Canadian Snowbird Visa Act aims to boost tourism spending, US jobs
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Canadian visitors have long provided a substantial economic boost to communities throughout our country, spending $20 billion in the United States in 2016 alone. As the representative of New York’s North Country, I’ve seen firsthand how much our small businesses benefit from Canadian visitors. Back in my district, we frequently meet Canadians eating at local restaurants, shopping on Main Street, and attending cultural events.

One important group of Canadian visitors is the Canadian Snowbirds: older and retired Canadians who winter in the warm climates of our southern states. Every winter, droves of Snowbirds flock to states like Florida, Arizona, New Mexico and California for extended stays. These Canadians, who own or rent a U.S. residence and stay for many months at a time, tend to have higher disposable incomes, and provide a sustained economic benefit over the course of the winter, both by spending money in their U.S. communities and by paying sales and property tax. In addition, throughout the year, the Canadian Snowbirds regularly cross the U.S.-Canada border for shopping, recreation and other pursuits benefiting upstate New York and other border communities.   

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Yet the Canadian Snowbirds’ contributions are more than just economic: they become integral members of their U.S. communities, attending churches, participating in community organizations, and taking part in volunteer work.

Current U.S. law limits the amount of time Snowbirds spend in the United States to six months per year. The time limit forces many Snowbirds to spend much less of their time and money in the United States than they would like. The financial cost of this foregone tourism is steep. Even while constrained by the current limit, Canadians spent $4 billion in Florida and $1.3 billion in New York in 2015; changing this time limit would result in them spending billions more. 

This economic loss is not borne only by warm-weather states: communities along our northern border lose out, too, given that even short day trips across the border count toward the current six-month limit. As a result, Snowbirds frequently forego making trips across the border, conscious that these trips would curtail the length of their planned winter stay. Likewise, after returning from a winter in the United States, Snowbirds often find themselves effectively barred from crossing the border. The effect on small business owners can be stark. Those of us who live along the border know how lucrative even a few extra days can be for tourism-dependent areas.

Recently, I introduced H.R. 3513, the “Canadian Snowbird Visa Act”, with Rep. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchUS officials, world leaders arrive in Israel for World Holocaust Forum  Bipartisan lawmakers condemn Iran, dispute State Department on number of protesters killed Bipartisan lawmakers introduce amendment affirming US commitment to military aid to Israel MORE (D-Fla.). This legislation will extend, by 60 days, the amount of time Canadian citizens aged 50 or older may stay in the United States each year if they both maintain a residence in Canada and also own or rent a home here in the U.S.  

This bipartisan bill is all upside for the U.S.—it will create jobs, increase tax revenues, and strengthen communities across America by permitting Canadians to spend more time and money right here, while still requiring them to be fully subject to the security vetting process imposed by current law.  Moreover, the Canadian Snowbird Visa Act will not provide our Canadian visitors with permanent resident status, will not permit them to benefit from U.S. public assistance programs, and will not grant them the right to work for a U.S. employer.

The bill is carefully crafted to ensure that these visitors will confer an immense net benefit on the United States. Notably, these Snowbirds would be prohibited from working for a U.S. employer, ensuring that they do not take any American jobs. They would also be prohibited from receiving various forms of public assistance, and would remain fully subject to the vetting process imposed by current law.

The Snowbirds travel far and wide throughout the United States, taking full advantage of the diversity of experiences our country offers. They explore our cities, engage in sporting activities, and visit our national parks and historical sites. Restricting this important source of revenue hurts communities in every state. The Canadian Snowbird Visa Act will place a more rational limit on the length of Canadian Snowbirds’ stays, one that will capture, at no cost to the United States, the economic benefits that our country is currently turning away. 

Let’s pass the Canadian Snowbird Visa Act and allow our close friends from the North to spend more time and money in our communities.

Stefanik represents New York's 21st District. She introduced H.R. 3513, the Canadian Snowbird Visa Act on July 27.