Page 12 - CSANews 81

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12
Government Relations
report
Jim Sherb
First Vice-President
I
n the last issue of
CSANews
, I men-
tioned that we were trying to
broaden the political appeal of a
Retired Persons’ Visa that would af-
ford Canadian snowbirds the opportun-
ity to spend more time each year in the
United States. As many of you are aware, a
Canadian snowbird who spends a full six-
month winter in the United States is rarely
re-admissible until he or she has spent
the next six months outside of the United
States. This prevents many snowbirds from
taking brief shopping or sightseeing trips
south of the border during the summer
months. We were confdent that once we
sat down with congressional representa-
tives from border states and pointed out
all of the revenue that this policy was cost-
ing their districts, we would be able to
gain their support. When combined with
representatives from traditional snowbird
states such as Florida, Arizona, Texas and
California, we would then have a much lar-
ger base of political support going forward.
We have also always been convinced of the
bipartisan appeal of this proposal and thus
have been lobbying both Democrats and
Republicans in both houses of Congress.
On October 20, 2011, U.S. Senators
Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mike Lee (R-
UT) introduced the Visa Improvements
to Stimulate International Tourism to the
United States of America Act (VISIT–USA
Act) in the United States Senate. This is a
bipartisan proposal whose main focus is to
boost demand for homes by luring foreign
investors to purchase residences and live
in the United States. The bill also exped-
ites priority visa applicants by removing
bureaucratic red tape that stifes travel and
investment. The broader focus is to attract
foreign travellers who will spend desper-
ately needed money in a badly ailing U.S.
economy. We contacted Senators Schumer
and Lee and outlined our proposal, as
there is an incredibly strong ft between
what we are proposing and what they are
trying to accomplish in this bill. As Senator
Schumer represents New York, a northern
border state, we hoped that he would be
particularly sensitive to our proposal. I am
pleased to report that our plan is working.
The VISIT-USA Act creates a new
“Canadian Retiree Visa” that allows
Canadians over the age of 50 (with de-
rivative benefts to a spouse and minor
children) to have a visa which lasts for 240
days, and is renewable every three years.
Canadians wishing to take advantage of
this new visa would have to be able to
demonstrate that they own a residence
in the United States or have purchased
rental or hotel accommodations in the
United States for the duration of their stay.
They would not be allowed to work, nor
would they be eligible for any form of U.S.
government assistance or benefts. That’s
it – there’s no minimum income require-
ment or provision that you must purchase
a home in the United States. If this were to
become law, Canadians who meet the re-
quirements would immediately be eligible
to spend up to eight consecutive months
in the United States, which is two months
longer than the current limit of six con-
secutive months.
There’s also a provision (that would
beneft Canadians of any age) which cre-
ates a three-year residential visa for foreign
nationals who invest at least $500,000 in
residential real estate in the United States.
At least $250,000 must be spent on a pri-
mary residence at which the visa holder
will reside for at least 180 days out of the
year, while paying taxes in the United
States. While I’m sure that this added fex-
ibility will be appreciated by some, the
requirements are obviously somewhat
onerous. There has been some confusion
out there in the media that these are the
requirements for Canadian snowbirds over
the age of 50. As outlined above, thank-
fully, they are not.
We understand that there remain ques-
tions surrounding provincial residency
requirements and taxes, and we will ad-
dress those concerns. Our frst goal is to
get this legislation passed in the United
States Senate. If we can accomplish that,
we then need to get a similar provision
introduced and passed in the House of
Representatives. The good news is that we
spent the majority of the summer lobby-
ing members of the House; our proposal is
now on their radar as well.
All in all, this is very encouraging
news for Canadian snowbirds. Not only
do we now have some major allies in the
United States Congress, our provision has
now been formally endorsed by the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Travel
Association, the U.S. Olympic Committee
and the powerful U.S. American Hotel &
Lodging Association. These are just the
groups we were targeting and they are
powerful allies.
Thanks to everyone who has helped
make this possible with donations to our
Special Action Fund. Without your support,
none of this would be possible. This pro-
posal has collected a bit of dust over the
years. We dusted it of in the spring, began
knocking on doors in the summer and now
we have a bill in the United States Senate
in the fall. Frankly that’s great progress, but
we have much more work to do and we
will be heading back to Washington short-
ly to get it done.
Alayne and I would like to wish all of
you a very Merry Christmas, a happy holi-
day season and a healthy NewYear.
CSA
update