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Why can some people live in B.C. for years with out-of-province licence plates?

Last Updated Aug 31, 2020 at 11:22 am PST


Most people need to register their car and get B.C. plates within 30 days of moving to the province

Exception allows full-time students to keep plates from elsewhere

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B.C. residents with licence plates from a different jurisdiction have reported being harassed by people who assume they’re tourists violating travel restrictions meant to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

But the harassers seem to not realize that not everyone with plates from another province or an American state is a visitor.

With that in mind, we ask: Why would a B.C. resident have licence plates from somewhere else?


When someone moves to B.C. from elsewhere in Canada or from another country, they have 30 days to register their vehicle and get B.C. plates. If you have moved here from abroad, you don’t need to have permanent residency status to register a vehicle.

If they are touring the province, they can keep their out-of-province plates for six months – but there shouldn’t be much of that happening during the pandemic.

And there’s also an exemption for full-time students, who can keep their plates as long as they’re enrolled in a post-secondary institution. So it’s possible that when you see someone with non-B.C. plates, they’ve been living here for years.

Students have to apply for a permit to keep their out-of-province licence plates and once they do, they get a decal to put on their windshield.

Asked whether ICBC could provide something that could more clearly identify the driver as a B.C. resident, spokesperson Brent Shearer said “there are no plans at this point to issue additional decals.”

Shearer said the pandemic has not delayed ICBC’s ability to issue plates to people who are new to the province.

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