Legal limits on length of US nationals touring Canada?

Reading another post here, I had a thought. Back in the 1990s, I used to briefly travel into Canada across the Detroit/Windsor border. I always got the same questions on the other side. “Citizenship?” Me: “USA”. “Purpose for entering Canada?” Me: “Tourism.” “Move along.”

It occurred to me they never asked how long I planned on staying in Canada. Let’s say I had won the big Lotto jackpot and wanted to see what Canada was like. Canada is a huge country. With lots of cash, I could easily imagine spending years travelling around it. If I had done that, how would I have been dishonest with the border agent? I just did what I said I planned on doing. I never claimed I planned on returning quickly.

Admittedly, so long as I was law abiding I likely wouldn’t raise attention. A US national in Canada was common enough that I could travel and be ignored. However, what if I struck up a conversation with a Mountie and said how much I liked this land in the 2 years I had been here? Could that Mountie detain me as an illegal alien? I would have been just doing what I told the Canadian customs agent. Would I have violated Canadian law? Note that in this scenario I couldn’t be considered an illegal permanent resident. Staying in hotels for a few days and moving from hotel to hotel would in fact be evidence I was just a traveller.

You’d think this would be easy to find out, but it’s not. In practical terms, if you’re an independently wealthy American and you don’t try to get employment in Canada, it’s entirely likely you could stay here as long as you want, below the radar.

My impression is that if you want to stay longer than three months (six months for sure), you have to get specific permission (i.e. a visa).

I’m pretty sure it’s longer than 3 months, because I don’t believe snowbirds have to get any papers. 6 months may well be correct.

However, if you want to tour Canada for two years as an American, you could just dip across the border every 6 months. Easy as pie.

Canada’s Web site is vague on this subject

So I’m not sure what the answer is, except that internal controls are probably not stringent. You don’t have to report to the police or anything like that. I suspect, then, that you can visit for as long as you like.

Canucks can stay in the U.S. for six months without a visa, and vice versa.

Oh, and technically, if you’re going to stay longer, you don’t need a visa, you need a permit (which looks like a visa, acts like a visa, but apparently there’s a law saying we don’t need visas, so we get permits).