For Jerry Dawson, spending time in Sun City West in the Greater Phoenix area of Arizona definitely has its perks.
“I think I wore a jacket a couple of times,” Dawson said when describing the climate down the area. “I think I wore long pants once we got down there the day we arrived and the day we left. I live in shorts and sandals.”
The Saskatchewan resident, who is from the Moose Jaw area, bought a townhouse with his wife, sister, and her spouse, in a retirement community for people aged 55 and over. Dawson, 59, and his wife typically spend 10-12 weeks in the area.
The couple’s time limit is shorter compared to other Canadian residents, known as snowbirds, who spend time in the United States. These individuals are being recognized in a bipartisan bill currently before Congress that would allow Canadians over the age of 55 to stay south of the border for up to eight months of the year. However, they have to either own a home or have signed a rental agreement.
The legislation is officially called the Promoting Tourism to Enhance our Economy Act. Under it, Canadian residents would still be considered “nonresident aliens” and would be exempt from filing U.S. taxes.
The representatives who introduced the bill cite economic reasons for the change in visitor restrictions.
“Increased tourism from Canada will spur job growth in towns across the United States,” Democratic Congressman Albio Sires, from New Jersey, said. “Allowing our neighbors to spend more time to enjoy what our country has to offer will help small businesses and expand the economy.”
Republican Congressman Ted Yoho from Florida said tourism is vital to the state and many Canadians have vacation properties or rentals down there.
“This sensible legislation will ensure that our friends to the north are able to extend their stay in the U.S. for two additional months without any additional costs to American taxpayers,” Yoho said.
“Canada is one of America’s closest allies and her citizens contribute millions of dollars to the U.S. economy. This bill will provide an incentive for additional tourism from Canada in the future, and will strengthen the bond between our two nations.”
In the state of Florida, Canadians own 500,000 properties.
Current legislation only allows for a six-month stay before a snowbird has to start paying U.S. taxes on their income. Unauthorized stays beyond six months can also result in a travel ban for up to 10 years.
There are also considerations north of the border. For example, Saskatchewan residents may only be temporarily absent for up to seven months
“An individual will be a beneficiary of publicly insured services when their principal place of residence is in Saskatchewan for at least five months of each year,” Shaylene Salazar, Vice-President, Strategy, Quality and Risk Management, said in a statement.
“If, after a seven-month absence, an individual wishes to maintain their residency and health coverage, he or she must be physically present in Saskatchewan for five months out of a 12 month calendar year.”
Evan Rachkovsky, director of research and communication for the Canadian Snowbirds Association said giving retirees additional two months gives them more flexibility to shop across the border, to travel and see family and friends.
The association actively lobbies members of Congress for legislation that would allow Canadians to spend more time in the United States.
Rachkovsky said Republic Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York plans to shortly introduce the Canadian Snowbird Visa Act, which would allow for the creation of a snowbird visa and also expand the time limit for two months. Her bill has a lower age requirement of 50 and older.
“At the provincial level, we’ve actually been involved in expanding the amount of time that the provinces will allow residents to be outside of the province and still maintain their health coverage,” Rachkovsky said.
“In Saskatchewan, for example, the previous limit was six months. Effective January 1st, they upped that amount to a seven-month period.”
If the legislation in the Unites States passes, Rachkovsky said the association will request an additional month of coverage. For Canada, Rachkovsky said a benefit of allowing Canadians to spend time in the United States is Canadians often have to purchase private travel medical insurance to cover additional healthcare costs south of the border.
“Provinces would be saving money because individuals have to purchase private travel medical insurance before they leave and then they’re spending time in the U.S., so those costs are being absorbed by private companies as opposed to provinces,” Rachkovsky said.
Rachkovsky said Canadian snowbirds 55 or over traveling to the United States for 31 or more consecutive nights take over one million trips per year.
Why spend time south of the border
Besides the warm weather, which Dawson said helps with his wife’s asthma, there are other benefits to spending time in Arizona.
The family enjoys their community, where they bought their place around 2009/2010 when the market was low and the Canadian dollar high.
But there are drawbacks. With the low dollar, Dawson said it costs more money to travel to Arizona and get back. However, once he is down there, Dawson said the cost of living is cheaper.
Dawson said prospective snowbirds may also want to research for they purchase a place. For example, Dawson is now allowed to rent out his home as part of the Homeowner’s Association Agreement. Owning a vehicle down there also means licence and insurance fees.
Personally, Dawson said he and his wife may spend an average of $10,000 per year, which he doesn’t expect would go up if he chose to go down for eight months. However, he would also want to look at healthcare limits in the province.
“Their food costs are quite a bit less, their gas is quite a bit less, just living in general down there costs a lot less money,” Dawson said.
As for politics, Dawson said it hasn’t really impacted the family’s decision at this time.
“Everyone has their own opinions of Mr. Trump and most Canadians’ isn’t very good but opinion isn’t very good of them, but he’s doing some good things. He’s doing some really stupid things. We’re white Canadian and I don’t think he’s going to bother us so, no it hasn’t affected us at all really.”
In the future, when there are less work or family obligations, Dawson said he will probably start heading down around November 1.
“It’s too hot to live down there in the summertime, it’s ridiculous. It’s up to the 120-degree range, Fahrenheit, which is uninhabitable to me so I don’t know that I ever want to go for eight months,” Dawson said.
Source: Global News