Last week, the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill that carries sweeping changes to the U.S immigration system has been passed through the Senate panel, waiting to be debated by the full Senate next month. Buried within this new immigration policy package, there is something for Canadians. If the bill is passed, Canadians will be allowed to stay in the U.S for up to eight months annually, instead of six.
Every year, thousands of Canadians travel to the U.S to avoid the cold weather. Those who “migrate” to the south every year are known as snowbirds. As of now, Canadian snowbirds are unable to stay in the U.S for more than six months, and once they come home, they cannot cross the border again during that one-year period.
Advocates for granting Canadians an extended period of stay in the U.S believe that doing so would create a significant impact in the southern states, such as Florida. According to the Toronto Star, Canadians are the largest foreign real estate buyers in the U.S, with an estimated $20 billion purchase of housing in 2012 alone. In other words, Canadians can bring in more economic opportunities that boost up the economy in southern states if they are allowed to remain in the country for longer periods of time.
The Canadian Snowbird Association, with approximately 700,000 members, is the major lobbying force behind this proposed change. The association’s researcher, Evan Rachkovsky believes the new immigration reform bill has a good chance to be approved, though a previous proposal was not passed. Rachkovsky also states that the association has found wide support from more than 100 members of the U.S Congress.
Despite the good news, there is still one concern with the extension of stay for Canadian snowbirds: health care coverage in Canadian provinces do not allow their citizens to reside eight months per year outside the country. In Ontario, British Columbia, and Manitoba, Canadians are permitted to spend a maximum of seven months per year in a foreign country to receive their health care benefits. In Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and other provinces, the limit is six-months.
Hence, some Canadian snowbirds have to make a decision between longer vacation in the south and public health care. Nonetheless, for those who have alternatives to provincial health care coverage, the new immigration reforms means more time to enjoy the sunny weather.
FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more updates and tips on Canadian immigration, visit www.canadianimmigration.net. Don’t forget to like FWCanada on Facebook and follow the firm on Twitter.