Hope for passage of the 240-day US visa for Canadian snowbirds has gone from maybe—to maybe. Don’t bet on it happening anytime soon, but don’t bury it prematurely either. The midterm election has given Republicans control of the Senate (they already controlled the House), thereby making it easier for them to craft and pass a bill for the president’s signature—a tough thing to get done in a divided Congress. Any such bill must be passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives before it can be sent to the president for his signature and enactment.
In June of 2013, the Senate (then controlled by Democrats) passed its version of the JOLT Act (Jobs Originated through Launching Travel) as part of a more comprehensive Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which was introduced in the Senate in April 2013. The JOLT Act is designed to boost tourism into the US, and one of its key features is allowing Canadian retirees aged 55 and up, and their spouses, to stay in the US for up to 240 days (eight months) in any 365-day period. That’s up from 182. To qualify, the retirees must be Canadian citizens, and they must maintain a residence in Canada, not work in the US, nor seek any form of public assistance.
In the House, controlled by Republicans, the JOLT Act was introduced in March 2013, and it would allow Canadian citizens aged 50 or older the same deal: 240 days out of 365, if they maintained a Canadian residence and owned or rented a US accommodation for the duration of their stay.
So far so good, except that the House leadership refused to take up the Senate version, and the Senate leadership would have nothing to do with the House version—not because of any objection to 240-day visa for Canadians; that was win-win. But the many challenges that come along with immigration reform—securing the southern border, dealing with millions of undocumented aliens, and deportations—are highly flammable issues that are not going to be easily argued away.
When President Obama came to town, immigration reform was one of his top priorities. It still is, and it’s hard to fathom why a virtually unchallenged issue such as the extended visa for Canadians should have anything to do with the tangled web of immigration reform.
But maybe, with the players in the Senate and House wearing the same uniform, finding a rapprochement might get a little easier. Maybe. Don’t hold your breath.
In our next article: The downsides of the 240-day visa.