Snowbird Protection Checklist

Home, travel and auto insurance should never be considered as “get it and forget it” products. This is especially true for snowbirds. Along with changing protection needs, there could be limitations in place, or conditions that must be adhered to for coverage to be valid.

Take time to confirm your insurance requirements, the terms and conditions of your policies, and your responsibilities. It can be a costly mistake to assume you’re covered. If you have questions, check with your insurance provider before you leave for vacation!

Documentation

  • Because resident aliens can be taxed on their worldwide income by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it’s wise to ask your accountant whether you are considered a non resident alien or resident alien.
  • Along with your passport, travel documents, medication and eyeglass prescriptions, and insurance policies, it’s important to have proof of Canadian residency – IE: a utility or cable bill with your current address – with you when you enter the United States. It shows the IRS that, “you maintain a tax home in a foreign country during the year, and you have a closer connection to that country than to the United States.”

Home Insurance

  • Coverage for damage caused by frozen pipes has conditions if your home is unoccupied.
  • Some policies require your home to be inspected DAILY if you’re away more than four days in the regular heating season.
  • Click Here to read Sergeant Bob’s Safety Tips to secure your home when you're travelling.

Travel Insurance

  • If your health changes between the time you buy your insurance and its effective date, you must notify your insurer or risk invalidating your coverage.
  • Don’t buy your travel insurance at the last minute. You need to understand your policy’s benefits, limitations and exclusions. Most claim denials are the result of customers not understanding what they'’ve purchased, not reading their policy to learn exactly what is and isn’t covered, and not understanding their own obligations.
  • Be aware of your policy’s time restrictions for out-of-province coverage. If you decide to stay a few more weeks, can your policy be extended after you've left home? This is a question to ask before you leave!
  • BE AWARE: You must meet “physical presence” requirements in order to maintain provincial health insurance coverage. IE: while Ontario residents can obtain out-of-province travel insurance coverage for up to 212 days in any 12 month period, you must be in Ontario for at least 153 days in any 12 month period. If in-province requirements are not met, you may be ineligible for provincial health insurance. For the “physical presence” requirements across Canada, check with your insurance provider or click here for links to the provincial and territorial health insurance plan websites.
  • Click Here to read Sergeant Bob’s Safety Tips to those preparing to travel.

Auto Insurance

  • Knowing claims in the U.S can be expensive, consider increasing your liability limit.
  • You’re renting a car, and you decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver because your credit card provides insurance. But are you covered for “Loss of Use”? If not, and it takes three weeks to repair a damaged car, you could be forced to pay a three week rental, while the car was not in use.
  • A vehicle registered and insured in Canada, but left in the U.S. on a permanent basis may require separate coverage from an American insurance company. It’s best to check with your insurance provider.
  • Depending on how much time you spend living in your RV in the United States, it may be considered a home as well as a vehicle, and therefore in need of special coverage. Check with your insurance provider.
  • Click Here to read Sergeant Bob’s Safety Tips for those on the road or in the air.

Travelling With Your Dog or Cat

The rules for bringing pet dogs and cats across the Canada / U.S. border are pretty straightforward, but there are differences between the two countries – and even different U.S. States. Before leaving home, it’s a good idea to research the regulations for the border crossing you intend to use, and the state in which you will be staying.

Pet Health

A border official’s primary focus is on the health of the animal. If the animal looks sick, dangerous, or of an illegal breed, officials can refuse entry or have you pay for a veterinarian inspection. In extreme cases, they can have your animal put down. Make sure that your pet always looks clean and healthy. It is recommended you bring a health certificate from your veterinarian detailing all the shots the animal has had.

While Canadian and U.S. regulations are similar, just because your pet was allowed across the border in one direction does not mean you are guaranteed to get it back through with similar ease. Your pet must always appear healthy and satisfy regulations of both countries. You can in fact be blocked from bringing your pet back home.

Identification

If you lose your pet while travelling, you could have difficulty trying to claim it without permanent identification. At a minimum, the animal should have collar tags with the pets name, your name, and your phone number. The safest approach is to pair an external tag with a permanent microchip ID. The microchip number should be included on the collar tag. When you do this your pet will have two solid layers of protection to get them home.

Dogs and Cats

For a dog or cat 12 weeks or older, you must have a signed health certificate from a licensed veterinarian, clearly describing the animal and declaring that it is healthy and currently vaccinated against rabies. The animal description should contain a clear, detailed description of the pet including their colour, breed, gender, age and specific markings.

To enter the U.S., the rabies shot must have been given at least a full month before your trip, and the certificate should include the expiration date of the shot. If the date is not included, the shot must be refreshed every 36 months for Canada, every year for the United States. Canada does not require the 30 day lead time – the shot qualifies from the moment it is given. Also:

  • Collar tags are not sufficient proof of immunization.
  • The certificate should list the brand of rabies vaccine, the vaccine lot number, and the expiration date of the vaccine.
  • Be sure the vaccination does not expire while travelling in either country.
  • The certificate must list you as the owner of the pet. You should call the border agencies for more information if your pet is being transported by someone else.
  • Animals younger than three months are not required to have been vaccinated, although it is possible an agent could require the animal be quarantined until it is able to get its vaccination.
  • You are not permitted to cross the border with more than two animals too young for their rabies shots. This is considered commercial transportation which is governed by a different set of laws.
  • These rules can change so it is always a good idea to call the Canada Border Services Agency to confirm your situation.

Make sure you confirm you have the proper documentation early enough to get another copy if you cannot find your vaccine certificate. You may need to call the clinic that did the vaccination and request a new copy. Certificates with rabies vaccine documentation must be signed by the doctor that provided the vaccine so it can easily take more than 48 hours to get a replacement copy.

Bringing Your Pet Food Across the Border

It can be tricky to get pet food across the border, especially those that say they contain “by-products.” To bring food across the border it must always be in its original packages – do not carry it in plastic containers. Any pet food in non-labeled packages may be confiscated.

  • The label should show where it was produced.
  • The ingredient list should be clearly displayed.
  • As of this writing, products containing sheep, lamb, or goat will not be allowed into the U.S.
  • Your best bet for getting food into the U.S. is to have unopened bags that state the food was made in the U.S.
  • When entering Canada, you may bring no more than 20 kg, it must be of U.S. or Canadian origin, and the pet that will eat the imported product must be with you.

Bringing a Service Dog Across the Border

This is one area in which Canadian and American laws differ. Service dogs are allowed into Canada without rabies shots so long as you are the person assigned to the dog. However, service dogs brought into the U.S. must meet the same requirements as any other pet dog.