Executive Director's Report Issue 42

Spring 2002 CSANews Issue 42  |  Posted date : Apr 05, 2007.Back to list

One of the most important pieces of work that the CSA will ever do to represent its constituency began in early April this year, and was the direct result of the events of September 11/01. The American Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) analyzed the way in which immigration into the U.S. works, especially with regard to its borders. As a result, new regulations have been proposed.

The CSA immediately contacted the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) who were already in conversation with the INS in Washington D.C. Clarification is needed regarding the status of Canadians, as we do not require a written visa to travel (for pleasure) in the United States. However, the proposed regulations do not specifically state that Canadian citizens do not require a visa to enter the U.S. DFAIT was informed that a memorandum confirming this point would be issued to INS officers at ports of entry.

The CSA has great concerns that INS employees (especially in light of the thousands of new officers proposed for the borders) might ignore a memo when faced with an issue at the border, and would simply opt for the worded regulation. The proposed regulatory change places a great deal of decisive power on one person and, historically, the CSA has received many complaints regarding immigration officials' demeanour when dealing with snowbirds crossing the border.

The proposed resolution by the INS regarding this issue was not concrete enough and the situation did not sit well with the CSA Government Relations Committee and staff. We decided to bring our American friends in to back us up in our request to have not just tacit approval or a gentleman's agreement from the INS, but rather to have Canadians defined in the regulation as being exempt. As we all know, if it is in black and white it is hard to argue. The INS had given (the public) until May 13 to comment on the proposed regulation and the CSA is very aware that there would be more authority to change the wording if it came from the American populace (taxpayers and voters), rather than from Canadians who simply visit. We immediately wrote to the INS outlining the concerns of our membership, and copied that correspondence to the governors, tourism boards, economic development offices and the state chambers of commerce (among other groups) for Florida, Arizona, Texas and California. In our letter, we strongly outlined the negative economic impact that a regulation change such as this would have on their communities if Canadian snowbirds were to have their anticipated six-month vacations arbitrarily shortened to 30 days. Those who were copied on our INS letter were very receptive to our comments. CSA legal counsel, Wallace Weylie was assigned by the board to prepare and submit a rewording of the proposed regulation to the INS for consideration. The CSA submission was sent to the INS on April 26.

We organized press releases in both Canada and the United States regarding the proposal from INS. However, we held back on our public statements earlier ­ at the request of DFAIT ­ until they had more complete information to provide to us.

In the meantime, be assured that we will stay on top of this situation. Canadians will still be able to go south for the winter, but we want to make it as comfortable and hassle-free an exit as possible for you.

We are certain that the INS will proceed favourably for retired Canadians, and we are awaiting the outcome. Please watch the CSA Web site for further details, or contact our staff by telephone.