Changes at the U.S. border and with the Langara travel insurance policy will make Thanksgiving travel plans easier

Canada/U.S.A. Border Photo by: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two Canadian border guards at the Douglas border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Photo by: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Travel planning is a little less stressful with the addition of built-in travel medical insurance through the Langara Student Union’s plan this year.

The LSU switched insurance providers this year, with coverage now being provided by Blue Cross. Included in the switch is travel medical insurance for participating students for up to 120 days while travelling outside of British Columbia.

The LSU plan covers “emergency medical treatment of a medical condition that is acute and considered life threatening or if left unattended could deteriorate resulting in serious and irreparable harm,” according to the benefits listed on the plan’s website.

With Thanksgiving this weekend marking the beginning of the holiday season, students travelling out of province to visit family or take a mini-vacation to the U.S. should keep in mind that in order to reap the full benefits of the plan, they need to call CanAssistance before seeking medical treatment or they may be responsible for 30 per cent of the costs incurred.

Students can print a travel health passport from the group plan website to carry with you while travelling so as to have the appropriate contacts at the ready.

Crossing the border made simple

If the U.S. is your geographical aim for the weekend, then you should also be aware of the new customs limits that were introduced on June 1, 2012.

Canadian travellers returning to Canada can now bring back up to $200 worth of goods per person if they are outside of Canada for 24 hours or more (but if your goods total more than $200, you will have to pay duty and taxes on the full amount, effectively voiding this personal exemption). For day trips that total less than 24 hours, there is no exception and all goods are subject to duty and taxes.

Trips to the U.S. that are 48 hours or longer allow an $800 exemption per person (amounts cannot be combined or transferred among traveling companions).

Canadian Border Services Officer Erin Steeksma said in a telephone interview that items made in North America are duty free when crossing borders.

“[I]t depends on where an item is made. So under [the North American Free Trade Agreement] anything made in the United States is duty free. If you have an article of clothing made in the U.S. or Mexico, there’s no duty on it, but if you have an article of clothing made in say Vietnam or China or Singapore, then there would be duty rate on that.”

What to know when bringing items back across the border

Asked if there would be duty charged on used goods, Steeksma said, “There would be, yes, because it has not been used in Canada. The dollar value would change, so you would pay less for it and you’d pay less tax because it’s cheaper, but you would still pay duty.”

According to Steeksma, duty charged on goods brought back to Canada is generally based on the taxes of the province travellers are crossing the border into.

“Depending on the item, [duty] can vary from five to 20 per cent. For example, I believe the duty rate on clothing is 17 per cent,” she said.

Regardless how long you are gone, if alcohol is among your U.S.-bought goods, the limit of what you can bring back is either 1.5L of wine, up to 8.5L (equivalent to 24 regular-sized cans of beer) beer or ale, or a total of 1.14L (40 oz.) of alcoholic beverages, and you must be over the age of 19.

Meat imports are also limited based on the type of meat, but Steeksma noted you can bring back one whole turkey this weekend if that fits into your Thanksgiving cross-border plans.

Reported by Carissa Thorpe

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