avoid incurring additional medical costs.

Before you depart, it’s important to ask yourself:

  1. Do you need to consider top-up medical insurance to cover any complicated or ongoing conditions you may have?
  2. Have you received all your vaccinations prior to leaving? These include the:
    • Flu shot
    • The shingles vaccine, which is currently free for Ontario residents between 65 – 70 years old
  3. Have you got enough prescription medication and refills ready to last for the duration of your trip?
  4. Is your medical insurance up-to-date and valid for your trip? Do you have the supporting documentation you need packed?

Vehicle Considerations

Many snowbirds drive down to the U.S., and whether you have a home or a mobile home that you’ll drive down in, you need your car to maintain your independence while you’re there.

Consider:

  1. Does your car insurance cover an extended stay in another country? According to the Canadian Snowbird Association, most insurers won’t insure your vehicle for more than 180 days outside of Canada.
  2. Has your vehicle been tuned up and checked before you travel? Don’t forget to ensure your spare tires are properly inflated, and that you have fluid, filter and oil changes done before you leave.
  3. If you’re planning on storing your vehicle (especially a trailer) in the U.S., then ensure that you’ve got the proper insurance set up. The Canadian Snowbird Association offers some great advice on suspending your insurance while your vehicle is in storage.
  4. If you’re thinking of shipping your car (or any other large items like furniture), then be very careful of who you deal with. There are a lot of shady shipping companies out there and the cost can end up being astronomical. Consider asking a family friend or relative to drive your car for you – the ticket for them to get home may be less than what you’ll pay to ship the car.

Other Important Considerations

  1. Can you leave the U.S. during your 6 month stay? Yes, if you’re planning a cruise or other South American adventure, “an absence from the U.S. for more than 30 days is not counted by U.S. Immigration in your six-month allotment,” the Canadian Snowbird Association says.
  2. Do you have a estate documents like a power of attorney or will set up for your time in Canada and the U.S.? Talk to your attorney about whether you need separate living wills for your time in the states and ensure that any documents you have drawn up don’t conflict with your Canadian documents.
  3. Ensure that your driver’s license, health insurance cards and passport do not expire before or during your stay in the U.S.
  4. If you’re selling your home in the states to return to Canada, then you should check with the Canada Border Services Agency (Canada Customs) and let them know the types of personal belongings you’d like to bring home. Ask customs what you need to do to get those items across the border.

Are you a Canadian snowbird with experience staying in the U.S.? What should other snowbirds be aware of during this time? Share your suggestions and tips with us in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
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Kimberley Fowler

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