A proposed bill, The Canadian Snowbirds Act (S. 2507), would increase the amount of time Canadians can spend in the United States from six to eight months — two months longer than they are currently authorized – without incurring tax penalties. Snowbirds from Canada who can’t get enough of Florida’s winters have allies on Capitol Hill who want them to stay longer and spend more money. If the bill passes, Canadians will be allowed for a maximum of 240 days during any 365-day period. Canadian nationals who spend more than six months in the United States in a given year are considered U.S. residents for tax purposes and are obligated to pay U.S. federal income taxes on all income generated that year – regardless of the country in which it was earned.
Currently, Canadians who overstay their welcome may face consequences if it weren’t for a variety of implications, including U.S. immigration regulations, IRS taxation, and the possibility of losing Canadian healthcare insurance. Canada and the United States scan passports and exchange information electronically, which means Uncle Sam knows exactly how much time Canadians spend away from home. If the bill passes, in order to be eligible, you must not be inadmissible to the United States. If you have a charge or conviction, a US Entry Waiver may allow you entry into the United States for the winter.
If you overstay that six-month allowance, you will likely be put on a restricted list and denied entry to the U.S. for a number of years.
What is a snowbird?
A snowbird is a person who migrates from the colder northern parts of North America to warmer southern locales, typically during the winter. Florida is one of the most popular locations in the Sun Belt.
This bill establishes a non-immigrant visa for qualified Canadian citizens. The Department of Homeland Security has the authority to admit a Canadian citizen as a visitor under the following conditions:
(1) is at least 50 years old;
(2) resides in Canada;
(3) owns a residence in the United States or has signed a rental agreement for the duration of the stay;
(4) is not inadmissible or deportable under various provisions;
(5) will not work in the United States except to provide services to the visitor’s employer in Canada; and
(6) will not seek U.S. assistance or benefits.
According to the Canadian Snowbird Association, which supports the proposal, Florida has the highest concentration of Canadians living in the United States — almost 40%. Though the majority of winter escapees flock to Florida and Arizona, California and Texas are also popular destinations.
Can you travel across the border with a criminal record?
Entering the US with a criminal record is risky and not guaranteed without the proper paperwork. A US Waiver clears the way for travel across the border and gives you and your family peace-of-mind and permission to enter and travel to the United States. According to this bill, you must be admissible to the United States or your eligibility under the Canadian Snowbirds Act may be compromised.
What will the Canadian Snowbirds Act mean for Canadians?
Sen. Marco Rubio submitted the Senate version, the Canadian Snowbirds Act, on September 18, 2019, as bill number S. 2507. (R-FL). Currently, Canadian nationals are permitted to visit the United States for up to six months each year. Over the last two years, there has been a bipartisan drive to increase the amount of time Canadians over the age of 50 can stay in the United States from six to eight months without incurring IRS tax penalties. Some believe it will be extremely difficult to pass as reforms to homeland security and tax regulations as immigration-related legislation is a contentious issue in the United States.
If enacted, the plan would allow Canadians over the age of 50 who own or rent property in the United States to visit the country tax-free for up to eight months. The law would specifically prevent such Canadians from working for an American business or getting any type of public assistance funded by American taxpayers, such as food stamps or housing assistance.
Remember, if you leave your province for an extended period of time, you risk losing your “residency” and hence your health benefits, and you will then need to re-establish your eligibility by remaining in your province for three consecutive months (without leaving) before receiving those benefits. And you must be able to demonstrate that you complied.
Except for Ontario and Newfoundland, all provinces require you to live in your home province for at least six months plus a day (183 days in most years) in order to qualify for provincial health insurance benefits. That means genuinely residing in your home province and being able to show it if necessary, rather than simply having a home there and spending eight or nine months in Portugal, Mexico, or California. This allows you to leave the province for half a year less one day—182 days. (Warning: once you leave your province, the 183-day clock begins to tick. Therefore, if you normally reside in Manitoba and wish to spend a month with family in Ontario prior to departing for Florida, you will have only five months remaining in the Sunshine State.)
Ontario enables you to leave the country for up to 212 days (seven months) while Newfoundland allows you to leave for up to eight months without jeopardizing your health coverage.
Why hasn’t the Canadian Snowbirds bill passed?
It now awaits a possible House Judiciary or Ways and Means Committee vote. In principle, the bill’s bipartisan support should increase its chances of success. The House version includes 19 bipartisan cosponsors, including ten Democrats and nine Republicans. The Senate version has garnered only one Republican cosponsor and is currently awaiting consideration by the Senate Finance Committee. Apart from Washington politics, Canadian snowbirds confront other difficulties. They risk losing their Canadian government-provided healthcare coverage if they stay in the United States for more than six months. The majority of provinces have now increased the cut-off period to seven months, and numerous groups are urging provinces to increase it to eight months.
In 2017, a similar House bill was filed but failed to gain traction. Senators cited the economic impact of Canadians on Florida.
When will the Canadian Snowbirds Act get passed?
Even with bipartisan support, the Snowbirds Act may have a difficult time gaining traction in Washington. Politicians are wary of enacting legislation that could be interpreted as undermining the nation’s immigration regulations. Immigration-related bills, even those with broad bipartisan support, have stalled.
Impact of Canadian Snowbirds travelling to Florida, United States
Canadians spent more than 18.1 billion U.S. dollars on travel and tourism in the United States. Each year, around 500,000 Canadians spend up to six months in the United States, with 80 percent of those residents owning their own property. The two Florida senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, who are sponsoring the bill — officially named The Canadian Snowbirds Act (S. 2507) — have presented the eased visitation restrictions as a no-brainer due to the anticipated cash windfalls for the Sunshine State.
Florida reports that nearly 3.5 million Canadians visited Florida in 2018. Both Florida and the Canadian Snowbird Association have welcomed the proposed bill. Canadians visit the United States in record numbers each year, despite the Canadian dollar’s depreciation. Many of them are pensioners fleeing Canada’s harsh winters, coming to pleasant southern states like Florida and Arizona for months at a stretch between October and May.
“We are 100 percent behind it,” said Glenn Williamson, CEO of the Canada Arizona Business Council (CABC). He estimated that Canadian snowbirds contribute $1.4 billion to Arizona’s economy each year, having the greatest influence in Maricopa, Pinal, Pima, and Yuma counties. While the weakening Canadian dollar has increased the expense of visits to the United States — groceries, restaurants, entertainment, and golf green fees have all increased in price — it is unlikely to deter seasoned snowbirds, many of whom are “people of means,” Willliamson said.
Along with the half-year inhabitants, the CABC reports that over 1 million Canadian visitors visited the Grand Canyon State in 2018 and spent an additional $1 billion. Additionally, Williamson anticipates that the annual number of Canadian tourists visiting Arizona will surpass 1.5 million during the next five years.
According to some estimates, almost 1 million Canadians aged 55 and older spend at least 31 days in the United States each year and many remain between three and six months.
According to CABC, Canadians own or rent approximately 100,000 homes in Arizona, spending $13 billion yearly on real estate.
The GVR Canadian Club, created in 1979, also has a major social component, offering Canadians and their guests an annual program of social activities from November to March, including golf tournaments, pizza parties, and wine and cheese tastings.
“Aside from the obvious economic and cultural benefits, Canadian Club members enrich the local community by supporting organizations such as food banks that help those in need,” said Bob Williams, a GVR Canadian Club member.
According to the Canadian Embassy, Canadians who visit Florida annually contribute more than $6.5 billion to the state’s economy. Tourism is a critical component of Florida’s thriving economy, supporting and creating thousands of jobs across the Sunshine State,” Rubio stated. This plan will provide a significant boost to our state’s economy by extending the stay of the millions of Canadian snowbirds who visit Florida each year by two months.
If you are planning to travel to the sunbelt for the winter, start your US Waiver application, and soak in that warm weather worry-free.