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Immigrant status for some Canadians may soon change

A large demographic of international tourists may soon be granted more access to visit the United States if new laws go into effect. The passage of the landmark immigration reform bill would, among other things, allow older Canadians to remain in the States for the majority of the year, which proponents hope would drive tourism and home sales in Florida and beyond.

A Canadian snowbird is someone who spends an entire month at a time in the U.S. and happens to be at least 55 years old. The snowbird population in this country is huge and plays a significant role in the tourism and real estate economy every year. In 2011 alone, it's estimated that snowbirds headed south over one million times. Furthermore, the National Association of Realtors estimates that Canadians spend more on American real estate than any other foreigners, comprising almost one quarter of all international investors. 

The snowbird community also greatly influences Florida's economy. Thousands of Canadians rent properties around the state and more than half of a million own property. Part of the reason so many snowbirds are drawn to American investments is that they're not required to have a visa to visit. Though, they can only stay in this country for approximately six months at a time.

If the immigration reform bill passes, one of its provisions would allow snowbirds to visit the U.S. for up to eight months out of the year by obtaining a Canadian Retiree Visa. Proponents of the measure note that the increased time could result in a 30-percent increase in Canadian spending for Florida. Tourism and real estate businesses see that as a promising sign for the state, indeed. 

Source: wtsp.com, "Immigration bill would let Canadian snowbirds stay in Florida longer," June 17, 2013

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