There is not much worse than when someone “corrects” misinformed people, only to compound the problem by giving them still more misleading information. Here we have a good example:
[Gail Hunnisett, constituency assistant for Alex Atamanenko, MP] said 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.
Hunnisett said that to extend their stay to 182 days, Canadians have to fill out a special form.
The special form links to a Closer Connection Exception Statement for Aliens from the IRS.
What we seem to have here is a blending of tax and immigration policy, with the final analysis being that Canadians can’t stay more than four months in the U.S. per year without such consequences as paying taxes or being barred from future entry.
This is news to me, as it will be to the many Canadian snow birds who may suddenly be in a panic that they’re in the U.S. illegally.
Let’s look at the immigration side of the issue and leave the taxes aside. It is true there is a Canadian misconception that the maximum period of stay in the U.S. in any calendar year is six months. People can be forgiven for believing this, because such well respected publications as the Financial Post repeat the canard. Unfortunately, I have heard of people’s experiences at the border which tell me that this rumour has taken on quasi-official status.
In actual fact, the rule is that on any particular visit, a Canadian can stay in the United States for no longer than six months. However, a Canadian may very well be able to stay in the U.S. for longer than six months cumulative time in any given calendar year, provided they are not trying to live there permanently.
Example: A Canadian goes to the U.S. for six months, then leaves. They return a month later and stay another six months, then leave. They come back a third time a month later and try to enter the U.S. Denied. Why? Because the border official figures they’re living there permanently and they don’t have the proper visa to allow it.
The same goes for U.S. citizens coming to Canada. Though you will run into online forums with all kinds of advice about not being able to stay more than six months in a calendar year in Canada, this is not the official line from the Canadian government.
As the above example shows, it is wrong to say that the maximum stay is “actually 120 days” or four months for all trips in a single year. It is also wrong to say that Canadians need to fill out a special form to exceed a four month period and extend it to six months.
I sympathize with people’s confusion caused by conflicting information on the internet. I also allow that there may be some tax issues clouding the immigration waters. But let me say that in my decades of practising immigration law, I have never told a Canadian client that they need to fill out a Closer Connection Exception Statement for Aliens from the IRS in connection with visiting the U.S.
One of the things I find most interesting – and sometimes frustrating – about immigration law is that there are so many people who do not hesitate to share their opinion on these matters with such little caution. Some of this is advice that can greatly impact someone’s life – a vacation scrapped, a piece of real estate not purchased, a wedding canceled. When my phone rings and a new client calls, it is not uncommon that I have to dispel whatever rumour they heard from a friend, neighbour or website before giving them the help they need.
In a following post I will talk about the time limits for people visiting the USA and Canada from overseas, including Asia, Europe and Australia.