Q&A - Working in Alberta, Living in BC, Do I Need a BCDL and ICBC Insurance?

Q&A ImageIn my current position I come across a large amount of drivers who seem to live in British Columbia but have Alberta licence plates and insurance. The story goes that they husband works in Alberta and commutes back to British Columbia on their days off. Most of the time their wife and children live full time in BC, kids attend a BC school etc.

My questions are these:

By being able to show that they work in Alberta, does this negate their obligation to obtain a BCDL and ICBC insurance?

If they were to be involved in a collision, and their insurer in Alberta found out that they were actually living in BC, would this mean that the insurer would decline coverage and then they would in fact be uninsured?

If these people are in fact guilty of driving a motor vehicle without valid insurance (Section 24(3)(b) ) and failing to obtain a licence and register a vehicle (Section 13(1)(a)) what is the RCMPs / Crowns appetite to file charges and follow through?

(Generally speaking) Most of the issues seem to revolve around the test of being an “ordinary resident” of British Columbia, but I have been unable to find guidelines regarding employment in another province.

The case of R v Shafer defines who is a BC resident and who is not.

If you are a resident, then you need to have a valid BC driver's licence in order to drive:


24 (1) Except when accompanied by a person authorized by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia to examine persons as to their ability to drive and operate motor vehicles, a person must not drive or operate a motor vehicle on a highway unless, in addition to any licence or permit which he or she is otherwise required to hold under this Act, the person holds a subsisting driver's licence issued to him or her under this Act of a class appropriate to the category of motor vehicle driven or operated by him or her.

(2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence.

If you are a new resident who has just moved to BC, you have 90 days to obtain a BC driver's licence:

Exemption of non-resident and new resident drivers

34(1.1) Subject to subsection (1.2), the following persons are exempt, for the period specified, from the requirements respecting the holding of a driver's licence issued to him or her under this Act:

(b) a person who has become ordinarily resident in British Columbia and who has a validly issued and subsisting driver's or operator's licence or permit issued according to the laws of the jurisdiction where he or she was most recently ordinarily resident, for 90 days after he or she became ordinarily resident in British Columbia;

Vehicle licencing works in the same manner:


13 (1) A person commits an offence if the person drives, operates, parks or is in charge of a motor vehicle or trailer on a highway

(a) without the licence required by this Act for the operation of that motor vehicle or trailer having been first obtained and being then in force,

Registration of foreign motor vehicles and trailers

21 (1) The owner of a motor vehicle or trailer

(a) that is duly registered outside British Columbia,

(b) for which the licensing requirements of the jurisdiction in which it is registered are fulfilled, and

(e) the owner or operator of the motor vehicle or trailer is in British Columbia for, and uses the motor vehicle or trailer for, other than touring purposes, for a period of 30 days from the date he or she began to operate the motor vehicle or trailer on a highway in British Columbia.

Just because someone works in Alberta does not make them exempt from the requirements set out above.

Insurance is another matter. This is a civil law contract between the vehicle owner and the insurer, and this type of law is not something that I am familiar with. Having said that, I do know that part of my contract of insurance with ICBC is that the driver must hold a valid driver's licence. Failing to follow the rules for BC residents with regard to holding a driver's licence could cause problems with coverage in the event of a collision.

The police deal with this on a regular basis by way of violation ticket and vehicle impound.

Firstly, where insurance is involved (for sure with ICBC, and most likely with private insurance) if you are complying with the MVA of the jurisdiction where the vehicle is being operated, and likewise with the drivers’ licensing you should have no problem with insurance and obviously the same with police.

For driver’s licensing the key phrase is “ordinarily resident”.

For vehicles the key point is “used for touring purposes” and “began to operate the motor vehicle on a highway in BC”.

Some of the tests for where the owner / driver is “ordinarily resident” is the location where they claimed they lived on their income taxes, where they claimed they lived on their property taxes (for the home owner’s grant) and MSP.

The original poster asks “what is the RCMPs / Crowns appetite to file charges and follow through”.

The question is a consideration, HOWEVER, the big question is NOT if one could be charged, the HUGE question is what would happen to the validity of their insurance if the person was in an accident.

A few hundred dollar fine, at first blush might seem undesirable, but think of being at fault and smashing your $50,000 car/truck into a $40,000 other vehicle, and injuring two people in that vehicle to the tune of $100,000, only to find out that your small perceived savings on registering your vehicle, changing your license and insurance premium difference, has breached your insurance coverage in its entirety.

An insurance company facing a large payout will pull out all the stops to determine where you should have registered your vehicle.

The driver’s license issue isn’t as damning, especially with ICBC. Even if your driver’s license is expired, if there is no reason why you can’t obtain a driver’s license (ie, outstanding fine, prohibition etc) you will be given 10 days to obtain a driver’s license by ICBC.

Two sets of rules for the two issues.

  • Driver’s license
  • Vehicle registration/insurance.

For driver’s licensing, if you become “ordinarily resident” in BC, you have 90 days to obtain a BC Driver’s License.

The exemptions are:

  • If you are “ordinarily resident” in another jurisdiction you have 6 months from the date you last entered BC to drive on that other jurisdiction’s DL.
  • If you are a student registered at an approved school (the MVA provides a list of schools)
  • Working in BC under an agreement is exempt for up to a year (ie, the above 6 month exemption plus 6 months)

For vehicles, the basic rule is once you are in BC for a purpose “other than touring” you have 30 days to register the vehicle in BC.

There are exemptions for members of the military and students.

In this case we are probably talking about persons working in AB and their family living in BC. IF Alberta has a similar rule as BC for driver’s licensing and I expect they would, if I work in Alberta, I can use my BC driver’s license for up to six months, while working in Alberta, and every time I come home to my family, the six month clock starts again.