As frequent extended visitors to the United States of America, (affectionately referred to as “Snowbirds”) it is not uncommon for my wife and I to drive to our destination (in our case, Palm Springs) and fly back to Canada from time to time for various reasons. For example, we routinely return to Canada for the Christmas season and return down south in early January. This is typical for a lot of our Snowbird friends. Occasionally, it becomes necessary to voluntarily cancel or change a flight, which depending on the circumstances can have some severe financial consequences. More often, flight cancellations or extended delays are encountered, which unfortunately occurred on our most recent return visit to Canada. It is therefore prudent for the frequent flying “Snowbird” to be aware of the “rules” relating to air travel to and from the U.S. and the implications these exigent circumstances might create. Hopefully this article will provide some valuable information and provide some guidance for future air travel for the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America.Read On
When Canadians think of health insurance, they typically think of the universal health and medical coverage offered by the provincial government in their home province and which is offered and made available to all residents of Canada under the Canada Health Act. Unless they are a “snowbird”, the idea of medical travel insurance seldom comes to mind.
Many Canadians are fortunate to have employee benefit plans or individual health insurance programs, which are generally intended to enhance medical coverage (i.e. dental, vision, and prescription drugs) which is not otherwise available under the provincial health care programs. Many of these plans have imbedded in them a travel insurance component. “Travel insurance” refers to protection against “unexpected or unforeseen” medical emergencies, sudden illness or accidents which require medical attention, while travelling outside of the home province. Many also provide trip cancellation, trip interruption and baggage loss and other related unexpected travel events.
In an earlier article entitled, “Health Care and the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America”, I outlined the history of universal health care coverage in Canada (Alberta) together with its practical limitations and in doing so, identified the absolute need for supplemental or extended health insurance when travelling to the United States (or elsewhere), not only for the “snowbird” who frequently travels to the U.S. for their extended vacation but also for the infrequent visitor who crosses the border for shorter periods of time. In this regard, it is vitally important to understand the types of medical travel insurance available in Canada (hereafter referred to as “TIP”) and the nature of the limitations, conditions and exclusions that are contained in these types of insurance products. Moreover, it is critically important to be familiar with the “pre-existing condition” enigma contained in most of these policies. Failure to do so, could result in considerable financial risk to the uninformed or unprepared traveler.READ ON
Health Care and the Canadian Visitor to the United States of America
Many Canadians, when travelling abroad or to Mexico or to the United States of America, often take their own sense of personal security for granted. The same holds true with respect to health care. For the Canadian who is a frequent visitor to the United States (or even the occasional visitor), it is important to understand the nuances between health care coverage in the United States and health care coverage in Canada and where appropriate, and to take the appropriate precautions or steps in order to be adequately protected. In this regard, it might be useful to examine the health care system in the Province of Alberta and the implications for the Canadian Visitor (Albertan) travelling to the United States of America.READ ON
The Canadian government’s legislation to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana has been passed by Parliament and has received Royal assent. Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act however, will not come into effect until October 17th, 2018.
What will be the impact of legalizing marijuana have on the Canadian visitor wishing to cross the border and enter the United States of America?
Once the Cannabis Act becomes law, the recreational use of marijuana will become legal and there will be an established framework to control its production, distribution, sale and possession across Canada. This framework will include government approved retail outlets under provincial regulation and authority, which will make the substance readily accessible to all adult Canadians.
Several States in the United States have passed similar legislation. However, the fact remains that in the United States, cannabis remains a controlled substance under Federal legislation and its use or possession continues to be a criminal offence, even though in some States it has been legalized. Although this anomaly may have very little impact on American citizens, its impact on Canadian citizens and foreign nationals seeking entry into the country continues to be problematic. The legalization of cannabis in Canada will only exacerbate the problem. Until more detailed guidelines are announced by the U.S. Government agencies responsible for immigration and border protection, prudence and caution seem to be in order.
With the ever increasing costs of child care and after school care, many families with a working mother are faced with the annual dilemma after calculating the “net “benefit, having taken these expenses into account, of justifying her continued employment. In addition, (particularly, for the single “mom”) after making the decision to work, they are then presented with ever increasing family duties and expectations, logistical issues and unreasonable expectations or demands by the employer, when their “family” obligations interfere or conflict with their employment duties.
By now most employers should be aware that both federal and provincial human rights legislation prohibits discrimination in the workplace on grounds of race, religion, sex and age. Many employers are however unaware that the legislation also prohibits discrimination based upon a person’s family status, which includes childcare obligations.
The issue also arises occasionally with respect to elder care. As our parents’ age and as there is a tendency for them to live longer, their personal requirements and medical needs increase and it often falls on their adult children to address these concerns. Most often these issues are unscheduled and take the employee suddenly away from the workplace, which may create conflict with the employer.
The Story of Martha and Henry
In Alberta, the Wills and Succession Act R.S.A. came into effect on February 1st 2012 replacing the Wills Act, Intestate Succession Act, Survivorship Act and Section 47 of the Trustee Act. It is now the primary statute in Alberta that deals with wills, intestacy, survivorship, dependent support, beneficiary designations and other succession issues.
Section 13 of the Act states the following:
- An individual who is 18 years of age or older may make, alter or revoke a will if the individual has the mental capacity to do so.
“Mental capacity” is not defined in the Act but has universally been accepted as the penultimate consideration in determining whether or not a person has the ability to make a will or whether or not a given will is indeed valid. This is referred to among legal circles as “testamentary capacity”.
There is no standardized test for determining testamentary capacity and although it is suggested that lawyers are trained to assess mental capacity for the purpose of taking will instructions and before having someone sign a new will, my own experience would suggest that such “training” is limited and more imaginary than real. Clearly, most lawyers understand the necessity to assess the client’s ability to give will instructions but putting this into practice can be tricky and is more of an art than a science. READ ON
As a frequent visitor to the United States, it is not uncommon when visiting with fellow Canadian snowbirds down south, for the topic to arise (particularly at “Happy Hour “) about the rules relating to our extended visit to the United States and the potential pitfalls for failure to comply with these so-called “rules”. More often than not, one hears about someone’s misadventure in dealing with the American border patrol authorities and the “things” that should be done in order to preserve one’s right to re-enter the U.S. and to avoid having to pay American taxes. The advice at times appears conflicting and to say the least, confusing. This is my effort to bring some clarity to the situation.READ ON
A Canadian entering the United States of America as a visitor/tourist by air must present a valid Canadian passport or Nexus card when departing from a designated Canadian airport in order to gain legal entry into the country. Canadian citizens travelling to the U.S. by land or sea through a port of entry are required to present either a valid Canadian passport, Enhanced Driver’s License/Enhanced Identification card, NEXUS, FAST/EXPRES or SENTRI enrollment card. Most Canadians travelling frequently to the U.S. present their passport. The passport is typically scanned by the CPB agent and the usual perfunctory questions asked, “Where are you from? How long will you be in the U.S.? What is the purpose of your visit? Do you have any fruits or vegetables? Any cash or negotiable instruments in excess of $10,000?” Occasionally, the unsuspecting Canadian may be asked a surprise question, which happened to me on my last visit. “Have you ever been arrested or fingerprinted for any reason?” GULP…NO… I REPLIED! Satisfied with my responses to her questions, I was handed back my passport and pleasantly welcomed to the United States of America.