Now What? How About the 240-Day Visa for Canadians?

American celebrities, mostly entertainers, have been vocal recently with their threats to flock to Canada rather than experience a Donald Trump presidency. Nothing new about this—similar threats are brandished every election cycle. Furthermore, some folks think that moving from one country to live and work in another is as easy as renting a U-Haul.

Ask Canadian seniors, who have long been lured by the prospect of living in the US Sunbelt for 8 months a year—legally: just how elusive and frustrating such a dream can be.

We refer, of course, to the much-discussed 240-day visa, an integral part of the rebounding JOLT ACT of 2015 (and before that of 2013) that never seemed to get enough traction to get through the House of Representatives and to the president’s desk for consideration and signature into law. (Under JOLT provisions, Canadians with the means to reside in the US for up to eight months a year, could do so under terms of a special visa. Plenty of conditions apply, but that’s the general outline. The acronym JOLT stands for Jobs Originated through Launching Travel Act).

The JOLT Act, strongly supported by the US tourism and travel industry, was first introduced in Congress in 2013, passed by the Senate, but stagnated in the House. It was reintroduced in the 2015 Congress, and never made it out of committee. Reason: too low a priority.

 

New Life for an Old Act?

What happens now?

Congressman Joe Heck (R) Nevada, the main House sponsor of the JOLT Act, lost his seat in the November 8 election, and it would have been largely up to him to re-introduce the bill in the new Congress. His co-sponsor, Mike Quigley (D) Illinois can re-introduce, but being a Democrat in a Republican-dominated House will not propel the Act to high priority.

On the other hand, Senator Chuck Schumer (D) New York, who was instrumental in getting JOLT through the Senate (it needs passage of both houses) is destined to become the minority leader of the Senate. That’s an all-consuming, powerful job and it’s going to demand all of his attention, so don’t look for much support there.

 

The Fickle Fate of Politics

What’s so ironic about this situation is that virtually nobody is against the prospect of allowing well-off Canadians the opportunity to live and contribute to the US economy for up to 8 months a year.

But the political reality is quite different.

The 240-day visa is but a few paragraphs in what was the massive 880-page JOLT Act of 2015. It is doubtful if many of the 100-plus congressional JOLT supporters even knew of the Canadian visa provision. And if, by chance, the Act is reintroduced, which it might be as the US tourism and travel industry is strongly in its support, will its chance of survival improve?

Given the high priority this administration places on dealing with “illegal” immigration and border security, the likelihood of easing border entry for the well-to do and inviting more “privileged” groups to apply for preferential visas seems a long shot. There’s too much barbed wire in that field of dreams.

But, given the volatility and unpredictability of this incredible election cycle, anything can happen.

 

But You’ll Still Have the B2

One thing that does not appear to be at risk, is the continuation of Canadians’ access to 6 months

of visiting privileges in the US for each 12-consecutive month period.  The paperless B2 visa provision for Canadians will not change. So for you, as a long-term or periodic visitor to the US, it will be business as usual—except of course, for the pressures of the declining loonie. If there is any real threat—that’s it.

 

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