Retiree Visa Still Born - Should We Try Again?

Spring 2004 CSANews Issue 50  |  Posted date : May 05, 2007.Back to list

Entry into the United States on a long-term basis is currently based upon three concepts ­ family unity, employment creation, or humanitarian grounds. If one is married to an American or has immediate family ties to an American ­ that is one approach. If one is bringing funds or is starting a business which hopes to employ Americans in the future, that is another approach. And lastly, if one is a Cuban or other refugee, procedures are in place to permit that person to enter the U.S. on a permanent basis. There is at present no provision to allow a retired person, no matter how much money he or she has, to enter the U.S. on a permanent basis ­ or to allow that person to remain longer than six months in a calendar year.

There are many Canadians who, for health or comfort reasons, would welcome the opportunity to live in the United States for longer than six months. They may not necessarily wish to stay for a full 12 months, although there are many who would, but would like to remain for eight or nine months. These people cannot understand why they are not permitted to do so when they, in their opinion, would only be an asset to the area in which they would dwell. They would contribute to the commerce of the area by spending money, and would not be a burden on the employment system, as they would have no desire to work.

Several years ago, a proposal for such a visa was made to the United States Congress by congressman Bill McCollum, a representative from the

Orlando, Florida area. He crafted a bill which was presented to Congress and referred to the Judiciary Committee for study. His bill provided that a citizen of Canada, among other countries, would be able to apply for a visa to reside in the United States on a 12-month basis if they met certain criteria. The applicant would have to be over 55 years of age (the spouse could accompany the applicant no matter what age), own a residential property in the United States, have a level of income of at least 1.25 per cent of the poverty level (at present for two people, about US$15,000. per year), and have health insurance equivalent to Medicare. Such a person would have available to him or her a four-year visa, renewable indefinitely so long as the criteria continued to be satisfied.

This bill languished in the committee until the term was over, at which time the bill died since it had not been acted upon. At the next session of Congress, the bill was again introduced by congressman McCollum and this time, after again being referred to the Judiciary Committee, a hearing on the bill was actually held by the Immigration Subcommittee. The Canadian Snowbird Association made representations to the subcommittee in support of the bill, and the hearing was friendly. However, no further action was taken, and the bill again died at the end of the session. Mr. McCollum was defeated in the next election, and then there was no one to champion the concept.

Should something be done to attempt to bring about such a visa?

Whenever the writer would discuss the concept with a congressman or senator, which has been done often, the member upon understanding the concept would respond with positive support for the bill. It was a "win/win" situation for his or her district ­ bringing people to the area to spend money who would not be a burden on the economy and would not take jobs from the workers. The "something" that needs to be done is a lobbying campaign to find a champion for the bill, and to approach individual members of Congress and the Senate to obtain support for the bill by "signing on." All one needs is a majority in each house. But such a lobbying campaign takes time and money. There are probably many organizations in the United States which would support such a visa, such as chambers of commerce and homebuilders' associations. But they need to be approached and educated.

Are there enough Canadians who would take advantage of such a visa to make it worthwhile? The visa would be useful for persons all over the world ­ not just for Canadians. These are the considerations, among others, that will guide the persons who would be interested in financing the lobbying effort.