TORONTO, Ont. – A new information-sharing agreement between the US and Canada has had commercial truck drivers and others who regularly cross the border for extended periods of time on edge after a B.C. MP warned them about significant consequences.
In an article published by CBC News, consequences for overstaying your visit (which an assistant for the B.C. MP says is actually 120 days, not 182 days, as most people think it is) include being considered a US resident for tax purposes and having to pay taxes on worldwide income; losing your Canadian residency and health care; and being deemed an illegal resident in the US and being banned from the country for three to 10 years.
To help the government track how many days Canadians stay in the US, the new Entry Exit Initiative was launched. Before this initiative, they could only track entry dates, not exit dates.
Though the consequences of overstaying your visit seem severe, Jennifer Fox, vice-president, trade and security for the Ontario Trucking Association and Canadian Trucking Alliance, said commercial drivers have nothing to worry about.
“We’ve been getting a lot of inquiries on this initiative since the article came out over the weekend,” she said. “Up until now, Entry Exit and the information sharing only applied to third party nationals and permanent residents. As it stands today, the Canadian Government doesn’t have the authority to require or obtain Entry Exit information from Canadian citizens. So when we are asked about the impact to commercial drivers, first of all there’s no impact moving to Canadian citizens at this time…That being said, the rules about taxation and OHIP and the rules with respect to US taxation, none of that changes under the Entry Exit Initiative.”
Fox stressed that the initiative is solely for the purpose of collecting information.
“The Entry Exit Initiative is just going to allow the Government of Canada to collect the information and to share it with the US,” she said. “I understand that there is a lot of concerns around that, like privacy issues, but it doesn’t change what your obligation is as commercial driver is to report for your time in the US if you exceed what’s allowable. And it doesn’t change if you’re applying for tax credits here in Canada your ability to do that. If you qualify for tax credits today then you should still be able to in the future.”
She also noted that the initiative was put in place not to affect the daily lives of those people who travel often to the US for legitimate purposes like work, rather it is aimed as an anti-terrorism tactic.
“It’s a good thing,” she said. “We just have to make sure there is no unintended consequences as a result of that. And I think that both governments would be in the position to say you know, to sit with stakeholders and to say that’s not the intent…and just to make sure that we’re looking at what policies need to be in place to handle any negative implication there could be for people who’s work causes them to be in the US for extended periods of time and its not just commercial drivers, it’s airline crew as well. Again those laws around taxation and citizenship, they’re not changing. We just have to make sure that’s the message that’s getting out.”
The main takeaway drivers can get from this new initiative, said Fox, is that it is “geared towards high-risk individuals. I want to caution the industry not to get too carried away and too worried. If they should be filing tax documents right now because of the time they spend in the US, then that doesn’t change. If they should be doing it today and they should be doing it tomorrow.”
Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface. All posts by Sonia Straface