How Long Can a Canadian Stay in the U.S.?

Updated on November 3, 2023
At a Glance: Canadian citizens can stay in the United States for up to 180 days per year without a visa. The 180-day period is a rolling 365-day period, not a calendar year. Canadians with specific visas may have different lengths of stay depending on the visa category. Overstaying can have consequences, and legal help should be sought if needed. Canadians should also be aware of U.S. tax laws and the substantial presence test to determine tax liability. Exemptions such as the Closer Connection Exemption and the Canada-U.S. Tax Treaty may apply to avoid double taxation. Canadians should also consider the requirements of their provincial health insurance coverage to maintain eligibility.

Canada and the United States of America enjoy strategic trade and cultural ties. This means the countries have relaxed norms for each other’s citizens. For example, most Canadian citizens do not need a nonimmigrant visa to enter the United States.

Often, Canadians aren’t sure how long they’re allowed to stay in the U.S. But this is important to know to be on the safe side legally. In this article, we’ll answer how long a Canadian citizen can reside in the U.S. legally with and without a visa.

How Long Can Canadians Stay in the United States?

The length a Canadian can stay varies by category. Not all Canadians coming into the United States are treated equally. In fact, some Canadians do require a visa to enter the U.S. The length of your stay will depend on whether you’re entering with or without a visa.

Length of Stay for Canadians Without a Visa

Canadians who do not need a visa are visitors, business travelers, or transit travelers. The majority of Canadians who come into the U.S. are tourists. They like to visit the U.S. during the winter; there’s a term for these tourists: Canadian snowbirds.

According to the U.S. Immigration Act, followed by the USCIS, a Canadian resident who is not a U.S. citizen, nor a green card holder, can stay in the U.S. for no more than 180 days a year. The important thing to note here is that the year doesn’t mean a calendar year, but a rolling 365 day period.

So when doing the calculations, you need to look back into your last 365 days. For example, if you came into the U.S. on January 2, 2020, you won’t calculate the days from January 1, 2020, but rather from the 2nd.

Length of Stay for Canadians With a Visa

There is are certain groups of Canadians who do need visas to come in temporarily. Those are:

The length of stay will depend on the days mentioned in the visa. The E2 visa, for example, is valid for 15 months. You can then apply for a renewal and extend your stay once approved.

If you overstay, which you should avoid at all costs, you must seek legal help from the Canadian embassy at soon as possible.

How Long Can a Canadian Stay in the U.S. Without Paying U.S. Taxes?

Besides the number of days, the other important thing Canadians need to take care of while in the U.S. is tax laws. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has guidelines in place that Canadians must comply with. The rules state how much time you can spend in the U.S. without being considered a U.S. resident who must pay taxes.

The Substantial Presence Test

You should employ the substantial presence test to determine your liability to taxation. Consider this as your first line of defense against overstaying. This test calculates how many days you have stayed in the United States for over three years. The three years include the current running year and the past two years. But not all the days of each year are counted equal. Here’s how the IRS does the calculation:

  • Each day of the current calendar year is counted as one day
  • Each day of the previous calendar year is counted as one-third of a day
  • Each day of the year before that is counted as one-sixth of a day

So, for example, if you’ve spent five days in 2020 in the United States, then you’ve spent five days. If you spent 90 days in 2019 in the U.S., that counts as 30 days. If you spent 100 days in 2018 in the U.S., that counts as 16 days. So, for the IRS’s purposes, in total you’ve spent 51 days in the U.S. in your last three-year period.

If the total sum is more than 183 days, the IRS requires that you pay taxes by filing a U.S. tax return. You’ll also have to pay taxes for that time period in Canada, which means double taxation.

However, there are certain exemptions you can use to avoid paying taxes.

Closer Connection Exemption

Even after you’ve hit the maximum stay limit with the substantial presence test, you can still avoid paying taxes under the Closer Connection Exemption. For this, you need to demonstrate to the IRS that you had a closer connection to two foreign countries besides the United States. The eligibility criteria for this are:

  • You had maintained a tax home beginning on the first day of the year in one country
  • You changed your tax home to a second country in the same year and maintained it for the rest of the calendar year
  • You had a closer connection to each foreign country than to the U.S. for the period during which you maintained a tax home in the foreign country
  • You paid taxes as a resident in either or both of the foreign countries for an entire calendar year during which you maintained a tax home in each country

For a closer connection, you need to show that you have more significant contacts with a foreign country than the United States. To claim this benefit, you’ll be asked to file Form 8840, Closer Connection Exemption Statement for Aliens.

Canada–U.S. Tax Treaty Exemption

You can also claim exemption under the Canada–US Tax Treaty. You can refer to the Treaty tiebreaker rules to claim that you’re still a Canadian citizen after staying in the U.S. for over 182 days.

The decision as to whether or not to grant you the benefit depends on the following factors:

  • If you have a permanent home in the United States or Canada
  • To which country you have stronger personal and economic ties
  • Which country is your habitual abode
  • Your current citizenship status

Tiebreaker rules are applied on a hierarchical basis. So if the first question is in your favor, the following factors won’t be considered.

To claim this exemption, you have to file IRS Form 1040NR, along with Form 8833, Treaty-Based Return Position Disclosure.

How Long Can Canadians Stay in the U.S. and Keep Their Provincial Health Insurance?

As a Canadian, you also have to take care of things on your side. You should make sure that you don’t remain absent from your province for too long, which could affect your provincial health care coverage. Provinces like Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia require that you spend at least five months in residence to maintain your eligibility for health insurance coverage. This requirement varies from state to state.

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As a rule of thumb, you should consider a stay of a maximum of six months at a time. Before making these kinds of trips, especially if they’re to last months, it’s important to consult an experienced immigration attorney.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.