Albertans who head south for the winter can now soak up the sun a little longer while they keep health benefits back home.

Snowbirds and other long-term Alberta travellers will be allowed to stay out of the country for up to 212 days — or seven months of the year. The previous limit was 182 days.         

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Alberta snowbirds can now bask in the heat for an extra month without risking losing their health coverage, the province announced on Tuesday. (CBC)

The changes are effective immediately and apply to Albertans who have already left for the season.

“This is welcome news for our members who told us they wanted the option to visit other countries for several months at a time, without sacrificing their health-care coverage,” said Canadian Snowbird Association’s executive director Michael MacKenzie.

The change brings Alberta's policy in line with British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario.

Newfoundland and Labrador allows residents to hang on to their health benefits for 240 days out of the country. 

Calgary snowbird Denis Ellard said the new rule will mean a more relaxing vacation.

"Like most Albertans, I want to get away from the cold weather and enjoy some of the sunshine and warm weather down south," he said. "It's one of those things you always have on your mind in terms of bumping up against that six-month limit."

Snowbirds can only remain in the United States for six months before having to pay taxes to both countries. But MacKenzie said the extra month will allow Albertans to visit other provinces or countries without the fear of losing their health coverage.