Still Hope for the 240-Day Visa? Patience is a Virtue

For more than a decade, Canadian snowbirds hoping for permission to spend more time in warm-weather states south of the border have pegged their hopes on passage of US federal legislation amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to authorize their admission for up to 240 days—eight months per year. 

That’s two months more than is currently available through the standard B2 tourist visa, which is what Canadians use when hopping the border for a one-day sports event—or for a 183-day winter vacation in Florida or Arizona.

Known generically as the “Snowbird Visa,” the amended visa would allow Canadian citizens aged 50 or older to reside in the US for up to eight months per year contingent on their retaining homes in Canada, owning or leasing long-term residences in the US, waiving all rights to welfare or public assistance funding, and refraining from any employment or other work for hire. In effect: tourism only, no business.

To date, there have been several variations of such bills floated in Congress by legislators warm to the idea of having affluent Canadians spending money in their states for three quarters of the year.

And there has been little opposition to these legislative initiatives in either political circles or local economies. Yet, the chance of seeing such visas enacted remains as slim as ever thanks to the tortuosity of America’s legislative gauntlet.

Death and resurrection

Most recently, high-profile senators Marco Rubio (R), acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and former Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), serving his first term as US senator, sponsored the Canadian Snowbird Act S 2507 in 2019. These are so far the highest-ranking political figures to have endorsed the 240-day visa model. They are also among the few political powers who are not up for re-election this November, so though the current Snowbird Act (bill) dies with the extinction of the 116th Congress, we can expect it to be resurrected (with a different S number) when the new 117th Congress convenes on January 3, 2021. Ditto three other related House bills that were introduced in 2019 (some of them dating back several years). Some of them sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans.

Despite the misleading nomenclature, an act is not an act until it has been approved by the House, the Senate, and has finally been signed into law by the president. Until then it is just a bill, and so far none have ever worked their way out of the committees to which they were originally assigned. And the committee stage, where they are worked over by opposing parties and their picky staff, are only Step One of the forbidding legislative process.

It’s going to be a tough slog

Skopos Labs, a tracker of legislative bills, gave S 2507 a 3 per cent chance of enactment in 2019. That’s par for the course. Over 13,000 bills were introduced in the 116th Congress.

Given other immediate measures that the next highly divided Congress is likely to face, a bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to authorize admission of Canadian retirees as long-term visitors for pleasure is not a headline-grabber in the DC bubble.

So, if you’re one of those fortunate Canadians who might fit the profile of a 240-day sun-state visitor—stay tuned and we’ll update you as these various measures work through the jungle of DC politics. But don’t hold your breath. And for now, be content with the 183-day limit—which isn’t all that bad… so long as you are allowed to leave home to enjoy it.

© Copyright 2020 Milan Korcok. All rights reserved.

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