Canadian Retiree Visa would permit 8-month U.S. stay
When both sides involved in negotiations agree on the principle issues, it makes for quick work. That seems to be the case as representatives of the Canadian Snowbird Association hammer out details of a proposed Canadian Retiree Visa with accommodating U.S. legislators.
Canadian Snowbird Association president Bob Slack had good news to pass on to CSA members at southern gatherings in Florida, Texas and Arizona in January and February. Whereas currently U.S. immigration inspectors are allowed to exercise discretion and may allow snowbirds to stay in the U.S. for a maximum six months a year under the B-2 pleasure tourist visa, the new Canadian Retiree Visa would offer a better deal, more certainty and a longer stay.
The new deal appears to be coming together quickly, with bi-partisan support so far in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The CSA just approached legislators last year and by Oct. 20, New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D.) had introduced the bill into the Senate, supported by Senator Mike Lee (R.) of Utah. The initiative was similarly introduced to the House soon afterwards. In both cases, judiciary committees are now studying details and will debate the proposal in the spring, says CSA executive director Michael Mackenzie.
Slack explained the basics of the proposed visa in a speech given at the Snowbird Extravaganza held Feb. 14 and 15 in Mesa, Arizona and in a subsequent interview to FYI in Mesa.
“If passed, the Visit USA Act would allow Canadians over the age of 50, and their spouses, and their dependent children, to have a visit which lasts 240 days, and would be renewable every three years,” Slack said. “That would essentially extend the maximum of time we spend in the US from six months to eight months in a 12-month period, the only criteria being that you are able to demonstrate that you are over 50, and that you either own a home in the United States or have purchased rental or hotel accommodation for the duration of your stay. You would also not be permitted to work in the United States for the duration of your stay.
“Frankly, I think those are very reasonable terms.”
The CSA’s Mackenzie explains, “It is important to note that a (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol) officer may elect – for any reason – to admit you for a period less than six months. This is not a debatable or negotiable point. It is their right to admit you for whatever period – not exceeding the maximum – which the CBP officer considers appropriate.
“The retiree visa would immediately allow qualified Canadians to spend eight months instead of six months on an individual trip and would also ease the burden of re-admittance to the United States during the summer months for those qualified Canadians who opt to spend less than the full eight months on one individual trip.”
Besides visas, the companion issue that requires vigilance by Canadians is retaining eligibility for health care coverage back home. Since that is a provincial jurisdiction, Slack acknowledges that the CSA has to stay active lobbying on the many regional fronts to ensure that Canadians maintain health coverage during extensive trips outside of the province. Each province has its own rules.
“That is a negotiation that we will have to start with provinces,” Slack said. “The province of Ontario allows us to be out of the province seven months. That allows us to take trips to B.C. or to Newfoundland in the summer if we stay out (as a snowbird in the U.S.) six months. Other provinces say, go ahead, stay out six months and we don’t mind if you stay out another month. But we will have to start negotiations with the provincial governments with regard to the amount of time.”
It was logical for a politician in a border state such as New York’s Schumer to support the proposed Canadian Retiree Visa, Slack says, because adding an extra month or two of travel time to the calendar of a Canadian means they can take shorter side trips into his state.
Slack said meetings with legislators in Washington have been positive – surprisingly so.
“They even took the bill and made it simpler,” said Slack. “We had an income level in there but they said, if you own a place and you are over 50 and you don’t work, and if you have enough emergency medical insurance so that you are not a drain on the system, (that’s adequate). They really just took a few brief points from the bill that we suggested to them.
“The people involved in the judiciary committees are very positive with regard to this going forward very quickly, so we are very optimistic with what’s happening.”
REPORT CARD: The Canadian Snowbird Association released a "report card" in 2009 that analyzed various provincial regulations with regard to travelling outside of the province and maintaining health care eligibility, and other issues. Download it HERE.