Government Relations Report Issue 35

Summer 2000 CSANews Issue 35  |  Posted date : Mar 05, 2007.Back to list

Whew! Section 110 Amended!
Since our last issue of the CSA NEWS, your CSA Government Relations Committee has been actively pursuing a number of advocacy matters which are described below.

We are glad to report that Section 110 of the United States Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 has been amended, and the requirement for an automated entry-exit system at all ports of entry to the United States has been deleted.

A new bill called the "Immigration and Naturalization Service Data Management Improvement Act" was passed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and became law on June 15, 2000. The new bill removes the exit/entry system requirement and provides for the improved use of existing data at points of entry. It also contemplates a joint government/private sector task force to study the need for additional measures and what they might be.

The CSA was part of a United States/Canada lobbying effort as a member of the Americans for Better Borders coalition that had outspoken and influential border senators and congressman as its key advocates.

This success is an important victory for snowbirds and all travelling Canadians, since Section 110, unamended, would have resulted in long line-ups at Canadian/U.S. borders and caused general interference with cross-border travel and trade.

On January 7, 1997, U.S. Congressman Bill McCollum introduced to the United States Congress Bill H.R. 225, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act. This amendment would permit certain aliens, including Canadians, who are at least 55 years of age to obtain a four-year, non-immigrant visitor visa.

The bill provided that if you met certain criteria, you would be permitted to stay in the United States for 12 months of the year, instead of being restricted to six months in a year. The criteria were as follows:
  1. Age - at least 55 years old at time of application.
  2. Citizenship - Canadian (or other selected aliens).
  3. Ownership - owns, or is the spouse of a person who owns, a residence in the U.S.
  4. Health Insurance - has sufficient health insurance.
  5. Income - has two times the income designated as the official poverty line (around $20,000 per year)
The spouse of such a person would also be eligible for the visa, regardless of their age.

That bill was in the 105th Congress and, as it did not get voted upon, ultimately the bill died with the finish of that Congress.

On January 6, 1999, the Retiree Visa Act of 1999 was introduced by Bill McCollum, and was essentially the same as the earlier bill. The bill was referred to the Committee of the Judiciary, and has sat there since. Mr. McCollum was a member of the subcommittee on immigration of the Judiciary Committee and, thus, it was hoped that some action might take place. On Tuesday, the 7th of December, 1999, President Bob Jackson and Wallace Weylie, General Counsel, met with Mr. McCollum's immigration representatives in Washington to learn what could be done to forward consideration of the bill. It was concluded that the hiring of a lobbyist ($100,000 US) would be the primary assistance needed, but the high cost of doing and the additional soft costs required so was not acceptable to the Board of Directors.

As a result, at present there is nothing to report as to progress of this bill. Mr. McCollum is running for the Senate in Florida, and is not available to shepherd this legislation. It would appear that we will have to wait for the next Congress, before we can readdress this issue.

The CSA has contacted the chief executive officer of the Canada Passport Office, who advised us that new passport renewal procedures are being introduced at selected passport offices during the summer months. It is anticipated that this automated project, known as IRIS, will be operational in all passport offices by the end of 2000, although we do not believe it will be fully functional for this year's snowbird season.

IRIS uses advanced technology that allows the passport office to process passport applications more efficiently, while maintaining the highest security standards available, according to information provided to us by the Canada Passport Office.

The IRIS passport renewal process involves completing a special IRIS passport renewal form and digitalizing your photograph, signature and other nformation into an automated format.

When you renew your passport (for example, five years later), we understand that all you have to do is provide a new passport photograph and update your personal information (for example, address) and that's it! No personal guarantee of a lawyer, doctor or other prescribed person is required.

It looks like an improved system, and we will keep you posted as we obtain more information.

Your Government Relations Committee has reason to believe that some politicians and bureaucrats are not listening to our concerns, because they say that nobody is complaining.

Therefore, we have decided to ask you, our members, to help make a difference by contacting your local and federal politicians and advocating for change. As the saying goes, there is "power in numbers" (and we are 100,000 members strong).

The CSA will be providing you with full details in our next issue of CSA NEWS. The CSA is confident that this campaign will be successful, since it is anticipated that the Liberals will be calling an election in the fall of 2000 or early next spring, and our politicians will likely be more responsive to electoral concerns. In the interim, please copy the CSA on all your e-mails or other correspondence involving CSA issues, because it keeps us informed of member initiatives.

We thank you, our members, for your continued support, and will continue to fight for the rights of our members and update you on our progress.